I am a Programmer with a BS in Computer Science and I have recently been considering taking the GMAT and applying for business school. I have been in the work force for nearly 6 years and am wondering if my career path is doomed to be a programmer with highest hopes of a lead programmer in years to come. For the managers out there will an MBA will greatly help advance my career path towards being a CIO or CTO type?

Also, what position would a person with an MBA and BS in computer science fill?

18 accepted

Even if you end up NOT wanting to do management, being conversant in management-speak, -thinking, and -mindset can help put you in a technical team lead slot.

If you're The Guy that everybody comes to when they need to talk to management, or that management comes to first about the other technical folks, you've made yourself, perhaps, more valuable than the managers.


A few things to consider about an MBA:

  • Most programs like you to have at least two years of work experience before you apply, the reason for this being that most of the education you get in an MBA program will not mean too much if you have not worked in the 'real world'
  • The degree will absolutely help you advance your career, and will make you more capable to handle management positions like CIO or CTO.
  • Also consider the cost of moving up to management. You will do a lot less programing and related activities, things that might have originally motivated you to become a computer science major. Teachers who become department chairs do a lot less teaching.
  • Another advantage of working first, a lot of times companies will pay for your degree, which can be a huge help.

If you are going to quit your job anyway to advance yourself, rather than do an MBA, why not join a small start-up, or start a start-up?

There you can be exposed to all the business issues that an MBA would only teach you the theory of, and you will gain some real hands on experience of what does and doesn't work in the business world.

That's what I did.


Tim Sally's comments are right on. Honestly, I think waiting to get an MBA once you have work experience is a great idea. When we interview upcoming graduates and I hear they are thinking of getting a Masters, I get abit disappointed as it seems to indicate a lack of passion for the field of Computer Science. Its like when I hear new graduates say their goal in 5 years is to be in management and no longer developing - I always pass on those type of people. I want to hire people that want to develop.


Paul Graham, and many others, consider an MBA to be essentially worthless, as do I. I decided recently against bothering to get one; I also opted out of pursuing a PhD for the same reason--neither an MBA nor a PhD will make you better at any aspect of doing technical work or managing technical work.

People like Paul Graham who have actually started up several successful companies and hired lots of technical people in various roles from top to bottom seem to find MBAs to be overly academic and irrelevant--they got in the way rather than facilitated progress.

PhDs seem consistently to be reported as merely a (very painful) rite of initiation to pursue research work.

I have a BS in Computer Science from the United States Air Force Academy, but I have decided to review/solidify my EE training. My actual abilities already put me well beyond a MS or PhD in Computer Science, but I see no value in getting the piece of paper. An MBA does not provide value, according to those who would know (plus my own experience). Even a MS in EE seems relatively unappealing--I am set on getting a vocational "degree" instead because I want hands-on practical EE skill rather than merely academic knowledge. I grew up with EE, now I want to flesh it out to its fullest extent as a complement to my CS skills.

I suggest getting your MBA-related expertise by reading a handful of decent MBA textbooks--you can get the academics without all the hassle, at least enough to complement your CS degree and to serve your actual work-related needs.

Best wishes.


Yes it will help you, in fact all additional education will help you! However you have to consider where you are planning to work. From my experience larger organizations have a tendency to value MBAs higher than smaller entrepreneurial organizations.

You will find that there are various specializations within the world of MBAs too. Subjects like finance may come easier to someone with an MBA background, but it's valuable to choose subjects that are outside your comfort zone and give you some flexibility later on if you become a CIO/CTO


Being one, I can say that for me at least, the benefit comes from having a more holistic view of my application domain. So much of getting a programming job done well lies in remembering that it's the stakeholders who define success, not the programmers. So the better your ability to take their view (which is often a business view), the better your conceptual Venn diagram of the problem space will overlay theirs. And it's theirs that counts.

This isn't always obvious. We have lots of ways of seducing users into viewing their world from our point of view. How many user discussions have you seen, starting out with a user's explanation of what the screens should look like, and what buttons should be available for what purposes?

It helps if you've already self-selected into the group that is inclined to think this way by nature.


You realize many of the fortune 500 CEOs, or the ones who actually started those companies, have technical degrees and not business degrees right?


It makes sense to me that growing into an executive career (CTO), at least in big companies, is less dependent on your degree and very dependent on your people skills. Work on those.


This is a very good question. Something that I've been thinking about ever since I graduated with BSc. in CS last year. Personally I'm considering perusing an MBA in Management of Technology after a few years of working in the industry. Since I have a technical undergrad degree, an MBA (with a focus on technical management) will give me that good all around education to be "That Guy" origamigumby described in his comment above. Regardless of whether you want to become a CIO/CTO, having that combination of business and technical perspective is always very valuable and marketable.


IMO an MBA will always prove useful in just about any career situation. It should definitely help you on your path to securing a more management-style position.


how confusing all this is...I think a BSCS with and MBA is great of CIO and CTO. If you want to be a lead programmer then get a MSCS or MS in engineering depends on your field. But it is so hard to choose sometimes but gettin a Masters can't hurt. In our society more is better but then again, more could mean we dont want to pay you what your worth. Life is a crap shoot, but me I have to get my BSCS or else companies will pay me crap! I only have a 2 year associates and not much better than HS diploma really. more is better. and sometimes depends on your boss, but look at job adds or companies and just meet what they are looking for some want MBA some want MSIT or MSCS just depends on the employer ;) really


I'm sure if you want to be a CIO, you will need to be able to work at a strategic level with the CEO, be able to read and discuss your companies balance sheet with the CFO and focus on the business you are in and not the technology.

A good MBA qualification would help you do these things plus indicate you are capable on your resume.


Certainly an MBA will help you on your way to attain managerial positions and ascend in the corporate world. Professionals lacking business skills are likely to get stuck in a stagnating career. An MBA is an apt choice for individuals who aspire to evolve their careers and demonstrate leadership skills to climb the corporate ladder. Option of an online MBA degree is also worth considering for professionals like you because it helps you emerge as future managers and helps you advance your career. For professionals with prior work experience an MBA is surely the next milestone.