Overrated MBA Degrees


This past Sunday in the comments section, we heard a few perspectives on the value of the MBA – Masters of Business Administration. Personally, MBA degrees are a dime a dozen, and mostly overrated.

Count on your hand five people who have been transformed by their MBA.

Not saying that people don’t benefit from getting their MBA.  There’s no question that the enormous effort and expense changes the MBA graduate.

And perhaps there’s a place, a rite of passage so to speak, to follow an undergraduate degree with a Master’s degree when we are in our early 20’s and at the very front end of our career..

But what I’m saying right here, right now, that in later life, people have to admit a certain truth.

The truth is, you must ask some seriously honest questions:

  1. Why is an MBA critical to me now?
  2. What’s my payoff, my ROI?
  3. Will this catapult my career, and why?
  4. Or will it simply pad my resume?
  5. Is there a smarter way to increase my rank and salary?

Please don’t misunderstand, everyone knows that an MBA graduate has conquered what few others have. All I’m saying is this, does it catapult you?

And if it doesn’t, then why expend the energy, effort, time, and money?

So, back to where we started, at the end of three years, will you have a profitable business?

Now that seems like a great payoff, a huge ROI – like being shot out of a cannon.  Or am I missing something?

By jeff noel

Retired Disney Institute Keynote Speaker and Prolific Blogger. Five daily, differently-themed personal blogs (about life's 5 big choices) on five interconnected sites.


  1. Dear Jeff,

    For me, I have seen a great ROI for my Master’s in Leadership, but it wasn’t what I had planned for going into it. I assumed when I started it (10 years after I had started my bachelor’s degree), that it would increase my income and catapult me in my career. But I learned a lot – I took a lot from the educational experience that I use daily. Then when I was finished, my company said, “Good job.” What? That was it? Yes. It didn’t increase my income or catapult my career at all. If anything, it made my life harder (i.e. people resenting me for trying to do better for myself).

    So for about a year or so, I looked at the degree on my wall and almost regretted the time spent on it. At that point, it did just feel like I had added to my resume with nothing else to show for it. Then God opened up a door I had not planned for – to be an adjunct instructor at the college level, using my master’s work! It was a one-to-one correlation. I didn’t just earn a degree and never use it!

    So directly, have I been rewarded for my degree in my current work? No, not really. But I have found something that does reward the work in getting to teach college classes on the side. And yes, that has supplemented my income! But the ROI has been the satisfaction of knowing my efforts in going back to school are being rewarded and used!


  2. Bob, I applaud your efforts. Seriously. And it is so satisfying to know that you have benefitted as much as you have.

    I too am pursuing an MBA, however, the program requires a three year commitment and at the end, a profitable business means you passed. A business that the IRS says is a hobby, because no profit is generated, is fail.

    Meeting with my CPA tomorrow. I already no what grade he’ll give me.

    The catalyst for all this dialogue was the corporate push I observe for professionals to pursue their MBA.

    All I ask is that people ask the questions in today’s post.

    I dislike seeing people misled with false assumptions about what an MBA pays versus what it costs.

    Of course, anyone who receives an MBA is a person who has overcome tremendous odds and obstacles and learned more than the average business person.

    I’m simply challenging the status quo. Why not have a profitable business, small or large, at the end of three years? Seriously. Why not?

    Why didn’t Barnes and Noble, or the library system, invent the Kindle? Why didn’t the Music industry invent file sharing?

    Love this conversation and the fact that you add so much to it.

  3. I am glad to see that you are in a program that leaves you with something at the end besides a degree…you have a business! That’s a big deal!

  4. Well, there’s a 70-90% chance I’ll fail.

    Most small businesses do.

    I’m banking on my track record of doing seemingly impossible things.

  5. Just left comments at your blog.
    Inspiring. Unexpected.
    That’s Mike Reardon for ya.
    Cool thing is, I get to work with him.

  6. Thank you my friend. And I get to work with you. And, in the current climate, if I had not completed my MBA, I likely would not have that privilege.

    Which kinda trumps all 5 of your questions.

    Love your blog. Love the way you challenge the assumptions of “conventional” wisdom. And love especially the way you make me think.

    It’s amazing the stuff you can up when think up stuff. Right?

  7. Ok, fair enough what’s been said. All the comments are valued and respected.

    But I still ain’t gonna budge on the fundamental concept that most people think an MBA will solve their problems.

    It’s like a person who watches sports, goes to sporting events, knows a lot about sports history and sports trivia, but doesn’t exercise.

    Knowledge is worthless without action. Vision without execution is hallucination.

    Am also not willing to back down on the fact that later in life, we ultimately have to accept full responsibility for our lot in life.

  8. And you should not back down on that. You are 1000% correct. However, I suggest that our responsibility does not begin later in life, it begins at the beginning. With choices we make at very early ages.

    And I also agree that an MBA is not a magic wand. Having an MBA opens doors. We must choose which ones to enter and what to do once we’re in.

    It is not really the MBA that is over-rated. It is the the unrealistic expectation that having one instantly makes you valuable.

    “Be good at something; it makes you valuable…. Have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcome.” Randy Pausch

  9. Mike, you have finally revealed what I was hoping would be revealed:

    It is not really the MBA that is over-rated. It is the the unrealistic expectation that having one instantly makes you valuable.

    And so, before taking the beaten path with unrealistic hopes, perhaps when we come to the proverbial fork-in-the-road, there is a counter-intuitive moment to make a different decision, that most do not even consider.

    Thank you again, everyone. Have enjoyed this dialogue and look forward to antagonizing you with some other rant.

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