By Ilana Kowarski, Reporter
IF YOU’RE APPLYING TO A graduate business school with the hope that an MBA degree will catapult you into an interesting and well-paying occupation, it’s important to compare the employment statistics at various programs, experts suggest.
Heather Byrne, managing director of the Career Development Office with the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor, says MBA hopefuls should look at a B-school’s job placement figures to gauge the career opportunities of its graduates. “I think looking at the employment profile is always a good place to start,” she says.
Compensation statistics submitted for the U.S. News 2021 Best Business School rankings reveal two types of post-MBA jobs that tend to be especially lucrative: consulting and general management positions. The average base salary for MBA grads in 2019 who became consultants was $103,050, and the average base salary among grads who acquired general management jobs was $95,060.
Though it is common for MBA grads to receive both a salary and a bonus, such as a signing bonus, these figures reflect only the salary amount.
Both consulting and general management jobs involve analyzing a business’s strengths and shortcomings in order to create a compelling corporate strategy. MBA grads with consulting jobs specifically provide business advice to companies and corporations that seek to benefit from an outsider’s guidance. In contrast, MBA grads in general management roles are company leaders who help create, refine and execute that organization’s business plan.
One common type of general management position among MBA grads is a leadership rotation or leadership development program at a corporation, where the employee has the chance to gain management experience in multiple departments within a short time span. The idea behind this type of job is to give a company’s new MBA hires a holistic view of what their company does, so they can make a positive impact as managers and are prepared to become C-suite executives.
Consulting jobs often offer a similar breadth of experience because they typically include a variety of assignments, including projects that touch on vastly disparate business disciplines such as finance and human resources.
Because of the versatility required for both consulting and general management, Jon Hill – chairman and CEO of The Energists, an executive search and recruiting firm – recommends that MBA hopefuls with an interest in either career path attend an MBA program “that offers a wide array of different specializations and course options.”
“Classes on data analysis, operational management, and corporate strategy are important, but so are courses that develop your presentation, public relations, and communication skills,” he explained in an email. “More than other careers, consultants and general managers need to be well-rounded in their knowledge and experience, so you want a program that can give you that foundation.”
Katherine King, CEO of the Invisible Culture corporate consultancy, says that aspiring consultants and general managers should avoid MBA programs that are overly “anchored in theory,” since a lack of practical training “may result in mistakes being made on the job.”
In contrast, B-schools that excel at training aspiring consultants or general managers provide opportunities to practice making difficult choices, she suggested in an email. “Training future consultants and general managers should include stress arcs and pressured decision making with a heavy reliance on experiential learning to effectively produce employees with already usable skills.”
Shaifali Aggarwal, founder and CEO of the Ivy Groupe, an MBA admissions consulting firm, says that a school’s placement rate in general management and consulting can be a good indication of whether the school provides a pathway into one of the two professions.
“If a student is interested in consulting after graduation, then schools that have a higher percentage of graduates entering consulting are likely preparing their students well and have strong recruitment from consulting firms,” Aggarwal wrote in an email. “Similarly, if a student is interested in general management after graduation, then schools that have a higher percentage of graduates assuming general management roles are likely doing a good job preparing students in that field and have strong recruitment from companies offering general management roles.”
Below are charts that identify both the 10 B-schools that sent the greatest share of their 2019 MBA grads into consulting jobs, and the 10 schools that sent the largest percentage into general management jobs.
Among these 20 MBA programs, the program that sent the highest percentage of its MBA grads into consulting jobs was Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Meanwhile, the B-school where MBA grads were most likely to land general management jobs was University of South Dakota School of Business.
Stephen Rakas, executive director of the Masters Career Center at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business in Pittsburgh, suggests that the percentage of a given MBA class entering a particular industry is a solid starting point for research. “It’s also worthwhile to determine if there’s a variety of employers recruiting in your target industries and whether there’s a match in outcomes with your geographic preferences,” he says.
Satish Nargundkar, assistant dean for professional and flexible MBA programs at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business, explains that sometimes MBA alumni who are destined to become consultants or general managers do not acquire those positions right away.
“The obvious sign one might look for as proof of effective training of future consultants and general managers would be the placement in those positions upon graduation,” he wrote in an email. “However, several MBA grads may work their way into those positions a few years after graduation. It depends to some extent on the level of experience the student has before starting the MBA program. So, looking at what MBA grads do 3-5 years after graduation may be a better reflection of the program than the data immediately after graduation.”
To perform well in the consulting sector or general management field, Nargundkar says, a person must be a good problem-solver, critical thinker, and effective communicator and leader. Those qualities must be developed via “a solid foundation of courses in all the key areas of business,” which allows future business leaders to understand “how the various pieces fit together,” he says.
Jeremi Bauer, dean of The Malcolm Baldrige School of Business at Post University in Connecticut, says the ideal MBA curriculum for an aspiring consultant or general manager is broad and deep. It includes lessons in various business disciplines but also demands “a depth of thought and application within each discipline,” Bauer says.