How much higher education do you need?

This is a dilemma for many professionals and entrepreneurs – a feeling that a bit of higher education may just give them that “edge.”

So, here is the question again – “How much higher education do you need?

Short answer: Whatever you need to start making a meaningful contribution to the world. Not less. Not more. Just right.

Let us focus on one of the most common higher education options – an MBA.

Over these years, I have met thousands of professionals who dream of getting an MBA sooner than later. Upon talking to them a bit more, I realize that for a large majority of them, the dream does not end there. It includes amazing things starting to happen in their life the moment they add an MBA to their list of qualifications. You may belong to this group or you may know someone who belongs to this group.

I have no problem with your dream but I do have a problem with your waiting. You rarely need higher education like an MBA to start meaningfully contributing to the world.

There is really no need to wait.

Think about it:

  • An MBA will ask from you your time, your money, your energy, your time, your mindshare and it will introduce an opportunity cost.
  • An MBA typically promises to return better opportunities, wider network, inclusion to the club and a higher self-esteem.

You could take a logical approach and put numbers against all of your investments in pursuit of your MBA and then project returns (also in numbers) and then determine whether it makes sense.

What do you think you will find when you take this logical approach?

No surprise there. You will find everything that will support your decision to get an MBA. First, because there is an industry out there that is thriving on people believing that an MBA will be the crucial X-factor in their life and second, confirmation bias will help you
find exactly what you are looking for.

Just to be clear – I neither have an MBA, nor felt the need to have one. That said, I have nothing against an MBA or any higher education program. Over these years, I have taught several MBA classes. I have also spoken to groups of CEOs and entrepreneurs many of whom had an MBA degree.

I have found that the audience will tune out easily if the speaker doesnʼt add value right then and there irrespective of whether the speaker had an MBA or not. An MBA would probably give a slight edge at the start of the session but nothing beyond that.

Go ahead and try this. Ask someone who has just completed an MBA program about what they think is the return from the program. At best, you will get a mixed response.

A small percentage of those who made the most out of the program will speak positively.

A vast majority of them will have a lukewarm response, with some of them sharing their enthusiasm about getting the keys to their fortune in the near future.

Very few will show regret about their decision. Such display of regret would simply mean that they are admitting to a costly mistake.

Smart people donʼt make such mistakes, do they?

There are many alternate paths to an MBA. Those alternate paths require a ton of selfdiscipline to get returns equivalent to the ones that you are expecting from getting an MBA. They have their own advantages too, the big ones being cost and time savings.

When you canʼt earn an MBA, a Personal MBA (by Josh Kaufman) may be a good option to consider too.

If you choose to pursue an MBA anyway, just remember that you donʼt stand out just by having an MBA. You stand out by showing the world how much more you can contribute by having an MBA.

In that sense, your education does not end with a degree, it begins there!

Over to you.

Photo Courtesy: teesside university on Flickr