MBA grads are some of the least pleased bunch among graduate students, a Gallup study published today (February 16) says. Fewer than half (42%) of MBA graduates earning degrees between 2000 and 2015 said they strongly agreed their education from graduate school was worth the cost. And it gets worse when the rate is compared across graduate degrees.
The poll of more than 4,000 individuals in the U.S. who received postgraduate degrees between 2000 and 2015 also included graduates earning doctoral degrees, medical degrees, law degrees, master’s of science, and master’s of arts degrees, and only one other degree had a lower rate than the MBA: a law degree, which had a “strongly agree” rate of 23%. Considering the law degree’s rising costs and plummeting value in the market, that’s not good company. Doctoral degrees had the highest rate, at 64%, followed by medical degrees at 58%.
Next, Gallup asked grads to rate how strongly they felt their graduate education prepared them for life after school. Again, the MBA had some poor results. Only 23% strongly agreed that their degrees prepared them well for life beyond the confines of B-school. (Again, only law graduates gave lower marks, at 20%.) This time, medical school graduates gave the highest marks, with exactly half strongly agreeing that their degree prepared them well for life after school.
“Likely contributing to their lower ratings of their degrees, postgraduates who received MBAs and those who received law degrees are also less likely than other postgraduate degree holders to report having had important support and experiential learning opportunities during their graduate programs,” the report reads.
Indeed, the results get even worse for the MBA when graduates were polled on their academic support and experiential learning opportunities. Asked whether their professors cared about them as people, only 19% of MBAs strongly agreed — lower than any other degree field. Again, those earning doctoral and medical degrees had the highest rates at 37% and 35%, respectively. Just 14% of MBAs strongly agreed that they had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their “goals and dreams” — again, lower than any other field. Medical degrees led the category with 54% and doctoral degrees followed with 49%.
MBAs also rated their internship experiences lower than any other field. Asked whether they’d had a job or internship experience that allowed them to apply what they’d learned in the classroom, only 36% of MBAs strongly agreed. Again, that rate was the lowest; this time the category was led by law graduates, with 58%.
SPRINKLE A BIT OF SALT ON THE GALLUP FINDINGS
But the study should be taken with a few grains of salt. First, the poll size — around 4,000 people — is not a large universe considering it stretched across so many degree programs for so many years. And it’s important to remember that it spans a period that included the Great Recession, when an MBA was seen as less valuable if earned around that time. Lastly, Gallup doesn’t specify where the degrees were earned.
It’s possible — even likely — that the polled population includes those earning MBA degrees from lower-tiered schools, part-time MBA programs, as well as online or distance-learning degrees, which have only recently began to be more respected in the industry. A study of MBAs from the top-tier schools would likely have very different results.
Gallup’s findings also run counter to what other recent studies have shown. Last year, for example, in its annual survey of business school alumni, the Graduate Management Admission Council found that 91% of 2016 graduates attained work within six months of graduating, with 88% saying their degree was key to getting their current job — exactly the same percentage as the Class of 2015 — and 96% rating their MBA’s value as “good” to “outstanding.” The GMAC survey, moreover, covers a broad range of schools from the top to the bottom of the rankings.
“Differences in mentorship may stem from the structure of these graduate programs,” the report says. “For example, doctoral students typically work closely with a faculty adviser and medical students often partner with other doctors during their residency programs as a specific design of their graduate education. Meanwhile, MBA and law school programs typically do not have these mentorship opportunities directly built into their programs.”
Previous Gallup research shows that at the undergraduate level, close faculty engagement and mentorship can lead to better long-term outcomes like increased workplace engagement and “higher well-being,” but similar research at the graduate level is sparse. While it makes sense that an 18-year-old could benefit greatly from a close mentorship, it’s unclear just how beneficial that might be for the typical MBA who is in his or her upper 20s. Gallup maintains, however, that mentorships should be equally important at the postgraduate level.
Adds the report: “Postgraduate programs whose graduates are most likely to say they had a mentor, that their professors cared about them and that they had the opportunity to apply what they were learning are typically the most likely to say their school prepared them well and that their degree was worth the cost.”