The Superfluous MBA
by Daniel Luzer
Well now it seems that in many cases even the famously lucrative Master of Business Administration might be just another useless, overpriced degree. Philip Delves Broughton writes in The Economist that,
Business schools have long sold the promise that, like an F1 driver zipping into the pits for fresh tyres, it just takes a short hiatus on an MBA programme and you will come roaring back into the career race primed to win.
The problem is that these days it doesn’t work like that. Rather, more and more students are finding the promise of business schools to be hollow. The return on investment on an MBA has gone the way of Greek public debt. If you have a decent job in your mid- to late- 20s, unless you have the backing of a corporate sponsor, leaving it to get an MBA is a higher risk than ever. If you are getting good business experience already, the best strategy is to keep on getting it, thereby making yourself ever more useful rather than groping for the evanescent brass rings of business school.
Obviously an MBA isn’t necessary for business success. No one argued that it was. But the party line goes that in today’s economy, the MBA certainly helps, at least in terms of meeting other people who might be interested in paying you generously.
The problem is the cost, however. Tuition alone at an American MBA program can cost $50,000 a year. Some argue that the total cost of a 2-year MBA program can be as much as $240,000, including lost earnings.
How long does it take to earn that money back? Well it depends on the MBA program and the individual’s career, but the short answer is a long time. While the average MBA graduate apparently sees a 64 percent salary increase from before he earned the MBA, the recession is eating away at this number.
The school where one earned the MBA also matters. Salaries for graduates of the highest ranked business schools remained rather high (Harvard MBAs earn an average $40,000 a year more than before they got their degrees) but this is not at all true for lower-ranked business schools, where earning an MBA doesn’t help much at all.