Though Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg got an MBA from Harvard Business School, she has questioned whether such a degree actually helps people in the tech industry.
In a recent Quora thread, she even went so far as to say: “MBAs are not necessary at Facebook and I don’t believe they are important for working in the tech industry.”
Whether or not this is true is hard to pinpoint, partially because Sandberg’s wording is vague. What does she mean by important? Important to get a job, to do you job, to move up the ladder, to start your own business?
But there is one part of her claim we can check, one that is useful for anyone considering either an MBA or the tech industry.
Do hiring managers in Silicon Valley agree with Sandberg? In other words, does having an MBA matter in getting a job? Research suggests that, in fact, hiring managers don’t agree (even at Facebook itself). Silicon Valley wants MBAs.
Tapwage, a job discovery startup, analysed over 100,000 job listings to find out whether having an MBA mattered in Silicon Valley. They started from this premise: “If hiring managers don’t believe in the value of an MBA, there wouldn’t be any point in stating it as a criteria for selection on job postings.”
Looking at Facebook in particular, they found that the company had 75 jobs (9% of total openings) that either had a preference for an MBA (or required one). They found a similar ratio at other tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple.
When Tapwage compared tech companies to Wall Street banks, they found that MBAs were actually in higher demand in tech companies. An example: Facebook looks for three times as many MBAs as Goldman Sachs.
This chart shows a summary of what Tapwage found (in terms of percentages of job openings that preferred MBAs):
As you can see, it seems the demand for MBAs is lower at startups and private “unicorn”-status tech companies (5% and 4%, respectively) than at the public tech companies, while being comparable to the demand on Wall Street.
And what tech company liked MBAs the most? It was Amazon’s corporate side, which has over 1,000 open jobs that listed a preference for an MBA — 20% of current job postings.