While the merits of where you receive your education are debatable in terms of salary outcome, the benefits of a higher degree are significant. For many management and high paying positions, a higher degree is required, and coming into an institution with a higher degree will generally automatically start you out at a higher pay scale. Median salary for B.A.s fell 4.6% between a recent five year period, while salaries rose 4.3% for professional degrees and 9.4% for Ph.D. holders. Money magazine sums it up when looking at education decisions for undergrad and grad programs: “Save your money, you’ll need it for graduate school.”
Many successful leaders have worked their way to the top with company loyalty, experience, or innovation. Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea dismisses the importance of a higher degree. “All these MBAs – education can be a two-edged sword,” he said in a magazine interview. “In the 21st century we’re trying to mathematically figure out the world, to take the ambiguity out of life.”
Despite opinions on what it means, the MBA translates directly into higher pay as well as networking and recruitment opportunities for prominent positions. One marketing analyst at a top financial institution cited the importance of coming into the company with an MBA, which helps applicants get a desired position and lets them start out at a higher pay level than someone without an MBA. The analyst’s company also recruits graduate students on campus for its MBA Summer Associate Programs, which then result in job opportunities. Being in a top MBA program can help since there is heavy focus on these schools for recruitment, but just having the degree will result in better pay once you get in the door at a company. For someone who has already started with an organization, it may not necessarily be beneficial to leave instead of putting in time to the company to get to the top. Getting to know the culture of the company and the values placed on what they want is key; some institutions favor loyalty and experience, others want the latest degree and ideas. So do your homework, speak to managers and longtime employees and find out.
An employee at one large management consulting firm says that having an MBA gives you “more exit options” in corporate America and gives you advantage in changing roles, switching companies or moving up the ladder. For ever-lucrative strategic consulting, it’s a basic requirement. No matter what role you take, having an MBA will result in higher pay. Entering this employee’s firm, MBAs will have the advantage by starting as a Senior Consultant (above regular consultant), and entering a higher pay band from the beginning.
Having a higher degree can also help them in bringing ideas and innovation to a company, valued for leadership positions.
And the all-importance of networking and contacts brought through completing an MBA program is good not only for your own career but your company as well, thus making your resume even shinier.
MBAs can add value to other fields including those of health, legal and technology, due to the need for management expertise in these areas. Combining a degree or specializing in an area of these fields with an MBA can be a valuable investment for standing out as both knowledgeable in a field area but also able to manage in a top position of a specific field. If you can find the job through experience, networking, agencies or research, having more specialization brings in bigger bucks. Lawyers who have an MBA are seen as valuable by many firms that need business knowledge, while higher degrees in engineering can also land you a good law position with a firm that handles patent law or other relevant issues.
In the financial field, the value of an MBA depends on your role. In trading “it’s actually a deficiency,” according to one trader at a top financial institution, because it prolongs your starting time on the trading floor where you will enter into a position underneath younger managers. Trading seems to be the exception to the rule, as moving up within banking or consulting positions generally require an MBA.
At the end of the day, higher degrees and MBAs are overall beneficial and most of the time essential to climbing the ladder to a lucrative position. The contacts and opportunities available through MBA and other higher degree programs can be beneficial for employment opportunities for the rest of your life, and you’ll start out a higher pay scale and be considered more favorably for top positions.
Samar Srivastava of the Wall Street Journal in his piece “MBAs Skip On-Campus Recruiting” pointed out that many MBAs are choosing to skip on campus recruiting for finance and consulting jobs offered by big companies to strike out on their own path. If you’re one of those trying to do your own thing, it can pay off: “You’ll never get rich working for someone else,” Felix Dennis, founder of Maxim magazine, told Inc. Magazine. Many companies from developing entrepreneurships were listed in the Global Fortune 500. On the other hand, MBA grads interested in a position at a big company can rejoice: the off-the-beaten track crowd are leaving more spots for you, so get in there and snag an interview.