This article argues against seeking an MBA (Master of Business Administration), stressing rather that you and your experience are more important than another degree. It goes on to outline five critical factors for success, explains how to say no with class and offers some “quick hits” as further advice.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Careers, business studies, entrepreneurship

Key Questions to Explore:

  • How much education is needed?
  • Why is an MBA not valuable?
  • What is the best approach to take?
  • What are critical factors for success?

Materials Needed:

Copies of the article for the students.

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

We all recognize that being educated and being intelligent are not necessarily synonymous. We have all been in contact with people who hold post-secondary degrees and yet do not seem very smart, and we have met people who lack a formal education but are very intelligent indeed. That is not to say that a formal education is not important, but rather to stress that while education gives you tools to use it is what you do with your personal attributes that separates individuals.

In today’s society it is virtually essential to have a post-secondary education as an entry level requirement for many careers outside of the trades (and those have higher and higher requirements). While a formal education opens some doors, it is what you do once you enter that counts most.

This article raises the issue of education versus experience and places the onus on the individual to perform rather than rely on credentials to secure further advancement. This lesson will raise this issue with the students and have them consider the amount of education that is needed and ways in which they can be more effective in capitalizing on the opportunities that their education and position offers them.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students to explain the idea of “The School of Hard Knocks”.
  • Establish with them that the meaning of the expression stresses experience as a way of learning rather than a formal education.
  • Ask them if they have ever met people who have an education but don’t seem smart and individuals who lack a formal education but seem quite intelligent.
  • Arrange the students in pairs and ask them to discuss what importance they attach to education in affecting a person’s career.
  • Allow them time to discuss the issue and then have the pairs report their position.
  • With this completed, combine the pairs into groups of four and ask them to discuss the role they believe post-graduate degrees play in determining an individual’s career success.
  • After allowing time for the quartets to discuss the topic, have them report.
  • As a final discussion point, ask the quartets to indicate what is a healthy balance between education and experience in aspiring to higher positions.
  • Have the groups report once more.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Hand out copies of the article to the quartets and have them answer the following two questions:
    • Do you agree with the author’s position that you should not seek an MBA?
    • What valuable information did you get from the five factors, saying no and quick hits?
  • Have the quartets report their answers and respond to any questions or comments.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  • Offer an opinion about the value of a post-graduate degree in affecting a person’s career
  • Explain the value of on-the-job experience
  • Explain how personal effort is important in utilizing the skills and knowledge provided by a formal education.

Confirming Activity:

  • Have each student identify the career they are considering and have them explain what formal education would be required and what personal traits would be necessary to optimize the likelihood of success in that career. Have them also indicate when they believe additional education would be of value.