An MBA: Dream Job Or Not?

Even if the MBA degree failed to help a graduate land a job in his or her chosen field, nearly seven out of ten applicants would still apply to an MBA program, a new survey published today (Sept. 27) shows.

The study—of both prospective and current MBA students–867 respondents in June and July of this year—was done by Veritas Prep, the test prep and MBA admissions consulting firm. Some 867 people responded.

Some 67% of respondents said they would still apply to an MBA program even if they were unable to find jobs in their desired fields. Only 15% said they would postpone applying until overall MBA-grad placement rates improved. Just 8% of respondents indicated that they would not apply under current job placement circumstances.

Veritas said “these numbers represent a moderately increasing level of concern about MBA graduate job prospects over last year’s respondents, of whom 73% said they would still apply, 13% said they would postpone application and only 5% indicated they would not apply. Just over half of respondents expressed concern about finding a job upon graduation from business school, roughly the same percentage as last year’s survey participants.

Leading concerns among current and prospective business school students included finding a long-term career path that appealed to them (73%) and maintaining a healthy work/life balance once they started working (62.%). These concerns were closely followed by finding a job that enabled them to pay off their student loan debt (60%).

Consulting (25%), management (19%) and banking and finance (18%) continue to be the three most coveted areas in which to land positions upon graduation.

Some 47% of respondents reported a desired annual starting base salary upon graduation of $100,000-$145,000. 17% indicated desired starting salaries of $145,000-$175,000, while 7% indicated they were hoping for starting salaries of $175,000 or more. These numbers were fairly similar to those identified by last year’s respondents, with slight increases in the number of individuals hoping for starting salaries in the two higher levels.

Motivations for pursuing an MBA varied. Perhaps reflecting the ongoing and critical impact business has had on the country’s economic circumstances over the past several years, when asked why they wanted to get an MBA, the motivator cited most often by respondents was an interest in business and the way it shapes society (71%), with attaining a prestigious, high-paying job the motivator for

just over half (54%) of respondents. Possibly related to an interest in how business impacts society at large, the desire to affect positive change in the world (53%) was the third most-cited motivation for completing an MBA.

Some 70% of respondents hoped to use their MBA to switch careers, while only 16% planned to use the degree to advance in their current career, indicating an extraordinarily high rate of intended employment “churn” upon graduation.

Prestige and ranking (82%) lead among preferred factors in identifying business schools of choice, followed closely by networking opportunities (80%) and, at a bit of a distance, academic rigor (65%). “Alumni base,” which was the number three preferred factor last year (77%), was ranked as a priority by only 53% of respondents this year. Some respondents, however, may have assumed that “networking” included a school’s alumni network.

Some 59% of the respondents said location was a factor in their choices, while 55% identified “campus culture and lifestyle.” About 40% said “affordability” was a factor.

As was also the case with last year’s responses, business schools’ proprietary websites were the most commonly used resource for identifying programs to apply to (86%), followed by online forums and message boards (53%), friends (50%) and business school visits (46%).

Although online forums and message boards are a popular option for gathering information about potential MBA programs, only 2.9% of respondents had used social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) to connect with admissions personnel at target schools. It seems as though, while applicants see online channels as a valuable way to gather information about schools, they are so far reluctant to use social media to start a dialogue with admissions personnel.

Among the 65% of respondents that had taken the GMAT, 50% took it once, 33% took it twice and 17% took the exam three or more times.

While 18% of respondents waited to see their GMAT score before deciding whether to apply to business school, 41% of respondents waited to see their GMAT score before deciding which schools they would apply to.