Career Advice Tuesday – “Experience vs. MBA”

June 28, 2011

Dear Infosecleaders:

I just graduated college, and was lucky enough to get a great job as an information security analyst.  It’s essentially a job I figured I’d have to work towards for two or three more years to get, but somehow I lucked out.

After several months, I now have an opportunity to go back to school for an MBA, as well as study Information Assurance with some really great advisors.  My grad degree would be completely paid for, plus a bit for living expenses, as they do not want me to work during school-time.  This would have been the perfect option had I not already gotten the perfect high salary job.

I ask, “To School or Not To School”




Dear Hamlet:

I often like to begin to discuss advice like this by saying that you are very fortunate to have a decision on your hands, not a dilemma.  This is an excellent position that you find yourself in, and I am going to answer your question by posing some additional questions for you to consider as you are attempting to arrive at your own conclusion.

1) Do you have enough maturity to fully maximize the “Masters Degree” experience?

Plain and simple, a Masters degree, especially an MBA is a lot more involved than just attending classes and getting good grades.  A Masters degree will often introduce concepts that have more value when you can apply them to practical experiences, as opposed to just “school experience” – many people advise to go get work experience prior to pursuing an advanced degree, however, you have to figure out which situation works best for you, and often that comes being honest with yourself.

2) Your personal financial situation?  Are their any conditions attached to the money?

Having the opportunity for a third party to pay for your degree in full is a great benefit.  It is logical that a Masters degree could often cost up to $100,000, not including the time off of work.  This is a great deal of money to walk away from and this has to be a strong part of your decision making process, and weigh strongly on the direction you decide to take.

Additionally, in my experience a gift like this – a full education, and living expenses, rarely comes without strings attached.  If there are strings attached which creates an “indentured servant” type of environment, where you are forced into a direction that may take you on a detour, away from your near term career goals, this needs to be given strong weighting as you make your decision.

3) How good is your current job and what are you learning?

I know that you said you had a well paying job, but lets forget about the money for a moment, and consider the skills that you are learning in your day-to-day role.   It is most likely that your near term career opportunities are going to come from your practical experience as opposed to an advanced degree.   If you are gaining good experience, have a plan for additional training, and have a manager that fosters your career development, this can turn out to be more valuable than a Masters Degree.  Again, it is up to you to evaluate these components of your current opportunity and honestly assess them.

4) Finally, what is your gut telling you?

When you make any decision, the best thing to do is to trust your own judgment and stay true to yourself.  Considering that you cannot go wrong either way- that is you can always find another job, and the last time I checked, Masters Degree programs are not closing their doors any time soon – you really can not go wrong.

You are fortunate to have this opportunity chances are you are a bright young person with a big future ahead of you, so you will most likely have more opportunities in the future.  This decision has a great deal of magnitude, however it is not a “make or break” type of decision.  There really is no wrong answer.

As the holder of your own destiny, you ultimately hold the responsibility for your career – you will reap the rewards for good decisions, and have to address the consequences of incorrect ones.

Follow your gut, follow your heart, listen to smart people, and do not look back!

Let us know what you decide,

Lee and Mike

Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Career Advice Tuesday, Compensation, Planning, Position Selection 


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