Should You Use MBA As A Suffix?

It was an innocent enough question, asked by architect Peter Castricone in a LinkedIn forum called MBA Highway two days ago.

“I sometimes see the term MBA used as a suffix to people’s names,” wrote Castricone, who got an MBA from the University of Colorado at Denver in 2009.  “Why? It’s a college degree, not a license. And don’t get me started on certifications. I’ve never seen this with any other degree.”

The question sparked a spirited online discussion, largely from MBAs who in fact make few apologies for including those three coveted letters behind their names. Few disagreed and no one trotted out the conventional argument that doing so suggests that the MBA who tacks on the degree to his or her name can be thought of as an insecure loser.

Consider David Vargha, a sales manager and trainer for Verizon at APR Consulting. He is clearly proud of the MBA he was awarded in May of last year from the University of Texas at Tyler. Vargha lists the degree under both “experience” and “education” on his LinkedIn profile, along with his 4.0 GPA. His reason for including it as a suffix: “Simply because it is a differentiator, that’s all. It allows somebody the opportunity see in two seconds that you have an MBA without having to dig through a profile.”

Or Barry Brinegar, a sales representative for Medtronic in Lexington, Kty., who insists he has “earned the right to self promote my degree” from Midway College. Says Brinegar, “I have knowledge specific to business and health and use the suffix as a measurement of achievement. I try to look at the positive in all things and apologize if MBA behind my name makes you think negatively about me or my qualifications.”

Fair enough.

Laura Starrett takes the whole idea up a few notches. How? She deploys a surfeit of acronyms behind her name: BS, MBA, PMP, CSM, ITIL. The director of programs at the Project Management Institute in New Hampshire, Starrett lists her MBA from Southern New Hampshire University. “I see it as one more tag that can bring appropriate business relationships to the surface faster,” she wrote in the forum. “Nothing more, nothing less. I use it for that purpose.”

Another commenter argues for more selective use. Lidia Tarzynski, finance director at a Chicago-based wholesaler of wood products, says “the only time I use my MBA suffix is on my business cards and e-mails for business. I don’t think there is any other appropriate use (beside the obvious, on a resume). While it does not exemplify the level of my experience, it is an introduction to my level of education and interest in my work.” Her MBA is from DePaul University.

Then, there is the dig from Stephen Patterson, a commercial manager at Resource in Ireland, who proudly lists his MBA from “The Open University” as a suffix.

”Peter,” he lectured, “it is a lot better to have MBA after your name when clients are looking at your profile than a cheesy photo of you holding a jacket over your shoulder trying to look cool.”

Peter took the jibe in jest. “Stephen,” he shot back, “thanks for the laugh. I like that pic! I think for now I will not use MBA after my name. I don’t even use the term architect as a suffix and I definitely earned that privilege.”

What do you think?

  • Olivia

    The article referenced above was written by a Contributor named Eric Jackson. If click on the Link below the bio it reads “Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.” (Just something to note)

  • Levi Fisk

    Best comment of the page. As you stated, while I was doing school at night, I would take what I learned and apply it during the day in projects, which was very fun and showed that the material was applicable. I respect both FT and PT students, but putting knowledge to work is called wisdom. MBA was awesome!

  • tristan the great

    Two MBA or not to MBA behind your name, that is the question.
    My two cents worth
    Cent one. There seems to be a trend amongst those against the practice in which their arguments are based upon fallacious thinking. First, there is the ad hominem, “they are insecure” or “it’s a signifier of a second tier business school”. Then there is the anecdotal, “I know lots of MBA’s that were incompetent, got fired, blah blah blah”
    The irony to this is that if one has to tout their B school, or criticize where another went, then perhaps they are the insecure ones. I mean they did spend about $100k for the same degree that another at a state school spent a half or a third on the same thing.
    At any rate, there is no real evidence to support these claims.
    Cent two. I submit that it would depend that it depends upon the situation. Your business card or LinkedIn profile serve the same purpose as your resume, they are short summations of your qualifications and are used to get attention or create an impression. In that context, an MBA behind ones name could be appropriate.
    Conversely, for work emails within the organization, or for intra-agency communications within a group where the MBA is the norm, then it may not be appropriate. As in everything else, situation dictates.
    Tristan the Great, MBA.

  • K

    They? Talking about one person and you include “they”…stupid.

  • Beth

    I just received my MBA and am trying to decide whether to use it after my name. I feel slightly uncomfortable by doing so even though I am proud of managing to work full time and take care of my children while I earned the degree. I agree that the degree is not to be something taken lightly, It is not only expensive to achieve, it is a lot of work and many people begin the degree but don’t complete it.
    It looks like the discussion is going 50-50 on whether to use it. But with Forbes saying don’t do it — I am leaning to not listing it as a suffix. I will probably just put it in the education area of my LinkedIn account.
    You know, I have done a lot of hiring over the years and I remember being taken aback by the one or two people who listed the MBA after their names. (I didn’t have the MBA at the time) It appeared to me to be an overboard effort at trying to prove they have the skills/knowledge to do the work because they really didn’t have that much applicable experience. That was my “Blink” response (I am sure many of you have read that book). On the other hand I was optimistic in that the candidates with MBAs had additional knowledge that would/could be useful to the company.

  • xiromisho

    it certainly gives you the ins and outs of it – but Experience trumps all on a resume. Best way to get that experience as a fresh faced MBA grad? Start your own business or volunteer as a community leader for a non-profit.

    Those are your best bets.

  • xiromisho

    “The capability” sure- the funding, business sense, and know-how? Not so much…

    Fresh out of college you need experience, and as an MBA grad I know that. It’s why I did my MBA while working.. hard? Yes. Look great on a resume? Even better… but will I put it at the end of my name? I think I’ll skip it.

  • xiromisho

    if Forbes has it, then that’s good enough for me. One of my favorite publications and my go-to for up-to date fiance and IT news: If Forbes says I shouldn’t use it, then I’m going to be confident enough in not using “MBA” in my title going forward.

    Thanks guys!

  • AlCowpwn

    Run into (not run across)
    Look up the word irony. I have an MBA from a top-tier school and I believe it’s silly to put the three letters after one’s name but you sound like an idiot. You get a pit in your stomach? Grow up, drama queen.

  • Aldan

    Do you seriously believe that having MBA means that you have the capability to run any business or organization? LOL

  • jadkins1980

    You proved the point of those that DON’T have an MBA are the people that complain. It’s a personal decision and I don’t think it’s any persons business.

  • Who cares about you all pet peeves. If you have a degree, you earned it, so it’s your perrogative whether you want to show the world your accomplishment or not.

  • James King, __ __ __

    Ofcourse you would hide your identity, that speaks words of a coward whom is scared to share their true thoughts for the world to know butinstead he/she does it behind close doors. There is nothing worst than being associated with a coward in my book. I would rather be-friend someone with the MBA behind their name and understand and share the same achievment instead of a coward that yells behind a closed, locked door. True characters are showcased even behind closed doors. I am a business owner and have been for over 13 years but i am still proud of my achievements every last one of them. Am I insecure? Not at all….Am I a go-getter and a goal orientated individual? You better believe it. Guess what else…I would never hide my identity when I speak, because I want you to know exactly who I am , and what I stand for.

  • Brian I

    I used to feel the same way as you do about the degree. After going through the MBA course, I now see that it is not a waste of money; on the contrary it is one of few degrees that actuall apply to real world scenarios in big and small business alike. An MBA is a very strong foundation toward becoming a manager in the corporate world but also sheds light on area that you may not be familiar with in your specific area of work if you are already in management and are looking to become better. It is for management more than anything, but it also tells employers that this is a person that has management ambitions in the hiring process. Experience ALWAYS matters but if you are looking to move up in your field(specifically in a management role) this degree will certainly help you understand what is ahead of you.

  • Unknown

    I agree fully. I get a pit in my stomach when I deal with people who use it after their name. It is no coincendence in my 20 year career in finance I have never run across anyone who uses it that comes across as capable. Most don’t use it and those few that do – it whispers ignorance, incompetance and arrorgance.

  • Unknown

    “Having MBA means that you have the capability to run any business or organization.”
    Sadly I expect that statement from someone who puts MBA after their name. I highly doubt that someone who knows the idiocy of that comment would ever put MBA after their name.

  • Unknown

    I have and MBA and would never even think of using it behind my name. I cringe a bit when I see people do it, but it does give me insight into them. I infer that they are either A) insecure, B) in sales or C) just ignorant to the concept. It is clearly not a designation and it should not be used after your name. I may be biased as I am in a career where many peers have an MBA itis almost expected. The only time I think it can be an advantage is when someone uses it in an industry where the typical educational level is quite low and it might actually show to be an asset over peers (like residential Real Estate sales). Still it is a pet peeve of mine and actually steers me away from doing business with a person who does this.

  • tdbelladonna

    They should use it because it allows us to immediately identify that they will be less knowledgeable, unhelpful, but completely arrogant. My dad has an MBA and doesn’t use it after his name on his business card. The degree has enabled him to do and continue to do amazing things, but MBA is just a rite of passage just like university. You can prove to yourself that you can do it, why do you need everybody to know you did it? Especially if you did it all online…

  • Paul

    MBA and MFA are ‘terminal’ degrees, like MD, PhD, and JD. It means it’s the highest degree you can earn in your profession (ignoring DBA which is a purely academic degree). MS and MA are not terminal therefore quite different.

  • The Truth

    Adding “MBA” as a suffix is a sure sign that you went to a second tier school or did an online MBA that was advertised at a bus stop. NOBODY I know who went to a top school would add “MBA” to their name. MBA is the above ground pool/24″ rims of suffixes.

  • sg123456

    I only have a BS degree from Indiana University. I
    also have some Series financial certification, but I don’t use it and I don’t
    indicate “series 63” at the end of my signature. I’ve been in the finance (my concentration)
    industry for several years. Honestly,
    I’ve learned more in the several years I’ve been running financial reports,
    spreading financials, analyzing margins, profits, costs, etc. than I ever learned
    during my tenure in college.

    I was thinking if I had an MBA, I would be embarrassed to put “MBA”
    at the end of my name in my signature or on my business card. It would make me feel as if I need to
    “prove” myself to people. Whereas, the quality work you produce
    should speak more than an “MBA” at the end of your name. If you’re that insecure about what people
    think about you and if you’re “qualified” to be in an office environment, get
    some therapy and buy a sports car.

    Having an MBA means that you spent lots of money
    to learn. It will open doors and a
    person that has an MBA and the same experience as I do will likely get hired
    before me in an interview setting. However,
    simply having an MBA does not give you “the capability to run any business or

  • Jason

    Sounds funny, writing a 200 page thesis makes you “bigger” ? Why don’t you tell me what is 12+12 = ? and then you can write M.S next to your name.
    If you’d gone through any one of the classes that a MBA student goes through then you’d understand. It’s easy to lay in the couch, read 4-5 books and write BS about some dead authors.

  • Jason, MBA

    I agree with Dominic. And it’s a matter of personal taste as well. We’ve sacrificed enough to deserve the three letters next to our names. From this day forward, let’s use it as a title!! How can a person who doesn’t even have a high school degree say what we can use and what not?

  • Miss G, MBA

    I worked with an MBA who came from a prestigious business school. They were fired after 1 year due to their incompetence and inability to bring any value to the business. Originally, I felt lucky to be working beside someone who came from such a great name. But I learned quickly that while they could express their concerns clearly and graciously, they could not come up with unique, practical solutions to real-world business problems. They seemed to lack foresight and did not understand that a budget must be managed with care and strategy, to be specific.

  • Miss G, MBA

    Frankly, I have more respect for students who hold down a full-time work schedule AND complete an MBA program simultaneously. Part-time MBAs sacrifice a lot of personal time and also immediately apply what they learn in school to their day jobs whenever possible. Their level of intrigue in what they are learning is different as they have actual jobs to apply it to at that moment. Working full-time and successfully completing an MBA says quite a bit about a person’s competence, time-management skills, drive and commitment if you ask me. So as far as obtaining an MBA from a B-School that lacks a top-ranking – If you dropped everything to go to a top school full-time and have very few years of real-world experience, I’m not impressed and you shouldn’t be either. It tells me you don’t know anything about struggle or pushing your mind and self masterfully to obtain a desired result. I agree with the comments here as far as reasons to put it on your business card- It’s an introduction to your level of education and can speed up the relationship building process. It says you have broad and structured professional training and know what questions to ask in ANY industry or business. In my opinion, the right people will understand it and respect it. The one’s who have a problem with it will still remember you because you triggered a pet peeve. I welcome those people. They give me the opportunity to prove them wrong about my skill sets. And I’m a part-time MBA graduate. So if you read the above, you already know I’m up for the challenge. It’s on my card and I’m leaving it there. That’s that.

  • Joel

    Yes, instead you trot it out multiple times on forums. Maybe you should use the MS so that we don’t have to hear about it!

  • Mike

    It’s a DEGREE, not a title. “Doctor” is a title… not “Master of Business Administration.” As I said before, I have a Master of Science degree, but I don’t tout myself as “John Doe, M.S.”

    It sounds and looks ridiculous. If you really want to play with the big dogs, do a bigger thesis work and have it published for a PhD.

  • Mike

    MBA is a master’s degree…. not a PhD. I would say M.D. and PhD are appropriate suffixes as they denote a person who has the highest level of expertise to back their work, whereas an M.S., MBA, MFA etc.. are simply degrees earned through credits and a much more basic thesis. I have an M.S. degree, but I certainly don’t use it as a suffix!! A little vain in my book…

  • I just recently earned my MBA.  I worked very hard for this so adding it to my signature has nothing to do with low self esteem.  Quite the opposite… I am proud of what I’ve done.  I also agree with Dominic, it seems that most of the people who have a problem with “MBA” are those that don’t have one. 

  • Bryan

    I also agree that you should use it if you have it; you did earn it. Pretty typical comments about “less prestigious” schools, that i expected to see. I see resume’s all the time from people from these so called “prestigious schools” and they can’t manage their way through an interview, much less anything else. If you have significant work experience and actual “accomplishments”, nobody will question adding MBA to your business card or email tag. Moreover, for those still not convinced, especially for those that are career professionals that have 15-20 years in an industry and got the MBA later in their careers.

    Now, if you are 25-26 years old an have been to school more than you have worked, I’d stay away form the “tag” until you have actually accomplished something besides taking an exam or writing papers…..

  • San

    Dominic, I couldn’t say it better myself. Before getting to your post I was wondering- how many of the folks posting here have an MBA? It’s okay for Dr’s to use their MD, and Lawyers to have their JD after their names but be careful MBA’s, because if you use the suffix after your name you’ll be categorized as someone who is “insecure,” with a “less prestigious MBA.” What an outrage!

    I would just add Dominic, let them spend 16 months in an $125K Global Executive MBA program, and then tell me what you really think!

  • Dominic

    It seems to me that most that complain about having MBA as a suffix are those that don’t have MBA degree. Having MBA means that you have the capability to run any business or organization. Also that you have a good grasp of everyday commerce that drives the world. Try spending two years of your life and $80,000 then tell me how it feels to have an MBA.

  • Stephen

    If the surgeon general, who can DEFINITELY rest on her laurels more than any of use uses it, then if you have letters, use them.

    If you aren’t working in an industry that is applicable, than maybe do maybe don’t. If you have an MBA though, it denotes that you have been trained in management, but also that your mind is able to analyze in ways that others may have to come by naturally – and this is flexible to any industry, so why not put it? Same thing with an MD. If you have an MD, and now you are running a day care – put your MD – even if you got it in Barbados it doesn’t matter.

    “Today’s announcement also marks another way departments, agencies and offices across the federal government are working closely to provide holistic care to all Americans. Earlier this year, the United States Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Regina Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., announced the nation’s first National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy.”

  • Adam

    It’s not just used by people with “less prestigious” MBAs. When I see the MBA tag after someone’s name in their email signature, it’s a pretty good indicator that the person will be less knowledgeable, unhelpful, but quite confident in themselves. Don’t use it, that’s my vote.

  • i have not seen it used frequently by my fellow MBA grad colleagues. I think if an individual has an MBA, it can be stated on a resume or a backgrounder/bio and that should suffice. An MBA does not entitle you to anything other than perhaps cracking a door open when needed, but largely (I believe) your reputation, credibility, and experience as a business professional will always outweigh any degree.

  • This reminds me of a blog post I wrote “An MBA Degree makes me a what?” If I get into school I will not be using those three letters on my business card. I don’t think it has any business there. One’s accomplishments as a result of the knowledge gained from the MBA degree is a better differentiator than the degree itself.

  • Vivek,

    Good point!

  • Charlie,
    I agree with you. It does tend to be used by folks who have a less prestigious degree. As a result, it’s a negative for trot it out in such a prominent way.

  • Hi John.
    I’m based in the UK. Over here I see very few people with MBA after their names. Moreover, I have never seen it used by anyone who went to a top business school. If it is used, it tends to be by people who have a less prestigious MBA.

    Hence in Europe, I’d advise against using it.

  • Sage

    I think it is very much like the dress code … Use enough but not too much.

  • John, here in Silicon Valley, an MBA isn’t always a plus. Note this debate I had with Guy Kawasaki:

    So I doubt many people would add it to their business cards….

  • MBA Suffix

    If you don’t use it you lose it. Use your title, especially if you have attended a reputable program. Once you’ve earned it, it’s yours.