People seeking an MBA often call me and the first thing I tell them is "an MBA is not an MBA".
First, the MBA degree is oversold and overbought. There are over 400 accredited U.S. MBA programs, but only the Top 15 MBA programs -- Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Chicago, Columbia, Michigan, Dartmouth, Duke, Cornell, Virginia, NYU, UCLA, and UC Berkeley -- excel in all areas: Marketing, Finance, Operations, Management, and Entrepreneurship. The Next 15 MBA programs have strengths, but they also have weaknesses. The Unranked MBA programs offer little if any excellence because their top professors are quickly lured away to better schools.
Hundreds of recruiters highly value these Top 15 MBA programs. When I earned my Duke MBA, there were more companies recruiting than students graduating! At Top 15 MBA programs, leading firms pay $100,000 base salaries, $20,000 signing bonuses, tuition reimbursement, and end of year bonuses for annual compensation of $150,000 to $250,000, doubling pre-MBA compensation. Mouse here for Chart 1.
Many top management consulting firms, investment banking firms, technology firms, private equity firms, and venture capital firms recruit only at Top 15 MBA programs -- so you have no chance to work with some exclusive companies if you don't earn a Top 15 MBA. Chart 2.
If you earn a Top 15 MBA, you can increase your 30-year post-MBA career earnings by $1,000,000 to $10,000,000. Other MBA programs offer a pittance as much.
Therefore, the higher ranked your MBA program, the greater your increased career earnings on the same fixed-cost MBA investment (2 years tuition & 2 years lost wages, typically $250,000). The net profit on your MBA investment is huge at Top 15 MBA programs, modest at Next 15 MBA programs, and basically zero at Unranked MBA programs.
But it's not just the money, Top 15 MBA programs enable you to: change careers, do challenging work that interests you and at which you can excel, learn how businesses thrive, build a career network, gain career flexibility, and learn how to start a new business. In sum, a Top 15 MBA program can dramatically improve your career and your life.
So tell your friends: "An MBA is not an MBA".