What is the technology industry? Ask 10 people in graduate business education and you’ll probably get 10 distinct answers. But after the release of new data from a leading MBA employment group today (March 22), maybe the definition of “tech” is less important than what it signifies: greater job opportunities in an uncertain time.
“Tech” has long been shorthand for a huge range of professions. MBAs in tech work at big companies like Google or Amazon, and they work in technological capacities — data science, fintech, accounting, various roles in operations and management, as well as, increasingly, marketing, supply chain, HR, and leadership development — at more traditional MBA employers like banks and consulting companies. In short, tech can mean almost anything — but in the latest research from the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance, it means faster and more agile adaptation to the coronavirus pandemic.
The tech industry saw the largest increase in full-time job postings at business schools in fall 2020, according to MBA CSEA’s survey of hundreds of members at 94 member B-schools, with 57% reporting an increase, similar to 56% who reported an increase in 2019. Healthcare, unsurprisingly amid a pandemic, also saw an increase in 2020 (50%), 10% higher than in 2019.
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MBA CSEA is a global association for individuals in graduate business career services and employers, with more than 880 members representing over 230 business schools and corporations. Its latest findings come from a series of early 2021 surveys about job postings for not only full-time MBA students but part-time MBA and specialty master’s program students, as well.
Recent MBA CSEA surveys showed how B-schools were weathering Covid-caused budget cuts and optimistic outlooks by schools on the employment prospects for their 2020 MBA graduates. Now comes a somewhat more dour picture, in line with broader forecasts about the job market for all college graduates. Among other findings, MBA CSEA found that opportunities for full-time international MBA students decreased for 65% of responding schools, compared with 55% of schools that experienced a decrease in the 2019 survey.
The industries where the largest numbers of schools saw a decrease include — again unsurprisingly — hospitality, where 61% saw a decrease in 2020 compared to only 6% in 2019; and consulting, where 46% saw a decrease in 2020, compared to 55% in 2019. Overall, 22% of schools reported an increase in full-time job postings last fall compared to the previous year, when 49% indicated an increase; 32% indicated recruiting was flat in 2020, compared with 26% in 2019. The difference in on-campus recruiting — school-scheduled interviews — was less drastic, with 21% reporting an increase in 2020 compared with 23% that reported an increase in 2019.
For part-time MBAs, full-time job postings — off-campus opportunities — were mostly flat (for 41% of schools), up from 30% that indicated recruiting was flat in the 2019 survey. School-scheduled interviews for part-timers were flat for 48% of schools, compared with 44% indicating the same the previous year. For specialty master’s students, 28% of schools reported an increase in full-time job postings, compared with 15% in 2019; 40% indicated recruiting was flat, compared with 23% the previous year. For on-campus recruiting, 8% experienced an increase for specialty master’s candidates, compared with 39% the previous year.
TECH IS THE SILVER LINING IN A DIFFICULT JOBS LANDSCAPE
Where can a newly minted MBA find refuge in this sea of employment woe? Tech!
While the overall market for MBAs and other B-school graduates expectedly showed a downward trend, MBA CSEA found that as schools and employers embraced the virtual recruiting environment, success stories emerged — and they emerged en masse. One example: For international students, technology continued to experience the largest increase in recruiting by industry, with 31% of schools experiencing an increase. Last year’s survey yielded similar results, with 35% experiencing an increase.
Part-time MBA and specialized master’s students who focused on tech also benefited. It was once again the industry that experienced the largest increase in recruiting for part-timers, with 31% of schools reporting an increase; 52% reported an increase in 2019. Specialty master’s students in finance, data analytics, accounting, and other tech concentrations also experienced the largest increase in recruiting, with 53% of schools reporting an increase, compared with 72% seeing an increase last year.
MBA SKILLS ‘STILL VERY MUCH IN DEMAND’
MBA CSEA is a chronically optimistic organization. It states: “While the overall survey findings were not surprising, declines in some industries were not as significant as many expected. That, combined with the relative stability going into 2020 that was demonstrated in the MBA CSEA Fall 2019 survey, provides hope that the economy will return to a sense of normalcy once the pandemic subsides.”
The organization cites several silver linings amid the rampant “uncertainty and disruption”:
- Schools noted that career services became more accessible to students in a virtual environment, with many seeing higher attendance at events;
- Geographic boundaries have been expanded, leading to additional opportunities for employer engagement and student career paths. MBA CSEA notes that firms not headquartered in the school’s geographic location and large-size companies fared the best by company type, with 32% and 27%, respectively, seeing an increase in job postings;
- Alumni engagement increased in 2020, with more alums assisting with networking and programming;
- Schools adjusted in many ways, with a majority expanding new technology systems to adapt. Many noted that the virtual recruiting and career services environment kept the hiring landscape from becoming worse. A strong majority of schools indicated that summer 2020 internships were virtual.
MBA CSEA notes that while some drawbacks to the virtual environment were impossible to ignore or paint over — among them video meeting fatigue, recruiting delays, fewer visa sponsorships from U.S. companies, and less personal relationships with companies — overall, schools and companies adapted and pivoted “to make the best of the next normal.” A majority of companies indicated that they are satisfied with the virtual recruiting environment, the group states, and “with these lessons learned, it’s likely that a continued, better form of virtual recruiting will continue well into the post-pandemic world.”
“The pandemic has revealed that the skills graduate business education provides are still very much in demand — not just the hard functional business skills, but skills that allow companies to deal with ambiguity, such as problem solving, new product development, resiliency planning, and strategy,” says John Helmers, associate director of graduate career management at the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business and MBA CSEA president. “As the global market continues to reopen, I suspect the next normal will include many efficiencies gained in recruiting and work that were realized out of necessity from going remote, but that other essential aspects of in-person work and recruiting will return.”