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Can I get an MBA without a BS?
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In 1992, I completed my Diploma (3 years) in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering from India with First Class First Division. I have passed my City and Guilds of London Exam with distinction on 8 subjects out of 9. Starting 1992, I worked for a multinational company in India as an Engineer, and then got promoted to product specialist. In 195, I joined MNC in Singapore as Marketing Engineer, and then became Sales manager. I accomplished increasing company sales from US$ 5 million to US$ 11 million. In 1997, I got posted in China for the same firm as the Assistant GM of China and Hong Kong operations. I developed China sales tremendously, improved administration works, and developed and implemented specific marketing plan for China and Hong Market. In 1999, I assumed Country Sales Operation (China) for a US company. Then in 2000, I established my own company in Hong Kong and China and developed it within one year from being a distributor to a full-fledged manufacturing company with exports to USA and Asia.
Now I want to do MBA in US, but most of them whom I have contacted need a bachelor degree equivalent to US standard. Some of them however do say that, based on my successful business experience, I stand for a good potential candidate for consideration. But I have my doubts. I do not want to waste another 4 years to do my bachelor degree in the US and then apply for MBA, which is another 2 years. I am 30 years old now. Is there any program such as some university may provide one with graduate certificate (one-year duration) and then they allow one to enroll for MBA in their University? Please advise what is the best path. I feel like I am lost even though I have had financial success.

Degree vs Success, China

Dear Degree vs Success:

We are quite impressed with your success and accomplishments! At the same time, we are intrigued by your desire do an MBA in the US at this stage in your life and career. For all our actions, we need to keep the end goal in mind. As we say in the business: What is the endgame? Why this course of action? What is the purpose of this action? What does one accomplish, or what benefits does one gain through this action?

You have correctly pointed out that the basic requirement for admission to an MBA program in the US is a US-equivalent Bachelor's degree. As a matter of practice, the US schools do not waive this basic requirement, or even hint that this requirement can be waived. We can envision a rare scenario in which a school might waive this requirement due to extra-ordinary circumstances. Even with your successful track record, your power of communication and persuasion would be put to the ultimate test to convince a US school to admit you.

You have obviously done very well and accomplished a lot, at least "financially" as you say. So why an MBA from the US? We have seen many cases where a person without an MBA or even any college education has far outsmarted those with high academic qualifications. Just as an example, Bill Gates of Microsoft fame is in fact a college drop out. Lack of a college degree didn't prevent him from being arguably the most successful businessperson ever. Please do not get us wrong. We are not suggesting, to you or to anyone else, that higher education is not valuable. On the contrary, we truly believe that education can significantly enhance one's career and enrich one's life. But it also depends on where one is in one's career and life and what the endgame is.

Having taken the time to be successful in business, your desire to do an MBA from the US presents significant challenges that require careful decision-making. The decision-making becomes easier, at least analytically, if one can understand the reasons for such an action. We can speculate at least three reasons for your desire to do an MBA: 1) Your desire for learning, 2) Getting external validation (winning the approval of other people) that you are successful not only in business but also in the educational arena, and 3) Making yourself even more successful as a businessperson through additional knowledge that an MBA would offer.

For reasons 1 and 2, you may not have much choice but to "put your life on hold" for a while, and that would be a long while indeed. It means doing a bachelor's degree program first and then doing an MBA - at least a 6-year long plan of action. While it is true that you would learn a lot, is it worth the effort? We can not answer that - only you can! And then there is another complicating factor. Top-tier MBA schools in the US consider most suitable candidates for admission to be between 26 and 31 years of age, with 3-5 years of work experience. By the time you finish your bachelor's degree, you would be outside of the most suitable age range. You can certainly target second or third-tier schools. But, generally speaking, the impact on one's careers of doing an MBA from a top-tier school, relative to a second or third-tier school, is significantly more positive.

Now let us address the third potential reason: your desire to become even more successful by acquiring additional knowledge that an MBA program in the US would offer. One must question whether an MBA is really the right course for the stated reason. Success, at least in part, depends on the acquisition of knowledge as well as its application. Formal education, such as an MBA, offers a means of acquiring knowledge in a structured, systematic, and comprehensive fashion. In your case, you have already acquired substantial knowledge, through on-the-job experience, and have applied it successfully. However, you might be lacking in certain areas of business knowledge. Should this be the case, you may consider taking targeted courses or seminars in these areas to round out your knowledge. Is an MBA really the right path to your goal? Perhaps not!

We have addressed only three reasons for which you might want to do an MBA. Of course, there could be others. As we know, the decision is yours to make. We wish we could offer you a magic solution, but unfortunately we can not. We believe that just as you have made professionally thorough decisions in your life thus far, you would take deliberate actions to choose the right path forward - the path that is right for you!

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