Graduate: Work your socks off, take an MBA, get a big rise. Simple

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The Independent Online
Salaries for MBA graduates are on average 42 per cent higher than those they had before gaining the qualification, according to research by the Association of MBAs.

The figure is still 27 per cent when adjusted for inflation, "making the return on investment impressive", says the organisation, whose salary and career survey was published this week. Moreover, most MBAs report improved job opportunities, increased self-confidence and broadened skills.

The results continue the consistent rise in MBA graduate salaries revealed by the association's two previous surveys - in 1992 and 1995. Robert Owen, the association's accreditation services manager, said all the surveys had shown MBA salary rises were ahead of average earnings. "The MBA now has a very positive impact on salary levels, following an overall decline from the 1970s and over the 1980s," he added.

However, there are distinctions. For example, MBA degrees gained through full-time study command higher salaries than those obtained by part-time or distance learning, with those on two-year courses receiving an adjusted rise of 73 per cent and those on one-year programmes receiving 35 per cent more.

Moreover, base salary levels are broadly distributed. The average is pounds 53,700 and the median is pounds 44,000, but, while 6 per cent earn more than pounds 100,000, three times as many earn pounds 30,000 or less.

Salary increases are particularly high for graduates who change employer. Accordingly, nearly a third of graduates move jobs within a year of gaining the qualification - which should produce more food for thought for those employers providing high levels of support for employees while they study in this way. But there is little evidence of graduates moving between industries, except for management consulting, which gains graduates, and the public sector, which loses them. In addition, there is a trend for graduates to move to smaller organisations in more generalist functions and at a more senior level.

Indeed, Mr Owen adds: "Alumni who remain with their organisations after graduating complain that employers fail to use and reward their new expertise - a factor about which respondents registered high levels of discontent and frustration."

The survey also indicates a shift from the MBA being viewed as a means for changing career. Graduates' main objective was to increase job opportunities, but intellectual stimulation and gaining generalist skills were also factors.

And more than 45 per cent of the 1,500 Association of MBAs members who responded to the survey felt that their objectives had been met completely, with most of the rest feeling that they had been partly met. Only a small minority said they had not been met at all.

The study sees evidence of a growing demand for distance learning on the grounds that, like part-time study, it avoids the need for a break from employment. This is especially important since most respondents have to support their studies from personal funds.