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Best degree to become CEO: Poll participants' opinions

Posted: December 8th, 2021, 4:20 pm
by MBACrystalBall
We published an article on our blog that became very popular. Check it out here.

Which is the best degree to become a CEO

As a follow-up to the article, we did a survey to find out what people think about the topic. We've updated the original post (shared above) with the survey results.

This post acts as an addendum to the original article and lists some of the interesting opinions shared by poll participants.

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Brian Cocolicchio. a teacher and statistician/data scientist from New York says:
"An MBA can help, but one can learn finance and accounting along the way. Domain knowledge is more important IMO."

Pennsylvania-based CEO, Matt Dancho said: "Tech is an anomaly so it’s not a good comparison to the other industries. MBA will help - especially for tech people (like me). I used the MBA to understand financials, which was incredibly important to working with other parts of the organization and making investment decisions (what should the business spend its money on is a great decision science problem). So MBA will help for sure. Don’t simply go by what 4 FANG companies are doing. They are anomalies in the grand scheme of things."

Daniel Humberto Gutierrez from Argentina, dipped into his 30 years of professional experience to recommend getting an MBA with at least an IT specialisation: "Today decisions are based on data and it is not about functionalities, but about iterations. I think that for that a minimum knowledge of technology is necessary. Basically the difference is in making more precise decisions within data-driven organizations."

Chennai-based CEO, Laksh S, quoted Harvard Business School research before sharing his views: "HBR says 17 out of 100 Top CEOs are a failure. The common among these 17 is MBA. To become CEO, MBA may be an HR filter requirement. The successful CEO and MBA may correlate but it has no causation. Trusting those untested and suspecting those tested, both lead to endless trouble for employers. Hands-on without qualification and qualification without hands-on, lead to endless trouble to employees."

From Canada, engineering student Simranjeet Singh explains why an engineering works best: "Engineering graduates are taking up executive positions of not only world's major tech giants, but also many other industries such as finance. Since they have an overall expertise in almost everything ranging from numeracy, problem solving to leadership."

Nick Knapp, a software engineer from Greater Minneapolis, had a more sinister take on it - placing personality traits higher than the academic qualifications: "At least in the U.S. anyway the most important thing to become a CEO is that you're a sociopath/psychopath."

Insurance industry veteran from Denver, Jeff Young added: "An MBA also helps to give you that 365 degree view of organizational strategies and processes that are key to helping a business grow. I think the tech definitely helps with efficiency and to know what's possibly technologically, but it's really powerful when combined with an MBA."

Bangalore-based IT professional, Vishwatosh Tripathi, highlights the changing trend: "Historically people from sales generally moved to CEO positions. Recently tech has taken center stage and you can see most folks from tech getting CEO positions. Although some have the MBA credentials too. But we will see more on non-MBA CEOs going forward."

Language consultant Lina Younes from Lebanon says: "Best degree is to have the skills for a CEO. Degrees are not enough."

Michael M, from Dayton says: "People go to Harvard / Ivy League for the social connections, not the piece of paper itself. That elite club is the first half 'golden ticket' not the piece of paper; the second half is raw ability which a degree can approximate (with errors) but not prove."

Cameroon-based entrepreneur, Ronald P. Djoko, got his MBA from Rome Business School. But he thinks a degree doesn't matter: "What matters most is the know-how of the subject matter in front of you - you can grasp it through experience without having a degree."

David Hazlett, a lawyer from Louisville Metro Area says: "You have to be a decision maker, not a decision faker, and no degree program can teach that. But, there are a crap load of CEOs who do not fulfill that necessary characteristic."

The PhD degree got some strong support from Philadelphia-based CEO, Gregory Fridman. His company relies heavily on research and development skills: "I have a PhD. In the field of my business. It is very important. To us. In general, the degree is completely irrelevant. I went for a degree because it was a must-have for me. I needed those years to learn. But if you're in school to "get a degree cause I need one for stuff like a cool job"... well... best of luck in an interview with me ;-)"

Khoi-Nguyen Nguyen, an MS student at San Jose State University, wrapped things up with this simple yet profound observation: "The best degree to become a CEO is the degree of separation."