4 Reasons You Don’t Need an MBA for Product Management

MBA for Product Management

Having an MBA is great — but it is only an accessory. It helps you look more appealing to certain recruiters, but won’t guarantee you a job. It’s true that an MBA looks great on your resume. You get to proudly tout graduating a second time after prolonging your education by two or four more years, and it’s relatively rare for people to receive such a high honor in education. Receiving a Master’s Degree is so revered that some may deem it imperative to one’s career. But the truth is, an MBA for product management careers is not a requirement, a necessary qualification, or even a factor in how likely you are to land the Product Manager job.

So why do people often think they need an MBA for product management career opportunities? Let’s address some key reasons why people get an MBA, and why they won’t get you a Product Manager job.

Perception of Having an MBA

Parents have told their children to stay in school after they received their Bachelor’s Degrees so they can receive a Master’s Degree. The reasoning behind this? They feel an MBA would add tons of points toward a hiring company’s perception of its beholder. It would be much easier to get a job with an MBA rather than without it.

However, getting an MBA doesn’t guarantee you a job. Even if it did, it would not guarantee a job in a company that you would like to work for. It won’t help you be placed in a situation that you would enjoy working in. Getting an MBA is more an accessory than a need; it makes you look more appealing compared to if you didn’t have it. But it’s not a dealbreaker if you’re looking for a Product Manager job: you would be fine either way, so why spend the extra time and money in school when you could be starting your career?

The Cost and Benefit of an MBA for Product Management

Getting an MBA for product management careers has its benefits, but it also has its costs. In some cases, when discussing the possibility of going back to school to receive a Master’s Degree or continuing school, people don’t think about what liabilities that would have on their life. First of all, college, in general, is expensive. There are people that want to or plan to finish their college education and receive their Bachelor’s Degree in three years, rather than the traditional four, all because they believe they can then not pay that fourth year of tuition and start paying off any existing student debt by joining the workforce one year early.

However, student debt remains a pressing issue today that impacts everything from people’s credit scores to their dating life. The tens — and possibly hundreds — of thousands of dollars that a Master’s Degree program would warrant for tuition becomes a luxury rather than a need for the people interested in going back to school.

The opportunity cost of undergoing an MBA program doesn’t stop with paying tuition. Rather, it continues with the time spent studying when it could be used to actively applying for Product Manager roles. The time you spend in school preparing for your career with an MBA for product management is time that you will be either unemployed or only able to work part-time. The bottom line is that it means potential wages lost.

Skills Gained From an MBA for Product Management

You could keep telling yourself that the time and money you give up to receive an MBA for product management will be worth it in the long run once you get your Product Manager role, but that would be a misconception. People in the Product Manager industry have said that when it comes to hiring future Product Managers to fill company roles, they are more cognizant than ever of the skills candidates possess that will increase their chances of succeeding in the job. 

The majority of skills needed to succeed in product management cannot be learned in a classroom. Most skills you’ll need to succeed are shared by the majority of the workforce, in such industries as Marketing, Finance, Engineering, Investment Finance, and other similar fields. In each position, you’ll learn hard skills that apply to product management, but also — and perhaps more importantly — you’ll develop soft skills necessary for success that can only be gained in a professional setting. Building up those soft skills costs less than an MBA program and has a bigger impact on whether or not you are perceived as attractive to hiring employers in the Product Manager industry.

Competitive Atmosphere

In a competitive atmosphere like the tech industry in New York City, which also houses impressive schools such as Columbia and NYU, everyone that is actively job-seeking will have impressive education track records. The majority of candidates come from good backgrounds with the ability and prowess to get into expensive but internationally revered colleges. Some of them, if not the majority, will have Master’s Degrees, whether it is in business or not.

However, all of this creates a somewhat level hiring playing ground where the prospective hires have almost identical education bios. For example, two people that have the same degrees, but one went to Stanford and the other went to Harvard, look the same on paper. No sane employer will choose between applicants by comparing their respective colleges. Instead, recruiters will look for something that can be compared, like soft and hard skills. Ultimately, given the competitive atmosphere, skills and experience hold much more weight than formal education when considering rejecting an applicant in favor of another.

Trump the Competition

A Product Manager with experience and relevant skills will have an advantage over another Product Manager with neither experience nor relevant skills, regardless of their level of education. There’s no reason to consider whether candidates have an MBA for product management when skills and experience are such a strong indicator of a successful person in the Product Manager industry. 

We all understand the appeal of getting an MBA or any relevant Master’s degree. However, the feat of earning an MBA will not land you a job alone. You must possess those necessary skills and accrue decent relevant job experience in product management in order to truly impress the hiring party.

Remember: hard and soft skills are a necessity, while an MBA degree is optional to some and a luxury to others.  There are plenty of successful Product Managers that don’t have MBAs. Instead of thinking that you need to get an MBA, ask yourself instead how you can build up skills and experience to trump the competition regardless of whether or not they have a Master’s degree.

Need a Hand?

There are many skills required when it comes to being a Product Manager, but these aren’t always only attained through having past experience in that role: there are many ways to develop the skills you need to succeed without an MBA. To learn what skills you’ll need to impress recruiters and start practicing them, check out our free training courses designed specifically for getting a Product Manager interview. Want some guidance to get started? We’re offering free career coaching sessions with our in-house team: schedule a call with one of our career coaches. We’d love to hear from you.

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