Although education can’t guarantee success, it can certainly help.
Business leaders Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates both dropped out of Harvard University but are widely known for their companies’ impacts on society — and their own wallets. Although they did not gain MBAs in order to manage their businesses, they surely hired some who did.
“Companies — small businesses and large — need people to have the fundamentals of that,” said Carol A. Richmond, adjunct faculty member at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts and certified executive and life coach.
As with other specialized educations, quality and outcomes depend on the school. “There’s definitely a strata in the business world around where you get your MBA,” Richmond said.
Graduates from top schools will be more likely to lead an organization, while those from midtier schools get good jobs but graduates of newer or less prestigious schools will likely work for the others, she said.
Even if not going to a top school, it’s beneficial to gain the degree, Richmond said, especially for older workers. If they earned a bachelor’s degree at a traditional college age, much has likely changed in the business world over the course of 10 or more years. Returning to school for an MBA keeps people marketable, as the degree shows hiring managers that they are knowledgeable of the most recent methods of leading a business. While the fiscal management aspects of a business won’t change, “how one does it and those strategies will be different,” Richmond said.
This knowledge leads to an increased salary, particularly when graduating from a top school in a lucrative field.
According to Financial Times’ “MBA graduate salaries increase by record amount,” alumni from the top 100 MBA programs (determined by the publication) in 2016 earned an average of $142,000 three years after graduating. In financial services, employees with MBAs earned an average of $159,000. “Salaries increased in all sectors, except for education, and in nearly every region of the world,” the story says.
Can’t People Learn by Themselves?
Traditional MBA programs bring value to students through the faculty that teaches them. Professors are well-accomplished in their fields and can share real-life examples with students, said Robin Frkal, director of the MBA program and assistant professor of management for Assumption College’s Graduate Studies. The opportunity to build relationships with faculty and fellow classmates also strengthen networks that they can use beyond the classroom.
“A well-designed MBA program is very much a learning laboratory,” she said. The students gain all of this much faster from a normal program than if they were on their own.
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Part of the appeal of a formal MBA program — and any classroom education — is having someone determine curricula, prioritize what to learn and convey it all in an impactful way, said Urs Peyer, dean of master programs and associate professor of finance at business school INSEAD. “That is really difficult to do yourself, at home,” he said. “You spend a lot of time figuring out what to learn rather than learning.”
Modern MBA programs offer and sometimes require students to take an ethics course, which Peyer said is important in teaching how to find business solutions for customers without negative external distractions such as economic and environmental impacts.
“A big role, which I see in educating the future leaders, is to at least be able to articulate what is the impact of their business on society,” he said.
MBA degree programs are also a systematic way of training future leaders, Peyer said. With untrained, bad leaders, organizations could be more likely to fail, leading to job loss. Earning an MBA includes an education in how to lead diverse teams, managing the business and having an ethical company.
All of this leads to “better-trained people, better leaders, better managers, so that overall helps in the success of the economy and the growth of value business can add to society,” Peyer said.
Lauren Dixon is senior editor at Talent Economy. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.