Worth it to get a business education?

You Don’t Need College For A Business Education

You think you want a business education? Do you know what getting an MBA entails, or why you want an MBA in the first place?

In March 2017, I was happily working in Tokyo as a market researcher. By April, our office had been closed down and I was out of a job. Shit.

With no immediate job prospects, and no real reason to stay in Japan, all options were on the table.

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Go Get An MBA?

My savings were alright, and it looked like I'd get paid unemployment, which was good, but I needed to start making some strategic moves. Find another job? Leave and go back to Canada? Sell my body in the seedy part of town? So many choices!

Maybe it was time to take that MBA and get the professional business education I had always wanted.

I spent that weekend with my friend J. Daniels and together we made lots of great and totally-not-regrettable decisions. I won't go into great detail, but between trips to the fried dumpling place downstairs and my local bar, I researched what an MBA in Tokyo would cost for tuition.

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MBA Tuition Breakdown

An MBA education isn't cheap. Beyond basic expenses like rent and groceries, the following universities around me offered 2 year MBA programs with the following tuitions (USD):

McGill University Japan

$54k

Plus 8% Tax

United Int. Business School

$33k

Plus 8% Tax

Waseda Business School

$34k

Plus 8% Tax

When compared to Stanford's (now record-setting) $185k MBA program, the cost in Tokyo may seem paltry, but there are other factors to take into account.

  • Rent: $1000/month (if I moved to a less central place)
  • Groceries: $350/month
  • Insurance/pension: $600/month (based on previous year's salary)

Just with bare minimum expenses, I am looking at $23,400/year in essentials before I pay for tuition, books, etc...

Taking A Loan (Educational Debt)

The simple answer is that a university business education can be an investment in your future. You can project increased earning potential based on that, and taking on some debt to cover the process can be acceptable an acceptable risk to some people. However, when you run the numbers and look at the overall talent market, it may not work out the way you expected.

In my case, I couldn't justify it. Let's look at why.

  1. A piece of paper from an institution does not equal actual aptitude and capability – why would I want to measure myself by that metric?

    Having worked in human resources, and after interviewing hundreds of candidates, I can say firsthand that anybody determined enough can scrape together a degree. I interviewed at least a hundred MBA graduates when I worked in HR. Some were fantastic, some weren't – they all had the same qualifications on paper.
  2. The cost of college debt outweighs the benefits of education.

    Mark Kantrowitz writes for TIME: "[students] are also about 20% more likely to say that their debt influenced their employment plans, causing them to take a job outside their field, to work more than they desired, or to work more than one job." (Why The Student Loan Crisis Is Even Worse Than People Think)

    No thanks. The benefits of a business education are (in my opinion) cancelled out by the externalities of taking on debt to attain it.
  3. The market of MBA talent is saturated.

    This article on business.com outlines why the MBA now carries less prestige than it used to, and I couldn't agree more. Whereas 30 years ago an MBA meant you were prepared to propel industry thinking and lead successful teams, the world today is a much different place, and the degree itself has become commoditized (to a certain extent). Undoubtedly you learn valuable skills, but at the end of the day, what differentiates you from your peers and competitors won't be the degree you hold.

More than anything else, though, the means of distribution have become democratized, and educational institutions no longer hold the only keys to the vault.

Before the internet, you actually had to go to a library and find physical books to learn about a new topic (I know, right?). Fast forward to today, and all the information of 100,000 libraries is right at your finger tips. Sure, some of it is behind paywalls, and there's certainly some crap out there, but if you do your due diligence everything you need is available somewhere.

Institutional education has become bloated. The service being marketed and sold to hundreds of thousands of young people is valuable but is it unique? Nope.

Bootstrapping A Business Education

The cost of getting an MBA in Tokyo at this stage in life looked daunting and I couldn't justify the investment. I believe in the power of bootstrapping anyways, so when Donny and I decided on the idea of a Real World MBA, I was immediately sold on it. An accessible business education can benefit anyone, so I seek to build and document it here for you.

1. Check out the thought process behind the Real World MBA here.

2. Here's the special sauce: the document where all learning is recorded! (Check tabs at the bottom for months)

I still live in Tokyo. In fact, I work in marketing, and I deal with the ins and outs of corporate business as a consultant everyday. I will learn how to build something from zero this year as part of the course, and I 100% believe the knowledge required to be successful is there if you are willing to track it down. Let's learn and execute together and make this project a success.

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