MBA doesn't stand for "Money Boost Assured." Sure, the degree can help you land a higher salaried job-- but it may pay to think outside the MBA box, say some experts.
"MBA degrees are crutches," contends Penelope Trunk, author of "Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success" (Business Plus, 2007). "The more you move around outside of the Fortune 500, the less you need an MBA."
Here's an overview of five promising careers that don't require an MBA to get ahead.
1. Event Planning
If you possess organizational skills, creativity, and a sparkling personality, you may want to become a party or event planner. It'll be your job to make sure that Bar Mitzvahs, corporate receptions, and weddings take place without a hitch. Attention to detail is a must: Party planners are in charge of everything, from choosing a venue, ordering food, proofing invitations, and making travel arrangements.
Lots of evening and weekend work is required, but the rewards are many. While event planners sometimes earn a flat fee of a few thousand dollars per event, many typically charge an hourly rate that ranges from $20 to $40. The more complex the event (think of a post-Oscar party!), the more money a planner can command.
2. Public Relations (PR)
Are you what "The Tipping Point" author Malcolm Gladwell termed a "connecter": someone who knows everybody and for whom networking comes naturally? If so, a career in public relations may be your path to success sans an MBA. PR professionals draft press releases, organize events, and contact media to obtain coverage for the organizations and products they represent. They tend to be creative, resourceful, and have superb communication skills.
Be aware: PR associates often work irregular schedules, and unpaid overtime is common. Although there is no specific educational requirement necessary to break into the field, taking on internships in the field during your undergraduate studies are often the surest ways to securing a job. The median salary for a public relations specialist was $43,830, according to 2004 government stats, although experienced PR workers can earn upwards of $81,000 per year.
Obsessed with the new TV show "Mad Men"? Though times have changed, advertising is still a thriving career for those with the energy, creativity, and drive to put in long hours in exchange for that expense account. Advertising sales agents work for ad agencies and typically hold a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as communications or marketing. They create ad campaigns for corporations, and help coordinate the efforts of copywriters, art and marketing departments. Travel is part and parcel of most ad jobs. The median salary for advertising account executives is $40,300, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
4. Web Designer
Thanks to the Internet boom, trained Web designers re in demand. These creative professionals work with companies to design and maintain Web sites that effectively convey their corporate missions, contact information, latest news, and more. Web designers must be well versed in HTML and computer graphics programs like Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash, which are often taught in 6- to 12-month certificate programs.
While freelancers can work out of a home office, Web Designers must be especially attentive of deadlines and willing to make last-minute changes beyond 5 p.m. and on weekends. The average salary is just under $60,000 per year.
5. Search Engine Optimization
You've no doubt heard the terms "search engine optimization," or SEO. Professionals in this field help increase traffic to Web sites. There are currently more jobs than skilled marketers available to fill them. Salary starts at $40,000, but a proven marketer can earn in the six figures.
When it comes to search engine optimization -- a very new field -- degrees are secondary to proven experience," says Amanda Vega, owner of Amanda Vega Consulting, which provides Web site development, marketing, advertising, and public relations services. Vega holds an MBA from Columbia University but says education was a personal goal, not merely a means of making more money. "You gain advancement both in title and salary through hard work and experience."