Debate Calls into Question the Value of the MBA

Global BusinessIs the MBA an empty status symbol? Is it a waste of time and money? Is it truly necessary to invest money in learning how to be an entrepreneur? Or does the degree carry actual weight – for entrepreneurs and other businesspeople? How good a job have top MBA programs done to keep up with the evolving business community?

A recent article delves into the two sides of this debate. I’ll summarize the arguments briefly here, but I urge you to read the complete article if you are considering pursuing an MBA.

The Case for an MBA, Thomas Robertson, dean of UPenn’s Wharton School

Robertson believes that an MBA provides an advantage for businesspeople by teaching them how to succeed in the global marketplace and how to adapt in an ever-changing economy.

Robertson further explains his positions:

Some say the MBA has become too theoretical; some say it’s too applied. Some say it’s too short-term-oriented; some say too long-term-oriented. Some say MBA grads are too ambitious; some say we need more ambitious MBAs. There’s a constant debate about what MBA programs should look like.

The problem is getting the right balance. There are 12,000 business schools in the world, and Wharton and a couple hundred others are in business to create new knowledge and disseminate it. We have to get the right balance between theory and practice. We have 2 million subscribers to our journal Knowledge@Wharton, which is published in multiple languages. The reason I’m mentioning that is we’re in the business of creating knowledge, and there’s an immediate payoff from what we do. If we don’t do research that helps firms in the wider world, then we’re out of business. We have to prove that the research we do is valuable to businesses.

The Case against an MBA, Henry Mintzberg, entrepreneur and professor of Management Studies at McGill University

Mintzberg believes that “conventional MBA programs train the wrong people in the wrong ways with the wrong consequences.” He elaborates:

There’s a role for MBAs for people who go into technical positions, like financial analysts, but other than that, anyone with an MBA should have a skull and crossbones on their forehead. It doesn’t prepare them correctly and gives them the wrong impression of management. Instead, I think people should get smart, get educated, but mostly they should find a business or venture or activity that they really love and get immersed as deeply as possible before they try to create something.

Furthermore, he says that not enough attention is given to business ethics, and that MBA programs have not worked adequately to modify their curricula based on the modern, evolving business world and economy.

Please see “Is an MBA Still Necessary?” on for more information.

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