Are MBAs Arrogant, Overpaid, and Worthless?

Are MBAs Arrogant, Overpaid, and Worthless?

When it comes to MBAs, there are a lot of negative stereotypes. Sameer Kamat, founder of MBA Crystal Ball, recently delved into some of these stereotypes and asked experts for their thoughts on whether they think MBAs are arrogant, worthless, and overpaid.

“Some wonder how MBAs, who have huge loan burdens, can be arrogant and annoying instead of being humble and pleasing,” Kamat says. “Some others feel that MBAs ‘have no idea what they are talking about, most of the time.’ MBAs’ most bitter critics believe b-school graduates are colder than most people, and carry an attitude of ‘That’s business, like it or lump it,’ to justify themselves.”


For many, an MBA is the path towards career advancement. Some critics say that path leads to arrogance and a superficial view of status.

“If you ask people who don’t have MBAs but have done very well for themselves, you may get a more equitable view,” Kamat explains. “They say that MBA students, particularly those at elite schools, quickly learn that in their world, people are valued in material terms, and success in life is measured by the size of your pay packet. Therefore, MBAs tend to evaluate people according to how wealthy they are.”

But is an MBA really the source of that arrogance?

“Arrogance has everything to do with the individual student; b-schools don’t cultivate it,” an INSEAD official tells Kamat. “Although you might think you are likely to find vain and haughty students at a prestigious school, the fact is that most students are down-to-earth people.”

Kamat says that perhaps the arrogance criticism comes from the confidence that MBAs seem to take on when pursuing business school.

“The perception that MBAs are arrogant has become widespread mainly because of the smug overconfidence that students seem to have right from the time they enter b-school that they are going places in their careers,” Kamat says. “They feel corporate recruiters are going to queue up before them, begging them to accept their job offers.”


One criticism of MBAs is that they’re “useless at best and destructive at worst.” Critics of MBAs argue that the education is a waste of time, and that MBAs are more conformist than innovator. This is a viewpoint that Kamat disagrees with.

“For a start, MBAs gain a deep understanding of business management issues, finance, and technology, besides entrepreneurship, thanks to their programs,” Kamat says. “As they attend MBA programs along with other professionals from various industry sectors, they get to know about these sectors more deeply.”

And while the argument of MBA arrogance may be worthy, Kamat says, the numbers tell a different story about whether MBAs are worthless.

“A Top MBA research of over 3,500 MBA employers has found that there was a 13 percent surge in hiring in 2017 compared with 2016,” Kamat argues. “For example, Bain & Company planned to hire 500 MBAs in 2018, up from 400 the previous year. Microsoft, according to 2018 reports, is reportedly hiring several hundred MBAs a year from 150 schools in 40 countries.”


Sumantra Ghoshal, Founding Dean of the Indian School of Business, once said that “only 10 percent of managers have been found to have the right mix of energy and focus to make a difference to organizations.”

That would leave 90% remaining whose high salaries might not match their impact.

“On b-school campuses, companies offer high salaries only to those MBAs who they think are likely to make an impact,” Kamat says. “The great packages are justified to the extent that companies are able to identify and recruit the best fresh talent available on b-school campus. But if only a few of them are eventually able to prove their managerial skills, you can safely say that at least a few MBAs are overpaid.”

Sources: MBA Crystal Ball, Harvard Business Review

Next Page: How business schools are teaching the future of work.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.