Project managers do not need a MBA

for students for graduates for beginners for professionals not for executives

 

I had recently a talk with a coworker. Apparently, his wish has been to go from an engineering position to a project management position. As wise as he is, he decided to learn the necessary skills beforehand. I congratulated him on his decission but I could not agree to pursue a MBA. It is not the right way and I will tell you now what I have told him: Project managers do not need a MBA.

What project management means …

Project management is the art of distributing and connecting project items for the success of a final goal within a project. It is a very difficult and complex task and most people think about management . In contrast to project management, there is hierarchical management which is more about infrastructure, human ressources, competences and strategic orientation of the company itself.

What a MBA stands for …

A MBA is a Master of Business Administration. Do not forget this. Business administration is a topic involving management in general. You learn the key points of interest for the running of a company. This includes project management but does not exclusively. It is more about strategy and handling money . The approach is very high level and tends to show just structures and progresses in a very academic way. 

I think that it is fair to say that MBAs are more for hierarchical managers. It makes sense to study them when you want to climb up the ladder in a company but not just for getting experience in the project management topic. There is common ground for skills like leading of teams and controlling. On the other hand, the cross section is not big enough to justify the effort of several years univesity.

A common misconception …

You do not need to study a MBA for being a project manager. It is a simple as that: You put too much effort into the graduation of the MBA than it is necessary. Which is in a way funny, because studying a MBA will lead you to one of the rules of business: You have to minimize your effort. 

In the end, it is your decision but in my humble opinion I reasoned quite well that project managers do not need a MBA. But is it worth up to two years of  study? I would say “not at all” unless you want to become department leader or CEO of a company. Otherwise, I suggest you take more specialised and practical oriented courses on this matter.

I used this discussion for inspiration of the second page I made this June. It is about project management and contains references of associations of project management and their certification schemes. The courses and certifications are just side hustles for further education and can be done in a few months.

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