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Will An MBA Help My Career?

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‘JT & Dale Talk Jobs’ is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com.

Dear J.T. & Dale: I am 28 years old, working in a mid-size company and responsible for IT processes. I want to go from being a computer scientist to a CIO [Chief Information Officer, the head technology person in a company]. I’m wondering whether it is useful to go for an MBA. An MBA would be a clear statement, but will an MBA help my career? How much time can be saved by having one? — Chris

J.T.: In most cases, I advise people NOT to go back to school for another degree. Why? Because they generally are using graduate school as a substitute for finding a career path. So, the extra schooling ends up being an expensive delay in figuring out what you want to do. That’s my usual response — but then there’s you, Chris. I love that you know what you want to accomplish. So I say a big YES to the MBA. Pick a school known for having a technology orientation, and during your studies, work hard to find internships that will let you be exposed to the kinds of companies you seek to be part of.

Dale: Hold on. Chris was asking about time saved. First, while an MBA would be nice to have, is it efficient? Doing a bit of research, I found a list of highly paid CIOs that included educational credentials. Turns out that many of them do NOT have graduate degrees, and these are the stars of the profession. So, Chris, what if instead of an MBA, you aggressively searched for a new job, possibly as CIO of a small company, or working for a CIO? In the time it takes to get an MBA, you’d be getting not just knowledge but relevant work experience, and therefore faster progress. This means I’m coming down on the other side, with a big NO on the MBA.

J.T.: Then that is one “yes” and one “no” from us. How to break the tie? I would try to contact some CIOs and put the question to them.

Dale: If you do, I’m guessing that you may end up with something potentially more helpful than an MBA — a mentor or two in the job you aspire to.


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Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, jtodonnell.com, and of the blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.

Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.


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