CEOs With MBA Degrees

Find out which Fortune 500 executives hold MBAs.

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Do you have dreams of running a major corporation one day? This is no easy task. It takes years of dedication, hard work and diligent networking to get to this position.

CEOs and MBAs

There is no magic formula to become a CEO. However, Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree programs may be the most reliable producer of chief executive officers in the business world. According to Barron’s, 15 of the top 30 CEOs earned a master’s degree in business.

A CEO is in command of an entire organization or corporation.

In some cases, an MBA is used to complement an individual’s knowledge of an industry to better prepare them for a managerial role. Warren East, CEO of ARM Holdings, originally studied as an engineer, but he credits his executive MBA program for helping him grasp the intricacies of the commercial world.

What Is a CEO?

A CEO is in command of an entire organization or corporation. Typically, companies are managed by a board of directors, and the CEO is the individual who leads this group. It’s somewhat similar to how the president works with Congress. The board discusses strategies and the direction of the business to maximize efficiency and profitability. Although a great deal of consulting is done with the board of directors, CEOs have the final say in all major decisions regarding the company.

They also have to be great communicators, as they often give news conferences or interviews to the media.

Top MBA Programs for Producing Fortune 500 CEOs

The Financial Times, US News & World Report, Businessweek and The Economist each published their rankings of MBA programs that graduate individuals who go on to become CEOs. Of the aggregate rankings, Harvard was the only school to appear in all four lists. Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania appeared three times, while the University of Chicago and Northwestern each appeared on two lists.

While these have been ranked as some of the most prestigious business schools, CEOs come from all backgrounds. Businessweek’s Top 30 CEOs had MBA graduates from schools such as Xavier, Pace University and Bellarmine University.

CEO Career Paths

Jim McNerney, CEO of Boeing, earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University in 1971. After working for several years, he went back to school and earned an MBA from Harvard University in 1975. Throughout his professional career, he worked for companies such as General Electric and 3M. It was not until 2005 that McNerney was hired to be the CEO of Boeing.

Jeffrey R. Immelt, CEO of General Electric, followed a similar path early in his career, earning an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

A seemingly common path for many CEOs in today’s high-tech economy is to augment technical expertise with an advanced degree in management such as an MBA. Ellen Kullman, CEO of DuPont, did just this. She studied mechanical engineering at Tufts University for her undergraduate degree. She followed that with a master’s degree in management from Northwestern University several years later. She is also the first woman to lead DuPont in over 200 years.

The one common landmark of many CEO paths seems to be a stop along the way for an MBA.

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