Is getting an MBA a surefire ticket to entrepreneurial success? Absolutely not, but there are plenty of founders and business owners that say earning their MBA was a major factor of achieving success in the business world. Just as many, it seems, stand on the opposite side of this hot-button topic and say an MBA is pretty worthless for a true entrepreneur.
What’s the truth? Which side does the data actually support? Should entrepreneurs get an MBA or skip it?
Should Entrepreneurs Get an MBA or Skip It?
In favor of the MBA
Let’s take a look at what those in favor of the MBA have to say on the topic.
Entrepreneurs with MBAs are better equipped to start a business
“While many arguments currently center around why you should or should not hire an MBA, MBAs are ignoring the debate and going out and starting their own companies due to their fierce ambition.” – Stella Garber, Forbes
MBAs enable you to make mistakes before they really ‘count’
“Making mistakes during an MBA program has a much lower opportunity cost than making startup mistakes in the real world.” – Stella Garber, Forbes
Business school surrounds you with capable mentors and connections
“While the startup world is very open to mentorship, it takes years to build the network that an entrepreneurship center can provide.” – Stella Garber, Forbes
In favor of skipping the MBA
Not everyone believes an MBA is the ticket to entrepreneurial success. Some MBA programs don’t focus heavily on entrepreneurship, which can make the curriculum feel like a waste of time to true entrepreneurial types. Aside from the cost of earning an MBA, which could instead be applied to starting a business, there are a host of reasons entrepreneurs who have earned MBAs say others should just skip it.
It won’t open any new doors for you
“I chose to get an MBA because I thought at the time that it would open doors for me. It hasn’t particularly.” – Tom Castelloe, earned an MBA from Elon University in 2006
Most MBA programs don’t focus on entrepreneurship
“You don’t want to have a school of business that’s only entrepreneurship. You still would have to teach accounting, marketing, and operations.” – Paul Danos, Dean of Tuck School of Business at Darmouth
An MBA is only good for a corporate career, not entrepreneurship
“We’ve all seen those studies about how much more money those with graduate degrees (like MBAs) make over the course of a 40 year career. But the MBA only makes sense if you are planning on having a 40 year career working to make someone else rich.” – Scott Trench, Founder of Bigger Pockets
Reaching a conclusion on MBAs
So, should entrepreneurs get an MBA or skip it? Perhaps the best course would be to take the money you would have spent on business school and use it instead to start your business now. As Scott Trench put it, “I get it. Business = scary. School = safe.” Better to take a little risk now, get your feet wet as an entrepreneur, and know that the option to go back and get your MBA is always there.
However, if you want to build strong connections, take advantage of staff mentoring, and be able to present more confidently to investors, pursuing an MBA now may be the right choice for you. Just make sure you select a program that focuses heavily on entrepreneurship, or you may end up learning a lot about marketing and finances but nothing about starting your own company.