Graduates of prestigious schools are landing higher salaries, but others see less benefit 06/16/2002 By Victor Godinez / The Dallas Morning News

Technology workers considering graduate business school as a shelter from a rough job market may want to rethink their plans, experts say. Graduates of only the most well-known MBA programs can expect to step directly into bigger salaries, and some employers may place a higher value on workers who grit out the tough times in low-paying jobs. A recent report by the MBA Exchange Ltd. (www.mbaexchange.com), a company that coaches workers on how to apply to MBA programs, found that MBA graduates from Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT and Columbia typically land salary offers of around $120,000. But graduates from less prestigious programs receive little or no salary bump over their previous jobs, the survey found, suggesting that most MBA grads shouldn’t expect their new degrees to boost their value on the job market. “If you are economically driven, there’s a direct correlation to the rating of the school and the income when you get out,” said Dan Bauer, founder and managing director of the MBA Exchange. Mr. Bauer said that tech professionals who aren’t committed to advanced education won’t get much out of the experience. “They’re not getting near the value that is there for them, and it’s not a good place to hide,” he said. “The expectation of not only the faculty but your fellow students is that you’ll be an active participant in the business issues that are being discussed. If you’re just sitting there quietly opting out of the discussion, it’s not going to be a pleasant experience.” Jeff Kaye, president and chief executive officer of Dallas recruiting firm Kaye/Bassman International Inc. (www.kbic.com), said tech workers need to think carefully about why they want to get an MBA. “I think a lot of MBAs think ‘I did all this work and got this diploma and now I’m worth a lot more,’ ” he said. “They got it as if it were a magic elixir, and it’s never going to be.” However, for tech workers who want to pick up specific business skills and are less concerned about an immediate financial payback, pursuing the degree can be beneficial, regardless of the school. “If you want to be a technical guru and you really do want to work deep in the guts of the technical product itself, going back to school to get an MBA is truly marking time, and it does smack of hiding out,” said Karyl Innis, chief executive officer of Dallas outplacement firm the Innis Co. (www.inniscompany.com). “But, if you’re a technical person and your long-term goal is to be a product manager or have some other mix of business plus technical skills, then it does make sense on one level.” Mr. Kaye also said that tech professionals looking to leap to a top IT consulting firm will find an MBA is often a prerequisite for the job. But once the job market improves, companies will probably prefer workers who proved their mettle during the slump, Ms. Innis said. “There is new respect for people who have been through the good times and the bad ones, who have contributed when budgets were flush and continued to contribute when budgets were tight,” she said. “That type of contribution power is what’s valued and really does add concentric rings around someone’s core experience.” “Think about how many people are saying, ‘I remember back in 1991 and 1992,’ and they’re drawing on that experience,” Mr. Kaye said.