I’ve debated for years about going to grad school to get an MBA.

I’ve worked in marketing for more than 10 years with a BA in graphic design. I think I’ve done very well for myself and have learned almost everything I needed to know to perform well in my jobs through experience, a driven curiosity to never stop learning, and knowledge from blogs, books, e-courses, and mentors.

Even with this success, I ask myself, doesn’t it make sense that now that I know what I want to do, that I should invest in the right education? Now that I’ve started a business, shouldn’t I have an MBA? The impostor syndrome kicks in. I decided to do some digging to understand my motivations and goals and asked some business professionals their opinions.

The Big Question: Do you need an MBA to be successful in business?

The answer depends on what you want to accomplish and why you think a business degree will help. What kind of business career do you want? Are you looking to get hired for a corporate role within an established company or do you want to start your own business?

Path 1 – Corporate Business Woman

If you want a job in the corporate world there is definitely an advantage to having a MBA on your resume. In fact, this may be an educational requirement or strengthen your candidacy for a position when you apply. This shows your employer that you’ve learned the business fundamentals and undergone the management training needed to run a business (in theory). An advanced degree can also improve your chance of promotion within a company to higher positions and bigger salaries, helping you climb the ladder.

With the average MBA costing more than $100,000 (not including the loss of income while you’re in school for two years), this investment seems to only make sense if you plan to be working for someone else long enough for your increased earnings to outweigh your debt. How long will that take? Check out this MBA ROI calculator if you want to crunch some numbers.

Path 2 – Future Female Entrepreneur (The Hybrid)

Taking the risk of starting a business is scary, so for some entrepreneurs, school can feel like the safe route. School gives you time and a place to test out ideas; to develop your strategic thinking skills, management style, and decision making through business cases rather than the far riskier real-world; to be held accountable for learning; and to build your network. The valuable professional connections you make within this community can become your future business partners, employees, or customers.

This path can give you a few years of experience in the working world before starting your business. However, if you have a great business idea you could be sacrificing years of opportunity in pursuing an MBA and working for someone else. If you go this route, you should consider starting your business as a side hustle to gain real experience while you’re a student. You may even want to consider starting your business and working on your degree part-time.

Path 3 – Ready to Act Entrepreneur

If you want to start your own business, an MBA still has value, but may become less beneficial. It’s not a golden ticket to success in entrepreneurship. You’ll need to impress your partners and investors who will care more about your business plan and potential profitability — not your educational credentials. Your status in the business world will be judged by your passion, creativity, critical thinking, risk-taking, influence, and determination.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll be faced with limited time and resources, and you will have to make difficult decisions that have a real business impact. As your own boss, you’ll learn by doing and have the power to create your own way of doing things specific to your work style and business. Fortunately, if there’s anything you feel you’re lacking, most foundational skills can be learned for free or very cheap – through e-courses, books, mentors, leadership programs, etc. You can then take the money you saved from not paying for business school and invest it into your business.

Is the MBA No Longer Status Quo?

For generations, business school has been the clear path to success for anyone looking to advance themselves in the world of business. We are starting to see a shift in this mindset because of skyrocketing student loan debt in a shifting economy where online learning resources and networking communities are growing and technology startups are booming. Silicon Valley is the new Wall Street. People today have more opportunities than ever for an alternative to the coveted 9 to 5 job and are looking for options that fit their values and lifestyle.

A recent Gallup poll shows a future shift toward entrepreneurship. 8 out of 10 students (77%) in grades 5 through 12 want to be their own boss, 45% want to start their own business, and 42% want to invent something that changes the world.

Making the Decision

There is always value in pursuing knowledge and improving yourself and your skillset, but the success factor is driven by one’s passion and commitment to the vision, not simply their level of education or alma mater. Personally, I’ve decided against a traditional MBA and instead have committed myself to working on my business and using what I know to help others. This is what I love about what we have built at Wildernest – our ability to empower and support other women on their own journeys of business ownership.

To decide if you should go to business school, you need to follow your heart and be honest with yourself based on what are your true personal goals and objectives. If you want to get an MBA and can invest the time and money to get it, go for it! But if you’re only motivation is that it will validate your worth to other people, forget it! Don’t put your ideas and dreams on hold because you don’t feel “qualified”. You need to do what’s best for you, what truly benefits you in the long run, and give yourself permission to do it.

Your Next Step?

Because we had women like you and me in mind, we have developed our own course curriculum to guide female entrepreneurs through the process of setting up their own business. Our Nest ecourse will be launching soon, so if you’re ready to venture into business ownership, we have developed an easy and cost-effective DIY guided program for YOU!

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andrea kalan

Digital Marketing Director

Tampa, Florida USA

Living by the mantra, “Do no harm, but take no shit,” Andrea believes that everyone deserves a fair shot at happiness. She brings her advocacy, desire to connect with clients on a personal level, and 10 years in digital marketing to help women pursue their dreams and define their own success.In building Wildernest, she’s created the lifestyle she needs to be her most full, creative self and has found the power to use her voice to help other women do the same.

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