In recent years, there have been an increasing number of debates on the value of higher education. More and more college graduates are finding that they could have done their jobs without the degree they earned, and it seems that employers are placing less emphasis than ever on a candidate's formal education.
With these arguments as a backdrop, young job seekers are wondering whether it's worth the time and money to get an undergraduate degree, let alone continue on to earn an MBA. Some argue that the MBA doesn't offer the same ticket to employment as it did when the job market was tighter, and that may be true. But that doesn't mean that pursuing this postgraduate degree is completely useless.
"The MBA still offers a strong competitive edge," said Dan Bursch, program director for the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler online business school, MBA@UNC."At its core, an MBA provides a person with a new strategic-thinking skill set that will allow him or her to not just answer the question or solve the problem, but to fully understand the framework of the question or problem."
Bursch noted that this problem-solving "framework" is critical in the business world, since a problem is rarely as simple as "problem A, solved by solution B." Any question or problem that arises in business is more likely to look like, "problems A1, A2 and A3 that also impact B1, B2 and B3." [7 Business Ideas for Entrepreneurial College Grads]
"When you can understand the framework of a problem, all of a sudden you can make a decision that ensures that it positively impacts A2 and B3 at the same time, and solves future problems before they happen," Bursch said.
Individuals who start a business right out of college, or even drop out of college to become entrepreneurs, may believe that an MBA won't help them, since they're not trying to get a job at a large corporation. However, Bursch believes the skills offered by an MBA program can help you achieve business success, whether you're working for a company or starting your own.
"A young entrepreneur will gain as much, if not more, than someone looking to climb the 'corporate ladder,'" he told Business News Daily. "Whether you're working for a Fortune 500 company or trying to launch a product, understanding the core areas of business such as accounting, marketing, operations and finance are paramount to being successful. Furthermore, as entrepreneurs partner with others to grow and develop ideas, they need to be certain they understand all of the parameters of a partnership that go far beyond the idea."
While many job seekers and entrepreneurs can indeed benefit from an MBA, it isn't right for everyone, and you certainly won't get as much out of the degree if you're doing it for the wrong reasons.
"The worst thing anyone can do is pursue an MBA to 'get it out of the way' or 'get the letters' behind their name," Bursch said. "Think about what you're hoping to get out of the MBA experience, and then you can start to figure out when the best time is to start that experience."
If you're trying to decide on the right time to pursue your MBA, be sure to take all of your current personal and professional circumstances into account. Bursch advised thinking about how this decision will impact your time, obligations and finances, and making sure your life is in a good place from a time-management standpoint.
"While it may never be easy to start pursuing your MBA part-time or to leave a job and pursue one on a full-time basis, there are moments where it might be easier to find the time needed to fully dedicate yourself to an MBA program," he said. "You don't want to shortchange yourself in terms of the time you can commit. You want to maximize every class, group project and opportunity that comes with a great MBA program."
Originally published on Business News Daily.