Was Getting My MBA a Waste of Time?
By Anne Fisher

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Dear Annie: A while back I read that the average starting salary of MBAs in my home state was $77,000, which sounded pretty good. So I enrolled in an MBA program that isn't Ivy League caliber, but accredited and very demanding. Now, having spent $37,000 and 2 1/2 years of hard work, I have received zero job offers. Was going to business school a costly mistake? --Disillusioned

Dear Disillusioned: It's always risky to pin a specific salary prediction on any credential, because so many variables can intervene--including, say, a recession that flings the whole job market into the dumpster. Notes Jon McBride, co-founder of Jungle Media Group (www.mbajungle.com), which keeps a close eye on MBA recruitment: "An MBA is costly, so naturally expectations are high. But the economy doesn't always cooperate." Over the past few years many formerly avid hirers of new MBAs have cut their recruiting efforts down from 15 or 20 campuses to six or eight "core schools," often focusing on the lofty likes of Harvard and Wharton and skipping second-tier programs altogether. Still, says McBride, "some employers now are hiring more MBAs than ever, including the pharmaceutical industry, entertainment business, and federal government, especially the CIA and FBI."

Education is never a mistake, even if it takes a while to lead to a better job. "Map out a long-term career path. If you can't get your dream job right away, find ways to work toward it," McBride suggests. "You may have to be a bit creative." And patient. Very, very patient.

Send questions to askannie@fortunemail.com. Annie offers advice weekly at www.askannie.com.