5 reasons you should drop out of your MBA program

NYU Stern School of Business
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user GK tramrunner229

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I'm having a very difficult time. I am a 27-year-old female currently working as an engineer and I make a salary around $85,000 a year and decided to enroll in an MBA program just to add to my credentials. I am currently going to an iMBA program through a reputable school (one on this top 25 iMBA list, anyway). I just started 11 weeks ago and it has been quite a challenge. I am not passionate about the topics but I thought that I should do this in order not to cut myself short in the future.

I am not exactly happy in my role as an engineer and would much prefer just to manage projects from an upper level. However, I do not even know if those sorts of roles exist. I did not and do not have much guidance and I am just really confused if this MBA is worth it or not.

It is a hefty (over $50,000) amount of money and I am not getting much reimbursement from my company (only $5,000 a year, no ties). This is money I could spend on purchasing a house, saving for a wedding, providing for a family, etc.

I honestly can not see myself staying on the engineering track for the rest of my career and hoped that the MBA would open doors.

I know that if I change companies now, and stay in engineering but get a manager position, I can increase my salary about $15,000!!

My head is all over. Should I just do that, even though I am not really happy? Should I continue the MBA with no direction and just hope that it will open up some new career that I will enjoy more?

Why quitters often prosper

In situations such as this, I generally say, "Here are the reasons to stay, here are the reasons to leave, now you think about it and make your decision." But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that an iMBA is not for you. At least not right now.

1. You already make too much money. You're already making $85,000 a year and know you could reach $100,000 without the MBA. (You may think you need an MBA to be a manager, but you do not.) According to Bloomberg Businessweek, many people with MBAs won't reach that salary within the first 10 years after receiving their MBAs. Sure, if you were at Harvard, that would be a different story -- but you're not.

2. You don't know what you want to do. You know what you don't want to do (continue on the engineer path), but you don't know what you want to do. Graduate school is a terrible place if you are trying to figure out what to do. It's hard and a lot of work and not worth if it's not the path you want. It's true that an MBA opens doors but it also closes doors. Make sure that the MBA is opening the doors you want opened.

3. Tuition is expensive. $50,000 is a lot of money -- and you said it would cost you more than that. And that's just the cash outlay. You will also be spending time and effort on this degree and that will cost you in other areas -- with family, friends and in your career. The fact that you listed other things you could do with the money tells me that you're already thinking of it. (Although on a side note, please don't spend $50,000 on your wedding. Blech. It's one day. I'd rather see you get an MBA for that kind of cash.)

4. You haven't examined your options. There are many paths to management and as an engineer there are many different careers as well. An MBA is certainly one path, but there are many others. You need to start speaking with people who are doing what you think you might want to do. How did they get to where they are? Is an MBA the only path to that place? You may need knowledge, but not a degree. MIT has a ton of free lectures where you can gain knowledge. Your company may have a mentoring program or a development path for high potential employees. Talk to your boss, talk to your HR department and see what else is out there.

5. You're not passionate about your classes. Sure, every graduate program is going to have a class that isn't your cup of tea, but I'd be very hesitant if you're looking at the course outlines for the next few years and you're not saying, "I can't wait until I can take Accounting for External Reporting!" If it all sounds boring to you, why get a degree to be qualified in order to do work you find boring?

If what I've outlined here doesn't ring true, by all means, plough through. But if it is true, you may want to consider a different area. If you need more education to reach your career goals, keep in mind that an MBA isn't the only option. Perhaps you'd like a master's degree in finance or organizational behavior or chemical engineering or statistics. Maybe after you do all this thinking you'll decide that an MBA really is what you want. Trust me, programs will be available next year.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.