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Business School Still Best Path To Executive-Level Jobs

A quarter of business school alumni are in executive-level jobs 10 years after graduation, according to a new survey, with many climbing to the C-suite.

Tue Feb 17 2015

Business schools have long been considered a route to the C-suit and today an MBA is still a viable path to chief executive positions.

A quarter of business school alumni are in executive-level jobs 10 years after graduation, according to a new survey of alumni by the Graduate Management Admissions Council, administrators of the business school entrance exam the GMAT.

A decade after graduating, 11% of alumni are also at the highest levels of their companies, according to GMAC – such as in chief financial officer and CEO positions.

C-suite alumni are 17 years removed from graduation on average, and men are more likely than women to have a CEO position today, according to the survey data.

A year after leaving business school, more than half of the alumni are in mid-level positions, regardless of graduation year. Five years after graduation, most alumni are in senior and executive-level positions.

The findings echo similar research published in 2015 which found that 31% of chief executives leading the world’s largest companies by market capitalization are holders of MBA degrees.

This includes Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, who graduated from Chicago's Booth School of Business, and drugs giant AstraZeneca’s chief executive Pascal Soriot, who graduated from the MBA at HEC Paris.

Sangeet Chowfla, GMAC president, said that business degree holders say their education is a solid investment and a spur to achievement, even in unstable economic times.

“A graduate management education isn’t just a degree, it’s a career catalyst,” he said.

But just 15% of C-suite alumni attribute their career success to their business education, compared with the 32% who attribute their success to personal effort.

C-suite alumni at large listed companies include JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who earned an MBA at Harvard Business School, and Schneider Electric chief executive Jean-Pascal Tricoire, an alumnus of EMLYON Business School in France.

Overall, 90% of alumni GMAC surveyed credit their business education with increasing their earning power.

Business graduates in Switzerland reported the highest salaries, $164,800 on average. The UK’s graduates have the second-highest wages, earning $134,300 in average salary.

Graduates in the US reported salaries of $110,000, lower than alumni in Australia, who earn $113,950 on average and on a par with graduates in the United Arab Emirates, who also earn $110,000 in salary.

GMAC also gauged the entrepreneurial orientation of alumni. Companies are relying more frequently today on the innovative, proactive, and risk-taking behaviours of their own employees to help drive their growth, the report says.

The survey found that self-employed alumni and those occupying the C-suite score higher on proactiveness, innovation and risk-taking when compared with lower-level alumni.

Other C-suite executives who come from business schools include Kellogg School of Management alumnus Bill McDermott, who heads SAP, the German software company, and Coca-Cola chief executive Muhtar Kent, who earned an MBA at Cass Business School.

Business school has proved to be valuable. More than four in five alumni say their business education has contributed positively to their competitiveness (85%), innovativeness (82%), autonomy (81%), creativity (75%) and risk tolerance (74%).

Approximately 84% of alumni surveyed say they use the knowledge, skills and abilities they learned while at business school every day in their current careers.

Business graduates are also keen to continue their learning. About 40% of alumni expect to attend professional seminars, 27% plan to study a Mooc, or massive open online course, with courses related to data analytics cited as particularly popular.

But only a small minority plan to enrol in another degree, preferring instead to begin a certification program.

There are also changes in the career destinations of business school graduates, with the technology industry in particular growing in popularity, according to 2014 careers reports.

GMAC data show that graduates from recent years are more likely to be found working in the products and services, technology, and consulting sectors, while alumni who graduated before 1980 have a greater presence in the finance and accounting industries.

The biggest shift, however, was the fall in the number of graduates working in government and non-profit sectors, with the figure at 29% between 1980 and 1989, but today just 9% of alumni work in those sectors. 

Gmac Survey 2015