Is an MBA Worth it?

There is a scene from a FedEx commercial aired on U.S. TV a few years ago. It lives
on at Youtube, where two different postings of the 30-second ad have been viewed almost 91,000 times (type in key words “FedEx” and “MBA” at www.youtube.com to view the spot).

The ad closes with the narrated tag line: “FedEx.com makes shipping so easy, even an MBA can do it.”

Does an MBA really teach grads useful skills for today’s corporate world? And is the degree a worthwhile financial investment in terms of cost and potential earnings – or do many MBA grads start out in the shipping room like the rest of us? As enrollment figures and tuition costs continue to soar, the debate over the value and relevance of a grad school business degree is also heating up.

“There’s nothing you can learn at business school that you can’t learn by reading 40 books,” says Seth Godin, 48, who sold his first company, Yoyodyne, to Yahoo! for $30 million US in 1998.

“[An MBA] is an excellent filter” for companies hiring in certain industries, Godin concedes, simply because MBA entrance criteria are so rigorous. But he believes an MBA is only financially worthwhile for a narrow group of people: those aiming for top jobs in traditional sectors like Wall Street investment banking where ‘old boys’ school’ connections can still make someone’s career.

But he notes that, with the exception of himself, “none of the top entrepreneurs in the world have MBAs”, implying that MBA schools are populated by followers rather than leaders: “A big part of an MBA program is doing what you’re told.”