MBA vs industry certifications. Which one should you pursue?

Michael Cadieux

Welcome to the first edition of the Foundry Findings, our new regular column from Mike Cadieux, Founder of Procurement Foundry.

MBA versus industry certifications. Which one should you pursue? To answer that, let’s take a different track here. Instead of an either-or question, we should ask why either are necessary, starting with an MBA.

Ubiquitous Decline 

According to a March 2018 article, the “value-added ratio” for an MBA degree has been declining at an “alarming rate.” In other words, the MBA acronym no longer carries the cachet or influence it once did. 

An initial reaction to such revelations is that similar to the missive about opinions being like belly buttons – everyone has one, the sheer ubiquity of people with an MBA dilutes its meaning and impact. Compounding the problem of dilution is the reality that the MBA courses that are available through the myriad of intuitions “are not created equal.” There is no guarantee that someone with an MBA designation is any smarter or more capable than someone without one.

Going back to the article’s reference to ratio – when you compare the difference in salary increase to the cost of acquiring a degree over the past 30 or so years, and you will see a disturbing trend emerge.

While there has been, since 1985, an increase in MBA graduate salaries, tuition costs over the same period have increased by a whopping 526% going from $11,000 annually to almost $69,000 today.

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SOURCE: Poets&Quants

Sobering as these numbers are, what is perhaps even more sobering when it comes to getting “your MBA” is the growing realization that for many people, it may not be necessary.

Earning Your Letters

Unlike varsity “lettering” in high school, which connotes excellence in school activities and will likely help you to get a date on a Saturday night, there are no such benefits with an MBA.

At least this is what Ashley Stahl reported in her April 2018 Forbes article; Here’s Why You Probably Don’t Need An MBA. 

Stahl writes that except for certain circumstances, you do not need an advanced degree to become proficient and make meaningful headway in your field or career. In fact, not having an MBA may be an advantage, in that you will be able to start a new business or enter a new field sooner and with considerably less debt than you would have had if you had pursued the degree.This realization brings us back to the original question, which is better, an MBA or industry certification? 

A Better Currency

One of the biggest issues with industry certifications in previous years is that the curriculum offered through associations did not always keep pace with the evolving roles and responsibilities of procurement professionals. Let’s face it; procurement is no longer a simple adjunct of finance where the primary focus is to get the lowest price out of suppliers.

Thankfully, and with the refresh of current curriculums and the expansion of courses through higher education institutions, an industry designation carries with it a certain prestige and suggestion of both competency and commitment.

We are not suggesting that all institutions are equal, but with a greater number of options, you can find the right one if you do your homework. In a future article, we will provide you with our list of the top schools from which you can obtain your certification.

In the meantime, the answer is pretty clear; don’t buy into the hype of either an MBA or industry certification; seek instead a measurable return in which the benefits to both yourself and your organization can be easily “quantified.”

Be sure to subscribe to CPOstrategy to stay up to date on all future Foundry Findings! 

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