Is an MBA is worth getting? Do you need an MBA for consulting?
These are questions every prospective MBA (especially one reading our content!) should be asking. The good news is that you’re not alone! It’s a common question we get here at Management Consulted, and an important one to answer.
Doing your due diligence is an important step during the decision process. You don’t want to be halfway done, encountering the time crunch, costs, and other challenges of getting your MBA, and wondering if you made the right decision. It’s in those moments that you want to know there’s a purpose for taking time off and going back to school. This video is designed to help you weigh the pros and cons, so that if you decide to pursue an MBA, you can know that it was worth it.
In this video, Jenny Rae helps guide you through that decision making process. Jenny Rae earned her MBA from Columbia Business School, mid-career. She talks about why she didn’t get choose sponsorship when she was a consultant at Bain, and opted to get her MBA later. You’ll appreciate her perspective and unbiased opinion. And after watching, you’ll understand if you need an MBA for consulting.
If you’d like to talk through your specific situation with one of our coaches, book a Power Half Hour.
Is An MBA Worth Getting? (Transcription)
An MBA, is it worth getting? This is a question we are asked all the time by both current consultants and more often by folks that are thinking about consulting, as a part of a future career. And the question is, “Should I go directly into consulting from where I am now, or should I think about getting an MBA?”. Also, do you need an MBA for consulting?
We thought we would address this in two parts.
- If you’re currently at a consulting firm is it worth getting an MBA?
- If you’re not in a consulting firm but thinking about breaking into consulting, should you get your MBA?
Decision Making Process
I’m Jenny Rae, the Managing Director of Management Consulted. And of course I’m gonna have a little bit of bias here, because I’m a former Bain consultant and I also have an MBA from Columbia Business School. But before I talk a little bit about my thought process, I want to break down where people usually are when they’re deciding whether or not they want to get their MBA.
One place, is that they are currently at a consulting firm. Most top tier consulting firms, that includes the top three – Bain, McKinsey, and BCG – as well as the Big 4 – Deloitte, PwC, EY, and KPMG. Most of those firms, if you’re in the consulting practice, will sponsor you to go and get an MBA. And there are also a number of boutique firms that will do the same thing.
However, it’s really essential that you understand that one of the value propositions for those firms to have you go, is that you will be immersed in a network of people that later, when you come back to the firm and hopefully rise to the rank of Partner, and after five to seven years, will be in a position to sell, and your peers will be in a similar position of influence inside their organizations. That’s one great reason for the firm to invest in you. So the short answer to, “Do you need an MBA for consulting?”, is no. But you won’t be as well positioned within the firm for advancement.
Getting Your MBA Sponsored
Now, should you go get an MBA if you are going to be sponsored by the organization? There are a couple of good reasons to do it.
- It’s free for you! In fact, many of the firms even pay a salary on top of paying for your school, and paying for your housing, and paying for other things while you’re there. So it’s an amazing deal where you’re able to get this an incredible education and incredible experience for free.
- You’re able to learn things that you don’t get to learn inside the consulting firm. Whereas in a consulting firm, you need to do things that are revenue generating. At your MBA, you might learn about personal leadership and development. Or you might learn about communication. Or you might learn about modeling for corporate finance, things that you wouldn’t necessarily become immersed in inside your standard day to day job.
- It’s a great opportunity for you to reflect on what you’re doing. The MBA is busy but a different kind of busy than working. So you’re able to think about what you want to do in the future.
If you decide to go back, many firms have one to three year payback periods. That can feel long for many people, but it’s actually a really short blip in the scope of your entire career. During that period you’re gaining more skills, building a stronger network, and also rising up the pay curve. So there aren’t many downsides when you’re in a consulting firm to get sponsored for your MBA.
Passing On MBA Sponsorship
However, just as a side note, I actually was in that position. I was at a consulting firm and Bain proposed that I go and get an MBA, sponsored by them. And I did actually turn it down. One of the reasons for me is that I didn’t want to feel like I was strapped into the golden handcuffs of a lifetime of consulting. And so I actually went, did some other work in business, retired once, and then decided to go back and get my MBA for a different reason later. So it is okay to turn it down, but there aren’t a lot of practical reasons not to – you might just be a little crazy like me.
Getting An MBA Pre-Consulting
Now if you’re thinking about getting an MBA to get into consulting, that is a totally different story. Because there are two pathways that you can use. One, is to go into the firm as an experienced hire. As an experienced hire, you don’t have to pay for an MBA before you join the firm. So you have the advantage of just joining right away and getting compensated for your time without ever needing to outlay the capital for an MBA. In addition, outside of the U.S. an MBA really isn’t valued very highly. So there isn’t as much of a reason to take the time and the money to go and do an MBA.
However, if you do decide to go to an MBA, you might have some advantages. Number one. You might have the opportunity to get into firms that you would not be eligible to get into, based on your background as an experienced hire. The pipeline of an experienced hire is much more narrow, they’re expecting you to come from a brand name firm or a very close second tier consulting firm, in order to get into any of the top programs. So to break in, you have to have already done something. Whereas you could be an actor on Broadway, and then you could go get your MBA and then he would be eligible to break into a consulting firm. Your background matters less when you go through the filter of a top MBA program.
In addition, your MBA gives you skills that you would not have, had you not practiced them beforehand. Let me say that again. If you didn’t have the financial modeling skills from your previous career, you’re going to get those inside your MBA. So having some ability to solve problems and build models, you’re gonna have that when you graduate from any of the top programs.
Also, and this is always important to understand, you build a long-term network from your MBA program. It’s a different kind of network than a network from working together with people, but it is a powerful, broad network. And understanding that when you’re able to develop that when you go into the MBA program, you’re likely to be more valuable inside the firm over the long term, and you’re gonna have a broader set of exit opportunities should you decide to leave consulting.
Overall, our general sense is that, why not get an MBA if you’re sponsored by a firm? There’s a lot to gain from it and very few downsides. Of course, it’s not a requirement. You don’t need an MBA for consulting, but there are advantages to it.
When you’re thinking about going into consulting and thinking about getting your MBA, if you don’t have a consulting background – the more divergent your background is from consulting – the more powerful and transformative an MBA will be for you.