When is a NOT Top 20 MBA worth it?

Sordar's picture
Rank: Monkey | banana points 47

I know there is no question about the worth of a top 10/15 or even a top 20 MBA program. They're amazing in providing excellent career switching and networking opportunities, but at what point is an MBA outside of top 20, but within top 50 are worth pursuing? Are MBAs outside of top 50 are even worth the time/ cost (unless done PT and being paid by your employer)?

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Comments (47)

Jul 29, 2016

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Jul 29, 2016

Any thoughts? ...

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Jul 29, 2016

PT is risky... PT also can easily be worthless and career-destroying. if you trust your company that much because they fund you $2 for your local MBA tuition, then you should stick with them for life.

outside of top 15 ~ typical lists opening to MBB or BB, the ranking is not reliable enough for anything. sure they will still beat out many regional MBAs, but would you go just because the rankings say so?

Jul 30, 2016

I think they are still worth it, but not to many of the people who post on here. From what I've read online, you can come out of a decent MBA with a job making ~$80k. The median salary in the United States is ~$50k, so going from less $50k to $80k could be life-changing.

As with everything, it will depend on a case-by-case matter. I don't think there are any hard and fast rules about it.

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Jul 29, 2016

with all due respect, university of michigan's business undergraduates earn a median of $70k + bonus right out of college. to have an MBA at $80k is nice for those who did not attend prestigious bachelor's programs or have star jobs; but over the long term, the picture isnt as rosy.

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Jul 30, 2016

Did you even read my comment? I said they are worth it for people with low salaries. That would obviously not include people who are making $70k out of school.

Aug 3, 2016
whattherock:

with all due respect, university of michigan's business undergraduates earn a median of $70k + bonus right out of college. to have an MBA at $80k is nice for those who did not attend prestigious bachelor's programs or have star jobs; but over the long term, the picture isnt as rosy.

not so subtle Ross prestige trolling...except there is no prestige

Jul 29, 2016

As an engineer currently I'm making $70K plus with only 1.5 yrs out of school and expecting a promotion within the next few months which will boost my salary another $10-$15K. To be making $80k with an MBA while giving up 2 years of salary ($150K+) plus the tuition definitely won't make an MBA worth for me. The only reason I want an MBA is because i) I don't want to do technical work in the long run, and ii) I'm starting to realize I'm more interested in how corporations work, how they make their long-term investment decisions, things of that nature.

The only reason I'm asking about middle/ low tier MBAs is because I intend to remain in the northeast and my options are either all top MBAs (MIT/WHARTON/NYU/YALE/CORNELL/TEPPER/TUCK) or low tier MBAs (BU/Rochester/BC). I don't wanna do anything below the top 50. That's why I'm wondering if those low-tier MBA's will be worth the cost. Post MBA I'll be ok with $120-130K

Update: I'm a U.S. citizen. So not worried about any immigration related stuff.

Jul 30, 2016

Yeah, I would definitely not do the low-ranked MBA then if you're already making that much. Why don't you just meet in the middle and go to a decent program like Tepper?

Jul 8, 2017

I was in a similar situation am in the same location. I will be unpopular in my response but I truly think the MBA is worth it- top 50. Not only for my job prospects but I was focused on what skills I wanted/needed to further my career and pursued them. I would recommend looking closely at the programs and and deciding which programs offer the courses for the skills you think you need the most. I'm 2 years post-MBA and it has paid major dividends for me already.

Aug 4, 2016

median salary of who? for that stat to be relevant it would need to be the median salary of college grads.

Jul 30, 2016

Yup, good point.

Jul 31, 2016

It depends upon what you're doing now and what you can realistically do post MBA.

As mentioned, for somebody who makes 50k now it probably makes a lot of sense to get a MBA from a top 50 program. Also, if you're an international student set on permanently moving to the U.S. it could also make sense.

For a U.S. citizen with a good job already (i.e. IB, IM, well known corporate finance programs, etc.) it doesn't make any sense. Most of those types of candidates can already get into a top 20 program if they put reasonable effort into their application.

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Aug 1, 2016

what's your background/stats aka are you competitive for top 10/15/20 programs?

Aug 1, 2016

I think that if you get a free ride to a school that does very well locally and your goals aren't top IB or consulting gigs, you can definitely make an argument that it's a better deal.

Say a marketing professional is choosing between paying $100k+ tuition at Duke or only living expenses at Vanderbilt, or a free ride at GIT vs. full price at Emory, or happens to be a Mormon and wants to live in Utah forever and has a full ride at BYU? Don't discount the benefits of not having 6-figure debt.

My dad was an insurance exec with a full ride state school MBA that's today ranked in the 50's. He doesn't regret it because he didn't have a lifelong dream to be at BCG or Goldman.

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Aug 1, 2016

For your experience (being technical and wanting to get into management) I would think it would definitely be worth it. Although you won't have as prestigious of options from a school in the 20-50 range you'll still open up F500 and F100 companies as well as several other higher powered companies.

No matter what, an MBA will open you up to more managerial jobs and/or help you advance the ranks better unless you're at a super tiny company.

"It is better to have a friendship based on business, than a business based on friendship." - Rockefeller.

"Live fast, die hard. Leave a good looking body." - Navy SEAL

Jul 29, 2016

Besides managerial options at F100, what other options can I look at with a 20-50 range MBA? What I'm asking is: if I wanna look at Asset Management type of work for let's say State St., Fidelity, Wellington will a 20-50 range MBA help me get to those?

Does an MSF from MIT triumphs an MBA from a top 20-50 range school?

Jul 29, 2016

the answers will vary, but i invite you to look at their employment reports. You'll see the portion of investment banking, startups, private equity and consulting drop drastically after top 20, but marketing/sales, corporate finance, operations may fill in those proportions.

Aug 3, 2016
Sordar:

Besides managerial options at F100, what other options can I look at with a 20-50 range MBA? What I'm asking is: if I wanna look at Asset Management type of work for let's say State St., Fidelity, Wellington will a 20-50 range MBA help me get to those?

Does an MSF from MIT triumphs an MBA from a top 20-50 range school?

If you want AM, I'd take the Sloan MSF over a CMU MBA. Actually, if you can get into the MIT MSF it means you're probably too young to be competitive for an MBA so Id tell you to go for an MSF on that basis alone.

I feel like OP is asking whether a Valencia Orange is better than a Granny Smith Apple. I can do my best to compare apples and oranges but I need more information. Are you having breakfast or lunch?

Based on your post, my hunch is that you'll pull off an M7 (maybe not Harvard) or very worst case a Cornell, Yale, or Dartmouth. I know that as an individual your optimization is geared towards risk aversion and worst case outcomes, but there's a 90% chance you land at a top 15 school if you have good undergrad grades and excellent recs.

That may not give you much comfort because I know you're focused on the other 10% like every rational risk averse human, but let's cross that bridge when we get there.

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Aug 1, 2016

if you can get a 730+ I don't see why you can't get into a top 15-20 program with a chance at Top 9

Best Response
Aug 2, 2016

They are worth it when pursuing that degree meets these 3 conditions:

  1. This MBA enables you to do something that you want to do.
  2. You are unable (or much less likely) to do the "something" without the degree.
  3. The benefits of that "something" exceed the cost.

Linda Abraham
President, Accepted | Contact Me | Admissions Consulting

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Jul 8, 2017
  • SB. Very true (and to the point).
Aug 2, 2016

Don't just go for the credentials. Look for transferable skills, networking opportunities and the expertise that the school has in providing your (narrow) concentration. Eventually, it all comes down to how well you leverage the experience.

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Aug 3, 2016

So everyone is coming from a different place in life. The question is where are you trying to go.

You have to be careful here for two reasons
-An MBA is typically your last degree. Unlike a research oriented MS, you can't turn it into a PhD. This means you're kinda stuck with UIUC as the best school on your resume for the rest of your career, with the network UIUC gives you. (Not that that is a bad thing)
-What is the cost and what is the benefit? Don't forget to factor in the money you would have put into savings while working (however you do not need to charge yourself your income because you'd be double counting expenses)

These questions become more complicated for a mid-tier MBA program. But if you're pretty sure it can help you get a job you really want,
If the numbers make sense, and if the stochastic optimization still works in light of the contingent option you're giving up, go for it.

But... if there is a workable plan that better meets your objectives and m takes you through a higher ranked school-- or if you're going to spend more money than you'll bump your earnings by, it may be better to wait.

Aug 3, 2016

What about someone who is looking to stay in the same industry and possibly the same company, but feels an MBA is the bump they need for the next promotion. Is PT ok for that? And any school in the top 50? I feel like I'll probably need an MBA in the future, but I am not trying to switch to banking or consulting or anything.. Just trying to climb up on the corporate ladder. Would it matter very much where I go, as long as its within the top 50?

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Aug 1, 2016
dan_yo23:

What about someone who is looking to stay in the same industry and possibly the same company, but feels an MBA is the bump they need for the next promotion. Is PT ok for that?

I'm pretty sure situations like you described are the entire basis for PT programs existing in the first place. Try to get your company to pay for it in that situation though.

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Aug 3, 2016

I would argue that it doesn't matter where you go almost at all. If you're looking at GS/MBB/MBB bs then sure, look at only top programs. If you're not career switching and just want the leadership and general business knowledge that come from an MBA then a regional school is fine, just recognize that you're self selecting out of some options.

Depending on your region and industry even, the regional school might be looked at more favorably then an M7. Big ag in the midwest probably isn't going to give a shit about your Harvard MBA, they want the guy that did the dual MBA/MS in Agricultural Business thing at Purdue. Don't get me wrong, they'll be impressed, and they may hire you, but they also might be impressed enough to say we can't afford you.

So, grain of salt, but just understand that you may be auto selecting yourself out of some opportunities in the future that you may not even know about yet. I would strive to go to the best program I could get into and therefore give myself the best chance of success in the future in your industry. If you're deadset on whatever your industry and region is, then by all means go that route, just understand what you're giving up. The salary tables that schools publish aren't made up, btw. Can make a BIG difference.

Jul 8, 2017

This is very good advice. Attended a regional based on the same reasoning provided above- but I was also a career switcher. I had the grades/test scores and ability for an M7. Work experience probably not greatly competitive but other qualities about myself as a candidate that made me look pretty good (high of character/volunteer work). I think I had a decent chance at Yale especially based on various factors.
Anyway- as a mother/married person I attended the regional- had my work help pay for it and I did meet my goals from the MBA. It's been 2 years post-MBA and I am honestly happy that my planning worked as I had hoped but am a bit regretful that I may have sold myself short and given up what could have been more spectacular success.
Am I successful- yes. I make a good living, have a nice home , nice boat, good work life balance and career that has a lot of transferable skills and it challenging. But I do at times have regret that I didn't at least try for M7.

Aug 3, 2016

The classic example I've seen where a non-Top 20 school has been a good value is when it is a decent state school in an area that is far removed from top schools. Oftentimes these schools will have huge alumni networks and due to the area either being geographically distant from top schools or being in an insular place they are the only game in town. If you want to be in Florida, UF has a phenomenal network. If you want to be in South Carolina you're probably best off going to USC irrespective of the fact there is 1 Top 10 (Fuqua) and 2 top 25 schools (UNC, Emory) within a few hours drive.

Also, there is a continuum of schools, it's not as if you get to 20 and then recruiting goes completely to hell in a hand basket. WashU, Vandy, CMU, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Kelley, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Washington are all decent programs some of which give you an ok shot at IB (not wonderful, but not negligible either) and all are ranked lower than 20.

Most state flagship schools will do a perfectly ok job of getting their grads a Fortune 500 or Big 4 job. People outside of WSO oftentimes are content with a 70 or 80k post MBA salary. These programs will probably get you there. They're not launching pads for MBB or GS, but that likely isn't the point for their attendees. Those folks are by and large looking for a good corporate gig with a nice health plan and PTO. They aren't interested in working 70+ hours, they may not have the grades or the GMAT to be in contention for a top school. Also, I suspect many people going to these schools are doing a PT program and its either cheap or sponsored.

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Jul 23, 2017

What year are you in undergrad? If you're still a junior/sophomore/freshman, I wouldn't think about your MBA yet. You still have time to network and get relevant work experience. I wouldn't give up just yet.
Even if you're a senior, you can still try to find a small boutique and start your career there, then try to lateral over. The user Sil has a great guide on his latering experience.

I guess to answer your question though, it looks like after top 15 or so, those MBA programs stop becoming "target" schools for associates. I might be wrong here, but this is just based on what I've seen on LinkedIn from MBA associates.

Jul 23, 2017

I graduated from undergrad. I work in tech industry. Think Bloomberg, CapIQ, Thomson. Trying to lateral into IB from non target. Thinking my best shot is MBA

Jul 23, 2017

if you're still an undergrad, check out MFin programs instead

Jul 23, 2017

Top 15 should put you in front of most BBs. Reach out to finance club/career services of those on the cusp and see which banks participated in OCR and what was the success rate for those seeking a banking internship.

Aug 4, 2016

My 0.02:

I did PT MSF + Full Time Work + CFA -- don't discount the ability to add 'Full Time Work' to your resume. If you're already in an industry that you're targeting, but perhaps not the right firm, PT + Full Time Working + Networking can be competitive. Equivalent? No. Cheaper? Absolutely.

My strategy is that if you cannot do a top MBA (either denied or too expensive), try to pair with excellent work experience (top firm, top role) + CFA (or other). Only then is it really worth it because even a cheap PT or Non-Top Tier MBA will probably not be worth it if you're trying to get a job that competes with those who are. If you're not trying for jobs that search for those folks, then of course it would be worth it, but who the hell is doing that and asking this question...

    • 1
Aug 4, 2016

When your interviewer doesn't have a clue which institution you got it from

Absolute truths don't exist... celebrated opinions do.

Aug 4, 2016

I would turn down most MBAs if I were forgoing 200k a year for two years and shelling out 150k. It'd take a lot to make me lose two years and 550k of opportunity

Aug 3, 2016
idaho:

I would turn down most MBAs if I were forgoing 200k a year for two years and shelling out 150k. It'd take a lot to make me lose two years and 550k of opportunity

You're double counting your non-tuition expenses. Either add salary and tuition or total cost plus what you'd save working in industry. But there's $40K of living expenses in that $160K figure and money for living expenses in your $200K/year figure.

I prefer to measure total cost as actual expenses (add $500/month onto the cost estimate if you haven't spent the past five years living like a monk) plus opportunity cost of savings. You'll spend less money in grad school but will be healthier and have more free time.

On an after tax basis, if you save like I save and spend like I spend, for a $200K/year salary the opportunity cost of an MBA is $170K in savings, $160K in reported expenses, and an extra $10 grand for pizza and beer, so about $340K on an after tax basis. (This can be reduced another $20K or so if you can deduct your tuition as a business expense)

Aug 4, 2016

Damn that was thorough.