Getting an MBA? Should you bother?

Harvard Business School, Spangler Hall

The value of an advanced business degree is eroding — at least as measured by the rate of pay increases for recipients, according to new research by the Financial Times. Bottom line is that graduates of the top US programs in the mid 1990s tripled their salaries in five years on average, but grads from the same schools saw half that increase in 2008 and 2009.

That can’t feel good — though I’d wager those salaries are still pretty robust to begin with. But there is growing skepticism about whether a masters degree in business administration pays off the way it once did. This decline in pay hikes comes at a time when students pay 7 percent more per year for their degrees. In 2012, the fees for MBA programs were up 44 percent in real terms compared to 2005.

Whether an MBA is worth the effort and expense is a recurring debate especially among startups that value technology expertise above all else. Some of these companies (Facebook for example) are led by geeks that didn’t stick around for their undergraduate diploma, let alone a graduate degree. The topic cropped up several times at Harvard Business School’s Cyberposium 2012, in November where several startup panelists were asked whether they were hiring MBAs. (One exec with a big data startup said no, and recommended that students pursue tech skills instead. That went over like a lead balloon.)

Harvard Business School was the priciest school — costing $126,000 over two years — but its graduates command the highest pay three years after finishing at about $190,000 per year. Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business was number two. The London Business School was tops in Europe and fourth overall while the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology came in first among Asian schools.

The top ten schools are below but check out the full FT Global MBA survey.

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