Tech Edges Out Consulting As Top MBA Career Choice

Ever since the Great Recession, the most coveted MBA jobs have been in consulting. With typical sign-on bonuses of $25,000 and starting base salaries of $140,000 at McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte and a few other firms, these are among the most selective and most desirable jobs an MBA can land.

But our newest report on MBA candidate preferences shows that tech has officially overtaken consulting as business school’s most attractive destination. The margin of victory is slim, with 60.4% of candidates identifying tech as their desired career path post-MBA versus 57.5% for consulting, but it reflects the first time ever that tech has been on top.

The conclusion is based on a statistical dive into RelishCareers’ candidate profile database. Users create a custom profile when they sign up for a free account, and that profile asks for their industry preferences, among other things. All together, ehe data that was used for this analysis comprises over 200,000 individual candidate selections from over 5,000 candidate profiles. In the lists below, each selection is ranked by the total number of times candidates selected it, with the percentage of candidates who selected each option in parentheses.


Technology (60.4% of candidates selected this option)

Consulting (57.5%)

Consumer Products (40.9%)

Financial Services (37.8%)

Private Equity/Venture Capital (31.6%)

Media/Entertainment (26.1%)

Retail (24.9%)

Healthcare (24.9%)

Energy (23.1%)

Manufacturing (20.5%)

And while technology overtook consulting for the top spot in this candidate pool, consumer products likewise overtook financial services for the third spot. Each of these changes reflect large-scale and ongoing changes in the way that graduate business students view the industries in question, and it will be interesting to see how these changes slow or accelerate over the coming years. In the meantime, though, these students continue to demonstrate a wide variety of interests, and to provide a valuable and relevant recruiting pool for just about every industry imaginable. Every industry, that is, except perhaps the military, which had the distinction of being dead last in our industry rankings, pulling in just 3.2% of respondents.


Consulting makes another strong showing in the Function Preference selections by our candidates; it’s second only to strategy in our analysis this year. Management, which was the most popular selection in the 2016 report by some distance, comes in third, falling from 86% of respondents to 56%. Here’s the rest of the top 10:

Strategy (67.6%)

Consulting (56.5%)

Management (55.8%)

Leadership Development Program (52.4%)

Business Development (44.3%)

Product Management (43.9%)

Project Management (36.6%)

Marketing (34.5%)

Finance (33.0%)

Operations (30.5%)

Despite the 30% drop in candidates selecting a preference management, it’s clear from the list above that a desire for leadership roles is still one of the strongest driving forces for candidates in the business school recruiting world. The popularity of leadership development programs, a field that was added to our list since the 2016 report, reflects this ambition from graduate business students. These programs, which are generally 1-5 year rotational programs geared towards new hires with master’s degrees and are offered by perhaps a few dozen prominent employers out of a hiring pool of thousands of firms, are among the most popular selections despite being in relatively short supply in a limited number of industries. This sort of insight points to opportunities in both designing and marketing roles for these students: provide a clear and tangible path to leadership opportunities, and graduate business students will come running.


RelishCareers profiles incorporate numerous other data points to help employers determine candidates that are the best fit for their firm, and in order to round out the picture of candidate preferences for the classes of 2018 and 2019 we want to highlight some of the most prominent of those remaining fields. The first of these is employer size, divided into four broad categories determined by number of employees:

Mid-Size Business (500 to 10,000 employees) – 88.7%

Large Business (more than 10,000 employees) – 87.7%

Small Business (less than 500 employees) – 68.3%

Start-up (less than 100 employees) – 54.3%

While preferences are almost directly proportional to company size in these results, more than half of the candidate pool is open to work at firms of any size, including start-ups. And while start-ups are clearly not a fit for every MBA, they remain a viable destination for a broad swathe of the graduate business candidate pool.

The second data point we want to highlight is employer type, which results you can find below:

Privately Owned (91.7%)

Publicly Traded (90.7%)

Non-Profit (27.6%)

Government (25.7%)

Roughly one in four candidates in our pool are interested in careers outside of traditional for-profit business, and almost one in ten graduate business students are exclusively interested in non-profit or government roles.


The last parameter want to examine in this report is location: where do graduate business candidates want to live? This question is of particular interest to corporate recruiters, who seek candidates with an active interest in the locations for which they recruit. To assist in this assessment, we ask a number of questions around both geographic experience and preference, and we want to highlight city preferences first:

San Francisco Bay Area (68.9%)

New York City (68.7%)

Boston (58.8%)

Chicago (58.0%)

Seattle (57.6%)

Los Angeles (57.5%)

Washington, DC (56.6%)

San Diego (53.4%)

Austin (48.5%)

Philadelphia (46.4%)

And the top ten state preferences from our candidate pool:

California (72.0%)

New York (61.1%)

Washington (58.5%)

Massachusetts (55.6%)

Oregon (53.6%)

Texas (53.6%)

Illinois (52.6%)

Connecticut (50.5%)

Florida (50.0%)

Maryland (49.5%)

Clearly graduate business students are attracted to California generally and the Bay Area specifically – and along with the technology industry preference above, it’s obvious that Silicon Valley’s pull is perhaps the strongest force in graduate business school recruiting in 2018.

The priorities and preferences of graduate business school students are changing – more want to work in tech than consulting or finance – while also staying largely unchanged – big jobs at big companies in big cities. The statistics provided above are useful for understanding the graduate business campus recruiting market generally, but the power of the RelishCareers platform lies in the ability for candidates to express the unique mix of traits that set them apart from the rest of the candidate pool. The real upshot of our deep statistical dive into this candidate pool was this: the graduate business hiring market is large and diverse enough that it’s possible for just about any employer in any industry or location to find a top-tier candidate.

Zach Mayo, co-founder of RelishCareers. Courtesy photo

Zach Mayo is the chief operating officer of RelishCareers, an online platform that helps master’s-level business school students connect directly with corporate recruiters. Available to students and alumni from network schools, RelishCareers gives candidates access to employer branding and MBA and MS-specific career exploration resources (including exclusive webinars). Class of 2019 MBA and MS students (as well as other students and alumni) can sign up now to explore company pages, build an initial target list, and engage with on- and off-campus employers (applicants can create an account here). You can also join the Relish Campus Ambassador program to get exclusive access to recruiters and other resources (email for more information).

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