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Investment banking, management consulting and technology currently top the list of industries MBA candidates most want to work in. But MBAs also move into management roles in a variety of other industries, from automotive to consumer products, energy to healthcare, general manufacturing to media and entertainment, retail to real estate. MBAs also seek out positions in non-investment banking finance roles that include private equity investing and investment management.

MBA students move into large corporate organizations, smaller niche-focused companies, family businesses—or they start their own businesses. Increasingly, MBA candidates have also been drawn to the nonprofit sector or to for-profit businesses that focus on social impact.

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The roles MBA candidates undertake are also very broad, including from corporate finance, business development, product management, brand management and supply chain management. The MBA is a generalist’s degree, but because candidates can also focus on specific tracks of study after completing their core courses, graduates emerge well equipped to succeed in any number of careers.

Read more about specific business school programs that are highly regarded for their ability to prepare students for careers in the following industries:

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The MBA degree was originally designed to train managers to manage production lines for large industrial firms. Many of those large firms still seek out MBAs, including Campbell Soup, Corning, DuPont, Ford, General Mills, General Motors, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Nike and Walt Disney. As the MBA degree became more popular in the later stages of the 20th century, its graduates became sought after by firms in almost every industry, including organizations of wide-ranging scope and size. 

In recent years, demand for MBA graduates has also grown in the social impact and nonprofit sectors. Average salaries in these fields are typically not as high as in the more traditional for-profit business sectors. Therefore, some candidates opt to enter traditional MBA fields upon graduation, draw larger salaries until they have paid off their educational loans, and then switch into a social sector firm.

The MBA degree also has significant value for entrepreneurs and those moving into small, high-growth businesses. An example that bears this out can be seen in the recent popularity of the MBA for hiring in the tech sector. Of course, entrepreneurship is not limited to the tech sector though. Some of those who aspire to be entrepreneurs after their MBA degree will work in a more traditional role in an established company first and then start their own business.

Last, but certainly not least—in terms of popularity, among other measures—are the MBAs who seek positions on the buy-side of financing, which include private equity investing and investment management. It should be noted that using the MBA as a springboard into this area does usually require candidates to have a solid background in finance. 


MBAs seek a variety of different roles.

Some MBAs seek out leadership opportunities within a firm, and some large firms have established leadership development programs. These programs, which generally last for two years and rotate candidates through various functional areas, are designed to give employees a comprehensive understanding of how the business works. Those who enter these programs are being groomed for the next generation of leadership in their organizations.

A second route to top leadership positions at larger firms is to specialize in a particular functional area. MBA candidates with a background in finance may join a firm in a corporate finance role, helping the company evaluate new projects to help ensure that the company is pursuing only those with the highest net present value (NPV).

Still other MBA candidates may seek out roles in business development, in which they will look for new or expanding markets for existing products of the firm. Marketing roles—which can include working on corporate-wide marketing activities and brand management—are career paths for MBA grads as well.

Product management is also a popular role for MBAs, where a candidate is effectively serving as a “mini CEO” for a particular product that the firm produces. In some cases, this role will require an engineering background, in order to be able to engage with those who design and produce the products. MBAs may also seek roles in supply chain management, especially in large organizations whose increasingly complex supply chains must be managed effectively across the globe.

Roles in investment management are generally focused on evaluating, investing in and monitoring publicly traded stocks, bonds and mutual funds on behalf of investors. Private equity roles involve sourcing and evaluating new private investment opportunities and providing oversight over current portfolio companies on behalf of investors.

MBAs from top schools will be found in other positions in the corporate world, but the above positions are the most sought after. If an MBA is working at a large firm, she will generally specialize around a certain function. If an MBA is working at a small, more entrepreneurial firm, a nonprofit firm, or a for-profit firm that focuses on social impact, he may be expected to work across multiple roles within the firm.

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Because we are addressing many types of companies that hire MBAs, it is not possible to highlight common characteristics in terms of what these firms seek in their candidates—or how these firms recruit. Despite this, individual candidates who have identified firms where they think they would like to work can determine certain important steps that will help maximize their opportunities to get hired at those firms.

In fact, there’s a fair degree of overlap between the qualities business schools seek in candidates as part of the MBA admissions process and the qualities firms seek in MBA recruits—not by mere coincidence. Like top business schools, recruiters will be looking for things such as strong intellectual capabilities, the ability to work as a team, demonstrated leadership potential and relevant work experience. Beyond this, firms will also generally seek out candidates who show passion for their industry, as well as a specific background that suggests a good fit with a given role, be it in corporate finance or product management. Smaller firms may seek out candidates who are more willing to manage multiple roles simultaneously and more comfortable with a less well-developed career path. Larger firms may favor candidates with deep functional expertise and general management abilities.

Candidates who are targeting a specific firm post-MBA should first determine if that firm offers an internship program for MBA students and, if so, work to land an internship. It’s also a good idea to seek out alumni within the firm and engage with them as early as possible during the MBA program.

Large firms that recruit a number of MBA candidates each year will be more likely to participate in on-campus recruiting. Generally, these firms recruit interns during the early part of the spring term in the first year and make full-time offers during the fall term of the second year. This would be much the same for investment banking and management consulting recruiting.

Smaller firms—those that do not bring in a number of new MBAs each year—are more likely to recruit on a “just-in-time” basis, advertising jobs on campus in the spring semesters for both internships and full-time positions. Because MBA career services offices typically don’t have the same level of relationship with smaller companies, MBA candidates often need to manage an independent job search to identify and seek out connections within these smaller firms.

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MBA LiveWire

Accepted from Waitlist at Rice / Jones via email.
Rejected from Waitlist at Northwestern / Kellogg via email.
GPA: 3.63. GMAT: 640. Nyc.
Waitlisted at Cornell / Johnson via email.
Waitlisted at Washington U. / Olin via email.
Interview Invite to IMD via phone.
GPA: 3.8. GMAT: 700. India.

MBA DecisionWire

Enrolled: Notre Dame / Mendoza
Admitted: Notre Dame / Mendoza
Post-MBA Career: Consulting
Enrolled: London Business School
Admitted: London Business School
GMAT: 680
Post-MBA Career: Consulting
Enrolled: IESE
Admitted: Cornell / Johnson, IESE, Indiana / Kelley, UVA / Darden
GMAT: 720
Post-MBA Career: Consulting
Enrolled: Yale SOM
Admitted: London Business School, Yale SOM
GMAT: 700 GPA: 3.6
Post-MBA Career: Non Profit / Social Impact
Enrolled: Duke / Fuqua
Admitted: Duke / Fuqua, USC / Marshall
GMAT: 680 GPA: 3.3
Post-MBA Career: Marketing