MBA: IT Careers Boost or Expensive Waste of Time?

  • April 6, 2020

Senior IT professionals straddle two worlds – technology and business. They must be as adept as technologists as they are as entrepreneurs. Would adding the letters M-B-A after your name alongside your tech skills attest to your ability to score highly in both arenas?

Many IT leaders have strong tech backgrounds themselves and have built leadership skills and business acumen along the way, culminating in a career trajectory that took a strategic rather than hands-on twist somewhere along the way.

IT leaders, in many cases, find themselves in the role because they have had more of a focus on their soft skills than their tech qualifications and experience. They are typically responsible for managing highly trained teams and managing critical projects – they need to speak human languages over and above programming languages.

For many with a tech background, in order to complete their metamorphosis and fully immerse themselves in how the technology and business worlds combine, aspiring IT leaders are beginning to see the value in undertaking MBA courses. Most with designs on a senior IT career with leadership prospects and access to the C-Suite are hoping that by checking this box it will result in raising their profile, enhancing their CV and boosting their income.

But does an MBA still hold the allure it once did for employers?

The Pros of Achieving an MBA

  • You are instantly recognisable as an expert in business as well as IT wizardry. The addition of an MBA to your list of credentials adds a self-explanatory element to your motivation and ambition for top tech positions.
  • You gain credibility and the C-Suite are more likely to give credence to your insight and opinions.
  • You learn essential business and analytical skills that will equip you to have a holistic view of the business and how your department functions within it.
  • An MBA can inform and enable your decision-making process and best place you to become an agent of change and development.
  • An MBA will increase your earning potential – it may provide a springboard for you to access senior roles earlier than you would if you were relying on time and experience and natural progression. An MBA can act as a cheat code to skip levels and provide immediate access to the boss level.
  • An MBA is not essential, but it certainly still has its place, and an MBA can open doors into senior positions that require either leadership experience or advanced business training in lieu of it.
  • An MBA demonstrates commitment and aspiration and can be a confidence boost.

The cons of an MBA

  • Only overachievers need apply. The sense of satisfaction and forward progression may only apply to professionals who feel they have something to prove – to themselves.
  • It’s time-consuming. Say goodbye to work-life balance. Achieving an MBA whilst maintaining a full-time career will mean your hobbies, interests and family-time will take a nose-dive.
  • It’s expensive. The tech industry tends to look down on cheap, online MBA courses, and though they are far cheaper, they really aren’t worth the time or energy. A well-respected part-time MBA course in the UK can set you back over £40k.
  • If you’re already experienced, it’s probably a waste of time. By the time you’ve accrued 15 years experience in your chosen field, it’s likely that you have the hands-on practical experience AND the wider business exposure that can carry the same weight on your CV as some extra letters after your name. An MBA can help less experienced candidates bunnyhop the traditional career advancement process, but if you’re already an old dog then there’s no need to learn new tricks.
  • There are no guarantees. An MBA could accelerate your career, but it can also be a distracting side-mission of ultimately little value. A thriving IT career means you must stay at the top of your game in terms of practical knowledge and experience of new languages, frameworks and technologies. The time taken out to develop business skills can rob Peter to pay Paul in terms of professional development, and leave your skillset wanting.

No amount of time in a classroom can replace real, hands-on experience

The tech industry is constantly evolving, and we’ve spoken a lot about how employers now value real-life experience and soft skills over and above qualifications more than ever. In light of this trend, you would expect an MBA qualification to be considered obsolete, but there is still an undeniable kudos and credibility associated with those 3 letters.

If you’re a graduate with at least 3 years experience at managerial level and you have designs on the top spot, as well as the time, inclination and financial wherewithal to support yourself through an MBA course, then it will undoubtedly give you an edge over your peers when it comes to being considered for career progression. Your network will grow and increase in quality, and so will your opportunities.

There are, of course, plenty of ways to skin a cat when it comes to climbing the tech career ladder though and an MBA is by no means a necessity. Good old fashioned hard graft, commitment to self-improvement and time on the job can achieve the same results – without the price tag.

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