Does a physician need an MBA degree?

There’s a great blog post on Harvard Business Review titled, “Does an Entrepreneur Need an MBA?” I’m now enrolled in business school and I’m pursuing an MBA. I don’t consider myself a traditional entrepreneur, but I’ve started a few things here and there. Someday, I may take a big risk and start a “real” company, but for now I’m comfortable bootstrapping my way through a few little ventures.

The author Stephen Greer talks about his perspective on the MBA. He built and sold a company for $250 million. Could a physician do that? As physicians, we often get caught up with formal education and degrees. We may not feel competent to take certain risks and pursue specific ventures if we don’t feel like we have the appropriate knowledge and “training” to pursue such things. After all, that’s our medical mindset. You won’t find many internists performing brain surgery. You won’t find radiologists delivering babies. We appreciate the importance of formal education and training that then prepares us for our specific careers.

I’ve run across a number of successful physician entrepreneurs who don’t have business degrees. Would they be more successful if they had an MBA? Perhaps. But then again, the time it takes to get an MBA could distract one from pursuing certain ambitions. Success in the world of business depends on several factors which include luck and timing. If you don’t have some luck at the right times, you’ll fail. If you start a great business at the wrong time, you’ll fail. So, if you delay your brilliant business idea to pursue an MBA, you may miss that window of opportunity to be successful. Then again, you don’t want to venture into something if you don’t feel like you have the appropriate level of training to be well-equipped for the things you’re likely to face. If you’re willing to take the initiative to learn things on your own, then you probably don’t need an MBA to be a great entrepreneur.

The author of the HBR blog post quotes Dr. John Yang, the dean of the Beijing International MBA program at Beijing University: “In my opinion, entrepreneurship is a matter of the heart, and education is a matter of the brain. It is difficult to teach a heart.” That’s a great quote, isn’t it?

Joseph Kim is a physician-executive who blogs at Non-Clinical Medical Jobs, Careers, and Opportunities.

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