Should MBA Programs Be Ranked by Their Graduates' Happiness?

Last Updated Dec 10, 2009 5:59 PM EST

If you listen to many highly successful business people, whether it's Bill Gates and Warren Buffett or Guitar Hero president Dan Rosensweig, a common theme comes up: following your passion is key to a successful career, because it can lead to happiness and fulfillment.

For the individuals mentioned above, it has also led to impressive financial gains, but to hear them speak, this seems almost beside the point. So why then is salary of graduates such an important factor in ranking MBA programs?

In a recent article on the website of McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, Robert Prentice, a McCombs business law professor, argued that a happiness ranking would better serve business schools and its students.

Citing available scientific methods of doing so, Prentice writes, "Measuring happiness would encourage business schools to focus less on training students for the highest-paying jobs and more on preparing them for careers they will find satisfying in the long term."

But isn't receiving a high salary enough to make some people happy? According to Prentice, "Studies show that once basic needs are met, more money generates little, if any, additional happiness." Generally, people who focus on relationships, spirituality, helping others and leaving behind a legacy are happier than those who are money-focused.

For this reason, MBA rankings employed by publications like BusinessWeek do a disservice to MBA students, Prentice says. By including criteria such as MBA grads' starting salaries, Prentice argues that the rankings encourage programs to accept a higher number of students interested in finance and consulting, because these future money makers will help the schools' rankings.

If schools and rankings were less money oriented, Prentice says we would see changes in curriculums that would help students concentrate on the factors that will help them achieve happiness: "If business schools truly want to serve their students well, they will offer more courses on how to market and finance nongovernmental organizations, how to manage profit and nonprofit organizations legally and ethically, even how to lead a meaningful life."

Image courtesy of Flickr user emdot, CC 2.0

  • Stacy Blackman

    Stacy Sukov Blackman is president of Stacy Blackman Consulting, where she consults on MBA admissions. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Science from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacy serves on the Board of Directors of AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and has published a guide to MBA Admissions, The MBA Application Roadmap.