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The MBA degree, often seen as the quickest route to a fat salary, no longer delivers the purchasing power it once did.
Students on the top US MBA programmes in the mid-1990s saw their salaries triple in five years, but those who graduated from the same schools in 2008 and 2009 saw that increase halved, according to data collected for the FT’s annual Global MBA rankings.
At the same time, MBA fees have risen by 7 per cent a year. MBA students who enrolled in 2012 paid 62 per cent more in fees – up 44 per cent in real terms – than those who began their programmes in 2005, even though the increases in post-MBA salaries remained in line with inflation.
The average fees for the 51 two-year US degrees ranked in the FT table were $106,000 for those who enrolled in 2012. MBA students must also fund their living expenses and forgo two years of salary. Harvard Business School had the highest fees – $126,000 in total. However its graduates enjoy some of the highest salaries three years after graduation, an average of $190,000.
This is one reason why the Boston-based business school regained the number one slot in the rankings for the first time in eight years, ousting its biggest rival, California’s Stanford Graduate School of Business. Harvard was also top for research and increased the number of international students on its programme, both of which are measured as part of the rankings.
The data also reveal some good news for women who study for a business degree. The salaries for women MBAs three years after graduation has traditionally trailed those of their male counterparts by about $20,000, but this year the salary gap narrowed for the first time. In 2012 women from the top 100 schools earned an average $110,000, compared to an average $132,000 for men; this year those average salaries were $126,000 and $136,000, respectively.
Business schools in the US continue to dominate the rankings, with 51 of the top 100 schools located there, including six of the top 10. There are 26 European MBA programmes, with London Business School ranked number one in the region and four in the world.
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is the top Asian school, ranked eight.The number of Asia-Pacific business schools in the rankings grew from 12 in 2012 to 14 in 2013.
The FT has published its MBA rankings annually since 1999. In that time, just four schools have taken the top slot: Harvard, Stanford, the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania and London Business School.