Skip to main content
U.S. Edition

Choosing the right path

Survey shows how MBAs plot their careers

By Peter Walker for CNN
In the money -- how do MBAs make their way to the top?


FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006



Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.


What is the most important aspect of studying for an MBA?
or View Results



(CNN) -- According to popular stereotype, the typical MBA graduate aims squarely at a high-paid job in finance or consulting before working their way remorselessly up the career and salary ladder. Correct? Well, not always.

A wide-ranging survey by the Association of MBAs, a professional organization for students and graduates which also acts as an accreditation body for business schools, finds the real world of executive education is much more complicated and variable

To take one example, the survey found that 9 percent of MBA graduates were working in the relatively low-paid public sector six to 10 years after graduating, up from 5.8 percent on graduation.

"Where have all the stereotypical cash-grasping consultants gone," asked Association of MBAs, which accredits around 110 institutions in more than 40 countries.

Another stereotype demolished by the survey is that finance and consulting are the most lucrative areas for MBAs to aim at.

The survey found MBAs in those sectors had average basic salaries of around $123,300, perfectly healthy but still less than their counterparts in pharmaceuticals ($133,150) and IT ($139,271).

Despite its glamorous reputation, many MBA graduates also decide against consulting or else fail to find a position. Before they take their courses a healthy 17.3 percent express interest in the industry but only 10.9 percent get jobs on completing their studies.

The study also found that on average, MBAs make far more money working their up through a company than trying to make a million on their own.

While CEOs surveyed averaged base salaries of around $200,700, the equivalent for the self-employed MBA was just $81,600.

Onwards and upwards

Inside a company, some departments are clearly more lucrative than others, the survey found -- graduates in general management averaged basic salaries of $142,600, while those in research and development had the lowest average if $69,400.

However, this is partly because MBAs tend to move into general management the longer they work. For students who graduated three to five years ago, 22.1 percent were in general management, a figure that rose to 38.1 percent for respondents who finished their MBAs six to 10 years ago.

Meanwhile, companies who see a young executive take an MBA and fear this means they are aiming at something new are often right -- 36.7 percent of graduates left their employer within a year, and 24.6 percent more move within the first two years.

In overall terms, the survey found graduating salaries still below the peak of the late 1990s Internet-fueled boom, but nonetheless buoyant.

For UK-based graduates, basic salaries were 1.4 percent down on last year, but a lot of this was down to increased variable earnings such as performance-related bonuses, share options and the like.

"This year's survey indicates that the general tendency for MBA remuneration remains strong but not at the levels of the 1990s," the authors said.

"Variable earnings continue to rise amid a changing jobs market, with those graduates who were younger than 30 or had established careers tending to develop higher incomes in this area."

With so many MBAs now on offer, such an exhaustive survey was useful for everyone, said Jeanette Purcell, chief executive of the Association of MBAs.

"Amid a burgeoning market in management education, with qualifications of varying quality emerging every year, an impartial career survey from an independent body has never been more vital," she said, also identifying other wider trends.

"The increasing popularity of the Executive MBA and part-time courses reflects the changing nature of the MBA.

"Many business schools now positively seek participation from employers, and encourage students to use complete projects in their workplace."

Story Tools
Click Here to try 4 Free Trial Issues of Time! cover
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
Top Stories
Get up-to-the minute news from CNN gives you the latest stories and video from the around the world, with in-depth coverage of U.S. news, politics, entertainment, health, crime, tech and more.
CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNNAvantGo Ad Info About Us Preferences
© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines