MBAs Switching Careers At Massive Rates

The original TransparentMBA team. Pictured from left to right are Jeremy Selbst, Mitch Kirby, Alyssa Jaffee and Kevin Marvinac. Courtesy photo

The original TransparentMBA team. Pictured from left to right are Jeremy Selbst, Mitch Kirby, Alyssa Jaffee, and Kevin Marvinac. Courtesy photo

More interesting trends pop up in the industry-specific tracking data. For example, some 46% of consultants stay the course and end up being consultants after an MBA. Consultants also tend to have the most ability to move across fields, with at least 3% moving to one of seven fields outside of consulting. Perhaps not surprisingly, 25% of corporate finance roles switch to investment banking out of B-school. Like their consulting brethren, people coming from marketing tend to switch less than most: Some 43% of those coming in with a marketing background stay in marketing. (Another 43% go into consulting.) Those coming into B-school from general management positions also tend to switch fields at a greater rate, with a quarter of the population going into investment banking. Similarly, more product management roles switch to corporate finance than switch to any other field.

The field switching the most, however, is operations. At least 86% of those coming from those roles go into either consulting, business development, or corporate strategy. An astounding 63% of that percentage go into consulting.

Of course, as Marvinac points out, some industries are “weighted heavily towards MBAs.” Business development, consulting, and investment banking all fit into that category, he notes. TransparentMBA also has tracked what types of pre-MBA roles are filling post-MBA roles. Take consulting, for example. Some 40% of post-MBA consulting roles are filled by people with consulting roles before B-school. Remember the 63% of those in operations roles, cited above, who switch to consulting? They are making up the next largest percentage, but at only 11%. Consultants and those coming from corporate finance make up a combined 40% of post-MBA investment banking roles. For post-MBA corporate strategy roles, more than a quarter (27%) are former consultants. Interestingly, nearly half of post-MBA corporate finance roles come from either corporate finance (23%) or product management (22%). Similarly, 55% of post-MBA business development roles are filled by individuals coming from corporate finance or product management — except the percentages are flipped to 22% and 23%, respectively.

A couple fields, like marketing, have MBAs with less-diverse backgrounds. Some 70% of post-MBA marketing positions are filled by individuals coming from pre-MBA marketing, corporate finance, and consulting roles. Similarly, 67% of post-MBA investment management roles are filled by pre-MBA investment managers. Another 17% come from investment banking, making investment management a very closed-off field for those outside of traditional finance.

Others, like operations, are represented by a very diverse set of pre-MBA roles. Besides 52% coming from many roles and lumped as “all other,” the highest specific industry is analytics and data science at 17%. Same goes for general management roles, where six pre-MBA fields make up at least 8% of post-MBA general management roles. While post-MBA product management roles have five pre-MBA fields making up at least 8% of the total population, it definitely helps to be coming from an engineering or product management background, which combined make up 45% of that field after B-school.


As Marvinac explains, product management and private equity roles are especially hot among current MBAs. But both seemingly require specific backgrounds — another fact reflected in the data. At Tuck, Masland says, there is no hard data to back up what he’s seeing, but he’s noticed an increase in MBAs interested in private equity, technology, and earlier-state “pre-IPO” companies (also reflected in TransparentMBA’s data). Richard says the diversity in professional backgrounds among MBAs at Stanford GSB fosters a cauldron of increased expectations of job switching. “Certainly when the MBAs get here, their expectations increase substantially,” she says. “They end up talking to each other. They talk to MBA-twos and it’s a compounding effect.”

Or, like Rob Schoder, they come in with specific plans in mind. In his case, a change into entrepreneurship and tech was paramount. “I thought the best way to accomplish that change was through business school,” Schoder notes. For someone who built an early career in reaching out to powerful people with even more influential job opportunities, Schoder was instantly amazed by the ease in gaining face-time with higher-ups at companies he admired. “The beauty of the MBA is, it provides a platform for you to reach out to people. It’s a way to access the outside world in a way you probably wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” Schoder says. “The default assumption is, you’re a smart person. Whether or not I’m actually a smart person, who knows? But you can use that to your advantage to get in the door.”

Schoder believes the “outside” network potential in B-school is one of the most underrated aspects of the MBA — and one of the most important for job switchers. “Most people, when they go to school, don’t take the opportunity to network,” he continues. “And it’s a massive, massive opportunity. If you can hack your away around to finding an email, you almost always get a response. It’s remarkable.”

Indeed, Schoder seems to have taken a “no-holds-barred” approach to who he emailed, noting that he was able to connect with “CMOs at publicly traded companies” and the Forbes Midas List, a ranking of top tech investors. “It’s totally low-risk to reach out to these people,” he says. “In a way, being a student makes you unthreatening — or at least inoffensive, you know? I’m not going to get on the phone and bother you or try to sell you things. I just want advice. Or career guidance or direction.”


And when the dream job search came, that attitude paid off. When Schoder first flew to San Francisco, he had five interviews in his first five days. “After the meetings that week, I decided there really wasn’t another way to do it and packed up and made the move,” he says. When Schoder learned he’d need to permanently relocate to have a chance in the competitive environment, he had weeks of meetings booked ahead of time. “It is remarkably easy to get in front of people if you’ve invested the time in building relationships with them,” he says, noting that the result likely wouldn’t have been the same had he not already built those relationships.

Anecdotally and now quantitatively, the full-time MBA seems to be one of the most risk-averse ways to switch careers. “I think business school allowed me the opportunity to test out all of these different things and make an educated decision on what I wanted to do and didn’t want to do,” Schoder says. “For me, I used it as a tremendous platform to gain an understanding of new spaces, and to build a network well beyond the Booth network that I was able to tap into when I moved out here to San Francisco.”

See the following page for industry-specific data.

transparentmba_logo_hz_colorThis data was provided by TransparentMBA, a free online resource that provides the most granular compensation, satisfaction, and work-life balance data for MBA careers. Use over 250,000 data points from 3,000+ employers and 200+ MBA programs to plan your careers, evaluate specific roles, and even negotiate your offers.


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