MBA Grads still make more in financial services, but most go into management consulting

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This is a great time for MBA students with aspirations to go into management consulting, finance, marketing and healthcare. Several reports list these concentrations as the highest paying for MBA graduates.

“One third of (the graduates) of the elite MBA programs are going into management consulting,” says Adam Connors, a partner in the Career Advisory Group in Hoboken, NJ, referring to the top 10 percent of MBA programs.

“It’s intellectually stimulating. It’s lucrative. It offers variety," he tells eFinancialCareers. "In management consulting you could one month be working on energy consulting and working on healthcare consulting the next month. The MBA program is fairly general. You’re going for a general degree. It’s a higher-level big picture. It applies to strategy and the big picture.”

Damian Zikakis, director of career services at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, says the highest percentage of the school’s graduates end up in management consulting.

“Last year 37 percent of our MBAs went into management consulting,” Zikakis says, adding that self-reported wages for these students range from $90,000 - $145,000.

But Zikakis says the school’s highest paying graduates tend to be those with finance concentrations who end up at hedge funds. They typically average between $150,000 and $170,000 in average starting salaries, he says. But there’s a catch: there are very few of these jobs available.

Hedge funds, he notes, “tend to be smaller organizations with not as great hiring needs and more specialized hiring needs. Qualifications for their ideal candidates are much greater than those with more hiring needs.”

So last year about 150 graduating students ended up in management consulting while only two or three got jobs at hedge funds, Zikakis says.

Still, finance specializations remain very popular.

“Finance is, and I’m fairly confident, will always be the most prevalent degree because it is the most lucrative financially,” says Connors. “The reason is that MBAs are attracted to finance and accounting because they are high paying. People that hiring are management consultants and investment bankers. They’re the highest paid MBAs. They work the longest hours. “

The University of California at Berkley’s Haas School of Business offers a general management MBA degree. But Mark Friedfeld, assistant director of the career management group at the school, says about 20 percent of their students end up in management consulting and about seven percent in healthcare.  He says there’s a huge interest in technology as well. But he says there’s been a decline in interest in traditional investment banking.

He says the decline may be due to a number of factors, including the challenges confronted by investment banking in the last five or six years.

“The traditional business model has been under some kind of stress,” he tells eFinancialCareers. “There’s been a societal change with new MBA graduates looking for well-rounded first (job) experience. We’ve also seen a decline in Wall Street careers. It’s still a profitable industry but it does not have the attraction it used to have, say, 10 years ago.”

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