The M.B.A. is Dead! Long Live the M.B.A.!

The New York Times ran a thought-provoking article this week called “Hedge Funds and Private Equity Alter Career Calculus,” by Louise Story. The article challenged the conventional wisdom that getting an M.B.A. puts young Wall Streeters on the fast track to top finance jobs. Instead, Ms. Story explains that many of today’s top performers in private equity and hedge funds are making way too much money in their first few years out of college to give up two years of earning potential and attend business school. Additionally, she provides a range of examples of 20-something finance whiz-kids who say that they can learn more and advance faster at their companies than by going back to school and pursuing a business degree.

Interestingly, the article quotes five men who all decided to forgo an M.B.A. and stay with their private equity, hedge fund or banking jobs, but only one woman, Katie Shaw, who left her private equity job for Harvard Business School. The other two women quoted in the article work as recruiters for major financial institutions, but were not asked about their personal decision to pursue an MBA or not.

Some women may weigh the decision about when to go back to graduate school differently than men because they also factor in when they might want to start a family. I spoke to one woman at Harvard Business School who said that business school was the perfect time to take a rest from the crushing I-banking hours and have a baby. But, I spoke to another woman who told me that she took a pass on B-school because she planned to have children later and didn’t want to be seen by employers as having taken two “breaks” early in her career. However, both of these women agreed that the networking contacts from an M.B.A. program would be very helpful to women looking to transition into the alternative investment sector.

So, the Glass Hammer wants to know, is the M.B.A. dead? Or is it still a valuable tool in the career advancement arsenal, especially when it comes from a top business school? Furthermore, do women weigh the decision to get an M.B.A. differently than men, and if so, what accounts for the discrepancy? Though private equity and hedge funds have historically been male dominated fields, does having an M.B.A. help women break into these fields or disadvantage them against their (male) competitors with more on the job experience? We want to know what you think!