Over the years, there have been countless studies investigating and discussing the rate of return on attaining a Master in Business Administration (MBA). For most, the decision to pursue an MBA is about acquiring the skills and knowledge obtained through an MBA program for career upward mobility. For others, it’s to join the next great startup.
What are the benefits of business school for veterans?
There are a lot of benefits to getting an MBA, such as networking opportunities, upward mobility within your corporation, and it can be a great launchpad for a civilian career. According to organizations like the MBA Veterans Network, there are plenty of reasons why veterans should consider a top-ranked MBA program, including:
- In two years, MBA students learn about multiple industries while earning a degree that will balance military experience.
- Substantial financial aid packages are available to veterans.
- Career services departments at universities will help you launch your post-military career.
- There are some things taught in business schools that are foundational to success in business.
- The average starting salary for an MBA grad in 2019 was $115,000, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.
- Staying in school could be safer than entering an uncertain workforce. Also, it could do a lot of good for you to take some time to refine your skills.
Can veterans gain useful experience without business school?
However, if you’re focused on flexing your entrepreneurial muscle, then the risk-controlled environment of school might not be the best place to gain direct startup experience. Speaking from personal experience after graduating from one of the top MBA programs for entrepreneurship, I can attest that more time is spent on research versus building minimum viable products (MVPs). In school, you don’t get graded for having resiliency, curiosity, agility, resourcefulness, and tenacity — all valuable traits that can help scale startups. Below are a few benefits for taking the startup path:
- You get to work with colleagues who have deep domain expertise.
- Startups teach you about some of the most critical components of building and scaling a successful business that isn’t taught in business schools like sales, community, content marketing, diversity, and inclusion.
- Research is essential, but building a real product is incomparable to what you’d study in school.
- Working at a startup enables you to get hands-on experience while learning by doing.
- You’ll wear different hats to support the team. Generalists are necessary for getting fledgling startups off the ground.
- Experiences working at other startups can provide you skills, industry knowledge, and networks necessary to test business ideas and ultimately launch your startup.
The entrepreneurship landscape is fast-moving. The current economic conditions could be unattractive for many even to pursue an MBA or join a startup, but some organizations specifically help veterans find their fit.
Shift helps veterans take control of their post-military career through fellowships and talent development in partnership with companies excited to hire veterans. Additionally, there are plenty of affordable resources to consume online.
Former entrepreneur turned venture capitalist (VC), and Harvard Business School professor, Jeff Bussgang, said, “There exists a canon, in startupland, and if you’re not studying the canon, then it’s like trying to be a minister without memorizing the Bible.”
Below is content, taught in the top business schools and required reading for veterans with startup aspirations, that can help better inform you:
- Y Combinator’s Startup School Curriculum
- Paul Graham’s Do Things That Don’t Scale
- Brad Feld’s Startup Communities
- Whitney Johnson’s Disrupt Yourself (podcast interview)
- Fred Wilson’s AVC
- Eric Ries’s The Lean Startup
- Steve Blank’s The Four Steps to The Epiphany
- Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing The Chasm
- Clayton Christensen’s Disruptive Innovation
If you believe, based on evidence and research, that an MBA is a requirement for success, then you should go after it. For those intending to gain the first-hand startup experience, then an MBA program might not be the best place for you. Regardless of which path you decide, there is an abundance of valuable information available at your disposal to become a successful entrepreneur. These are just a few of my tips. If you have recommendations, then please leave them below in the comments.
Harry Alford, formerly of Bunker Labs, is co-founder of Humble Ventures.
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