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Kevin O’Leary On the True Value of a Postgraduate Business Degree

Photo: Courtesy of Kevin O'Leary

Kevin O’Leary knows the world of business inside and out, however, he says that knowledge didn’t come from earning his M.B.A.

“What you’ll see over time is that what you were taught in those hours of school, you forget — you don’t remember any of it,” said O’Leary, whose new show “Money Court” premiered in August on CNBC. “But that’s not where the value was. The value of having that degree on your resume is the brand of the institution, number one, and number two, the people you met during that one- or two-year intense period.”

Those benefits that you could once only receive by pursuing a postgraduate business degree in-person now apply to hybrid and online degree programs as well. These offerings were gaining traction even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but are even more solidified now.

“The pandemic forced a change in the format by which education and diplomas are now granted, awarded, and earned by necessity,” O’Leary said. “And so I think every program, even when we go back to whatever normal is, is going to have some element of online.”

Harsh reality

Whether thinking about starting a degree program online or in-person, there’s a simple, harsh truth O’Leary wants all aspiring entrepreneurs to know about the business world — and it’s one he learned near the end of his M.B.A. program.

“This guest lecturer came in, and he looks at us for a good 90 seconds, doesn’t say anything, I’ll never forget it,” O’Leary said. “And then he said, ‘I’m here to tell you something very important: Two-thirds of you are going to fail — you’re going to be utter failures. The other third of you are going to try and make it, and are going to go through living hell. You think you know so much and the real world is gonna chew you up and spit you out.’

“And I’ll tell you something: Looking back at it 30 to 40 years later, he was absolutely, 100 percent right.”

So what does it take to be in the minority of survivors in the brutal world of business?

“It has a lot to do with being street smart, savvy, and opportunistic,” O’Leary said. “And you have to be willing to work 25 hours a day, 8 days a week.”

The benefits of education

Completing a postgraduate business program shows, at the very least, that you’re capable of putting in the time and effort necessary to cut it in the real world, O’Leary says. It also helps you make connections with professors, other students, and thought leaders who will play critical roles in forging a path ahead in your career.

“Those connections have ended up being worth, well, billions to me, because they were the people I went and did business with later all around the world,” he said. “I found them in different parts of the world — London, Zurich, New York, Bangkok, Hong Kong, all over the place — and we ended up doing business.

“It’s a true benefit, and I would not change a thing in my past, including all the time I spent, those years getting those degrees.”

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