Do Customer Success Leaders Need an MBA?

By Kristen Hayer

One of the questions I frequently get from customer success professionals and leaders is whether they need an MBA to progress in our field. I don’t think that you need to have a master’s degree to become a leader or even join the executive ranks, but I do think that in certain situations it helps. I have an MBA from the University of Washington (go Huskies!), but I didn’t get it until I was almost 40. I waited until I was sure exactly how it would benefit my career. If you’re considering whether or not an MBA makes sense for you, here are some things to think about.

Are You Curious About How Leaders Make Decisions?

Other factors aside, the best reason to pursue learning of any kind is curiosity. Do you wonder how and why the leaders in your organization arrive at the decisions they make? Are you interested in finance, investing or mergers? Are you a natural learner whose undergraduate degree was in something other than business? If your answer to these and other business-related questions is “Yes!” an MBA may be an interesting degree to add to your education.

How Far Do You Want to Climb?

If your goal is to manage enterprise-level accounts, but stay on the front lines of customer success, don’t bother with the MBA. You need experience much more than you need education and you won’t get that from a degree. If, however, your goal is to move into the C-suite (or become a VP at a larger, public company) you’ll find an MBA incredibly helpful, if not a requirement, for those roles. Essentially, getting a master’s degree in business teaches you to speak CEO.

Are You Running Into Career Barriers?

I hate to bring this one up, but unfortunately it is still a reality for many of us. If you are part of a minority in the workplace, you may be running into barriers as you try to progress your career. It is definitely worth first looking at whether personality traits or other weaknesses are holding you back. If the answer is no, an MBA may provide the pedigree you need to break through that glass ceiling. I would recommend talking with a trusted advisor to help you explore options.

Can You Afford The Time and Money?

Master’s degrees are expensive. You need to be sure that you will achieve a level of income that allows you to pay back student loans and still have money to live and retire on. If you’re not sure about your career goal and the associated income, hold off until you have the data to do that math. In addition, be certain that you can spare the time. This is a 2-3 year degree, depending on the school and program. That’s time away from your career and the associated income.

Do You Have Support?

Getting your MBA is a rewarding process, but it is also challenging, time-consuming and stressful. If you have a family, make sure they are ready for late nights, time away, difficult assignments and exam stress. Include them in the application process so they know what they are getting into, and talk through your game plan. If you’re single it’s easier to carve out the time to get an MBA, but you’ll still need the support of your friends and family to get through challenging days.

If you do decide to pursue your MBA, be sure to choose the best possible school and program that fits your time, location and budget. Unlike your bachelor’s degree, which eventually fades behind your experience, your MBA always stands out. In addition, a big benefit you get from your degree is a network of business professionals. Be sure to consider that as you select your program. Finally, make sure you know why you are getting your MBA, and what you need to learn. That will help you focus on the classes and learning experiences that will benefit you the most.

Do you need help progressing your career in customer success? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers both a Leadership Training Program and one-on-one coaching. Let us help you learn and grow as a success professional and leader. Check out our website for more information –