Is The MBA Overrated?

Interesting article in Business Week:

BusinessWeek research has found that fewer than one out of three executives who reach those lofty heights do so with the help of an MBA. And if you think a sheepskin from a top school is a necessity, think again. Only half of the executives with MBAs went to the top 10 schools in the 2004 BusinessWeek ranking.

Only 146 of the 500 executives reported having MBAs, a surprising number considering the hundreds of thousands of B-school alumni with enough experience to qualify them for top jobs. What’s more, only 71 received MBAs from the top 10 B-schools, and two-thirds of those executives have degrees from just three institutions: Harvard Business School, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

To hear B-schools tell it, an MBA is the price of admission to the ranks of senior managers. While it may or may not improve the odds of landing such a job, it is not, strictly speaking, a requirement. Timing plays a big role. Most of the MBAs in the study — including such high-profile CEOs as General Electric Co.’s (GE ) Jeffrey R. Immelt, from HBS class of 1982 — graduated more than 20 years ago. Back then, B-school admissions were determined almost entirely on the basis of test scores, and many students lacked the people skills now recognized as critical to managerial success. So MBAs from that generation might be underrepresented in the executive suite today. This was also the era before the B-school rankings. At the time, MBAs — even those from highly respected schools like Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton — didn’t have the marquee status they possess today.

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Kevin Jarnot is a technologist who lives just South of Boston, MA. He is currently employed as Chief Technology Officer at DebtX, a financial services technology company based in Boston.
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