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?

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.