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Do You Need an MBA to Become an Executive?

3 Min Read

As prospective students weigh the return on investment of an MBA degree, the question at the top of their minds is often, “do you NEED and MBA to become an executive?” The short answer is no — but that answer limits the range of responses. While it’s true that professionals with a variety of educational backgrounds have advanced their careers, the MBA is the most represented degree for executives.

Consider that 40% of S&P 500 CEOs have an MBA, and nearly a third of the companies among the Financial Times 500 are headed by a chief executive with an MBA.1, 2 In other words, you don’t need an MBA to become an executive, but historically it delivers a competitive edge over those who haven’t shown the drive or dedication to obtain an advanced degree.

Why More MBA Graduates Become Executives

The link between an MBA and an executive-level role is far from anecdotal. A study by Development Dimensions International3 involving over 15,000 business leaders across 300 companies in 18 countries found that MBA graduates consistently outperformed undergraduate business-degree holders in classical business skills like financial acumen, business savvy, and strategic decision making.

It’s no surprise that the majority of MBA graduates report high levels of satisfaction with their degree in terms of professional development and career advancement. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 92% of MBA alumni from the class of 2014 report their education prepared them for leadership positions, and 73% of respondents in a 2015 study said they could not have obtained their current position without their MBA.4, 5

Historically, obtaining an MBA has proven to be a smart choice for executives. Consider that 83 percent of MBA alumni polled from the classes of 1959 through 2013 report their graduate management education had a positive impact on their career progression. Currently, graduates of the 2015 class are enjoying an employment rate of 91 percent, and a median salary of $94,9005. It should come as no surprise then, that the majority of them — an astounding 96 percent — would recommend their program to others.5

How an MBA Prepares You for Executive-Level Roles

Although students are unlikely to land an executive-level position immediately after graduation, it’s clear that an MBA degree can clear the pathway to the boardroom. Students gain a network of peers in business school that can be indispensable in future years. You’ll learn together to think strategically, drive change, build relationships, and lead others to carry out an organizational vision. The common bond of the shared MBA program provides a strong foundation for future business relationships. An MBA program is also a sandbox where you can practice and explore management theories before practicing them in the real world.

In addition to practical business and leadership skills, an MBA provides credibility. It demonstrates a commitment to becoming a business professional, and is highly respected in the business world.

Advance Your Career Today

Develop the skills necessary to become a corporate leader in two years or less with the flexible online MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Immerse yourself with the latest training in management theory, international economics, supply chain and operation, corporate finance, entrepreneurship, and more. Request more information or call 855-275-1082 to speak with an advisor about OLLU’s MBA.


  1. The MBA Degree and the Astronomical Rise in CEO Pay
  2. Financial Times 500
  3. Development Dimensions International
  4. Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)
  5. GMAC 2015 B-School Follow up: Class of 2015

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