Should consultants get an MBA? 8 scenarios to consider
One of the most common questions I discuss with aspiring consultants is whether they should go back to school to earn an MBA if they want to become successful in consulting. The blueprint that many people have in their minds as they think about consulting seem to fall into one of three paths for 2 specific career destinations.
Career destination 1: Make partner at a consulting firm
Path 1A: Complete undergraduate degree -> obtain 2-3 years industry experience -> get an MBA -> go into consulting
Path 1B: Intern at a consulting firm- >complete undergraduate degree -> spend 2-3 years at a consulting firm -> go back to school to obtain an MBA -> come back to said consulting firm
Career destination 2: Become a Fortune 500 c-suite executive
Complete undergraduate degree -> gain 2-3 years of consulting experience -> earn an MBA -> go work in industry
And while I have seen many people take this path, I have also seen many people have a successful consulting career without an MBA degree. There are also individuals in very high ranking roles in consulting without a master's degree.
My position on obtaining an MBA? It is all depends. Ask yourself what it is that you want to do with an MBA that you cannot get today? If one of the following scenarios applies to you, I would really reconsider whether it is worth the time and investment to obtain an MBA:
- You already have a business undergraduate degrees such as finance, management, marketing
- You have more than 5 years of strategy experience
- You have more than 10 years of implementation consulting experience and plan on staying in this space
- You already have a master's degree
- You just want to say that you have an MBA for resume (or ego) building purposes
If you fall into one of these categories and are contemplating getting an MBA just to get into consulting – I recommend focusing on identifying firms you are interested in and nailing their interview processes. Landing a consulting role and Spending time gaining as much real world experience as possible is most likely a better ROI of your time, energy, and money.
Unless you have financial means and time to complete an MBA program, you may be a little disappointed if your newly minted MBA program doesn't yield breakthrough returns as you may have expected.
When is it worth obtaining an MBA?
- You need to build your brand, business skills, and your professional network in order to make a career switch
- You have a technical, engineering or liberal arts undergraduate degree and would like to take on management roles in the future
- You have only been exposed to operations or implementation roles and would like to transition towards more strategy work
If you fall into one of these categories, it probably does make sense for you to invest the time, money, and energy into a reputable MBA program because the skills and your network will help leap frog your career to the next level.
Ultimately, the choice is yours.
You can see my ongoing Q&A here: Q&A: I grew up in Consulting and reinvented my brand 3 times