If you are aiming for the C-suite, new research confirms that an impressive MBA could be your ticket for scaling that corporate ladder. According to a report released by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and Spain’s IE Business School, more than 40 percent of executives within Fortune 100 companies hold an MBA degree from a top-20 school.
Of those, executives holding an Ivy League MBA were three times as likely to reach the very top of their profession. Coming on the heels of research revealing that approximately a third of employees at the world’s top 500 companies begin with an MBA, this report suggests that the degree not only helps graduates find jobs with elite companies; it helps them reach the pinnacle of those companies.
The numbers also provide some insight on how the business environment has changed since today’s executives graduated in the 1980s. For example, the majority of MBAs holding executive positions in Fortune 100 companies were not promoted from within. More than two-thirds did not start their career with the company that they are currently leading. That number represents a fairly drastic change from the past few decades, in which about 50 percent of executives began their career with their current company. Whether because of a global recession or simply a more dynamic, flexible global economy, “lifers”- employees that stay with one company for their whole career- are less common than ever.
In addition, and unsurprisingly, the numbers revealed that more women are now reaching top corporate positions. Women held 18 percent of the executive jobs surveyed for the study. That might seem like an insignificant number, until you consider that, in 1980, there were quite literally no female executives among the top 1,000 surveyed. The study also found that the women who do obtain executive positions are more likely than their male counterparts to hold an MBA degree, and that they often secure executive positions earlier in their career. Given these numbers, women seeking top positions might find even more value in an MBA than their male peers do.
These numbers reveal a culture in which the MBA denotes a highly valued skill set that elite global companies are hungry for. It’s a powerful assurance. Today’s MBA graduates, having worked tremendously hard to obtain those three letters after their name, can feel confident in the degree’s worth as they begin their careers and become successors to the current forty percent.