Top recruiters’ shocking verdict on whether business school is worth it

Recently there has been an increased focus on business schools and the value of an MBA.

Before the pandemic, there was a sharp decrease in enrollment to business schools. The decreased enrollment was partly due to increased tuition costs and the ability to access information at a reduced price via the internet.

A change of direction in business school applications

However, we have seen how business school applications took a dramatic turn with historic increases after COVID-19 took hold of our world. Even though people have struggled to make ends meet, business programs are highly sought after, with enrollment at all-time highs. 

But is the renewed interest in MBA and other business school programs going to pay off in the end? Or are people wasting their time and money when they should be focused more on their careers?

We checked with some of the top recruiters in the business industry to see what they thought of the return on investment from enrolling in a top business school.

What top recruiters are saying

Before we delve into the value of a business program, it’s important to note that during the early MBA boom, business schools started to sprout up all over the place in the early 2000s. In fact, there are more than 600 “business schools” in the United States. 

However, not all of these self-proclaimed business schools are actually accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business – also known as the AACSB. Because there are so many schools to choose from, and it isn’t easy to get into one of the top business schools, settling for a lesser-known business school may not be worth it.

According to Exeter Jones of Mergers & Inquisitions, “If you are not attending a top business school and you have your sights set on investment banking or private equity, and you’re paying for the program yourself, you’re making a big mistake.” 

Racking up $150k+ in student loans for a program that doesn’t carry the same prestige as a Harvard MBA may not be worth it. 

However, on the flip side of the coin, Christine Ricci, a recruiter at B.E. Smith, believes an MBA is the staple of success in our business economy. Ricci states, “An MBA or some advanced degree is almost a must-have right now – it’s expected now.”

Specialization is more valuable

While most recruiters agree a top business school will provide a reasonable return rate on your investment, the more specialized training you can get, the more valuable you are to a company. 

For instance, Nick Sowells, a market director at Kforce Inc, said about business programs, “It’s never going to hurt someone, but particularly in finance and accounting and most STEM-focused career paths, a certificate or other specialized skills is more advantageous.” 

Getting an MBA is great, but if you can specialize in one specific career path, the degree and certifications are more valuable than a general business degree. 

Sowells added additional insight into the increased number of business schools that have sprouted up over the US. “There’s definitely been an explosion of MBA programs in the past few years, which I think has diluted the degree a little bit. Where you’ll see a lot of the return on investment is on top programs,” he stated.

You get what you pay for

The resounding theme is to avoid paying top dollar for a cheap business school knock-off. If you’re going to invest in a business school, hold out for one of the top programs to get the best return on your investment.

We learned from these recruiters that paying top dollar for a top business school is still worth it in the real world. However, the talent, ability, and skill set you bring to the table, combined with your interpersonal skills, should not be discounted. If you lack the skill or knowledge to effectively do the job, no degree on a resume will be enough to land you the top career you dream about.

Use a business school to compliment or build upon your innate natural abilities. Don’t be fooled into paying top dollar for a shiny no-name business school.

If you’re in the market for a diamond, pay the price for the diamond. Don’t get a cheap imitation diamond knock-off. It just won’t be the same.