Not every CEO has an MBA

Many people interested in going into finance wonder the same thing: do I need to get an MBA?

It isn’t a bad question either. Steve Jobs certainly wasn’t working on an MBA in the 1970s, and who hasn’t heard the oft-cited myth about Einstein being a terrible student. The correlation between education and career is muddied at best, so it is no surprise that people ask the MBA question.

Furthering your business education is dependent on your situation. No, you shouldn’t avoid an MBA like the plague, but you don’t exactly need it either. If you’d like to avoid hitting the books for a master’s degree in business, there are more than a few predecessors.

An MBA isn’t required for a top financial job.


For example, there is Linda Rottenberg, CEO and co-founder of Endeavor. She founded the company in order to assist entrepreneurs around the world with getting their start ups off the ground, and she’s found major success, even without a couple extra years of business schooling. Instead, when Rottenberg attended Harvard and then Yale, she worked toward earning her J.D. from the latter.

But instead of becoming a lawyer like her father, Rottenberg decided to travel to Latin America. The expectation was that she would get into law when she got back, but instead she got involved with Ashoka, an organization that works with entrepreneurs. When she realized how difficult it was to start a business in South America, she began speaking about promoting entrepreneurship in emerging markets.

In 1997 Rottenberg and Peter Kellner sketched out an idea on a napkin at her parent’s kitchen table in Boston. Now, 17 years later she is still instilling knowledge in business-minded individuals across the globe, without ever receiving an education on the subject herself.

Jeffrey Solomon is another person who never received an MBA. In fact he didn’t come to New York to occupy a Wall Street office – he arrived in the Big Apple with dreams of becoming an actor. Solomon got his degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania, and then proceeded to pursue his acting goals in New York City. In order to ensure stable footing following college, he also decided to work in something “tangible” for a couple years while pursuing his acting dreams.

However, you won’t find Solomon featured in the upcoming Star Wars movie or guest starring in next season of Modern Family. He found finance too rewarding to resist, and stuck with it instead. After more than two decades in the financial sector Solomon is now the CEO of Cowen and Company, the broker-dealer business of Cowen Group.

So, these two got their degrees in finance and law – kind of similar to an MBA[,] right? At least they had some tangential educational foundation to work from. Philippe Laffont, a hedge fund CEO with Coatue Management, got his start in computer science. While he was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Laffont realized that he wasn’t the smartest there, and that he would have to figure out a new way to approach his love for computers.

When Laffont graduated he tried to get a job at Apple but didn’t succeed. However, in an interesting twist, now he is the CEO of a company that can thank investments in Apple for some of its growth.

“There are CEOs all over the finance sector who never imagined that they’d be working top finance jobs decades after graduation. They simply went where life took them, and ended up with finance jobs that they love.”

There are CEOs all over the industry who never imagined that they’d be working top finance jobs decades after graduation. They simply went where life took them, and ended up with finance jobs that they love.

Whether you want to end up on the big screen, travel the world or work with computers, don’t sacrifice your dreams in order to earn an MBA. To learn more about getting top finance jobs without an MBA, checkout our website.