Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Are All MBAs Created Equal?

According to a recent Fortune article, MBA hiring is up. But employers are being highly selective. Continuing on a theme that I mentioned last week in my post about language skills, globalization is the big buzzword right now.

But before you decide to run out and get an MBA from just any old school, consider this. Does it matter where an MBA comes from?

According to both the author of the article and the recruiter that she interviewed, the answer is 'yes'.

The big brand-name investment banks and consulting firms do 90% of their recruiting at a "target list" of brand-name campuses - and it's a tiny number of schools, sometimes as few as six, sometimes as many as 14, but a tiny list. It isn't the recruiters' fault, by the way. Their lives would actually be easier if they had a broader pool of candidates. No, it's the partners making that decision, and it has to do with the whole culture, and traditions that date back many years. So yes, if you want to work at a top firm, you have to go to a top school like Harvard, Wharton, Chicago, Stanford, or Columbia - unless you have an uncle in the business.

Unfortunately, the same principle holds true for law. When I applied to law school, everyone told me to enroll in the best school that I could get into, no matter what the financial cost. Even though it flew in the face of all conventional wisdom, I made the conscious choice to attend a lesser-ranked public institution, knowing that my decision would foreclose certain opportunities at some of the more prestigious law firms in other geographic locations. Thankfully, things still worked out for me. But it's something to consider when you're thinking about applying to graduate programs.


FR said...

I have been told that the best way to go is to apply to all the top business schools and get into the best one, as well.

I think this doesn't take into account a lot of other factors, such as a local schools and their alumni network. When I thought I'd stay in my current Mid-western city for the rest of my life, I ruled out all high ranked MBA programs and looked at a small private local one that had a good reputation around here for placing graduates.

Depending on what city or state you would like to end up at, the alumni network and the recruiters matter more than what school you went to. University of Iowa is a good law school, but anything Iowa is laughed at in California. I think people should think about what state or city (or even just the region of the US) they would like to end up in, and then look at the schools based on the academic reputation AND the regional job placement (you can get the stats through USNews rankings).

IRA said...

Hello fr - thanks for stopping by. I agree that certain schools have a better reputation within certain regions of the country, or even with certain employers. My old law firm hired a lot of Notre Dame graduates. And they tended to shy away from graduates from certain top tier schools -- they had a reputation for being way too cerebral and ineffective when it came to practical job skills such as client interaction.

Dus10 D said...

I am just about to finish up my BS in Information Systems a small private school. I am in the process of deciding on my path for graduate studies and I am looking to both an MBA and a JD. I live in the Indianapolis area, and we have IU available to us, here. They are in the top 25 in each category. My family is into IU big time, and it wouldn't be all that bad. However, I have always wanted to go to Notre Dame. It is a three hour drive to go there. They do have an Executive MBA program that meets once a month for three days straight, but it is much more expensive, and they have very high standards in the Executive MBA (like currently having five years of managerial experience).

I am currently a bit burned out on school, so I am looking to take about a year off. I have been working on my BS for three years, going to school three to four nights a week after work, including summers. And, I make decent money and have plenty of responsibilities already, so this has been no walk in the park. IU does offer an online MBA program. At the beginning of each year, there is a week long clinic that is required, then everything is online.

I think that I will probably do the IU Kelley Direct online MBA... but maybe my circumstances will change, and I will be able to go to Notre Dame for my JD.