Does an MBA equal a bigger salary?

I have 15 years experience of working as a senior level ‘head-hunter’ and running an executive CV writing business, dealing with MBA graduates, and in my experience the short answer is yes.

If one read down the lists of business school MBA programmes under various headings, many institutions are promising salary increases around 100 %.  But is this really the case?

Reports released from Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, outline that the average salary increase recorded by the 105-strong full time MBA course graduate who finished last September was an impressive 66 per cent. However, according to Cathy Butles, MBA careers director at Judge, this masked some real extremes which should be kept in perspective

In her interview with the Independent in February 2011, she explains; “If we look closely at the salary increase split by pre-MBA region, the results from other parts of the world outside the US and Europe feature figures as high as 200 and 300 per cent.  However, the averages of those from pre-MBA locations such as UK, Europe and North America, while not hitting former heady percentages, also reach beyond 50 per cent.”

Several factors that affect the statistics reported on salary increases are linked to the underlying reasons for embarking on an MBA. These include a desire to change career direction or geographical location, a desire to change industry, or a desire to change job function within a sector. To expect to achieve one or more of these by doing an MBA, and land a vastly increased salary at the same time, in my opinion would be ambitious.

Statistics from Cranfield School of Management show that the most recent group of MBA students, who graduated in September 2010 have seen their basic salaries rise by 33 per cent on average, which might appear modest. However, 82 per cent of the group in question achieved a complete change of career and job function and 64 per cent changed sector altogether. This puts weighting to my point above.

Diane Morgan, director of career services at London Business School (LBS) reports that salary increases are not immediate and graduate MBAs tend to see the largest growth in remuneration package around two or three years after an MBA.

She also reports, and I concur from my recruitment dealings, that there has been an observed a change in the mix of head –hunting firms and employers showing keen interest in hiring MBA graduates. As well as the usual interest from finance, accountancy and consultancy firms, there is now an increased demand from pharmaceutical energy and technology employers, seeking to fill board level gaps due to retirement.

In my experience, it appears that when students are considering firm job offers, the salary factor slips behind the exact nature of job and possibilities for the future. This matches the overall analysis of Simon Tankard, head of careers services at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.

“It’s not just the salary component that’s important,” he concludes. “Candidates are equally concerned to look at their career prospects, job content and the relevant sector experience that the opportunity will give them. And recruiters know that these factors play a key role in securing the best candidates.

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