The MBA Is Dying: 3 Reasons to Ditch the Management Degree

The promise of the MBA—that it secures your success in the business world—is one we shouldn’t continue to believe.

Harvard Business School Graduation Ceremony in Boston
An MBA program at a top university can cost up to $200,000. Rick Friedman/rickfriedman.com/Corbis via Getty Images

I have bad news for the more than 250,000 students around the world who are enrolled in an MBA (Master of Business Administration) program right now: The age of the MBA has passed. You probably started the program believing that it would provide more opportunities. You saw stats showing that the C-suite is populated primarily with MBAs. You were promised you could get a better job—and make a lot more money while doing it—with those three magic letters on your resume.

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In reality, however, you’ve only gained the opportunity to sacrifice two years of your life to learn outdated information from instructors who, for the most part, are out of touch with the current business landscape. And you pay for that privilege. (At the top schools, tuition could run up to $200,000.)

It’s time to ditch the MBA. Here’s why: 

MBA programs are not accessible to most people

To be fair, some stats show that an MBA can advance your career, which would be good news if MBAs did not favor the wealthy and privileged. But the truth is MBAs are not accessible to most people. While the average MBA program acceptance rate is 18.4 percent, it’s much lower at top schools like Stanford, for instance, whose acceptance rate is only 6.2 percent. That means for every applicant who gets in, four more are denied. If an MBA degree is the key to getting a seat at the table, then clearly everyone is not invited, yet everyone should be—especially those who are seeking to expand their business knowledge.

This exclusivity means the protective barriers that have been put up around the MBA are holding businesses back. It’s limiting enhanced business knowledge to a small percentage of those trying to obtain it.

The rosy promises of the MBA are broken

The promise of the MBA—that it secures your success in the business world—is one we shouldn’t continue to believe. With few exceptions, which you may find in the fields of management consulting, investment banking, and venture capital, an MBA doesn’t open many doors anymore. Most hiring managers and senior leaders don’t care about the snob appeal of applicants’ academic past. What they care about is aptitude and experience.

In addition, businesses know MBA grads are expensive since their salary expectations are far above what they are worth in most employers’ eyes due to their lack of practical experience. All things considered, MBA applicants aren’t a valuable option, especially in tough economic times.

For the employee, the opportunity cost of pursuing an MBA goes beyond hefty tuition and two years of sacrificed salary. Graduates also often find themselves behind their peers when they graduate. That’s two years of valuable learning from the real world where you have the transformative experiences that make you valuable in an employer’s eyes.

The lasting power of an MBA is another promise that is overestimated. Ten years after you’ve received your MBA degree, people are only going to care less. Real results, real success and hard-won learning in the workplace will always be the features that set you apart in the eyes of a potential employer.

There are plenty of alternative paths to career growth

One telling stat from the world of MBAs is that students have come to prefer online courses to in-person learning. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Students no longer want to travel to a campus and sit in classrooms for hours at a time, especially when they don’t have to.

Today’s technology allows learners to access information wherever and whenever. The tools exist to give everyone access to the relevant knowledge needed for career growth, at low cost or no cost. 

Organizations that embrace this new approach to knowledge sharing and secure it for their employees empower heightened levels of organizational enablement. They give their organization access to cross-industry wisdom, fueling the flexibility and agility that are critical in today’s fast-paced business world. They also benefit from global knowledge sharing, positioning themselves for success in an increasingly global business landscape.

 

Nellie Wartoft is a Swedish entrepreneur and the founder of Tigerhall, a venture-backed knowledge infrastructure solution provider since 2019. She was a board member of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Singapore from 2022 to 2023. 

The MBA Is Dying: 3 Reasons to Ditch the Management Degree