MBA Nearly Doubles IT Pros' Salaries

New research suggests that an advanced business degree breaks down communication barriers between IT professionals and business managers.

For years, IT professionals looking to increase their job security, expand their career horizons and potentially climb a couple pay grades have been told to take business courses or get an MBA, but the evidence to support these assertions has been little more than anecdotal.

Now, however, a study published in the March issue of "Management Science" from the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business finds that an IT professional with an MBA degree earns 46 percent more than one with only a bachelor's degree, and 37 percent more than an IT professional with any other type of master's degree.

Sunil Mithas, assistant professor and a co-author of the study, said it was a 2002 article in the Wall Street Journal that questioned the payoff of an MBA degree that got him wondering if there was any hard evidence to back this up.

"The article didn't sound correct to me. I looked at the claims and the studies they were citing and found that they were based on what people had said or on very small sample sizes. I wanted to collect real data," Mithas told eWEEK.

Mithas and co-author M.S. Krishnan from the University of Michigan found that IT professionals with MBAs were earning more than $24,000 per year more than those with only BS degrees, and $17,000 more than those with other master's degrees.

The authors felt that having an MBA was an unquestionable benefit to an IT career, as it would make it easier for them to work successfully with the rest of the business.

"Once they have their MBA, their ability to connect and convey to the business folks what they need is much better. They know how to pitch IT to them and they know how to speak in the business language and convey the benefits of technology to them," said Mithas.

"It can be hard for a lot of techies to speak to business people, and this breaks down the language barrier."

This sentiment is echoed by technology recruiters, who feel that IT professionals who move beyond pure technical skills and into management arenas create value propositions for themselves that make it more difficult to outsource their roles.

"Become more than a tech worker. Become a business worker. Be one of those people who started as pure tech players and became business people, who can manage technology or business projects equally well," Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy and marketing for Yoh Services in Philadelphia, told eWEEK.