Sun, Sea and Strategy: MBA Programs in Florida

The Sunshine State has a lot to offer business school students who play as hard as they work

Florida is known for its pristine beaches, vibrant culture, and a climate that beckons visitors from around the world. Beyond its tourist allure, Florida has also become a hotspot for something entirely different but equally captivating – MBA programs.

The University of Florida Hough Graduate School of Business (UF) is a well-regarded business school in Florida, but there are abundant options for MBA aspirants, with 13 business schools with full-time MBAs accredited by AACSB. Besides the MBA at UF, there are also the University of Miami, Rollins College, University of Tampa, University of South Florida, and Florida State University, among others.

Florida offers MBA students numerous recreation opportunities

Florida has a lot to offer business school students who play as hard as they work. Many are attracted by the envious lifestyle perks. The Sunshine State is famed for a climate that encourages outdoor living year-round, having some the best beaches in the world, plus entertainment hubs like Orlando (think Walt Disney World) and Miami (for its famous South Beach), and coastal cities with abundant culture, like Jacksonville and Tampa.

“There’s no shortage of things to do for study breaks. In that sense, Florida is hard to beat,” says the UF MBA’s director John Gresley. That said, the summer heat can be brutal, with the added risk of hurricanes, alligators too.

But job prospects look very sunny indeed, thanks to a diverse range of industries and what is considered to be a gateway to the fast-growing emerging markets of Latin America.

Post-MBA career opportunities in Florida

MBA graduates who stay in Florida often work for leading tourism, finance, agriculture and aerospace or defense companies, firms that were home-grown in the state, like Burger King.  The state also draws companies from around the US thanks to its large and diverse population: at 21 million, it’s bigger than Belgium and Greece. It’s multicultural too: nearly 25 percent of the state’s population is Hispanic or Latino.

The state is home to the headquarters of 19 of the US Fortune 500 companies, many in the healthcare and mining sectors. “That combination of scale of population and scope in industry is hard to find in most other states. The geographic location in the southeast with access to Latin America makes Florida a one of a kind location,” says Gresley.

Little wonder that recruitment firm Manpower reports that several Florida cities top their national list of the biggest expected increases in hiring: Daytona, Cape Coral, Tampa and Jacksonville.

About 95 percent of UF full-time MBA graduates usually receive job offers within three months after graduation, with average total compensation of $125,000. This juicy pay package reflects how prosperous a state Florida is. Annual GDP exceeds $975bn, outranking entire economies such as Saudi Arabia and Switzerland.

But economic prowess does not appear to have inflated the cost of living, since Florida is the 30th most affordable of the 50 United States — good news for MBA students on a budget.

However, the cost of living varies significantly from campus to campus. “For example, compared to UF’s hometown Gainesville, the cost of living for Florida State MBA students is 5 percent higher; Rollins and University of South Florida students in Tampa 12 percent higher; and University of Miami students 43 percent higher,” says Alex Min, an admissions consultant for MBA candidates.

Still, affordable costs are one reason why Florida is a thriving startup hub: the state features four of the country’s best entrepreneurial cities for 2018, second only to California. named Pompano Beach as America’s top entrepreneurial city. Orlando ranks 14th; Clearwater 20th; and Jacksonville 29th.

“MBA students who want to launch or join a startup won’t find a much better destination than Florida,” says Min.

Not only is the cost of living affordable but tuition fees are too: at UF the MBA fee is $61,000 per year, far below top schools in other states and there are generous scholarships on offer too. That means the return on investment is high.

But while Florida is becoming much more popular among MBA students, it still lags behind other big US states in terms of rankings. Only six Florida MBAs are ranked by the major publications, and much lower than schools in Massachusetts, California or New York. Can it really compete?

“What the state lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality,” says UF’s Gresley. “Student quality, job placement rates and starting salaries are competitive with just about all the other programs out there.”

Florida is one of the oldest states, but it didn’t hit its stride until the middle of the last century. Its business schools have similarly been slow to develop, but they are now finding their form.  

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