Answer by James Fisher:
Here's my perspective as a B-school professor.
Most undergraduate business school students have the general perception that a business degree is a more, shall we say, marketable degree. Given the high cost of a college education one can hardly blame these students (or their parents) for making this calculation and deciding accordingly.
But these students–and there are many, many of them–vary in their passion and interest in the business profession and the larger landscape of economic activity. This intrinsic motivation is a crucial ingredient to maximize your investment in a business undergraduate degree. You will learn more and your curiosity and sense of purpose is more likely to be attractive to potential employers.
I had one undergraduate who was boiling with ambition and just loved the relational challenge of doing business and the big ideas connected with strategy and entrepreneurship. He wanted to do an MBA, but his own success interfered with that plan. Now in his mid-thirties, he is a CEO of a medium-sized business.
Turning to MBAs, I see two camps there as well. Those who want to re-invigorate or re-direct their careers and then those who have had some measure of success in a particular business or discipline and now find that they need some general management skills. This latter group often consists of scientists and engineers that are now running product lines or business divisions or managing a staff. Both groups have their reasons and they are entirely legitimate.
But for both undergraduate and graduate programs, if the degree is not sought for some intrinsic value–if it is perceived strictly as a means to an end–then the so-called payoff is frequently less than imagined.