Laurie Pickard Reveals How to Get an MBA for Less Than $1,000

An MBA can take your career or business to the next level, but it’s not cheap. For example, the cost of this two-year credential can range in price from $25,839 per year at Rutgers to $52,272 per year at UCLA to $63,675 per year at Harvard. And those are the prices for in-state students. Out-of-state attendees pay more, and for those who pursue an executive MBA, the cost is significantly higher.

However, Laurie Pickard can help you obtain this degree at a fraction of the cost. In 2013, she started a project to replicate the MBA using free online courses from top-tier business schools. “I thought an MBA-style education would help me get ahead in my career in international development, but I didn’t want to go into debt for another degree,” Pickard tells HER Magazine.

She chronicled the project through her blog, No-Pay MBA. In her new book, “Don’t Pay for Your MBA: The Faster, Cheaper, Better Way to Get the Business Education You Need,” Pickard explains the significance of an MBA, and explains how to obtain the equivalent by taking advantage of free or low-cost MOOCs (massive open online courses) taught by professors at the world’s best business schools, like MIT and Wharton.

Why are most MBA programs so expensive? Washington, DC-based Pickard explains that universities incur a lot of costs delivering an education to students. “These include paying professors’ salaries, funding research, keeping up buildings and facilities, and supporting an administrative staff.” In addition, she says that most business students tend to pay full price and are less likely to receive financial aid.

However, there is a way for students to get an MBA – and for less than $1,000. “Nearly the entire business school course catalog is available online through open courseware and MOOCs,” Pickard explains. “That means it is entirely possible to assemble a complete business education that is equivalent to what you would receive at any of the top MBA programs.”

While students won’t receive a degree for taking open courseware and MOOCs, the fact that this material is available presents endless possibilities for students to study on their own.

But how will employers view this self-directed education? If job candidates or employees don’t actually possess an MBA, will their post-graduate efforts be rewarded? “Imagine a job candidate who has a demonstrated track record of financial savvy, creativity, the ability to work independently, and high achievement,” Pickard says. “To me, that is precisely what a self-directed business education shows –  and when you add in some relevant work experience, you have a very attractive package.” She makes a good point. What employers really want is the knowledge that students gain from pursuing an MBA, and while some companies may be skeptical, Pickard believes that a growing number of employers are beginning to recognize that there’s more than one way to obtain an education. “They also value employees who show that they are able to keep learning and growing throughout their careers.”

Another advantage that students gain from pursuing a traditional MBA is the business school network. “Having a strong professional network is important in every industry, and an affiliation to a university can help with some connections, but even more important is making networking a career-long habit,” Pickard says. “By taking a thoughtful, dedicated approach to networking, you can build a great network, even without the business school boost.”

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For women startups, solopreneurs and creatives, a self-directed MBA can be invaluable, helping them to learn finance, marketing, management, and many other business skills. However, Pickard admits that an MBA isn’t for everyone. “If you’re on the fence about whether or not you need an MBA, you probably don’t need it,” she says.

“Instead, put your energy into your business.”