38% Of Fortune 500 CEOs Have An MBA Degree

Once considered a standard stepping stone towards a leadership position, is an MBA still a must-have for those with dreams of adding a CEO title to their resume?

We took a look at current CEOs from the most recent Fortune 500 list to determine just how crucial a graduate degree in business is to leading today’s highest-ranking companies in terms of revenue.

As it turns out, an MBA isn’t all that vital. In fact, less than half of today’s Fortune 500 CEOs have a graduate degree in business.

Fortune 500 CEOs with an MBA by Katy Tripses

And it seems that this is a trend that’s likely to continue. For instance, fewer people are applying to business school than in the past. During the 2017 year, business schools at American universities received 3.2% fewer applications than they had in the 2016 year.

There are several contributing factors to this decline. Most obvious is the quickly rising amount of student debt in the U.S.

In June of last year, Americans owed more than $1.3 trillion in student loans. The continuously increasing costs of attending college are causing more students to seek out alternatives to traditional programs, including part-time and online that are more cost-effective.  

Second, more schools are beginning to offer more diverse specialization programs, including in areas such as finance and computer science that have begun to grow in popularity and value. Many of these new specializations are more tailored towards specific industries or even companies that students are hoping to work for, making them more attractive than a general MBA.

But while it’s true that fewer CEOs on this list have an MBA than in past years, it’s important to note that the vast majority do have a graduate degree of some kind. Engineering and law were close behind business in popular post-graduate degree programs amongst today’s Fortune 500 CEOs.

Top Schools for Fortune 500 CEOs

Though many of today’s students are choosing to forgo an MBA in favor of alternative degree types, graduate degrees in business still maintain their position as some of the most popular. And in fact, schools that are home to top-rated MBA programs are actually seeing an increase in applications.

These schools have long been highly regarded specifically for their business schools and continue to prove their high value. And of today’s Fortune 500 CEOs with an MBA, the majority did attend a program at one of these universities.

Here are the top 5 schools that produced most of today’s Fortune 500 CEOs.

Top Universities- Fortune 500 CEOs by Katy Tripses

But while U.S. schools did continue to dominate this year’s list, perhaps the most interesting finding is a growing competition from European and Asian universities. In fact, 10% of today’s Fortune 500 CEOs graduated with an MBA from a school outside of the U.S., INSEAD being the leading foreign program.

Fortune 500 CEO Universities Outside of U.S. by Katy Tripses

This comes at a time when the number of foreign students applying to American programs has declined. And 2017 actually marked the first time in history that two U.K. programs topped the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings.

Should You Get an MBA?

For students and young professionals looking for their right path up the corporate ladder, is an MBA still worth it? While it’s certainly no longer a must-have, a business degree can still be an incredibly beneficial asset.

To start, most students who earn an MBA degree increase their earning power and tend to advance their careers at a faster pace. Second, MBAs tend to have access to a greater professional network, as they are able to make a large number of connections through their classmates, professors, and professional events hosted by their schools.

Finally, many hiring managers often note that their employees with MBAs have further developed soft skills, including communication, critical thinking, and leadership. This gives many MBAs an edge over their coworkers as soft skills are some of the most commonly reported abilities lacking in today’s workforce

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