MFA - do I need this?

I am contemplating going back to school to earn a MFA degree in Photography. Now whether one needs this type of degree to succeed in the fine art photography world is out for debate. I'm sure there are arguments both for and against this credential. There are many people who are self-taught and self-motivated to succeed, and I don't know if I am one of them. When I finished my engineering degree I stayed on for an extra year to get a Masters degree. This was a very worthwhile endeavor for me, and it gave me the knowledge and confidence to go forth in my chosen field. I can see how it would have been very possible to achieve success without this degree, but I felt that I needed it. In the years following, I took advantage of my employer's education programĀ and eventually completed my MBA degree. My dream was to have my own business and I felt I needed the disciplined study to be successful. I started and ran 2 businesses for over 20 years and this education was invaluable. Now I am on the threshold to another career in a field that is largely uncharted waters for me, and I look again to formal education to get me up to speed. I have spoken to lots of people who have given me good advice to say that a degree in fine arts is optional in the field, in fact getting out there and just shooting and working will yield a much better return on the time and money invested. An MFA will cost me around $24,000 with about 70 credit hours of work over 2 years. A big expense and time commitment. There are options to do this remotely with limited on campus time, but nonetheless it is not a casual decision. My tendency is to jump and and give it a go because: a) formal education has always been a very valuable method for me to learn, I do well in a structured environment b) I enjoy academics and being in school c) it is expensive but not cost prohibitive

On the other hand I really don't want to be wasting my money or time. There doesn't seem to be a lot of discussions on the value of an MFA or art degree in the circles I am familiar with. Maybe I am just not connected right. When I tell people that I am thinking of this they usually tell me I am wasting my time and money. Not so with my other degrees, where it seemed the value was more clear, especially when one could relate the degree to salary levels.

This makes this even more intriguing for me, as I feel through a lot of inner searching that I would like to tryto live the life of an artist, and my urge to create is very strong. I feel that the support and development achieved in an academic environment is what I need right now. Coming from the business world, we tend to look at acquiring these skills as something that you just order and pay for. Take the course and you are there. This new direction for me is much more than that. It is a complete change in my thinking and paradigm for self-worth. It involves a completely different approach and discipline. I feel I need to start from scratch, with a fresh beginnersĀ mind. That's how I want to approach things right now.

I'll be thinking about this for a few months. This decision will be tied into my retirement, so there will be big changes coming up for me.