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Earning an MBA (Master of Business Administration) degree is no small feat. Between the work you did in undergrad, the application process, determining how to pay for your MBA education, and completing your studies, internship(s), and other work—you’ve done a lot. You should be proud of yourself!
But what comes next?
After all, you’ve taken a breadth of courses. According to The Princeton Review, core business school courses (often taken in Year 1 of a two-year program) cover a range of topics: finance, management, accounting, decision science, organizational behavior, and economics. During Year 2, students may specialize in their studies.
For example, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business offers courses including technology, health management, and corporate social responsibility. All these subjects are designed to help an MBA grad develop the skills to lead in a business setting.
MBA students leave school with an average of $70,000 in loans.
According to a survey by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, about 57% of survey respondents reported wanting to acquire new business-related skills and knowledge.
Others hoped the degree would increase their job prospects, help them build a strong professional network, help them make a positive difference in the world, and/or lead to an increased salary.
With these skills in hand, there are a number of avenues your post-MBA career can follow. Below, you’ll find some of the paths today’s MBA-holders are considering—and they may not be what you expect. And because MBA students leave school with an average of $70,000 in loans, we’ll dig into possible ways to tackle that debt, too.
According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), MBA grads are likely to find opportunities in the tech world. Major tech companies include Amazon, Microsoft, and Google—and their lesser-known counterparts are hiring MBA grads, too. GMAC polled recruiters, and 89% said they were looking to employ people with a business degree.
MBA grads might be hired for work in strategy, product management, business development, finance, operations, or human resources. Depending on your undergraduate degree (computer science, engineering, etc), your previous work experience, and your specialization in grad school, some roles may be a better fit than others.
If you’re an MBA grad aiming to make a positive environmental or social impact, you may be leaning towards a job at the intersection of business and sustainability. You could work for a company devoted to green energy such as a solar power company, or an automobile brand that makes hybrid and electric cars.
You might also want to consider a company that aims to develop new green products, or that wants to make its current business practices more sustainable.
“Environmental issues like climate change and its impacts are going to profoundly affect businesses across almost every sector in coming decades,” said Katie Kross, managing director at the Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment (EDGE) at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. “Today’s MBA students are launching their careers in a world where natural resource constraints have far-reaching implications for how businesses operate.”
By definition, an entrepreneur is an innovator who launches and operates a business, often taking on most of the financial risk and reaping most of the rewards.
Business schools recruit future business leaders, so plenty of MBA students attend graduate school hoping to gather the skills necessary to create and run a successful company. Some even started companies before attending business school, gaining valuable experience, with specific questions about how to improve their business.
Cameron McCain is one such MBA grad. According to McCain, the biggest advantages to earning an MBA as an entrepreneur, for him, included building a network. One day, those people may be behind the doors you’re knocking on in your quest for capital. He also says that an MBA helps entrepreneurs fill in the gaps of their own business acumen. For McCain, that meant focusing on finance, an area in which he had less experience.
Fashion, entertainment, and sports companies likely need people with a business background. Take film and television companies, for instance. Like other businesses, they require market data analysis. Which products are succeeding? Which products are failing? Being able to look at consumer data and then make strategic business moves is an MBA-taught skill set.
Entrepreneur Cara Withers Shaw, who got her MBA from Pepperdine University, worked for multiple entertainment companies (Disney, Twentieth Century Fox) before launching her own company. She says her time in business school helped her develop the quantitative and qualitative analytical skills she needed to study movie-going data.
But What About My Loans?
If you attended a two-year MBA program at a top business school and took out student loans in order to do so, chances are you’re looking at around $80,000 to over $100,000 in student loan debt.
Even with a hefty salary, loans may be overwhelming.
This doesn’t mean your hard-earned degree isn’t worth it, financially speaking. Debt for B-School grads who attended Harvard, Stanford, or the University of Chicago ranges from $86,000 to $116,000; their average salary is about $161,000. That said, even with a hefty salary, grads’ loans may be overwhelming.
There are strategies that may make your monthly payments more manageable. First, once you know your income, you might spend some time making a new budget that factors your loan payments into your expenses. You might consider setting up automatic payments, which could ease your stress—and keep you from missing a payment.
And refinancing your student loans at a lower interest rate may help lessen the amount of interest you pay over time, potentially saving you money in the long haul. (Keep in mind that if you have federal loans, refinancing means losing access to benefits like student loan forgiveness, especially if you choose to work in the public sector.)
Regardless of the path you choose, your MBA likely played a large part in getting you there. And with a better handle on your student loans, you’ll likely have more energy and time to devote to making it count.
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