Most Popular Cities, Sectors For MBAs

Business People Team With World Map-resized-600Where The Potential MBAs Are

As a whole, MBAs are considered first adopters. So it’s no surprise that you find them where the action is. Fifty years ago, that meant mass migrations to New York, Boston, and Chicago. Now, the “action” has shifted to Silicon Valley and Austin (if not Omaha and Chattanooga) as entrepreneurship continues democratizing the old order.

Survey 30 MBAs and you’ll get 30 answers. Some prefer a traditional path, replete with long commutes and few risks. Others seek freedom inside weird and wired communities that reflect their youthful zeal. In fact, many prospective MBAs choose schools based on their proximity to career opportunities (and alumni networks). Want to run a brand? Try the Midwest. Want to work in finance? Head East.

So which locations appeal most to the next crop of MBAs? Recently, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) conducted a metro analysis of its annual Prospective Students Survey. From 2012-2013, over 10,360 aspiring MBAs living in 23 US metro areas were asked about “their preferences, motivations, and career intentions” when they logged onto, the official website of the GMAT. Here are the sectors and locations where future MBAs are working now … and which sectors they intend to work in the future:




Current (8% of all U.S. residents) Intended (22% of all U.S. residents)
Washington, D.C. —  26% Washington, D.C. — 40%
San Francisco — 16% San Francisco — 32%
Boston — 12% Seattle — 26%
Chicago — 26%
Atlanta — 26%




Current (10%) Intended (14%)
San Jose — 44% San Jose — 40%
Austin — 27% Seattle — 26%
Seattle — 19% Austin — 23%
San Francisco — 23%




Current (17%) Intended (17%)
Washington, D.C. — 32% Washington, D.C. — 32%
San Diego — 30% San Diego — 21%
Austin — 23% Boston — 20%
Baltimore — 20%


Energy / Utilities
Current (4%) Intended (7%)
Houston 24% Houston 29%
Denver 7% Dallas 11%
Pittsburgh 6% San Francisco 11%


Finance / Accounting
Current (17%) Intended (27%)
New York City 28% Charlotte 37%
Boston 24% New York City 35%
Philadelphia 23% Dallas 32%


Current (8%) Intended (11%)
Boston 15% Philadelphia 16%
Philadelphia 14% Boston 15%
San Diego 12% Pittsburgh 15%
Pittsburgh 12%
Minneapolis 12%


Current (7%) Intended (7%)
Detroit 24% Detroit 22%
Seattle 12% Minneapolis 12%
Minneapolis 11% Cincinnati 12%


Products and Services
Current (21%) Intended (26%)
Miami 31% Miami 35%
Minneapolis 29% Baltimore 34%
Charlotte 28% Cincinnati 33%
St. Louis 28% Los Angeles 33%

Alas, these statistics reinforce the conventional wisdom. For example, San Francisco, Austin, and Seattle are the dominant metros for prospective students working and wanting to work in technology. And Washington, D.C., is the place to be for those working in the public sector. However, there were some surprises on the list:

  • Although the highest concentration of prospective students wanting to work in products and services is in Miami, mature metros like Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles also have large percentages of prospective students wanting to work in products and services.
  • Chicago, Seattle, and Atlanta are building a buzz in the consulting sector, with a quarter of respondents in each of these locales citing consulting as a potential post-MBA field.
  • While the Northeast corridor continues to govern the financial sector, prospective MBAs in Charlotte and Dallas are increasingly drawn to this field.

So what does this mean? If you operate an MBA program in these locations, here’s who your local prospects are and what doors they hope a business education will open for them. In other words, continue playing to the strengths of your community. Beef up your curriculum, support, and business partnerships. In the end, these strengths are what will ultimately draw these career changers to your school.

Editor’s Note: Prospective students could choose more than one “intended” location. Current breakdowns for each metro area do not total 100% since some respondents were out of work or working in other fields when they visited the site.

Source: GMAC 

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.