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Dean's Corner

Additional Thoughts on the Value of an MBA

By Wisconsin School of Business

November 14, 2019

A group of Wisconsin MBA graduates proudly wear their cap and gowns.

“What good is an MBA anymore, anyway?”

I was intrigued by this provocative headline in Bloomberg Businessweek, and reporter Shelley Hagan’s conversations with five leading business school deans. It’s a good reflection of the ongoing conversation within business schools, and universities in general, about adapting to the dynamic needs of our society and economy.

My fellow business deans emphasized the importance of instilling leadership, teamwork, collaboration, communication, and adaptability. These “soft skills” and the cultural dexterity to move smoothly through a global society are in high demand. It is especially heartening to see the emphasis on ethics in this conversation, as we hope that all graduates move into the workforce with a good sense of “true north” and the courage to keep others pointed in the right direction.

What good is an MBA? Let me add a few points of my own.

First, we can’t overlook the importance of the core MBA curriculum. A well-designed core builds an integrative mindset that weaves the functional, technical, and analytical skills along with strategic thinking, decision making, and project management. This nurtures a holistic, critical mindset that is so essential for leadership in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous business environments. At the Wisconsin School of Business, we have added a healthy dose of experiential learning, executive coaching, and real-world immersion to blend theory with practice. These elements still make the MBA program a unique offering among top business schools.

Second, the MBA adds instant credibility to any résumé. Though specialty master’s degrees, badges, and certificates are smart ways for B-schools to diversify our offerings and respond to the need for learning-on-demand, the MBA credential remains the most recognized and respected business credential in virtually every corner of the world. If you are looking to pivot within your current company, or explore new opportunities elsewhere, the MBA can open doors and accelerate career mobility more effectively than any other degree.

Finally, the easiest way to quantify the value of an MBA is by looking at its impact on graduates’ income. According to the 2019 GMAT Corporate Recruiters Survey, the median starting salary for new MBA hires in 2019 is $115,000, more than double the $55,000 salary for those with a baccalaureate degree. With more companies planning to expand the hiring of MBA graduates this year, the return on investment for an MBA has never been better.

As a rule, the CEOs who run those companies tend to be smart people. They know a good investment when they see one, and they see great promise in our MBA grads. They pay a premium for that credential because they know those individuals will create tremendous value for their company and their shareholders.

People pursue MBA degrees for many reasons, yet the benefits are universal. MBA graduates are innovative thinkers, ethical problem solvers, and collaborative leaders—people who can positively impact the companies that employ them, and the communities they call home.