Is it worth doing an MBA past 30, and which school gives you the biggest bang for your $100,000 bucks?

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It’s been a while since we’ve looked at the issue of ageism and MBAs. In light of the Economist’s new MBA ranking, it seems appropriate to reconsider the issue, along with which schools offer the best payoff for laying out all that money to acquire the advanced degree.

As you’ll see if you click through to the Economist’s list, most MBAs are callow-ish youths. IMD, the Swiss business school, is known for having older MBAS, but its average age is only 31.

MBAs in the U.S. seem to be more youthful: at Harvard, Chicago-Booth, Cornell and Kellogg, the average is only 27.

This is understandable –  at US investment banks MBA courses have traditionally been undertaken following two year analyst programs similar to the kind that was recently discontinued at Goldman Sachs.

MBAs coming out of financial services firms are therefore unlikely to be aged much more than 25.

The youthfulness of MBAs does, however, cast aspersions on the value of the course as an instrument for career change. If financial services redundancy strikes post-30 and you need a lever to switch into another industry, is an MBA really the right choice?  Maybe, but you’ll need a good story for the admissions staff and a willingness to start again at the bottom.

The oldest MBA in the class of 2013 at London Business School is 37.  At Bath, which has appeared on the Economist’s MBA ranking for the first time this year, the oldest MBA student is 56. 

As for which school offers the all around best payoff for the tuition, Chicago's Booth School of Business is the winner. Despite its reputation as a finance powerhouse, says The Economist, and a "churner-out of super-quants, the return of Chicago’s Booth School of Business to the top of ’s full-time MBA rankings is proof that it is a well-rounded school."

The Economist ranking measures what MBA students say are important. Not surprisingly, for a degree that can cost more than $100,000, topping their list is the extent to which a program opens new career opportunities. In this regard, Chicago has few peers. Its graduates find employment in the widest range of industries; its students gushed about its careers service when marking it for The Economist.

North America and Europe account for all the schools in the top 25. The highest-placed school from outside those regions is the University of Queensland, at 27th. The highest placed Asian school is the University of Hong Kong, which ranks 41st.

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