By Laurie Pickard, author of Don’t Pay for Your MBA

Laure Pickard

Laure Pickard

Have you ever wondered whether you need an MBA to get ahead in your career? If so, you’ve probably also wondered whether the staggering cost of a traditional MBA degree is truly worth it. Fortunately, these days there are other ways to get ahead in business.

Here are a few secrets to taking your education and your career into your own hands and scoring the job of your dreams, without dropping everything for a pricey degree.

Secret #1: An MBA Isn’t Usually Required

Business isn’t like law or medicine. You don’t need any degree in particular (or any degree at all) to practice business. Most careers don’t require that you have an MBA. Rather, your experience and your skills are most important. A degree (or lack thereof) is rarely the single factor that gets someone the job, or keeps them out of it.

Secret #2: Knowing What You Want Is the First Step to Getting What You Want

For those students who enter MBA programs without knowing exactly what they want to do after business school, the career services component of an MBA is just as valuable (if not more so) as anything they learn in the classroom. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend upwards of a hundred thousand dollars to get that benefit. Instead, consider spending just a few hundred dollars on the services of a top-notch career coach. Or, check out a few business career books from your local library and develop some hunches about your ideal career. Then make a practice of conducting informational interviews to figure out if your hunches are correct. You may find that once your goals are clear, the path to reaching them is too.

Secret #3: All the Business Education You Need Is Available for Free (Or At Very Low Cost)

If you are contemplating going back to school because you think it will help you advance but aren’t sure exactly what you’ll do with your education, you risk making a very expensive mistake! Instead, spend the time to figure out what your ideal career looks like (see Secret #2). Then pursue targeted business education to reach your goals, at much lower cost than a degree program. Use university course platforms (e.g. Coursera, edX, FutureLearn) or professional training sites (e.g. Udemy, LinkedIn Learning) to find the training that meets your needs.

If you play your cards right, a debt-free business education can launch your career - and pay for itself many times over. So do yourself a favor and skip the MBA. Won’t you look smart without all that business school debt weighing you down.

Author Bio:

Laurie Pickard used online courses to replicate the MBA at a fraction of the typical B-school price tag. Her “No-Pay MBA” project ( has appeared in the Financial Times, Poets & Quants, Fortune, Entrepreneur, CNNMoney, and the Wall Street Journal. DON’T PAY FOR YOUR MBA: The Faster, Cheaper, Better Way to Get the Business Education You Need (AMACOM; November 2, 2017) is her first book.