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Note to MBAs: Drop the comma MBA, Please!

imageI just got another email from somebody whose email signature is “So-and-so, MBA.” Which reminds me of the business cards, and letters, and promotional material I see where people brandish those three letters after their name.

I don’t think that “MBA” thing behind your name works out for you.

imageHave you heard the joke about how to create a small business? The answer is take a medium business and put an MBA in charge. And the magic MBA investment formula for guaranteed profit? The answer is buy MBAs for what they’re worth and sell them for what they think they’re worth. Do you know how many people blame MBAs in general for the current financial disaster?

It’s not a matter of licensing and regulation, like MD or CPA. It’s just a master’s degree. In this country alone, accredited institutions grant several hundred thousand masters degrees every year. That’s not including the fake degrees.

So that MBA you earned? Put it on your resume, put it on your blog’s “About” page, and put it in the management team section of your business plan when seeking loans or investment. Use it to know what you’re talking about. But leave it off your name.


Edit, 2018: In response to the T. King comment below, I guess I should make this clear. I have an MBA degree from Stanford. If you look at other posts in the MBA category in this same blog, you’ll see that the degree has served me well. And if you look at my bio on any of the multiple places that it appears, you’ll see that I show that degree proudly in every bio. My post here is my honest opinion about a specific tactic, not a dig on the degree itself. Oh, and a while ago I added this one to explain more: Put Your MBA in Your Work Not Your Title — Tim 

31 responses to “Note to MBAs: Drop the comma MBA, Please!”

  1. Tricky Bobby says:

    If you can fog a mirror and get approved for a loan, you can get an MBA. Yes it requires time and effort, and it demonstrates a commitment to one’s career, but earning an MBA does not make one “elite” or even inherently smart. As another commenter said, when I see “MBA” attached to one’s name I assume UPhoenix.

    However, if you have an MBA and want to use it as a suffix, go nuts – you’re making me look better.

    -Kellogg ’14

  2. JTF says:

    This is a fairly recent phenomenon and I wondered what or who prompted this practice into the mainstream. The IT industry is replete with people listing enough certification acronyms behind their names that it looks like a jumble of Scrabble tiles.

    My point is that I understand people are proud of their MBAs as they should, but it really doesn’t serve the same purpose as putting MD, PhD, or EdD or some other doctoral level designation behind their name. That is actually a functional clue that those people may be addressed as “Doctor.” If I see MBA or MPA behind your name, I am not going to assume you want to be addressed as Master.

  3. T King says:

    Your post comes across as though you’re just bitter about people with MBAs. You apply an insulting tone, rather than one of advice. This is highly unnecessary and it further mitigates any credibility you might have otherwise brought to the idea of whether or not to add the initialism to one’s name.
    It is a Masters degree. You cannot belittle it in any context, try as you might.

    • Tim Berry says:

      T King: Thanks for the comment, you just caused me to add a note at the bottom of the post. I have an MBA degree myself and I’m proud of it. Browse the MBA category on this blog and you’ll see. Or look at any of my posted bios and you’ll see that. My opinion is about a specific tactic that I think belittles the degree. I’d like you to read it again from that perspective. Thanks, Tim

  4. helpful opinion as I update our small business’ biz cards and am reluctant to place my MBA next to my name. message heeded.

  5. Shannon Richardson says:

    Now 41 I have worked dozens of jobs and job types funding what I love to do. From taxi driver to a company president, But even tho my expertise and experiences are great I don’t list an acronym in my bloody email etc.
    That is for a Resume.
    Do what you want of course but don’t be upset at the people you piss off or offend.
    We are all proud of accomplishments in our lives but no need to smear in other’s faces.
    I’ve known many people with an mba with not a lick of real world experience and no people skills etc. I’ve also met many who are amazing at what they do. One thing in common with most of them that I’ve experienced is that the ones posting mba all over the place are rarely ever respected or succeed. Some do of course but in my life most have not. Just sayin.

  6. AJ Bright says:

    Tim,

    I work in the medical field and EVERYONE in this industry uses their degree or certification after their name. And when I say everyone I mean everyone. From LPN’s (Licensed Practical Nurse – 12 month vocational program) to MD’s (8-16 years of college and residency), there’s no end to the acronyms on someone’s ID badge or lab coat. And it is totally accepted.

    MD’s who have MBA’s always have MBA after their MD. RN’s (registered nurses – vocational school graduates) also use their designations freely. Since you are for MD’s and against MBA’s would you tell an MD with an MBA not to use MBA also? How would you reconcile your position in this situation?

    Yes an MBA is ONLY a graduate degree, but only 4% of American’s have a graduate level degree and 1% of those are MBA’s. So despite your thoughts on the prevalence of graduate degrees, the fact remains that if you have an MBA in the United States you are in very elite company.

    Once you earn a certification or degree it can never be taken from you. Even if you default on your student loans, it’s yours. And when the degree is conferred to you, “all rights, titles, and privileges” come with it. So, at the end of the day it is a personal choice so I certainly would never take a position that one should not use it wherever they want.

    A CPA ALWAYS puts CPA after their name and yes it is a licensed certification but if you think about it most CPA’s get an accounting or business degree, work for an accounting firm for a few years, then take the CPA exam. How are they more qualified to use their earned certification than someone who works for 10 years in business then goes to school at night or on the weekends and gets an MBA? Anyone, especially if you have been out in the work force for a while, who pursues and earns an MBA should exploit that degree in anyway possible. And the reason you would advertise your accomplishments or your position in life are self evident. That is why people wear wedding rings.

    I think CPA’s should use their license after their names, MBA’s, LPN’s, RN’s, MD’s, etc. If you earned it fair and square, no clue why ANYONE would be against using it if you so choose. Great post and good discussion.

    AJ Bright MBA

    • Kate Meyers says:

      Excellent response, AJ.

      Kate Meyers, MBA

      • Insecure, MBA says:

        An MBA isn’t a certification – plain and simple.

        Go on LinkedIn and look how frequently M7 MBAs use MBA as a suffix versus how frequently University of Phoenix MBAs do this.

        Look at LinkedIn and see the industries where it’s most frequent. It’s typically salesy kinds of jobs with zero barriers to entry such as selling whole life insurance or realtors, or something that involves wearing a name tag.

        The only people who it will impress will be people who can’t help you.

        If you put it on your business card, anyone who can help you will assume you went to the University of Phoenix until proven otherwise. When proven otherwise, said person probably won’t cut you a break for not knowing better.

        Using MBA as a suffix makes you look asinine.

  7. Common Sense says:

    It’s just marketing. You don’t write a love letter ending with:

    Yours truly,
    John Doe, CPA

    It is used when appropriate to highlight a level of expertise. Such is the same with MD, CPA, JD, PhD. It’s a point of reference with regards to their skill set when communicating with another professional.

  8. REJ says:

    MBA is not a title; it’s a degree. I understand that people want to feel important, but trying to pass off your degree as a title is not the way to do it.

  9. Johnny129 says:

    What a LOAD OF RUBBISH! An MBA is a great achievement (it is the highest level of study necessary for most business roles – PhD is more for research and teaching and probably not essential/ appropriate) and sets you apart from the high school drop-outs who BS (either via referrals or sucking up) their way into roles. Mentioning it on your resume will often be overlooked since in most cases employers don’t view that far down your resume, if they view the resume at all! As far as I am concerned, it should be included wherever possible so it catches the employers eye. Of course, if the employer/ person looking at the title has inferior education then it may well piss them off!

    • Tim Berry says:

      Johnny129 Thanks for the comment. Obviously I disagree with you — I wrote the post. But I’m glad to have the viewpoint available. Tim.

      (whoops — I meant to add: Tim, MBA)

    • Chris says:

      I am an MSIS (Masters of Science in Information Science). Should I put MSIS after my name? Or are MBA people the only ones special enough to do that? How bout I toss my undergraduate degree in Computer Science in there as well: Chris, BSCs, MSIS. After all, the employer might not look at my resume!

  10. let_them_figure_it_out says:

    I’ve never considered putting ‘MBA’ after my name. The only time I mention it is on a resume. It’s great to be proud of hard work and ensuing rewards, but think about how it looks to others. What would you ‘, MBA’ users think if I were to sign as ‘John Doe, Valedictorian, MBA’? Trust me, if you earned significant accomplishment, people will be able to figure it out for themselves.

  11. neo_the_thrill says:

    thank you! I work in business and its a huge pet peeve with the countless people flaunting their MBA degrees in emails and business cards. Especially when so many of these people most likely came from some Mickey Mouse MBA program. Not to mention there are countless other people who hold master degrees in other majors that dont put it in their title. Oh and by the way I have a MBA and a MS in Computer Science from a ranked university. The MBA was significantly easier.

  12. Lindy says:

    Well, the only thing better than adding MBA after your name might be adding the institution: Mary Smith, Harvard MBA
    LOL

  13. Wiley says:

    “It’s just a master’s degree. In this country alone, accredited institutions grant several hundred thousand masters degrees every year. ”

    It is estimated that only 10% of the U.S. population has attained a master’s degree. Therefore, to say it’s just a master’s degree is a little confusing. You have stated you are proud of your degrees and display them proudly, yet the aforementioned statement you made gives the impression you believe master’s degrees are commonplace with no value. So my question to you is, if you stand behind the statement you made, why did you bother to attain yours?

    • Tim Berry says:

      Wiley, I’m sorry you’re confused, and that confusion is always the writer’s fault, not the reader’s.

      So, since your misunderstanding is my fault, let me clarify. I’m just saying that while the MD after the name works, and maybe the CPA, the MBA doesn’t. It looks silly. I think it looks oddly out of place on a business card, in an email signature, and in the “from” line of an email. Would you also say then that I’m not proud of my degree if I don’t have it tattooed my forehead? It’s a matter of custom. Are the holders of the rest of those master’s degrees, in social sciences or engineering or fine arts, who don’t run around calling themselves “John Smith, MA,” or “Mary Smith, MS,” not proud of their degrees because they don’t put them on their correspondence?

      Of course I’m proud of my degree. All of us with these degrees should put it proudly into our biographical sketches, resumes, and so forth, but not on our business cards or correspondence or the mailbox on the street.

      And actually, come to think of it, we should put our degrees where they really matter: they should show up in our writing, thinking, analysis, and social interaction. Not on our business cards.

    • Dee says:

      I love some of your comments, I earned three degrees after I became a divorce mother of three, each degree that I received is a HUGE accomplishment to me, that’s my ASB, my BSBA and my MBA, each of these degrees mean a lot because it remind me of how hard it was to leave my kids and go to school at night to earn each one of these degrees so I could afford a deceit living with having to receive food stamps or public assistance. I also worked full time job, ran a small business, raised three kids who also finish college, while attending school at night from an accredited university in Indiana, so to say that “its just a degree” is an insult. To some maybe its just a degree, but to me it was a life changing event. I proudly use my MBA and my BSBA on any and everything that I can, because it remind me of the satisficed that I’ve made to earn these degrees

      D.E. Franklin, BSBA, MBA

  14. Denise says:

    Having just received my MBA this question did come to mind. I’m very confused by the people who are so emotional about whether I put MBA after my name or not. How does that impact the other person if I put it there? It is not a slight or insult to anyone else, it is not a curse word and it is not a lie so why does this upset people so much? Why are people so incensed by my show of pride at a job well done and my reward for working so hard to accomplish something that was important to me and beneficial to my employer? Why would we discourage someone from displaying something that demonstrates hard work, a willingness to learn and the ability to accomplish goals? When consumers are in the market for a product or service they often look for signs that the product or service provider are of good quality. Putting MBA after my name is such a sign. I’ve worked hard and the school I have graduated from confirms that I have completed all of the required study in various subjects pertaining to business by allowing me to graduate and giving me a certificate that states I have completed this program. Being rude about other people putting MBA after their name doesn’t demonstrate a higher intelligence. Being rude about someone else putting MBA after their name only demonstrates rudeness. We should be commending people for their hard work and accomplishments. When I see MBA after someone’s name my first thought is, “Job well done!” I can’t say I have the same thought when it comes to the person ranting about using MBA after someone’s name.

    • Tim Berry says:

      Denise, seriously, do you really think the post here is rude or ranting? I’m so disappointed. Here all the time I thought it was a piece of good advice. You do know that I also have an MBA degree, right? Stanford, class of ’81. And I’m proud of it too. Then again, how would you know that, since I don’t call myself “Tim Berry MBA.” Of course, you could read my bio …

      Your comment makes me wonder … do you think attitudes about this might change as people get more into life and further away from the school?

    • Johns says:

      “When consumers are in the market for a product or service they often look for signs that the product or service provider are of good quality. Putting MBA after my name is such a sign”

      What a bunch of baloney, do you really think so?? All those investment bankers who let the american financial system go to crap had MBAs and other “advanced” degrees, and all the while investors thought they were getting “good quality”.

      Don’t kid yourself, an MBA doesn’t guarantee success in any endevour. It may open doors to new careers, advancement, etc.. but you still need to prove you can do the work.

      It’s a degree, not a title or designation. Stop patting yourself on your back, work hard at your job and leave it off your business card!

      • Jeff says:

        What about all of the CPA’s and CFA’s out there that also caused the financial meltdown. It wasn’t all MBA’s involved and they shouldn’t be singled out as a cause for a financial meltdown. Your logic is flawed.

        Also, if it is okay to put CPA, CTFA, CFA, Dr. in a title, then why is it not okay to put MBA? All of these titles are earned through continuing education and discrediting one because you feel like it doesn’t jive. In all cases the degree or certification is learned through education and should be just as valued as any other level of education. Your logic is flawed sir, an MBA should know this and be able to question themselves before posting such nonsense, perhaps your MBA wasn’t as well rounded as todays advanced degrees. More is required of todays students than was every required before.

        • Tim Berry says:

          Jeff, thanks, but I disagree with you. And you’re not in a good position to attack John’s logic because your counter arguments don’t work. There are clear and obvious distinctions between a doctoral degree and a master’s degree. A CPA, unlike an MBA, is licensed by a professional certification process beyond the degree. If I were a CFA or CTFA I’d do just as I do for my own MBA, and leave it off of my email signature and business card. And if you’re going to attack somebody’s education, learn when and how to use apostrophes in English first.

          • seannovack says:

            I realize that I’m getting into this discussion long after it timely, but I ask you this: Are all legal licenses that are required to do professional work appropriate for disclosure in the title of a business card?
            For example, in order to be a FINRA Certified Financial Professional, I need to have passed the Series 7 and Series 63 exams. These are difficult tests and require a great deal of study. How might it be appropriate to designate these certifications on a business card, and if it is not, why would CPA be appropriate?
            I admit, that is more of a rhetorical question left here for people to contemplate. I do in fact have a MBA in Economics and while I don’t use it as a title I have no issue with people that do.

  15. Michael Plent says:

    I’ve looked over this topic on a few blogs and posts and its fascinating to see how much emotion this topic engenders. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have obtained, and have put the loathed 3 letters after my name on ocassion.

    The fact of the matter is that for me the 3 letter acronym represents 2 years of working full time and going to school at night to obtain and further my knowledge and professional network (that’s 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., non-stop, for 2 years), not to mention the financial investment and personal sacrifice that takes: lost a girlfriend, didn’t take vacation, went into a little debt, and hauled myself from a suburb of Chicago at 5:30 pm where my job was to the school Downtown that I was going to just to make it to class on time at 7:00 p.m. – nearly 4 days a week. That took a combination of patience, trains, automobiles, and luck with the weather.

    So, one is free to question whether an MBA elevates a person’s career, intellect, or even is worth it. Like most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it. What is not arguable however is that it grants individuals who do go through an MBA process the opportunity to make valuable business contacts, explore topics and develop strengths in areas they might not be able to otherwise do within the scope of their jobs, and therefore be able to expand into areas of business not otherwise available to them. That is what it did for me.

    Like a PHD, PMP, JD, and others credentials, not all MBAs, or people for that matter, are created equal. It would seem inappropriate to classify a whole class of students whose main intention is to further their knowledge and careers as responsible for all of the major financial fallacies of our time. Statistically speaking – given that there’s significantly more non-MBAs than there are MBAs, it would follow that non-MBAs should bare a sizeable share of the blame for the issues we currently face and will continue to face in the future.

    I’m for doing whatever rocks your boat – put it at the end of your name if you want, or don’t. At the end of the day, most people that get ahead don’t spend too much time pondering unpopular decisions, or worrying what others think. Instead they demonsrate their worth through actions and over time enable their name to become the brand so that the acronyms are no longer needed.

  16. Must say I disagree. While MBA does not mean thou hast supreme power and knowledge, you make the argument as though only certification matters. What about PhD? MA? MSc? MPA? Depending on the circles you operate in, letters like those matter (whether they should or not). And they do demonstrate interest.

    I agree with you completely that letters behind a name don’t directly guarantee “good”. As I circle around higher ed both as a student and staff member, sometimes I think that having a higher degree just means you have the will power to stick it out, not that you have any special knowledge or talent. They are the part of a complete package that makes up a person, but they should be backed up by demonstrable work outcomes.

    [full disclosure, soon to be MBA in community economic development]

    Will I put those three letter behind my name when I’ve graduated? Probably, but I’ll qualify those letter with my specialization (CED) as it helps demonstrates where my passion lies.

    • Tim Berry says:

      Trina, I certainly agree with you about the value of education, and getting those degrees. I display my two graduate degrees proudly on my biography and in my various profiles. And congratulations on your-soon-to-be MBA degree. By the way, I had to do a web search to figure out what CED means (sorry, my bad) and now that I know (community economic development) congratulations on that too. But, sadly, I sill like my post here, and I still hope you choose to leave the MBA off of your business card and email signatures.

      Thanks for the addition. Disagreement is welcome here.

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