The MBA Job Market is Robust, Despite Economic Headwinds

Even as the threat of recession increases, job-seeking MBA graduates still have the upper hand in a tight labor market

The rising risk of a global recession has underscored the importance of choosing an MBA course that will boost your employment prospects. The top-ranked MBA programs equip students with the skills, tools, and networks to succeed in any economic climate, business schools insist.  

Happily, stalling economic growth has not taken the heat out of the job market for MBA graduates, meaning that job seekers still have the upper hand in a historically tight labor market with far more vacancies than people who can fill them.

“So far, for MBAs, the tight labor market is still winning,” says Sadia Cuthbert, head of careers at Cambridge Judge Business School in the UK. “Demand for professionals with expertise and global experience is still relevant. The number of companies offering to host MBA recruitment events is increasing.”

Some large employers have announced hiring freezes or layoffs as the threat of recession increases, yet Cuthbert is optimistic about the future. “The current global economic crisis will require businesses to build resilience into their organizations and create efficiencies at scale, so the need for strategic managers will only grow as the world learns to deal with new complexities,” she says. “We expect the MBA recruitment market to remain steady and grow.”

Salaries rise with inflation

The shortage of qualified candidates and sheer number of open roles means that MBA graduates are enjoying very favorable terms in their employment contracts. “Earlier this year, recruiters were very proactive and open to salary negotiations and flexible working,” Cuthbert says.

She does not expect salaries to fall in real terms amid fast-rising inflation, which is at 10.1 percent in the UK. “The need for specialist skills will remain and companies will be looking to offer competitive salaries for good talent,” adds Cuthbert.

It is a similar story in the US, where salaries “are at a high from even pre-pandemic numbers” for MBAs at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, according to Christy Murray, associate dean and managing director of career services. 

“Our 2022 graduates had an average base salary that was almost 12 percent higher than salaries we saw 2019 graduates secure within 90 days after graduation,” she says, underscoring the competition between sectors for MBA talent. “Consulting companies are offering salaries at a level that has put them well ahead of large, multinational companies who are trying to recruit MBAs.”

In which sectors of the economy are the job prospects brightest for MBAs right now, and which industries are pulling back on recruitment? 

Murray says the healthcare sector, which has come under the spotlight in the Covid-19 pandemic, has many job opportunities for MBAs at present. However, technology companies are cooling recruitment after a hiring spree in the past couple of years, she says.

But it’s not all bad. “Some tech employers are telling us that they are still hiring through the MBA campus recruitment channels regardless of what we hear in the news,” she adds. “And certainly, there is the threat of a recession out there, but banks are still actively hiring MBA candidates from Georgetown.”

At POLIMI Graduate School of Management in Italy, Silvia Folador, services communication leader, also points to challenges in the job market, noting that some MBA candidates have had their job offers rescinded because of economic uncertainty and budget constraints.

However, she says that, by and large, MBA candidates have ultimately succeeded in achieving their career goals. This can mean negotiating a pay rise or a promotion, even in times of high inflation. “Being equipped with an MBA can help a candidate justify an investment by highlighting the value [they] can bring to the organization,” says Folador.

Other candidates are successfully pulling off a career switch. “The MBA helps them in understanding how to cross these bridges in many ways: defining their professional goal, building a career action plan, optimizing their personal branding, but above all developing projects that allow them to train those skills and competencies that can foster the transition,” Folador adds.

Record-high employment outcomes

It is much the same at NYU Stern School of Business in New York, where the full-time MBA class of 2022 achieved record-high employment outcomes, including the highest ever median base salary and mean total compensation, and job acceptance rates in line with pre-pandemic levels.

This demonstrates the strong demand for MBA students, says NYU Stern’s associate dean of career services, Brian Ruggiero, noting that corporate recruiters are looking for strong leadership skills as well as emotional intelligence, problem-solving abilities, and analytical mindsets.  

“This year, our top recruiting industries were consulting, investment banking and tech, consistent with what we have seen previously,” Ruggiero says, adding that Stern is able to leverage its New York location to develop ties to companies.

Employers also value MBAs because they can work in highly diverse teams. “The experience of the program will open a world of new perspectives, allowing them to become citizens of the world, understanding how to balance local and global perspectives, realizing their professional aspirations, and manage and work successfully with multicultural global teams,” says Rhoda Yap, global director of the career development center at Insead.

She says that MBA candidates are also equipped with the skills to navigate the future of work. “As new technologies such as AI, fintech and crypto emerge, business leaders will need new skills and abilities to be effective in the future of work. Our curriculum and a wide selection of electives help MBA students to succeed in a fast-changing environment by offering the most relevant courses, aligned to industry trends.”

Upon graduation, the business school alumni network is also highly valuable for job seeking MBAs. “We’ve seen how the bonds fostered with one another during the program often translate to lifelong friendships and business opportunities,” Yap says.

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