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What Do MBA Grads Expect From Work? This Survey Has Answers


What do B-school graduates expect to be doing in the next few years, especially considering the world’s continuing economic volatility? How do MBAs anticipate the next few years of their careers developing? To find out, a global accreditation agency conducted a survey of recent MBA grads, and the answers they came up with show MBAs’ belief in themselves to make a big difference — for their employers and for the world.

For the most part, newly minted MBAs see themselves as people who are “able to impact directly on their organization’s performance by thinking differently and being solutions-focused,” according to new research from the Association of MBAs, a global accreditor of mostly non-U.S. business schools, including HEC Paris, London Business School, IE and IESE of Spain, and IMD of Switzerland. The findings from AMBA’s online survey of 1,591 MBAs who graduated within the last two years “suggest that graduates believe MBAs will have a transformative impact on their salary earnings within the near future,” says Will Dawes, research and insight manager at AMBA.

“The study also indicates that even those who do not think they will be earning substantially more, still feel that they will reap the benefits of an MBA and, crucially, that this will outweigh the financial cost of completing one.”


AMBA’s Will Dawes. Courtesy photo

The two years after an MBA graduates are considered a time when management professionals are most determined to make a “step-change” in their careers — in many cases defining or re-defining the rest of their working lives. AMBA’s study shines a light on this critical point when MBAs’ career vision and drive is most focused. 

“The research revisits some of the traditional ways in which MBA paths have been assessed, by offering a fresh way of looking at MBA impact, in terms of their management mind set and implementation of skills, rather than potentially crude measurements of MBA performance, such as realized salaries,” Dawes says. As part of the survey, graduates were able to reflect on how their learning experience will influence what attributes they take into their future roles within business. “The study was designed with more questions looking at values, as opposed to a focus on salaries and job roles, in order to capture the contribution of MBAs. For example, it looks at how graduates intend to apply the skills they have developed from their study and how confident they feel about making an impact.

“The benefits were seen to be borne out in a range of ways, such as the utilization of improved mental resilience and entrepreneurial attributes.”


From a list of several ways graduates could contribute to an organization for which they work, more than seven in 10 said they are likely to improve operational efficiency (73%); innovate through coming up with ideas and solutions that make their organization work better (72%); and make the organization more efficient (71%).

When asked how they would use their MBA to ignite change in their own organisations in the future, MBA graduates said: 

I am likely to make better business decisions81%
I am likely to make my teams operate more efficiently73%
I am likely to come up with ideas and solutions which change the way the organization works for the better72%
I am likely to help the organization be more efficient71%
I’m likely to make decisions which consider the wider implications outside my organization66%
I am likely to execute large-scale projects more effectively58%
I am likely to contribute toward a more profitable business58%
I am likely to raise the profile of issues relating to wider society within my organization40%
None of the above2%


The study, which represents the first in a four-part report looking at the views of MBA graduates worldwide, highlights how many recent graduates are motivated to complete an MBA so they can trigger change in their careers. The full report can be seen here; future installments are planned for 2019.

AMBA’s survey found that nearly half (48%) of all graduates believe they are likely to change sector in the next year, while almost a quarter (23%) do not know what they will do — and therefore only a sliver wish to remain in the same sector after they graduate. The most popular sector to pivot to? Consultancy by far (19%), followed by banking and financial services (8%), IT (6%), energy (5%), healthcare (5%), consumer goods (5%), not-for-profit (4%), marketing (4%), food and drink (3%), education (3%), and government-related work (3%). The number of choices seems to indicate that grads see themselves working across a broad spectrum of markets. 

AMBA’s study examined MBA salaries but asked MBAs to predict the real change in their salaries as a result of their MBA. “Therefore, rather than crudely analyzing salaries, we are achieving a more balanced sense of how much financial impact recent graduates believe their MBA will achieve,” Dawe says. In the survey, MBAs were asked how much higher or lower a salary, as a percentage change, they expected to be paid in the future as a result of completing their MBA (without factoring inflation). The results show that MBAs believe their degree will lead to a substantial increase in salary in the near future. More than three quarters (78%) say that they predict that they will earn 20% more in the next three years, and almost half (47%) expect to earn at least 50% more within the same time frame.

(See the next page for charts from the AMBA report.)