The Ragan Report had a story last week about the value of having an MBA for a job in Public Relations.
Before getting into the benefits, the writer notes that very few people in PR hold an MBA. He surmises that the reason is probably because PR requires a specific range of abilities that are best learned by experience rather than study -- writing, pitching, media or community relations.
The article lists five benefits of having an MBA --
1) It focuses your thinking on business goals.
2) It teaches you the "dialect of the tribe," i.e., how to speak like a business executive.
3) It gives you the tools to run your own shop.
4) It pays.
5) It grows your network.
I happen to have an MBA -- in Public Relations, of all disciplines. I got it when I first entered the job market in the early 1970s, and Pace University in New York was one of the few schools at the time offering an MBA in PR.
I had to study the general business subjects like advanced accounting, economics and statistics, as well as a course in human dynamics. The core courses in PR covered the history of PR, some theory and some practice.
Ironically, the PR courses I took in grad school didn't really give me much I could use. I really learned how PR works once I was on the job.
But the MBA did get me something valuable. It got me my first meaningful job in PR.
When I got my degree, my first job was assisting a PR oldtimer with a few industrial accounts. I learned about printing inks and textile equipment, but mainly, I learned how to write. After several months, I moved to a new, fast-growing agency where I ended up staying for 13 years, becoming a partner and a manager. I got that job specifically because I held an MBA.
I later learned that I was one of two final candidates for the spot. It went to me because I had an MBA. The agency felt I would be on a more equal footing to deal with all the young MBA-types in the marketing and PR department at the client -- Hanes Hosiery. In all honesty, the MBA didn't help me perform my job any better. And I don't recall having "MBA chat" with my counterparts on the client side. But the agency felt it mattered, and that's why I got the job.
I'm a firm believer in education -- any education. Learning never goes to waste. Even if you don't use it directly in your career, it makes you a more rounded and interesting person. My daughter, for example, got her degree in anthropology. She has never worked in that field. But I saw how much the knowledge stuck when I went with her to the Museum of Natural History. She knew so much more than what was written on the little placards on the exhibits.
So I won't quibble with the five benefits listed above, even if I don't think each one (especially #3 and #5) is that relevant. It's education, and that never goes to waste.
So, students -- learn what you can in school. Get an advanced degree. It's a good credential to have. And when you couple it with what you really learn on the job, it can be a powerful knowledge combination.