Is Getting an MBA Wasting Time and Money?

What if the “is getting an MBA worth it” question isn’t really a matter of money? What if it depends on who you are, where you are, what resources you have, and what you want?

Penelope Trunk posted Why an MBA Is a Waste of Time and Money recently on BNET. She lists seven reasons, all of which are about how much money you won’t make if you stop your career to get an MBA. A couple are sad and true (an MBA doesn’t make you an entrepreneur, and doesn’t increase your earning power unless it’s from a top-10 school), a couple of them obvious, and a couple of them whimsical and interesting (it makes you look desperate and puts off the inevitable).

Penelope Trunk is a good writer and successful entrepreneur. She has a knack for bringing up real issues and she thrives on controversy. As proof of that you can try her own list of rants, or, perhaps even more telling, the titles of this list of her BNET posts. (Anybody who can post something on BNET titled Forget the Job Hunt. Have a Baby Instead obviously understands blogging, irony, and the value of taking a contrarian position.)

Her post makes me ask: how do you determine what’s a waste of time and money? Does education pay for itself in earning power? Is that what it’s about?

How many of the best things in life are a waste of time and money? It’s just amazing when you stop to think about it. Except – whoops – no, don’t, because stopping and thinking would be a waste of time. Instead, get to work. Earn money.

And what about the chart here, my attempt to draw the relationship between education and experience as you look at entrepreneurship? Isn’t there a relationship between education and experience, some substitution, but with the ideal a mix of both? And tradeoffs between the two? And a continuum, shades of gray, rather than black or white?

My answer: don’t do it for the money. Don’t do it if it’s a horrible sacrifice. Don’t do it if you hate school. Don’t do it if you can’t afford it. Do it because you want to learn. Don’t do it if you hate school. And a few other points summarized in Read This Before You Get an MBA Degree.

{Illustration credit: my drawing on a chalkboard by Studio Aramita on


  • Entreprenant: enterprising, adventurous entrepreneurs and small business owners. | ENTREPRENANT says:

    […] Is Getting an MBA Wasting Time and Money? – Interesting insights surrounding this question and how it relates to entrepreneurship. […]

  • Tim Berry says:

    Jamie, Charles, thanks for both comments. I’m with you thoroughly on both too. These are nice additions, thanks. Tim

  • Charles Robinson says:

    I don’t think this is just specific to MBA’s, it’s about higher education in general. We have similar conversations at The Art Institute, where I’m attending culinary school. I don’t have any specific plans for what to do with the education I’m receiving. I am there simply to learn. Others are there because they want to open a restaurant, and some have a passion for cooking and want to work in someone else’s restaurant. A surprising number thought it would be like Food Network, where someone does all the prep and they just have to assemble the final dish and rave about how good it is. Seriously.

    The point of education is to learn. If that isn’t your primary goal, you’re doing it for the wrong reason.

  • Jamie Flinchbaugh says:

    Great post and important points. I can think of very few people that got a lot out of an MBA that looked at it in terms of ROI. They looked at it as an experience. I’ve gained many good friends and great friends, and even several business partners. I learned as much over coffee with those friends as I did in the classroom. I didn’t do it for the money. And I never talk about the fact that I have an MBA. In many ways they are teaching some of the wrong things in the classroom. But for me, personally, was it worth it? Yes. Is it necessary? No. Is there one answer to all of this? Certainly not, because it depends on the individual, their circumstances, their options, their personality.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *