Programming Is The New MBA

Programming Is The New MBA

It’s obvious to me that learning to program could be one of the best things you could do for your own career. Similar to an academic graduate program (like an MBA) programming will open many doors.

I love my job. There are definitely non-monetary benefits to this career. As a developer I feel like part of a brotherhood with millions of other developers. I see the world differently from the way I saw it before I learned to program.

There are also, indeed, monetary benefits that make learning to program that much better. There are many opportunities that are available to me because I learned to program.

Programmers earn a lot of money

I want to be very careful in how I introduce this post. This is meant to be a ‘well that’s an interesting way to think about it’ type of post. I would not advocate that everyone learns to program rather than attend a graduate program in another study (like an MBA). I will say, that for many of the people that read this blog learning to program was (is) as valuable as getting an MBA.

This morning Ben Podgursky uploaded a list with household income reported for developers that contribute to open source projects. The list is ordered for income for the given programming language.

It’s old news that programmers can make a lot of money. In Silicon Valley the average salary for a developer was $118,900 according to a study by Riviera Partners - it was as high as $130,000 for database programmers.

Programming is the new MBA

I thought it was interesting to compare the income from Podgurky’s chart for a programming language with the average starting salary1 after graduation from an MBA program. Here is a simple chart listing a couple of the languages from the research (Rounded to nearest $1000):


MBA Program (Ranking)

Average Income


UCLA - Anderson (11)



USC - Marshall (23)



Yale - School of Management (13)



Duke University - Fuqua (10)



UC Berkeley - Haas (8)



Dartmouth College - Tuck (14)



MIT - Sloan (7)


If you work for a 5-7 years as a programmer in one of these languages (honestly, likely any language with the exception of PHP2) you could very likely apply for a senior position getting paid a very respectable salary.

Similarly, if you apply for a top MBA program it’s very likely that you’ve spent 5 years building your resume/work-experience. You go to school for 2 years and exit with a very respectable salary.

We are very blessed

If you’re trying to pick between an MBA and becoming a developer you are a unique individual. Most people choose their path based on their personality. Some people are born to program software, and some people are born to lead in management roles. If you’re a natural programmer I hope this gives you confidence that you’re in a great position. Learning to program was like getting into one of the best MBA programs in the US.

Regardless of the comparison, we are very blessed to be in this industry. This job is new (relatively), and the influence and value of developers over the next couple decades will only continue to grow. I feel blessed for the mentors and opportunities that have allowed me to be numbered among you.

  1. 1) Here is a massive caveat: if you can get an MBA from one of the top 20 programs it is very likely that you’ll earn much more than the immediate ‘post-grad’ salary. Graduates of MBA programs not only have an instant boost in income, but also a long term increase in salary for years after graduation. In fact, according to a Forbes study, the average salary 5 years after graduation the top 5 MBA programs was over $200k. 

  2. 2) This is meant to be tongue in cheek. There are other languages that are just as bad as PHP.