MBA a must-have or nice-to-have?

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With booming conditions globally, is an MBA still required to get to the top of the pile?

Richard Lyons, from executive search firm Carr Lyons, says that MBAs are more valuable at the associate level than at the assistant-director of VP level. At the associate level an MBA from a good university will separate people from the crowd. At the higher end, employers are looking more for solid experience in their candidates, and people that can build businesses, than MBA grads, Lyons believes.

John McFarlane, ANZ Banking Group chief executive, recently said in the Australian Financial Review: "Doing the MBA was an incredibly useful foundation for me. I joined Citibank after my MBA and my career really took off after that." McFarlane believes his MBA enabled him to triple his salary upon graduating.

Other Australian bankers who have completed an MBA include Alan Moss, CEO of Macquarie Bank, who has an MBA from Harvard. James Starling works for Deutsche Bank in London on their FX and commodities desk having earned an MBA at INSEAD in France. Starling originally studied at Melbourne University.

According to the Financial Times 2006 MBA rankings, University of Pennsylvania: Wharton, Harvard Business School and Stanford University came in as the top business schools globally. Melbourne Business School was the highest ranked course in Australia at 69.

The report says the salary percentage increase, defined as the percentage increase in salary from the beginning of the MBA to three years after graduation, was 139%, 123%, and 128% respectively at the top three schools.