More Chinese, Japanese CEOs Have Science Backgrounds

      December 01, 2009 09:40

      More Chinese and Japanese CEOs have advanced science or engineering degrees than the MBAs or economic backgrounds common among Korean top managers, analysis by the Chosun Ilbo finds. The Chosun Ilbo looked at the academic background of 150 CEOs from the top 50 enterprises each in Korea, China and Japan.

      Some 60 percent of Chinese CEOs and 38 percent of Japanese top managers had science or engineering backgrounds. By contrast, South Korean CEOs with MBA or economic backgrounds account for 49 percent of the total, while a mere 22 percent had a background in science or engineering.

      Many Chinese CEOs hold PhDs, or about one in three or 15 CEOs. Twenty had master's degrees. Meanwhile, 41 of the Japanese CEOs only have bachelor's degrees, suggesting they started working right after graduating from college and worked their way up the ladder. Five have master's degrees and four doctorates. In Korea, about half have master's or doctoral degrees and half bachelor's degrees.

      Pyo Min-chan, a professor of business administration at the University of Seoul, said, "China has a relatively short history of corporate management, and not many CEOs have experienced bankruptcies yet. And it doesn't have a sufficient system for testing corporate CEOs' management skills. In this situation, those with higher academic backgrounds have a better chance to become CEOs there." One reason why there are so many CEOs with doctorates in China is that it is relatively easy to get them there, given that it normally takes a mere three years.

      Japan, by contrast, has a unique corporate culture where hands-on experience is valued. Lee Ji-pyong, a researcher at the LG Economic Research Institute, said, "Many Japanese believe that college is only a minimum talent testing and enhancing process, so they learn practical skills in enterprises."

      Twenty-two Korean CEOs with master's or doctoral degrees got them from American universities, while their Chinese counterparts mostly got them in China.

      Chinese CEOs also graduated from a wide range of colleges or universities, while Japanese and Korean CEOs went to only a few select universities.

      Almost 30 Japanese CEOs graduated from the top four universities -- Tokyo, Kyoto, Waseda and Keio. And most Korean CEOs graduated from the top three universities -- Seoul National, Yonsei and Korea.

      Japan has the oldest CEOs with an average age of 63.1 years. Next is Korea with 59.7 years and China with a youthful 51. And while all Japanese and Korean CEOs surveyed are male, there are three female CEOs in China's top 50 firms.

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