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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Study finds MBA more desirable

A new survey conducted by industry icon Kaplan Test Prep has found that the perceived value of an M.B.A. has risen as recent college graduates struggle to find jobs.

The results of the "2003 Pre-M.B.A. Snapshot" show that 55 percent of respondents consider an M.B.A. to be more valuable compared to 20 years ago.

Albert Chen, director of Kaplan's Graduate Programs, said the most significant of the survey's findings was "the realization that an M.B.A. is still really important in terms of career goals."

With "the glut of people getting M.B.A.s as a result of the economic downturn," Chen said, students now see an M.B.A. as the "minimum you need to be competitive."

But future businesspersons are seeking advanced degrees not solely to delay entry into a competitive job market.

"The world has gotten a lot more complex, certainly the financial world," said Robert Hansen, senior associate dean of the Tuck School of Business. "There's really more to learn."

Aspiring business students at Dartmouth reflected the growing attitude that an M.B.A. is a often a precondition for success in the business world.

"I think that the M.B.A. training gives you such a superior competitive edge that without an M.B.A. people are at a supreme disadvantage," said Ryan Bennett '04, who is currently enrolled in Tuck's Business Bridge Program.

The survey also provided a look at respondents' perceptions of recent corporate scandals. When asked about the role business schools played in the scandals, 51 percent of respondents answered that the schools do not bear any responsibility.

"I don't think B-schools bear responsibility," Hansen agreed. "Most of the scandals that come to mind are either the result of pure unadulterated stupid behavior or poor corporate governance."

Although Tuck has not added any classes as a result of such scandals, classes already offered on related topics such as ethics, corporate governance and accounting "have adapted a little bit," said Hansen.

In addition, Tuck has held a number of panels and events to address and discuss corporate malfeasance.

Nevertheless, none of the survey respondents listed ethics as the most important factor in deciding on a business school. Rankings topped all factors by accounting for 49 percent of respondents.

According to Hansen, however, "Rankings are not really the best way to choose a business school because they are pretty imperfect."

That rankings were the number one factor was also surprising to Chen.

"What was fascinating for us was that people were still so concerned with rankings," Chen said, "We had hoped students would be more aware."

Bennett was less concerned with rankings, saying, "I imagine that [rankings] will be an important factor, not the most important factor."

Instead, he cited factors such as "the way they teach and the intellectual approach they take" as the criteria that would weigh most on his decision.

For Kaplan's surveymakers, other factors also were weighed into the selection process, the report noted.

After ranking, the location of a business school came in a distant second, accounting for 22 percent of respondents.

This surprised Hansen. "Students that I talk to say that location is not a dominant factor in their choice," he said.

While Hansen agreed that a school's location would be weighted heavily by students with spouses or partners, he questioned the importance of location in general.

"Location should not be the issue," he said.

Instead, Hansen listed factors such as curriculum, faculty, lifestyle, student body and the alumni network as "the things that are really important."

"Different schools have different strengths," Chen said. "Every school is not right for every person."

Also included in the study was a look at respondents' perceptions of current business leaders. Choosing from a list, respondents picked investment tycoon Warren Buffet as their most admired leader and Bill Gates as the leader who has had the biggest impact on business and society.

Kaplan Test Prep carried out the study from June 13 to June 19 using a secure internet questionnaire. The results were based on the responses of 654 of Kaplan's 2002 GMAT students.