ASP.NET Security Consultant

I'm an author, speaker, and generally a the-way-we've-always-done-it-sucks security guy who specializes in web technologies and ASP.NET.

I'm a bit of a health nut too, having lost 50 pounds in 2019 and 2020. Check out my blog for weight loss tips!

Should programmers get an MBA?

Published on: 2010-05-08

One question that I see among a few computer programmers these days is whether or not they should go back to school to get their Master's in Business Administration (MBA). The answer really depends on what they want to do in their career in the next five years. An MBA covers high-level topics such as accounting, finance, operations management, economics, and business strategy, which can be helpful for some careers but not others.

Moving into management

If your goal is to be a more effective manager, I would recommend looking into getting an MBA. The reason is that most programmers know technology, but an MBA can fill in many knowledge gaps from finance to accounting to HR practices. All of these become more useful the higher up you get in an organization. However, it's important to note that an MBA probably won't help you get a job as a software development manager. Why? Most hiring managers want their software development managers to focus on supervising and guiding the development team, and the skills they look for are skill with technology and experience leading teams. An MBA doesn't directly teach these skills, and therefore is not sought after by companies looking for technology managers.

Starting your own business

Another common reason to get an MBA is if you want to start your own business. An MBA will give you a lot of the knowledge you'll need in order to run a business, but much of that knowledge isn't particularly applicable in a start-up. You'd be better off financially if you take a few courses from your local community college about starting businesses instead and pick up other skills (such as accounting and employment laws) as your business grows.

One final note: if you do skip the MBA and start a business, please consider taking a course or two in marketing first. Marketing doesn't come naturally to a lot of the technology people I meet, so taking a course in the subject would be well worth considering.

Moving into other technology fields

If you're a programmer looking to move into other technology fields, such as business analysis or project management, my advice is: avoid the MBA (at least at first). Hiring managers look at experience and somewhat at certifications, and an MBA isn't going to help you shift your career. Instead, I would focus on getting an industry certification, such as the PMP, then see if you can get your employer to let you serve in a different role for a project or two so you can get some experience. Also, network with people that do the type of work you want to do and ask them as many questions as you can. 

Moving into consulting

Whether an MBA will help you get into consulting depends on the type of consulting firm you're trying to join. If you're trying to join a firm that focuses on technology, an MBA probably won't help you. Technology consulting firms tend to like candidates with industry-specific certifications and deep technology knowledge. And while I'd argue that an MBA helps you be a better consultant, these types of companies tend to downplay the value an MBA brings.

Management consulting firms (even the ones that do technology implementations) do value an MBA. If your goal is to move into one of these types of firms, getting an MBA is almost a must for advancing far up the organization.

Changing careers

There were a couple of people in my MBA program who used their degree to shift their careers away from technology and into something else. There are plenty of jobs out there for newly-minted MBA graduates. But beware: between the fact that you'll have greater competition as an MBA graduate than as a programmer and that you'll be an entry-level employee again, expect to be offered a lower salary (at least at first). Here again, do some networking before you get your MBA so you can find an employer who wants people who are knowledgeable about technology and have an MBA.


An MBA is a time-consuming and expensive effort to take on, with limited benefits within technology fields. There are plenty of good reasons to get one, though, and you'll be best off if you get your MBA with specific goals in mind and an idea how the MBA will help you get there. If you're unsure, take a few courses from a local community college or one of the free online course providers out there until you become more sure.

I'm definitely glad that I got my MBA, since it gave me a better understanding of how businesses work and made me a better manager and leader. It also put me behind in technology, though, which was difficult to overcome.

Whatever you do, go forward with a plan, be good at what you do, and good things should follow.


This article was originally posted here and may have been edited for clarity.