First, let’s take a minute to talk about school selection. If you’ve started doing your school research, you might feel like all the schools seem amazing and pretty much the same based on their websites. How are you supposed to choose between Stern and Columbia? Or Darden and Tuck? How different are they, really?

Here’s why you need to look past the rankings and the stereotypes. We’ve had clients come to us absolutely set on a school, only to realize that that school doesn’t even offer what they’re looking for.

It’s really easy to get caught up in the rankings, but you want to make sure that once you’re there, the program is going to help you achieve your dreams. We talk about this at length with our clients, but this is why it’s so important to network with the schools early on in the process – to learn what they offer, what current students say about the program, and what opportunities in your industry of interest exist post-MBA.

 

But before you start asking questions, we want to arm you with all the information you need to know!

Below, you’ll find data we compiled from the Placement Reports of the top 30 MBA programs. With it, we looked at where MBAs end up – which functions, which industries, and which companies – and sorted through it to make it really easy for you to start distinguishing between MBA programs that seem similar. Keep reading to see what we found!

 

So, here’s a list of surprises and confirmed stereotypes we found

 

We know a lot of people are tempted to make MBA decisions based on stereotypes, so we tested those stereotypes with cold hard data from schools.

 

Here are some stereotypes we busted:

 

 

 

can be on either coast and nab offers in entertainment. The schools that send the highest number of students into the industry are USC Marshall (20), Columbia (20), UCLA Anderson (13), and Harvard (11).

– check out the entrepreneurship / new venture resources and curriculum that schools offer!

 

And some stereotypes that we confirmed:

 

 

 

·       Graduates of higher-ranked schools land bigger post-MBA starting

salaries. This is true… but not as drastic as you might think! The average median salary for the Top 10 schools was $148,000, and the average salary for schools ranked 11-30 was $128,975 (this was a mix of median and mean salaries, depending on what each school reported). So yes, graduates of higher-ranked schools earn more, but take heart – on average, the difference really isn’t that significant! Check out the Additional Charts section of the Appendix for more details about salary by school.

 

We know it’s tempting to make MBA decisions based on stereotypes — just make sure you do your research to validate whether they’re true or not first!! (Check out this video from Angela for tips about how to research business schools!)

 

 

1.    Industry and Function

 

When you start to think about all the options available to you, it’s easy to get distracted and confused and overwhelmed. There are so many different things you

 

could do after your MBA. How can you make sense of them and make a choice you’re confident about? Well, let’s start by getting familiar with industries and functions, which we’ll use to define different career options.

 

First, let’s talk industry

 

Each job has a function and an industry. Industry is about the company you work for and what it does – for instance, consumer packaged goods (CPG), oil & gas, and technology are three different industries. But there’s some additional nuance to consider too:

 

 

As you’re narrowing down your target industry, be specific. Do you want to work at a technology company that makes a product, or at a retail company that sells the product? Or do you know you want to be at a company that does both, like Apple?

 

What industries excite you? What industries do you read articles about? That can help you start narrowing down where you want to be.

The next way to think about career options is by function

 

Function is about your role and what you do day to day – your responsibilities, your expertise and what impact you have within your company. For instance, someone working in Marketing at Apple has a very different job from someone working in Finance at Apple, even though they’re at the same company.

 

Some functions are common across all industries, like Strategy, Finance, Marketing, and Operations. Think of the titles in the C-Suite (CMO, CFO, COO), which are all the heads of various functions within a company.

 

However, there are WAY more functions than that, and they are often specialized depending on the industry the company is in. You could work in Product Management, Product Marketing, Design, Business Development, Partnerships, or Fundraising. Many companies also have Leadership Development Programs that involve working across a series of functions, to prepare those employees to take on General Management positions in the future.

 

The more specific you can be about your target function, the better. Ideally, you’ll want to find the actual name of a role at a company to make sure it exists and to get a sense of what the role is like. For instance, if you want to be a Product Manager at Airbnb, awesome! They have 20+ different postings for Product Manager jobs, and by looking through those postings, you can get a sense of whether you’d enjoy working in that function.

 

Now, let’s put it all together!

 

When you write your career game plan, you’ll want to talk about your future jobs as a combination of industry and function. To help you visually see your post-MBA options, here’s a partial, high-level industry / function matrix:

You can see the industries down the side and functions across the top. Note that Consulting and Investment Banking are both an industry and a function. Any job you apply for will fall into one box in the white area – it will typically map to one industry and one function. Each job will be a combination of both.

Keep in mind, this is simplified and very high-level – within each industry and function, there are more granular distinctions to make. Within tech, there are companies that do consumer tech, software as service, hardware, software, etc. And similarly, with functions – within Finance you’ve got Business Development, Accounting, Mergers and Acquisitions, Risk Management, etc.

 

 

 

As you’re writing your personal statement – and thinking about what MBA is best for you – knowing what industry and function you hope to enter post-MBA is a must. And you’ll knock it out of the park if you can name specific roles at specific companies you’re interested in! It will show that you not only know what you want, but you’ve already started doing the work to get there. Schools will love you for that!

 

Before we move on, a quick pro tip: When you put together your career plan for your application, think about changing only one axis at a time – changing either your function or your industry, but not both.

 

This is to make your job pivot feel credible to schools in your application, and it may add an interim job in between your current role and your longer-term dream job.

Why is this important? Keep in mind that even in the career-pivoting world of MBA programs, companies tend to want to hire folks who already have some applicable experience. Once you get to school, though, you can ask yourself what you really want to do and make a plan to get there.

 

 

So, what jobs does an MBA actually help you get?

 

The MBA is a really flexible degree – most programs give you a ton of freedom to take classes that reflect your interests and career goals. One MBA student might specialize in finance, another in HR and people strategy, and another in social impact and nonprofit.

 

But despite the MBA’s flexibility, there are some core industries and functions where most MBA grads end up – this is a function of where there’s demand for MBAs and the MBA skillset, and which companies have recruiting relationships with business schools.

 

So, where do most MBAs end up? Check out the charts below, which summarize which industries and functions MBAs go to:

FIGURES 7.1 & 7.2: INDUSTRY PLACEMENT FOR THE CLASS OF 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Calculated as the average of all schools’ % offers accepted in each industry

 

FIGURES 7.3 & 7.4: FUNCTION PLACEMENT FOR THE CLASS OF 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Calculated as the average of all schools’ % offers accepted in each function

 

 

 

You can see that most people go into a few industries (consulting, finance, and tech) and a few functions (consulting, finance, and marketing / sales). You might be wondering why consulting and financial services firms are so popular for MBAs year after year:

 

If you’re interested in those jobs, congrats! You’re walking down a well-worn, predictable, and well-supported path. If you’re interested in a less-common industry or one that isn’t on these charts at all, don’t get discouraged – it’s absolutely possible to leverage your MBA to land a position as a Product Manager

 

at Airbnb or in strategy at NBCUniversal. Your journey will just be a little different

from your classmates, and we’ll talk about that in the next section!

Now that you know what the hiring landscape looks like at business school, let’s talk a bit about what job searching looks like once you’re on campus and what it’s like to recruit for common and less-common industries and functions.

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