Monday, 14 May 2012


According to Wikipedia, the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is “designed to introduce students to the various areas of business such as accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, operations management, etc”.  This is one design, suitable for new graduates seeking entry to a management career, but equally common is the design to validate management experience with credible accreditation, and this was my own motivation in completing, at age 40, a part-time MBA, spread over a number of years.

The MBA remains the most prestigious business/management qualification worldwide, and a focus for a lot of media attention, but its purpose and meaning remains confused.  I subscribe to Management Today, and this excellent magazine seems to carry an MBA feature in every other issue, to no greater enlightenment (it’s really just advertising).

The latest issue of Professional Manager magazine carries one of the recurring pieces questioning the value of the qualification, and as usual, there seems precious little reason for employers to fund MBAs, as the whole point seems to be for individuals to “invest in yourself”.  The survey evidence I see quoted most frequently is about salary increases post-MBA qualification, and the Professional Manager article doesn’t disappoint.  Sourced from the MBAs 2010 career survey, it claims average worldwide salary increases for MBA graduates of 33% immediately post-MBA, 92% 3-5 years post-MBA, and 151% 6-10 years post-MBA.

I wonder to what extent these figures are inflated by young graduates with little or no income suddenly getting their first big management job.  My own (i.e., my personal) experience certainly doesn’t chime with this, as immediately post-MBA my earnings actually fell, then rose by about 50% (from the baseline) in the 3-5 years range, then fell back again.

So what is the point of an MBA?  I’d be interested to hear a case for this most generic of qualifications, in preference to more specific and more targeted higher degree programmes.  In my own case, I’d probably have been better doing a Masters in management consulting, had such an option been apparent to me.  Is the widespread recognition of MBAs enough to outweigh this sort of consideration?  Especially when this recognition is often misplaced?  Do MBAs actually deliver what they promise?

No comments:

Blog Archive