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来源:天星 更新日期:2009-03-06 点击:


The Problem

I applied to a leading business school and have been called for interview but I am getting cold feet. If I get in, I would have to leave my job (safe, if a bit dull), would pay a fee of £45,000, and after a year and a half would emerge with no guarantee of a job. Is this one of the worst returns on investment going? Or is it worth it for what I would learn, for the career boost and for the hope that the economy will be better when I graduate?

Professional, female, 31


Yes, it’s a terrible investment: if you get out your calculator and run one of those discounted cash flow calculations that MBAs favour, you’ll find it hard to come up with a positive number. Many people leaving business school now are not only failing to change career, they are crawling back to their old jobs with their old employers.

The odd thing is that MBAs still claim the experience was worth it. If you read the replies on the blog (address below) you will see every single MBA is breathless with admiration: how stretching, how great the contacts, etc.

I find this a bit suspicious. I can think of no other form of education that inspires such fervent devotion from its graduates. Is it that, having parted with so much money, they are obliged to say it was good? More likely it is that being cooped up for 18 months with clever, like-minded thrusters means they all reinforce the others’ belief in the value of the qualification.

Lots of readers suggest you keep your job and do the degree part-time. This may be the most sensible way out, but I can’t sincerely recommend this as I once tried to do an evening MA in economics while working full time, and it was far too much like hard work.

Perhaps you are made of sterner stuff. But if you aren’t, there is another thing to make your cold feet colder: the value of the MBA may be changing. I fancy that the new fashion in business is to rate common sense and experience more highly than Swot analysis. So stay put and bide your time. If you are bored, try evening classes. I’ve always wanted to learn upholstery, and courses near me start at £130.


Go for it!

Taking a top-tier MBA exposes you to some of the smartest, most confident, most competitive and arrogant people you will ever meet. It has provided me with a framework to be flexible in my career, the tools to keep learning and the confidence to conduct myself in any situation. Oh yeah, I paid off my student loan and my husband’s student loans (way more than £45,000) in three years.

Trader, female, 41

Stay in the job

Forget it, sweetie. A job in the hand is worth 15 MBAs in the bush these days. In addition, you are probably a girl in a man’s world, in which case the glass ceiling will cap any hope of upside from having a business school qualification anyway. Keep your job, work hard, bone up on management skills, and save your £45,000 for something more constructive.

Ex-banker, female, 39

Long-run pay-off

I took two years out for an MBA and got into debt, lost out on income and would do it again in a second. If you are career-minded, you’ll get paid back in the long run. Firms will still be hiring from business schools in the future and they will come to you rather than your having to find them. Also, being able to take months/years out of work to contemplate your future and learn something is a luxury worth paying for.

Trader, male, 42

Vision, phooey

Save the money. Most of the “star managers” at investment banks have done MBAs and look how well their collective strategies have worked. I was toldI couldn’t see the “vision” of the chief executive just months before the MBA- holding turkey lost $50bn through his visionary strategy.

Manager, male

Choice of school

I left a £43,000-a-year job to do an MBA in 2003-04. I now earn about £100,000 a year. Even taking into account the debts I incurred, it is still good value. The only caveats are: do it at a “top five” school, and don’t hope to rely on the alumni network – they are all out for themselves at the end of the day.