If you’ve been accepted into an MBA program and think you can take it easy for a while, you may want to reconsider. You should begin preparing for your job search as soon as you begin your studies. While some advisors recommend starting 6 months before you graduate, the truth is that recruiters will be on campus from the moment you arrive.
Don’t miss the opportunity to network with these potential employers, even if you aren’t looking to be hired for another year or more. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to line up a job before you even graduate.
To learn how best to prepare for recruiters, take a look at some of the MBA Success Stories available on Admissions Roadmap. My interview with Nishanth Kadiyala, for instance, offers a great deal of insight on what to look out for in your recruiting journey.
What kinds of jobs are available when you graduate? In this section, we’ll look at several job opportunities available to MBA graduates, broken down into categories. These aren’t the only possibilities, just some of the most common ones. If your intended career path isn’t on the list, that doesn’t mean it’s not an option.
We’ll mostly be referring to the U.S. job market, so salary information is in U.S. dollars. We’ve also included some of the top schools for each career path.
Finance is a broad category that covers many jobs in the field of money management, including corporate, personal, and public finance. An MBA in Finance will prepare you to work in jobs such as investment banking and venture capital. While some MBA grads have their heart set on Wall Street, there are finance jobs in all parts of the world and in all levels of business. Let’s look at a few of them here.
Investment bankers generally work as advisors for clients in the public or private sector by helping them raise and manage their money. Young college grads are drawn to this job because they can earn six-figure salaries with very little work experience. However, this job can require long hours, and top earners work over 80 hours per week.
Salary: $152,936 per year ($164,176 with bonus)
Best schools: Most top business schools including Harvard Business School, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and specialist schools like the Rice Jones School of Business.
Private equity refers to investments that are not part of the stock market but come from private investors. An MBA graduate can pursue work managing a private equity fund for institutional clients or accredited investors. Typically, private equity firms charge a 2% fee and may take an even larger cut from sales of a company.
Salary: Salaries vary depending on size and niche of firm
Best schools: Harvard Business School, Columbia School of Business and Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago
Corporate Finance involves the management of finances for corporations rather than for private companies. Since corporations are designed to maximize shareholder value, a job in corporate finance may involve raising capital, and dealing with equity and debt. Your salary will depend on which area of corporate finance you work in.
Salary: $113,010 – $131,048 (Source)
Best schools: Columbia School of Business and Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago
An investment management position involves managing a portfolio of assets, which may include bonds, stocks, and real estate. An investment manager buys and sell these assets on behalf of a client and may also deal with budgeting and taxes. You could be working for private investors, governments, pension corporations, and more.
Salary: $85,757 – $145,653 (average $126,393) (Source)
Best schools: Columbia Business School, Harvard Business School
Venture capital refers to private equity investments in small companies with high-growth potential. These investments can be risky, but can also lead to high returns, including equity in the company in some cases. A job in venture capital may include working with individual investors (called angel investors) and entrepreneurs.
Salary: $134,249 – $222,852 (average $183,199) (Source)
Best schools: Columbia Business School, Booth School of Business
Consulting is one of the most popular career paths for MBA graduates. It’s perfect for those who enjoy variety, because you’ll get to work with many different companies from week to week. If you work for a consulting firm, you’ll be expected to help businesses solve problems that they couldn’t handle on their own without your expertise. You may choose to work in management consulting, technology consulting, and so on.
The primary role of a management consultant is to help a business improve their results. Consultants can offer specialized advice and an outsider’s view on any issues the business is facing. Typically, an MBA grad will seek work with a consulting firm, the “Big Four” being Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Salary: $83,600 and $109,700 (average $95,800) (Source)
Best schools: Kellogg School of Management, Booth School of Business
Technology or IT consultants specialize in helping companies design and improve their IT systems. This might involve consulting on new infrastructure or improving the efficiency of existing systems. An IT consultant should have a background in computer science or another relevant concentration. Major IT firms include HP and IBM.
Salary: $110,156 – $116,271 (average $95,800) (Source)
Best schools: University of Arizona, Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania)
HR Consulting firms focus on Human Resources concerns, including recruitment, compensation, and overall strategy. Major firms include Hay Group, Watson Wyatt, Towers Perrin, and Mercer, however, many general consulting firms also have a department that specializes in HR consulting.
Salary: $110,120 (Source)
Best schools: Stanford Graduate School of Business, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University
Boutique consulting firms focus on a specific niche and are much smaller than the Big Four firms. For example, ZS Associates works with pharmaceutical companies. If you want to work with a smaller team in a particular area of interest, this may be a good option for you.
Salary: Salary varies depending on size and niche of firm
Operations consultants focus on improving a business’s internal operations. You may be dealing with efficiency, outsourcing, and manufacturing issues. MBA grads interested in this field can seek work with the Big Four firms or with Accenture or IBM.
Salary: $81,390 (Source)
Best schools: Booth School of Business, Kellogg School of Management
Management & Strategy
Management and strategy MBAs are designed to get students to think creatively about the big picture and guide a company through challenging times. Students may pursue a job with top strategy firms like McKinsey, and may be well-suited to executive roles later on in their career. Let’s look at a few options along this career path.
A general management career is the broadest option in this category. An MBA graduate with a general management degree is suited for a variety of roles in multiple industries. If you see yourself leading a company to success, this may be the career path for you. It’s also a great option for entrepreneurs who want to start their own business.
Salary: $82,450 (Source)
Best schools: Stanford Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, Ross School of Business
A job in corporate strategy will entail managing multiple projects across a single firm. In this role, you’ll look for efficient ways to allocate resources while increasing value for shareholders, as well as creating competitive advantages with other companies.
Salary: $82,450 (Source)
Best schools: Haas School of Business (UC – Berkeley), Harvard School of Business
A business analyst helps an organization boost efficiency and streamline systems. While you won’t be making the big decisions on your own, you’ll produce reports and provide recommendations to top management. This is a good position for MBA grads who want to work with top executives to lead a company to success.
Salary: $81,510 and $101,095 (average $90,620) (Source)
Best schools: MIT Sloan School of Management, Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business, University of Texas at Austin
Chief Operating Officer
A chief operating officer (COO) is the second in command after the CEO. MBA grads with a specialty in strategy are well-suited to jump into a COO position immediately after they graduate. COOs work with the rest of the management team to develop strategies and advance the company’s objectives.
Salary: $361,694 and $586,742 (average $464,507) (Source)
Best schools: Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, Kellogg School of Management
The most flexible career path for an MBA grad is to become an entrepreneur. While it’s certainly the riskiest option on this list, a strategic management MBA can provide you with the tools you need to run your own business. Several programs focus specifically on entrepreneurship, so if that’s your goal, consider one of these top schools.
Salary: Varies considerably
Best schools: Stanford Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, Babson College, Tuck School of Business
Marketing is one of the most popular career paths for MBA graduates. The difference between an MBA program and a general marketing degree is that MBA grads are trained in the data of marketing, not the creative side. Instead of creating ad campaigns, you’ll be focusing on the data behind them, and collecting data on your competitors.
Brand managers are tasked with increasing the brand recognition and market share of a project. Brand managers must be able to correlate ad campaigns with sales data to see which strategies are most effective. While brand managers can work in any industry, several MBA programs have specific concentrations in luxury brand management.
Salary: $92,666 and $123,561 (average $106,838) (Source)
Best schools: NYU, Columbia, INSEAD, London Business School
A sales manager is responsible for overseeing a sales team within a larger company by facilitating lead generation and setting sales goals. Having sales experience is generally more important than having an MBA, and most MBA grads don’t go into sales. However, some schools have begun to offer programs in Strategic Sales Management.
Salary: $121,060 (Source)
Best schools: Booth School of Business (Strategic Sales Management)
Product managers are tasked with bringing a product from conception to market, such as a physical product or IT software. Many MBA grads are drawn to this role because it involves a variety of skills, including product development and marketing. However, the salary for a PM is comparable whether you have an MBA or a Bachelor’s degree.
Salary: $92,666 and $123,561 (average $106,838) (Source)
Best schools: NYU, Tepper School of Business, Harvard, MIT
Market Research Analyst
A market research analyst helps companies decide whether and how to introduce a new product. They may run focus groups, create surveys, and analyze market data to determine which customers to target and what price range to aim for.
Salary: $63,230 (Source)
Best schools: University of Wisconsin – Madison
Internet Marketing Manager
Internet marketing managers perform many of the same functions as other marketing roles with an emphasis on online advertising. An MBA grad pursuing this field should have experience in social media marketing and search engine optimization.
Salary: $85,216 and $122,259 (average $99,154) (Source)
Best schools: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Wrapping it up…
If you’re going to take anything away from this post, though, it should probably be this: recruitment starts as soon as you begin your MBA, which means building and highlighting your marketability from day one. Make connections. Take on projects. Build your resume. And get some references. It can be a challenge, particularly when combined with the rigors of an MBA. But the more ready you are, the more prepared you’ll be when recruiters come knocking down your door.