Should You Use MBA As A Suffix?

by John A. Byrne on

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?

  • 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.

  • http://www.wadhwa.com Vivek Wadhwa

    John, here in Silicon Valley, an MBA isn’t always a plus. Note this debate I had with Guy Kawasaki: http://wadhwa.com/blog/2010/05/09/techcrunch-is-an-mba-a-plus-or-a-minus-in-the-startup-world/

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

  • Sage

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

  • http://www.freshnetworks.com Charlie Osmond

    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.
    Charlie

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    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.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Vivek,

    Good point!

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/money9111/ Richard Battle-Baxter

    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.

  • http://www.marketthisbook.com Sherry Prescott-Willis

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 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.
    Cheers.

  • 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!

  • 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…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/rtremble Robby Tremble

    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. 

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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
    organization”.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • http://desparker.myignite.com DeShun Parker, MBA

    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.

  • 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.

  • Aldan

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

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