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Columnist Stefan Stern wrote in a popular column recently that scapegoats are still being sought for the crisis in world markets and MBA graduates make a convenient target.

Simon Earp, director of the part - time MBA course at Edinburgh University argues that business theory has not been fundamentally discredited by the credit crunch, but rather that "people took their eye off the ball".  He also contends that it is going too far to say MBA course teaching was somehow the main culprit, since their many players had other qualifications, such as chartered accountancy, financial analysis or the principles of banking prior to joining the MBA.

 It is now up to the MBA graduates themselves to put things right and to clear the tainted name of the MBA by proving that obtaining an MBA is not merely about credentialising themselves.  Instead, they have managed to successfully undergo an invaluable transformation experience at the business schools.  The transformative experience itself is an understatement considering the long and challenging process involved in pursuing the course, especially so at top business schools.  The process begins from the moment the candidate identifies / selects a business school (an MBA is anything but one-size fits all), applies for a place, being admitted, working & networking with peers and professors.  Having gone through this significant learning curve and process, it would be unfair to claim that MBA graduates are still greatly lacking in soft skills like communication, leadership, managing people and teamwork.

Nevertheless, following the credit crunch, it must be pointed out that the MBA bashing is not entirely baseless and most top b-schools have noted the constructive feedback and have proceeded to take measures by reviewing their curriculum by emphasising on issues like ethics and CSR now.

 A reminder by Stem to prospective MBA candidates "if you measure the value of an MBA as a ticket to a six-figure job, then a lot of these people might be disappointed when they graduate.  It's those that realise an MBA is a transformative experience and much more than the pay check who is going to reap the benefit".

While many will agree that an MBA will not necessarily make one rich, there is this other side of the coin that suggests that knowledge is wealth.  It is also perceived that an MBA is only relevant to those working for large companies since having an MBA will definitely look good on the resume in the eyes of the corporate world.  Based on this view, people are saying that the time and opportunity costs of pursuing an MBA, and not to mention the cost of the MBA itself are way too high.  Furthermore, with the exploitation of technology, a business startup no longer requires big money.  From an extreme point, some people feel that education tends to highlight too many risks thus creates a negative impact toward self-employment/startup projects.

Whilst the debate on this topic will be on-going for years to come, why not do both as the knowledge gained from an MBA may well complement the entrepreneur’s real-life experiences.  With many b-schools offering part-time MBAs, the working group can now study for an MBA while continuing to earn money in full-time employment.  This reinforces the fact that one studying for an MBA while still in employment (even self-employed) has "nothing to lose but everything to gain".  The business will eventually benefit if one has a broader understanding and knowledge on the tools, strategies, controls, sales and marketing as well as how to manage people.  Having an MBA will certainly help the entrepreneur in the longer term to grow and to sustain the business.

The MBA qualification has been unjustly viewed as over-rated in recent times.  This is probably due to the perception that the MBA will solve all business problems of the entrepreneur which logically, will not be the case.  Instead, the entrepreneur should draw upon the added knowledge gained from the programme to apply to his/her actual work "environment and requirement" at any point of time.  Although most entrepreneurs would confidently claimed that they have developed more than enough experience in running a business through blood, sweat and tears, there is always room for improvement in terms of the business processes, strategies, tools, etc. due to the dynamics of the business world.  For instance, if the entrepreneur has technical background, e.g. in engineering, then equipping himself/herself with knowledge on finance, accounting and corporate strategy can be most helpful.

Therefore, pursuing an MBA is not entirely a waste of time for an entrepreneur as it may well serve as a well-planned back up plan to fall back on should the startup fails.  This, is what I call true "freedom" as a result of being well equipped to be on your own. 

~By a guest author