Bright MBA Job Prospects Amidst Economic Uncertainty

What industries are currently experiencing the highest demand for MBA talent?

For those who are embarking on an MBA, it’s not just the journey itself to look forward to, but what awaits at the end of it. The post-MBA phase is the moment when graduating classes transition from being students of business to future leaders of industry.

And the good news is that the job prospects are looking very bright at the moment. Despite some signs the overall job market is softening in developed economies, there are still far more vacancies than positions. This bodes well for MBA graduates.

But what industries are currently experiencing the highest demand for MBA talent? From the latest data available, Sophie Schaefer, deputy director of the career development center at ESMT Berlin business school, observes two trends.

The industries hiring MBAs

“More students have been applying and landing jobs or internships in sustainability and ESG,” she says, citing environmental, social and governance jobs. “Last year we also saw more MBA graduates joining bigger corporates rather than the scale-up ecosystem. In parallel, big corporates and multinationals keep looking out for MBA graduates, such as for their MBA Rotational Programs. This trend is in line with the challenges that start-ups and scale-ups have been facing recently.”

Many start-ups around the world are struggling to access funding because of tighter financial conditions and higher borrowing costs. This is having a knock-on impact on their ability to hire costly MBA graduates, who tend to command high salaries.

Meanwhile, Schaefer says that remote-work opportunities have slightly influenced the career choices of MBA graduates. “Students are more open to apply for roles in smaller cities when remote work is partially possible,” she says. “At the same time, we observe that more companies are moving more and more back to the office or at least want to have new employees in the office full-time for the onboarding months.”

Furthermore, in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, MBA graduates demonstrated increased flexibility and adaptability in their career choices, says Sophie Dimich-Louvet, director of employer engagement at HEC Paris business school.

She also disagrees that startups have stopped hiring MBAs. “Post pandemic, there’s been a notable rise in MBAs joining tech sectors and start-ups, reflecting a broader industry trend towards digital transformation,” Dimich-Louvet says.

“Then in a second step, the consulting companies have been key recruiters. Simultaneously, an emphasis on ESG responsibilities is attracting MBAs to roles with a sustainability focus. Furthermore, an entrepreneurial spirit is more prevalent, with many opting for startups over traditional post-MBA employers.”

Both tech giants and emerging startups recognize and value the unique mix of technical and managerial expertise that MBA graduates bring, she continues. “Consulting powerhouses like McKinsey, BCG, and Bain remain steadfast recruiters, complemented by a rising interest from boutique firms. In finance, while investment banking and private equity hold their allure, fintech has made its mark as a formidable contender.”

The pandemic’s spotlight on healthcare has also propelled MBAs towards roles in pharma, biotech, and health-tech sectors.

The role of remote work

Dimich-Louvet agrees that remote work has added geographical flexibility for MBAs, allowing graduates to pursue global roles without location constraints, but there are challenges too. “This shift has necessitated the development of proficiency in virtual collaboration tools and remote leadership skills. Additionally, the blending of personal and professional boundaries has challenged MBAs to strike a balance between productivity and well-being.”

At INSEAD in France and Singapore, Rhoda Yap -- global director of the Career Development Centre -- also paints a different picture of the employment market. “Amidst a high interest rates environment, tech firms have been conservative in recruitment, focusing on niche areas and selected geographies. Consulting firms have also tempered their recruitment targets from all-time highs of 2022,” she says.

She adds that over the last few years, INSEAD has seen an increasing interest for MBA talent in the Middle East market across various sectors. But graduates are being more reflective of the roles that are offered to them. “Many are ready to take their time to evaluate and explore the different options as there are many potential employers in various markets,” Yap says.

Nevertheless, recruitment is competitive. So what are the key factors contributing to the success of MBA graduates in securing top jobs? Yap cites the ability to embrace ambiguity, to thrive in an intense environment, and to bring together diverse team members to achieve a collective goal.

HEC’s Dimich-Louvet adds: “In today’s business world, soft skills like emotional intelligence, curiosity and adaptability rival technical expertise in importance. Highlighting these will give a competitive edge. Continuous learning is also essential given the fast-paced industry changes, while the MBA network offers a gateway to leadership roles, and mentorship can hasten this journey.” 

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