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Is an MBA Degree Essential to Succeed in One’s Career?

Posted by:   Mahak Kewalramani Date:Nov 06, 2015

Is an MBA Degree Essential to Succeed in One’s Career?Till just about a decade ago, an MBA was considered a highly prized degree. Students and professionals wishing to propel their careers were lining up to add those 3 coveted letters to their resume and corporates were fighting for the “Day Zero” placement slot to grab these young MBAs. However it seems that over the last decade, the degree has gone from a must-have to a nice-to-have. This has been corroborated by the JobMantras.com October Poll in which a whopping 72% of professionals agreed that one need not be an MBA to succeed in one’s career.

What are the reasons for this transition and what does this mean for MBA aspirants?

Reasons for the change:

Engineering Graduates Getting Highly Attractive Offers - MNCs, financial BPOs and even startups are offering top engineering graduates starting salaries at par with MBA graduates. The chance to start earning immediately is attracting students to these highly lucrative offers.

Cost Benefit Analysis - MBA fees have been soaring over the last few years with a 2-year domestic programme costing anywhere between INR 15-20 lakhs depending on the ranking of the school. This figure would be significantly higher for an international course (approximately Rs.100 lakhs i.e. 1 crore!). Without any assurances of commensurate placements after the course and the drop in average CTCs offered to MBA graduates due to the economic crisis, there is uncertainty in the break-even period for investing such a large sum in an MBA degree and professionals are wary of leaving the security & high CTCs of their current jobs.

Alternate Sources of Learning - Given the above scenario, professionals are preferring to opt for alternative sources of learning such as on-the-job training, in-house business and leadership training provided by organizations, part time / executive business courses while working, niche industry specializations (Hospital Management, Retail Management, Banking Management etc.), focused short term certificate courses, online learning, e-MBAs etc. These modes of learning are both effective and affordable and can be completed in a relatively shorter period of time, often while still working in parallel. In fact companies themselves are sponsoring higher education and executive courses for employees and this duration is not considered a gap in career.

Dilution in Perceived Value of the Degree - According to the All India Council for Technical Education, the number of management institutions in India has risen from 2,614 in 2006-07 to close to 4,000 today, while around 200 institutes shut shop between 2012-2014. Whilst the numbers are increasing, there has been a dilution of quality of both the institutions (in terms of infrastructure, faculty etc.) as well as of the students. According to a report published in Jan this year, India produces over 3.5 lakh MBA graduates every year, of which only 10% are employable. The reason for this gap? Lack of right / global skills and excess supply.

Rise of Entrepreneurship Culture - With the growing entrepreneurship culture, young professionals are itching to get into the game as soon as possible and do not have the inclination to sit in a classroom for 1-2 years doing assignments and writing exams. Even those not bitten by the entrepreneurial bug are increasingly of the opinion that joining a start-up and taking on responsibilities across various functions is a better way to learn business than in a classroom.

Relevance of Curriculum - Many opponents of MBA claim that the theoretical content and pedagogy is no longer relevant in today’s business environment. The curriculum needs to evolve to enable leaders to deal with the impacts and challenges of increasing globalization. Post recession, focus needs to shift from profit and market share to sustainability and ethics. Specific programmes also need to be developed for the growing segment of aspiring entrepreneurs.

Having discussed these points, it would be unfair to discredit the MBA degree completely. Business schools are definitely good places to learn the fundamentals of finance, marketing, strategy, HR and operations. This is especially crucial in India where majority of MBA candidates are from an engineering background (engineers comprise 90% of students at IIMs!) and have never formally studied basic general management & business fundamentals before. In my own case, I found that my MBA course helped me smoothly transition from a technical to a managerial role.

In fact, the most valuable elements of an MBA course are those learnt outside the text book and may not even have a monetary valuation. The network of connections you build in B-School may well help you throughout your career as clients, business partners and references. Working on assignments, group projects and presentations will nurture your soft skills - team skills, leadership and communication. Industry connect programmes will give you exposure to various businesses and industry leaders which you may not be able to achieve on your own. In the initial stages of your career, the name of your B-School may help you get your foot through the door at meetings and interviews, though further into your career this may become less important.

In the final analysis, like all major decisions in life, whether to go for an MBA or not is a very contextual decision and depends entirely on the individual, his/her education, career background and  professional goals. Also career success depends not only on your academics, but the complete package you bring to the table in terms of your professional experience and achievements, your personality, your business network etc.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


About the Author:

Mahak KewalramaniMahak Kewalramani handles strategic initiatives at JobMantras.com. She has over 7 years experience in Project Management, Product Management and Business Consulting, with a focus on Technology and Digital Marketing. Mahak is a Dean's List MBA student from the SP Jain Center of Management and holds a B.E. from Mumbai University. She is an avid reader, inquisitive traveler, yoga enthusiast and social media junkie.

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