The topic of when to get an MBA comes up every once in a while with teammates; most frequently during career discussions with people asking “Should I go for an MBA?” HBR has finally acquired some stats on the topic (November 2012).


People who go to business school with no prior work experience enjoy, on average, a 20% return on their degree. The figure is much lower among people who’ve already held jobs, sinking to just 2.2% for those who’ve worked for 19 years. These findings emerged from a study of thousands of students by Andrew Hussey, of the University of Memphis, who says that to potential employers, an MBA is primarily a “signalling” device and therefore adds more value when a candidate has a skimpy CV. Hussey estimates that on average, 90% of the return on an MBA comes from this signalling effect, not from knowledge gained.

The answer isn’t more clear than that economically, and I would agree that there is diminishing returns as you get older and more experienced. I personally enjoy targeted courses at this point in my career, and have been fortunate enough to attend a few fantastic courses at Queens.

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