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7 Reasons Not to Get an MBA

Thinking of getting an MBA? Surprisingly, some academics recommend that you think again.
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Over the years, I've interviewed plenty of academics who specialize in management.

Surprisingly, many believe that earning an MBA--the very degree that their school awards--isn't all it's cracked up to be. Here's what I've learned:

1. The ROI is horrible.

"The overall cost of education has risen so much that it's become unclear whether it makes sense to overburden yourself with expenses and loans in order to secure the possibility of a greater salary in the future."--Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford School of Business

2. An MBA won't make you more successful.

"What data there are suggest that business schools are not very effective. Neither possessing an MBA degree nor grades earned in courses correlate with career success."--Christina Ting Fong, assistant professor of Management and Organization at the Foster School of Business, University of Washington

3. You won't learn how to run a business.

MBA programs tend to be heavily tilted towards finance and investment banking rather than how to manage people or an organization. "The MBA trains the wrong people in the wrong ways with the wrong consequences."--Henry Mintzberg, Professor of Management Studies at McGill University

4. You won't learn how to manage people.

"If you go into law or medicine or architecture, you're expected to go into a residency or apprenticeship before you're allowed to practice on your own. Unfortunately, business schools pretend that any student with an MBA should be a great manager right out the gate, regardless of real-world experience."--Jeffrey Pfeffer

5. You won't increase your earnings.

"If earning an MBA…is something that you're doing because you want to make more money, rather than because you're really interested in how businesses function, you'll probably be disappointed."--Anna Ivey, career counselor and former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago

6. You'll be competing with cheaters.

"Our study showed that 56 percent of MBA candidates have admitted to cheating, a rate much higher than other graduate students.  Perhaps getting the degree is more important to them than the knowledge gained along the way. It's the 'bottom-line' mentality--that performance is what matters, not how you get there."--Linda Klebe Trevino, Professor of Management and Organization at the Penn State Smeal College of Business

7. Successful entrepreneurs seldom have MBAs.

"When we looked at successful entrepreneurs in small cities throughout the United States, we discovered few, if any, had an MBA or planned to get one. They just don't seem to think that it would be worth the effort."--Paul Oyer, Professor of Economics at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University

I might add personally that the worst weasel I ever worked for had an MBA from Harvard. To a great extent, watching this guy screw things up was the reason I wrote Business Without the Bullsh*t.

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GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is "Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts that You Need to Know."

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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