Industries & Work Cultures That Make MBAs Happiest

Perhaps money is the way to happiness. According to a robust data set from MBA-founded job platform TransparentCareer, venture capital and private equity have the happiest and most satisfied recent MBA graduates. A venture capitalist in the U.S. these days can expect to make upward of $200K on average in total compensation, while a first-year private equity analyst can expect to also make around $200K in total compensation, according to Wall Street Oasis data.

Both fields are considered two of the more lucrative post-MBA job options, and both are at the top of 32 industries MBA graduates reported entering immediately after graduation.

“The MBA is one of the most in-demand educational credentials for employers from a wide range of industries, with a versatility and broad applicability that make it almost universally valuable for companies and organizations of all shapes and sizes,” Zach Mayo, the COO of Relish, which acquired TransparentCareer, writes in a report on the data of MBAs graduating between 2015 and 2018.


When users input career data into the TransparentCareer platform, they are are also asked to rate their overall satisfaction on a 1-to-10 scale and to rate their satisfaction in the following areas: Compensation, Benefits & Perks, Brand & Prestige, Opportunity for Advancement (within firm), Quality of Co-workers, Training & Development, Stability of Firm, Balance & Flexibility. Over 13,600 data points were compiled among the 32 most popular industries for MBAs, and venture capital had the highest overall average with 7.44 out of 10. Private equity followed with 7.04.

Up next was pharma, medical devices, and biotech with 6.98, consumer products with 6.82, and technology, Internet, and e-commerce at 6.8. The overall average across MBAs was a score of 6.38. Across all degrees reported on the TransparentCareer platform, the overall average satisfaction was 6.44, suggesting the MBA is slightly below average in providing a happy and satisfying early career.

There is a lot to unpack in these lists, but the presence of venture capital and private equity in the top two spots probably won’t be surprising for those familiar with MBA recruiting,” Mayo writes. “These are two of the most popular target industries for students entering graduate business school, but with the lowest number of job openings, and so it seems that achieving that target pays off handsomely in terms of overall satisfaction.”

While popular MBA industries like consumer products and tech were higher on the list, other traditional MBA areas like financial services and investment and commercial banking were not. Investment banking fell into the bottom five satisfaction-wise, with an overall average score of 6.04. At the bottom end was printing and publishing, where MBAs reported an overall satisfaction of 5.17. Accounting and audit had the next-worst score of 5.55.

In terms of job function, investment banking places even worse overall. According to the data provided by the recent MBA graduates on the TransparentCareer platform, investment bankers are least happy and satisfied with their jobs. Investment banking’s low mark comes down to one factor out of the seven included. The function finishes first or second in all six categories, but last in flexibility and balance. Popular post-MBA job functions like product management, marketing, consulting, and general management all float towards the top and are above the overall average of 6.88 in satisfaction.

As for job aspects that MBAs report being most impactful on their overall happiness and satisfaction, coworkers play the biggest role followed by balance and flexibility. This helps explain why investment banking can finish in the top two in six out of seven categories and still have the lowest overall satisfaction. While investment banking ranks high in areas like the stability of firm and brand prestige, it ranks poorly in balance and flexibility and most functions ranked fairly high in quality of coworkers.

What we see from these results makes it clear that some cultural factors have a far greater impact on overall satisfaction than others,” Mayo writes in his report. “Namely, the single largest factor is the quality of coworkers at their firm, with balance and flexibility coming in a strong second; MBAs — as you might expect from any set of employees — want to work with people they like, and they appreciate environments in which they can maintain work/life balance more easily.”

As for MBAs and employers, the data glean some interesting trends that could impact future recruiting efforts.

Candidates should consider their future job satisfaction when making recruiting decisions, and develop their own list of the factors that might affect it,” Mayo writes. “Happiness is the sort of qualitative metric that graduate business candidates are often trained to avoid in their analyses of opportunities, but there is good reason to think differently about the job hunt. Compensation is important, but our analysis shows it doesn’t have a dramatic impact on job satisfaction, so students should think critically about what sort of conditions will be necessary for them to be truly satisfied with their future careers.”