I’ve had that conversation what feels like a hundred times. As a chairman of a young alumni association for a top 40 MBA program and as an alumnus who regularly attends recruitment events, I expect people to ask me for advice on graduate school. I expect it and I love it. I want to help.
I typically respond with the same answer: if you need or want an MBA, get one, if you don’t, then don’t. It’s a canned answer but it’s the best I can do without context. After all, earning my MBA was one of the best professional decisions I have ever made. It was an easy decision for me. After serving in the Air Force, I had plenty of education benefits.
The piece that many people miss is the underlying why. Do you want an MBA for prestige? Knowledge? Money? Connections? Personal satisfaction?
After speaking with dozens of prospective MBA students, I realized there might be a better way to learn and grow in to a better overall person – not just professional.
I read a dozen books and hundreds of articles on education, motivation, lifestyle design and career planning. I was looking for examples and paths of non-traditional education in the business world. What I end up creating is a Self Directed, Non Traditional MBA program.
What is a Self Directed Non Traditional (SDNT) MBA?
First, check out what Investopedia has to say about the current cost of an MBA:
A SDNT MBA is a program of your choosing to learn general business, create an impressive array of skills and experience, create a digital narrative and become a relative expert in your field of choice – all for a fraction of the cost of a traditional MBA in half the time with an exponential output.
The program is split in to 3 core areas. You can do them in any order, at any time. It’s self directed, remember.
There is an optional, extra credit area of Life Enrichment.
You will invest less than $10,000 and can finish as fast as you want. What will you gain? Knowledge. Power. Connections. Fulfillment.
What do you have to lose?
Semester 1 – Read
Investment - $500
In a traditional MBA program, you will read one to two textbooks per class and 5-20 articles and case studies. For a 12 class program that could be 24 books and 600 articles. For a 17 class program like the one I went to, the reading becomes even more intense.
As an avid reader, that does sound interesting but it is likely overkill. Use the minimum effective dose and cut your reading down. After a few best sellers in any give topic, the information becomes redundant.
Instead, pick a book or two in each of the core categories of business. I’ve outlined some options below. If these work for you, go for it. If not, adjust.
Also, read your local business publication or business section of the weekly newspaper. If you don’t plan on staying where you are, read the news from where you want to be. Online, print, mobile. It doesn’t matter.
*If you are interested in meta-learning – learning how to learn – read The Four Hour Chef by Tim Ferris. It is one of the single best resources on rapid skill acquisition. He uses the culinary arts as a medium to teach learning.
Semester 2 – Practice
Investment - $2,250 - $5,250
You can do this before, during or after the first semester. These practice areas are for people to learn as much as the can by doing, not just reading. There is no better way to learn than to try it for yourself.
You will cover marketing, sales, product development, finance, global business, investments, strategy, operations, organizational behavior and public speaking. Basically an entire MBA program. Don’t forget to follow the #1 rule: adjust to your goals.
Semester 3 – Build
Investment - $350 - $850
The third semester could also be titled “concentration”. Some MBA programs allow you to have a concentration in a core area, others do not. With a SDNT MBA, you can do literally anything you want. This is what I recommend.
Semester 4 – Life Enrichment
Investment - $4,029
An MBA is a time of personal and professional growth. You meet new people, learn new concepts and work hard. The late night group projects and back to back classes build character.
In a non-traditional MBA, you may not have those exact same growth opportunities. Here are some alternatives to continue your life enrichment while pursuing your business education.
** These ideas are taken from Chris Guillabeau’s Art of Non Conformity
An MBA should be a vehicle. If you know where you are going, you will know what you need. If your path requires an Ivy League MBA, then you need to get an Ivy League MBA.
Question your motives and your goals. If you realize what you are seeking is knowledge, skills and understanding, a Self Directed Non Traditional MBA may be perfect for you. You can grow and build your career on your own education terms.
Success is in your hands. No one else’s.