On analyzing the Class of 2016 employment data for MBA graduates from Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton, we find that 70%-80% of the class ended up in either Consulting, Finance or Technology. These three industries have consistently remained on the top for the last couple of years. In fact, these industries represent the “traditional” career paths post MBA. There are shifts that happen between these industries every year, but they still represent the biggest portion of hiring. On eyeballing the charts it was also clear that these three industries also had 10%-15% higher median salaries and Other Income (annual bonus etc) as compared to other industries (you can find this data on the respective websites of the schools).
As you can tell, the numbers do paint a picture that for the most part MBA students are driven by money. However, it’s not all money and these three industries present good options moving beyond the 2 to 3 year horizon after your degree.
Management consulting at a top notch strategy firm like McKinsey or Bain can open up many doors at client companies. You are not only hobnobbing with the top echelons of the client company but also getting a chance to understand the client’s business from a strategic and operational perspective. Often, consultants end up in a management role at one of the client companies and rise in their careers from there. Also, the alumni network of management consulting companies is very strong; I would argue better than Business school networks!
A Finance job at an Investment Bank/PE/Hedge Fund is monetarily very rewarding. In some cases, the fresh MBA grads are promised bonuses as high as $400, 000. The life style may not be to your liking, but you can amass enough of a nest egg to take some time off and decide your path forward. There are several options moving forward – careers in Corporate Finance, Corporate Development, Investor Relations, your own hedge fund, or becoming an investment manager for high net worth clients to name a few.
A job in high tech industry is the rising fad amongst MBAs. Typically you will end up in Corporate Marketing, Product Management/Marketing roles, where big picture, data analysis and people skills play an important role. The salary may not be that much, but the equity awards can be generous and these can yield solid returns. One other advantage of a high tech job is that it keeps you on the bleeding edge of technology; your vantage point puts you in a better position to discern disrupting industry changes.
A lot also depends on your individual background. If you have a strong engineering/technology background, becoming a CTO is also an option – you can leverage your earlier background with MBA learnings. Likewise, many MD’s pursue MBAs to become healthcare VCs. With the success of Silicon Valley technology companies, there is also a rise in the number of MBAs going the entrepreneurial route.
Don’t get trapped into thinking on traditional career paths post-MBA. Assess your strengths and passions. There are many attractive opportunities in your post-MBA career.