What's the degree worth in an entrepreneurial world?

Executive Summary

MBA programs are hard to get into and expensive to attend, but they remain a popular option for those trying to get ahead in the business world. The job outlook for MBAs is strong, with demand for top executives expected to grow by 11 percent through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And hiring rates for MBA graduates are greater than 90 percent at the leading U.S. schools. Yet despite their popularity, MBA programs face an array of challenges, including the upheaval caused by technology, changing attitudes toward corporate culture and the time and expense required to earn a degree. The challenges are so serious, many experts now wonder whether MBA programs are relevant to today's business world. Critics say the MBA is best suited for someone entering corporate life and is of little use for entrepreneurs seeking to start their own companies.

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Broughton, Philip Delves, “What They Teach You at Harvard Business School: My Two Years Inside the Cauldron of Capitalism,” Viking, 2010. Less of a guide to the Harvard Business School experience than the author's own journey as a student, the book is a response to the 1986 classic, “What They Don't Teach You at the Harvard Business School,” by Mark H. McCormick.

Goldsmith, Marshall, and Mark Reiter, “What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful,” Hyperion Books, 2007. A number of entrepreneurs recommend this book to help new businesses translate start-up ideas into management tactics.

Kaufman, Josh, “The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business,” Portfolio Hardcover, 2010. A writer and lecturer on business management skills believes students can master MBA techniques without the degree.

Zanetti, Mariana, “The MBA Bubble: Why Getting an MBA Is a Bad Idea,” CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013. The author, who earned an MBA, critiques the value of the degree.


Hamilton, Reeve, “Low Completion Rates for Online Courses Spark Debate,” The Texas Tribune, Jan. 21, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/mnly2c5. Although massive open online courses (MOOCs) are free or low in cost, completion rates at the University of Texas, Austin, are only 13 percent or worse.

Kantor, Jodi, “Harvard Business School Case Study: Gender Equity,” The New York Times, Sept. 7, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/o77bhvn. In 2011, Harvard Business School began implementing measures to increase gender equity and to improve female students' performance in the classroom.

Wiles, Russ, and Anne Ryman, “ASU finalizes agreement to integrate Thunderbird school,” The Arizona Republic, Dec. 19, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/ljp5k5n. Arizona State University reaches a deal to take over the struggling Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Reports and Studies

“The Best Business Schools,” Forbes, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/pkopy56. Forbes ranks Stanford, Chicago and Harvard as the top three business schools, based on what their students can expect to earn their first five years after graduating and paying off the costs of their education.

“The Best Online Graduate Business Programs,” U.S. News & World Report, http://tinyurl.com/b4867tz. U.S. News & World Report says Indiana University at Bloomington, Temple University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have the best online business programs.

“Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupation Report,” 2014, http://tinyurl.com/cutf8vw. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Report examines top executives and their views on work environment, pay and occupational outlook.

“Global Business School Rankings,” The Financial Times, http://tinyurl.com/lzdsps7. The Financial Times ranks Harvard, Stanford and the London Business School as the top three programs globally.

Schmitt, Jeff, “20 Essential MOOC Courses in Business,” April 1, 2013, Poets & Quants, http://tinyurl.com/oeo8mwx. Poets & Quants takes a look at the 20 best massive open online courses (MOOCs) offered in business.

The Next Step


Korn, Melissa, “M.B.A.s Sour on Strings-Attached Tuition,” The Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/o72sbgu. More MBA students are opting out of their employers' tuition-assistance programs, many of which require them to remain employees for at least two years after graduation; instead, they prefer applying to higher-paying jobs.

Rivard, Ry, “Public to Private MBA at UCLA,” Inside Higher Ed, June 30, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/obct325. The dean of the graduate business school at the University of California, Los Angeles, signed a three-year deal with the state's university system permitting the school to become a private, self-supported program that sets its own tuition rates.

Zlomek, Erin, “Elite Business Schools Hike Tuition for the Class of 2016,” Bloomberg Businessweek, March 17, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/kfty5hv. Highly selective MBA programs such as Duke and Stanford will raise tuition in 2016 for the sixth year in a row, even as average starting salaries for graduates remain unchanged since 2008, according to a London-based educational services company.


Hellmich, Nanci, “More companies hiring new MBAs,” USA Today, May 18, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/mhp639x. Eighty-six percent of U.S. companies said they planned to hire MBA graduates in 2014, up from 51 percent in 2009, according to an annual survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Johnson, Fawn, “Rent-an-M.B.A. Breathes New Life Into Freelance World,” National Journal, Nov. 24, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/ozupon6. Four Harvard Business School students founded an online company that connects MBA-holding freelancers with small companies seeking short-term consultants as a cost-saving alternative to hiring large consulting firms.

Palin, Adam, “Aiming for the stars … then get a top MBA,” Financial Times, Jan. 19, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/ogh82lu. Professionals working for large companies are more likely to become long-term executive candidates if they attend top-ranked graduate business programs, according to the managing director of an executive search firm.

International Programs

Bradshaw, Della, “European business schools consolidate at home but expand abroad,” Financial Times, Nov. 30, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/qephb6j. European business schools have reacted to Europe's slow economy by merging with one another or by opening new partnerships and university branches in Asia.

Byrne, John A., “How Yale is beginning to crack into the elite B-school ranks,” Fortune, Dec. 17, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/o5csz4r. Since 2011, the dean of Yale's graduate business school has forged academic partnerships with 27 business schools from around the world as part of an effort to develop the school's reputation as a global MBA program.

Cigainero, Jake, “Asian M.B.A. Schools Rise in Esteem for Employers,” The New York Times, Dec. 7, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/pbe44sw. According to an annual ranking of universities based on graduate “employability,” Asian MBA programs are producing more work-ready graduates than in past years and are surpassing renowned American and British universities.

Online Programs

Carlson, Debbie, “The changing MBA: How tech and entrepreneurship are reshaping studies,” The Chicago Tribune, Sept. 8, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/oeus9yc. More Chicago-area business schools are offering MBA programs with mixed in-person and online courses, although some professors caution that online-only degree holders will be less competitive than graduates of traditional MBA programs.

Useem, Jerry, “Business School, Disrupted,” The New York Times, May 31, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/oo9sm8v. Harvard Business School entered the online business education field by creating an online, three-course “pre-MBA” program designed to improve undergraduate students' fluency with business concepts.

Wood, Sam, “A world-class business education for free? Here's how,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 2, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/qccyvco. An international development worker created a blog instructing readers on how to obtain a graduate-level business education—albeit without earning a degree—through massive online open courses (MOOCs) offered by top-ranked business schools.


AACSB International
777 S. Harbour Island Blvd., Suite 750, Tampa, FL 33602
Represents global business schools and has more than 1,400 members worldwide.

Association of Business Schools
3rd Floor, 40 Queen St., London, EC4R 1DD, UK
+44 (0)20 7236 7678
Represents British schools teaching business and management.

Council of Graduate Schools
1 Dupont Circle, N.W., Suite 230, Washington, DC 20036
A leading source of data, information and trends about graduate school enrollment.

Graduate Management Admission Council
11921 Freedom Drive, Suite 300, Reston, VA 20190
Oversees the testing requirements for graduate school admission.

DOI: 10.1177/2374556815576108