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So you’re not getting a degree?


This question – or some variation on it – is the question I field most frequently about the No-Pay MBA. Often, there is also a follow-up question (either voiced or implied).


Then what’s the point of doing this?


Since these questions come up so often – and since I consider them quite valid – I thought I’d take a post to consolidate and elaborate on my answers.

Here are the top five reasons why I don’t worry about the fact that I won’t be getting a degree at the end of my No-Pay MBA.


  1. I am confident in my ability to present my No-Pay MBA as a legitimate part of my education.


While some employers might not consider my resume due to the fact that I don’t have a true MBA, I expect that many will be intrigued by my choice to pursue an unconventional learning path. But don’t take my word for it, see this letter from CEO Mark Olvito. Once I get an interview, I’ll be happy to demonstrate my business skills and savvy. I also have my website to back me up – but you wouldn’t need a whole website to showcase your learning. A portfolio on a site like Degreed would probably do the trick.


  1. Looking at the numbers, and given my career ambitions, I don’t think the investment in a traditional MBA would pay off.


I can certainly understand the financial case for getting an MBA, especially for people with very specific goals wanting to enter certain industries (e.g. finance, consulting). But my situation is a little different. My career thus far is in international development – not known for salaries of the kind that make an MBA investment worthwhile. I enjoy this work and the opportunity it provides to have a globe-spanning career. Even if I decide to pursue a different path, I still want to be open to riskier options – starting my own business, working for a startup, etc. – and I don’t want to be saddled with a debt burden that constrains my choices. And I’ve done my homework. Check out the No-Pay MBA calculator if you want to understand in financial terms how I arrived at the decision to get my education in this manner.


  1. The content of an MBA is valuable with or without the degree!


How cynical are we if we can’t see that the education itself has value, whether or not you get the piece of paper to prove it? In my view, what you get at a traditional business school has three components – the educational content, the network, and the degree. It is probably true that of those three, the slice that makes up the smallest share of the total price tag of an MBA is the educational content (which would help to explain why some top business schools are willing to give away their courses for free). Still, I believe that education has intrinsic value. And business education has more than intrinsic value. Ask me how much my No-Pay MBA was worth after the next time I conduct a salary negotiation using what I learned in Successful Negotiation.


  1. I believe there is some chance I will one day be able to convert my education into some kind of credential.


I’m certainly not approaching this project with the expectation that one day a university will offer me an MBA. However, I do think that some type of credential may emerge as a way of bringing legitimacy to my education. But even if that doesn’t happen, I’m okay with it - see point number one.


  1. I believe there is a huge opportunity for risk- and value-sharing with a future employer.


Finally, I am taking a risk by using an untested and unproven method of getting a business education. But it’s cost me much, much less than a traditional MBA would have. I see an opportunity for a future employer to hire me a rate lower than what one would pay for a person with a regular MBA but higher than what I could have made before I got this education. That way, the employer and I can share both the risk of hiring an unknown quantity and the value I can bring in increased productivity, building on the efficiency of having gotten my education at such a low cost.

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