There are probably hundreds of full-time MBA programs in the world. The majority are located in the US, followed by Europe and Asia. The quality, prestige, and reputation of these MBA programs varies drastically, however.
As previously mentioned, you will most likely receive the same business education whether you attend an executive MBA, a part-time MBA, or a full-time MBA. The same then holds true for the different tiers of full-time MBA programs. Whether you attend a top MBA program or a regional unknown MBA program, you will receive more or less the same business knowledge from your classes. Of course you may get a bit more out of a top b-school because of the professors and higher calibre of peers. However, just the sole reason of receiving a good business education should NOT be the main reason to attend a top MBA program. If you just want to become knowledgeable in accounting or marketing you may as well do an online or distance MBA.
The main reasons to attend a top MBA more revolve around the following factors:
- Recruiting: Only at top MBA programs will you have the chance to connect directly with top companies in Finance, Consulting or Industry through the school’s career services. Coveted companies don’t come to lower ranked or less prestigious b-schools. Therefore, if you still want to apply to top employers you will have a much harder time at an average b-school. Also, in tough economic times, lower ranked b-schools also have a harder time attracting employers than top MBA programs.
- Post MBA compensation: Along with the top companies which recruit only on campuses of top MBA programs also come large differences in post MBA compensation. For example, graduates from top 10 MBA programs (also see US News ranking) can easily earn $100K+ base salary and bonus. On the other hand, graduates from a top 50 program may “only” make around $70K plus a smaller bonus (which is still great!). Of course, these are averages and there are always outliers for any b-school.
- Networking: The more prestigious the b-school, the higher calibre your peers will be. This means that your future business network will also be far more valuable than at an average MBA program. In addition, a top MBA program will also have a larger and better alumni network which comes in handy for recruiting purposes as well.
- Learning experience: While receiving a general business education should not be your main objective of attending a top MBA program, you will still get more out of class discussions, group projects, and club activities when your peers have more intellectual horsepower.
Hence, even if you receive a scholarship at a top 50 b-school and get an admit for a top 10 program without any financial aid you will most likely get more value out of the higher ranked business school in the long term. In fact, attending an average MBA program at times may not even be beneficial to your career or financial situation. Often, top 50 programs are not that much cheaper in terms of tuition compared to top 10 programs. With the loss of 2 years of income while you’re in b-school, plus tuition and living expenses you may want to consider the value you receive when attending a top 50 MBA given the factors mentioned above.