Human Capital & Careers

MBA Still Worth Something

A new survey finds that, even in a down economy, MBAs hold their value.
Stephen TaubNovember 19, 2002

Is an MBA worth much during an economic slump when many companies are laying off large numbers of employees? Apparently yes.

Turns out 88 percent of 1,247 people who graduated with MBAs in 2000 and 2001 are currently employed, and 76 percent are still working for the companies that hired them after graduation. This, according to the recent Graduate Management Admission Council’s Global MBATM Career Decisions Survey. GMAC is a not-for-profit education organization of leading graduate business schools worldwide.

The typical MBA graduate receives $78,000 annually, although salaries vary according to factors such as gender, industry, and school prestige, said the survey.

Not surprisingly, then, three-quarters of the survey’s respondents rated the value of their MBAs as “outstanding” or “excellent,” and only 1 percent said it was a poor investment.

“The corporate global community clearly wants the skills that MBAs have to offer,” said David Wilson, CEO and president of GMAC. “An MBA is international currency, and its value will increase as the economy improves and businesses grow.”

What are the perceived benefits of this degree among MBA graduates? Number one, the opportunity to improve personally (86 percent), followed closely by the credentials they desired (84 percent).

Other benefits mentioned included enhancing their career options (79 percent), developing management knowledge and technical skills (77 percent), preparing for a good job (71 percent), increasing their earning power (61 percent), and creating the opportunity for quicker advancement (66 percent).

The unemployed respondents said they are unable to find the jobs they wanted (4.8 percent) or had been laid off because of the weak economy (3.36 percent).

The lousy economy has had one negative impact on MBA graduates: eroding perks.

Fifty-two percent of MBAs who received their degrees in 2000 were offered signing bonuses; in 2001, that figure was down to 39 percent. About 70 percent of MBAs in 2000 received a performance-based bonus, compared to 50 percent of 2001 graduates. And 40 percent of those who obtained their MBAs in 2000 were offered stock options, compared to 29 percent in the class of 2001.

But are these perk-less MBA graduates happy with their jobs? Again, yes.

Fifty-six percent of the respondents said they wouldn’t hesitate to take their current jobs again, while only 6 percent said they would definitely not take the same job.

Forty-two percent of 2000 graduates had received promotions at their current jobs since receiving their MBAs, compared to 26 percent of 2001 graduates.

Other findings from the survey:

  • Respondents said the factors that influenced them to accept their positions included challenging and interesting work, competitive salaries and opportunities to learn new things.
  • Looking back, they said they should have given more consideration to their employers’ organizational climate, stock options or ownership programs, and attitude toward the MBA degree.
  • Graduates working as consultants were the most likely to rate the value of their degree as outstanding or excellent (82 percent).
  • Seventy-one percent of graduates working in finance/accounting valued their degree as outstanding or excellent, followed by 69 percent of those in manufacturing, technology, and health care/pharmaceuticals.