Book review: "Don't pay for your MBA" by Laurie Pickard - MoneySense

How to invest in a no-pay way to get your MBA

Get the business education you need without spending thousands of dollars


Book: Don’t pay for your MBA

Author: Laurie Pickard

Publisher: American Management Association

Price: $17.14, Kindle $8.99

WHO IT’S FOR: People interested in getting a high-end business education

MORE SPECIFICALLY: Those who want to learn everything an MBA teaches you without getting into a mountain of debt to do so

DOES IT BUST ANY MYTHS?: Yes, that you need to spend $50,000 or more to get an MBA, In fact, author Laurie Pickard found that some of the world most prestigious business schools offer MOOCs (massive online open courses for low or even no cost.

WHO BENEFITS THE MOST FROM THE BOOK: Self-starters, career changes, budding entrepreneurs and anyone else interested in keeping on top of their business education.

READ: Why beating the stock market is a fruitless game

SURELY YOU CAN’T LEARN MBA MATERIAL WITHOUT GOING TO A FANCY SCHOOL? Yes, you can, and with a little planning, many self-starters get the higher education they need at little cost.

WHY WE LIKE IT: It clearly shows how you can pick the courses you’re interested to tailor a curriculum that works for you, allowing you to choose a concentration and deepen your expertise in an area you have a passion for.

WHAT’S SURPRISING?: That there is such a great resource for how to use MOOCs to reconstruct the MBA experience for self-directed learners, especially those in rural areas, or areas that don’t have easy physical access to great MBA schools.

BONUS EXTRAS: Appendices that recommend courses by subject, several sample study plans, sample courses lists for various MBA concentrations as well as further resources at

ACTION ITEM: Decide what your education needs are and then use this book to build a roadmap to achieving the skills you need to further your career and business learning.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Learning is a life-long activity these days. At little cost, such MOOC business courses make it easy to constantly upgrade your skills and work towards increasing your annual income (or business revenue) over a lifetime.

Excerpt from Don’t pay for your MBA

Welcome to the future of education and work. In the digital age, business education has gone viral. No longer locked securely behind the ivied halls of elite universities, the knowledge, skills, and frameworks that make up a first-class business education have become virtually free and available to anyone with a laptop and an Internet connection. Welcome to the wonderful world of online business education: massive open online courses (MOOCs) offered by elite schools, short training courses produced by industry professionals, and talks by world experts, all available with a tap on the keypad or a click of a mouse.

And the revolution has arrived just in time. In today’s rapidly evolving job market, current and prospective workers need to learn and apply new skills throughout their working lives. In 2015 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over the course of one’s career the average worker born between 1957 and 1964 had held 11.7 jobs, spending less than five years in each position.1 Those following in their footsteps will need to retool themselves continually throughout their careers. If you don’t want to risk ending up in the breakdown lane of the information highway, you’d better figure out how to keep your skills fresh and relevant. Let’s face it: The degree you earn in your twenties no longer guarantees gainful employment throughout a forty-plus-year career.

If you pursued an MBA the regular way, you’d end up taking a lot of required courses that you may or may not be able to use right away. Years later, would you remember what you studied in Supply Chain Management 101? Worse yet, what if you never ended up needing that information at all? Still, business students in traditional programs must invest valuable time and money to complete course requirements that may or may not fit their particular situations. Instead, why not tailor your business education to fit your unique and specific needs? Professor George Siedel, who teaches a popular MOOC on negotiation, once described traditional business school as a “just in case” education, where students learn most topics “just in case” they might come in handy later. But “just in case” doesn’t square with the world of work that we now inhabit. Increasingly, people need skills that can be acquired and refreshed “just in time.” New educational tools like MOOCs can not only help you acquire specific skills just when you need them, they can refresh a skill that has faded over time. Revisiting a course like Professor Siedel’s before your next salary negotiation could mean the difference between a lackluster package and a competitive one.

Employers, too, have begun to value more than conventional degrees, university brand names, and even academic grades, none of which guarantee superior performance on the job. Just take a look at Google, one of the hottest employers in the world. Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of People Operations at Google, discusses the company’s hiring practices in his 2015 book Work Rules! As Bock explains, at Google, “The pedigree of your college education matters far less than what you have accomplished. For some roles, it’s not important whether you went at all. What matters is what you bring to the company and how you’ve distinguished yourself.”2

Together, these irresistible forces (the easy availability of information, the fast-changing workplace, and the shifting importance of traditional degrees) have conspired to erode the value of a traditional MBA degree. Add to that the fact that an MBA has never been a required degree. There is no law requiring a degree of any kind to practice business; it’s not like the degrees you need to practice medicine or law. As executive coach and professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Ed Batista explained in The Harvard Business Review, “[The MBA is] an optional degree and is nothing like a JD, an MD, or the other credentials that professions such as law and medicine make mandatory. There are many senior people in general management roles, in consulting, and even in financial services who don’t have an MBA—so don’t assume that the credential will necessarily serve a meaningful purpose in your chosen field.”3

Yet the MBA remains popular because it promises what a liberal arts degree once supposedly guaranteed: a soft landing in the hard world of finding a job and managing a career. While you may find that prospect alluring, it guarantees nothing. Consider the fact that while many MBA grads do start out with more sizable salaries than those without that credential, not all do. Graduates from mid- or lower-tier programs may not see their job prospects improved at all. At San Diego State University, over 50 percent of the MBA class of 2015 still had not found jobs three months after graduation.4 And not all MBAs who do find jobs score six-figure salaries. Those who work for startups, nonprofits, or the government, or who switch fields and end up in lower-level positions, make significantly less.

Then consider that the average total cost of a two-year, traditional MBA program in the United States now tops $150,000. If you end up at a highly ranked MBA program, such as the Wharton School of Business, the sum total of tuition, living expenses, and opportunity costs (in the form of lost salary) could run up to a whopping $220,000!5 Even part-time and online programs can cost in the neighborhood of $75,000. None of these options work for people who do not wish to find themselves buried under a mountain of student debt, especially when other options cost so much less. As you follow the program presented in this book, you will find out how you can pursue those options in a way that costs you less and earns you more.