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Is the MBA Really Worth It?

In a fascinating cover story on the Class of 1992, Business Week answers the question with a resounding yes. My former employer surveyed nearly 1,500 alums of the Class of 1992 from the top 30 business schools to come up with the answer and a bevy of fascinating statistics.

Some of the highlights:


  • Some 89% of the respondents say they would go for the MBA again if they had it to do over.
  • Nearly 80% said they would go back to the same school, although Stanford, Harvard, Northwestern, and Wharton predictably scored best on this question.
  • Average salary of a top 30 alum after a decade at work is more than $155,200, up from the average $56,600 starting pay in their first post-MBA job.
  • Average bonus and compensation for the alums was $232,400 so the total compensation for these MBAs averaged a whopping $387,000 last year (where do I sign up?).
  • Some 75% of the alums say they give to charity, with contributions totallying $8.3 million in the past two years, or more than $7,300 each, on average.
  • Nearly a dozen alums gave $100,000 to non-profit causes, with a handful of gifts over the half-million mark.
  • MBA alums donated some 7,000 hours of volunteer time to causes last year, or about 9 hours per month on average.
  • These alums manage an average 93 employees each.

As the story notes: "What's more, the data depict a managerial class that's in a truly commanding position. Their salaries and bonuses are hefty, and they occupy, after only a decade, top posts in their companies. They are an enterprising lot, an entire cohort of ambitious men and women who have started hundreds of companies and created nearly 100,000 jobs — a surprising record from a group often derided as better at bean-counting and consulting than actually doing anything."

Before you rush off for the MBA, remember to take all these very favorable and upbeat results with a few grains of salt: This crop of grads left at the best possible time and took best possible advantage of the 1990s' boom. This crop also had the advantage of an MBA from a top 30 business school, not merely an MBA. And most importantly, the results are heavily skewed to be favorable because the largest graduating classes (and therefore survey respondents) tend to come from the very best schools (merely because the best of the top 30 tend to have the largest graduating classes). So Harvard, Northwestern, Columbia and other elite and prestigious MBA factories easily overwhelm the respondents from much smaller top 30 schools such as Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, University of North Carolina, and other public universities.

And finally, weigh in on the current Fast Company online poll: In these leaner times, is it necessary to have an MBA to get ahead? Let us know what you think.