Photo: Christine Ricci
This is part of our comprehensive ranking of the World’s Best Business Schools.Deciding to leave the workforce and go back to school for a MBA can be a daunting decision.
But is it really worth it?
We talked to the recruiters responsible for finding corporate America the perfect employees.
While most praised the value of a MBA, not everyone was sold.
However, most recruiters can agree that if you plan on studying for a MBA, make sure you do so at a top-tier school.
Christine Ricci believes that a MBA is crucial for success in the business world.
'An MBA or some advanced degree is almost a must-have right now,' she said. 'It's expected now.'
Ricci handles marketing and public relations for B.E. Smith, an interim leadership recruiting firm that focuses mainly on healthcare industries.
'I'm even seeing senior leaders that are very seasoned go back and get one just because their organisation is putting the pressure on to go back and get one,' she said.
However, Ricci cautions, not all MBAs are created equal.
'I think it's more important to find the program that's a good fit for you,' she said.
If you're fresh out of undergraduate studies, a business school that focuses on seasoned professionals probably is not the best fit, Ricci said.
Jeff Zinser, who owns Right Recruiting, also recommends that professionals earn a MBA, but only if they are doing so for the right reasons.
'Most employers will value an above-average MBA in an employee,' he said.
However, an MBA can't 'just be a credential,' Zinser cautions.
If you're interested in attending business school, the first thing you should do is understand why a MBA is so important to you. Is your company encouraging that you earn one, do you want to change career paths, or are you interested in learning a new set of skills?
Once you understand your motivations, Zinser said that you should research the schools to find the one that's best for you.
'In general, money invested in an MBA is well worth it if it is a top-flight MBA,' he said.
Don't believe the hype: MBAs aren't all that great, according to Tony Beshara, president of Babich & Associates.
'I have never in 38 years had a company hire a candidate because or not because they had an MBA,' Beshara said.
A MBA won't help an applicant become a superstar employee. People with MBAs who have reached leadership positions would have done so even without the advanced degree due to their skills as an employee, Beshara said.
'It's a big myth,' he said. 'It doesn't make you a better professional. You're either good or you ain't. I would make the same contention regarding undergraduate degrees, too.'
Beshara believes that the prestige surrounding a business degree stems from the fact that most of corporate America has earned a MBA and only want to hire people who have done the same.
However, unless you're earning a degree from the top three or four programs in the country he said that going to business school is really not worth the cost.
'And I would certainly never quit my job to go to business school so I can go out and get a better one,' Beshara said.
A MBA can be an asset, but only if you're getting it at the right time in your life and from the right school, according to Jonathan Guidi, the president of HealthCare Recruiters International.
Guidi emphasised that a MBA is only valuable if it's issued by a respected school.
'I don't think, from a hiring point of view, that anyone cares if you have a MBA from the University of Phoenix,' he said, adding that MBAs from top-tier schools are the only ones that matter.
'But you get below that, into just regional schools, I don't think anyone cares,' he said.
In the same vein, Guidi said he doesn't think returning to school once you've begun your career is the best move.
Professionals who choose to leave the workforce to return to school will only be hurting their careers, he said, adding that his clients want someone who has been focused and on an upward trajectory--not someone who has moved back and forth.
While a MBA may not give a student a significant edge when interviewing for a job, it will help once the student gets hired for the job, said Tom Becker, the vice president of recruiting for Experis.
'We are seeing more secondary educational requirements,' he said, which makes a MBA worth it.
The skills students learn in business school--such as data analysis--better equip them to perform on the job.
Becker recommended that students attend schools that offer a practical curriculum and have ties to the local business economy.
While Oliver Tomlin, vice president of education, not-for-profit, and healthcare practices at Witt/Kieffer, recommends students earn a business degree, he said they should bring some real world experience to the table.
Ideally, students should work for a few years then leave the workforce to return to school.
'I think it gets them additional skills that can be fine-tuned to their interests and the needs that their corporation would have,' he said. 'It just gives them more tools for their toolbox.'
While Tomlin said he isn't in a position to recommend specific business schools, he recommended students choose schools with strong advisory boards.
He also recommended future students check out U.S. News & World Report's rankings, which ranks schools as well the schools' individual programs.
Sarah Zeltner, Vice President of Human Resources for major insurance company New York Life said that the big companies value candidates with business degrees.
'The MBA degree, with the rigour and discipline it brings, is an asset for many types of positions and career paths within New York Life,' Zeltner wrote in an email.
Students who earn a MBA walk away with practical experience and expertise in a certain industry, making them an asset for future employers.
New York Life tends to recruit from high-end schools, including Columbia Business School, George Washington School of Business, and Duke's Fuqua School of Business, she wrote.
While a MBA isn't necessary for every position at Johnson & Johnson, it is an asset for many.
'It is something for us that we actively recruit for,' said Frank Rodriguez, global director responsible for university recruiting.
Employees with a MBA learn valuable leadership and collaboration skills. They also understand how to work effectively with different cultures.
'The MBA definitely gives the student a broad business background,' he said.
While Johnson & Johnson tends to recruit from high-end schools such as Wharton, Duke, and the University of North Carolina, Rodriguez said that the company also recruits internationally, from schools in Australia and the U.K., like the London Business School.
'It's not just a U.S. curriculum that we value,' Rodriguez said. 'We're very open and we actively look at conferences for students from all schools.'
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