The Best MBA Programs by Function

If you’re like most of us, you’re probably tempted to choose your target MBA programs solely based on the rankings.  

And we get it, the rankings are important. But they’re not everything. In fact, we would argue that it’s WAY more important to go to a school that you know will you help you get the job you want post-MBA than anything else.  

Yes, the culture is important and yes, geography is important. But if you know that you want to be a Marketing Manager at P&G post-MBA, then the culture and geography won’t matter at all if you aren’t well-positioned for that job. 

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So, how do you know if a given MBA program will position you well for any job?

One way is to look at their Placement Reports. Almost every school, when a class graduates, puts out a report telling the public where their graduates went to work. We collected all this data across schools, cleaned it up, and did some crosstab magic to determine which MBA programs were particularly strong in various functions and industries.

In this article we’re going to look at school placement by function.  To look at school placement by industry, check out our article on top business school programs by industry here.

Quick reminder: function has to do with your day-to-day job responsibilities.

For example, you could be in General Management and work in any industry – oil & gas, retail, etc. Functions tend to be industry-agnostic.  

In our experience, far more of our clients have homed in on their chosen function than their preferred industry. This is because your function is what determines the kinds of problems you’ll be solving and the work you’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis. Marketing in a tech company has much more in common with marketing in a financial services firm than it does with finance in a tech company. Your function dictates the content of your work. 

While it’s generally true that most schools place students in all functions, looking closely at placement stats will give you a sense of the competitive landscape for your chosen field, especially if you’re set on doing a less common function like Product Management or Human Resources. These numbers can also help you figure out how likely you’ll be to source your job on campus versus through an off-campus job search. 

School placement stats are shorthand for which schools have a strong reputation for those functional areas. If a lot of students go into a given function, chances are, there is heavy on-campus recruiting for those jobs. When only a few students go into a given function, it’s more likely that those grads had to do significant networking and searching on their own. You can get your MBA dream job either way, but it’s best to know what it’s going to take to get that job before you choose your dream schools! 

How to use this information

Below, we’re going to show you a ton of information about which MBAs have the best outcomes for various functions, e.g., which MBA program sends the most graduates into marketing. We’re going to show both the number and percentage of graduates that go into each function. This is important because schools vary tremendously in size. Take Operations and Production, for example. 18% of Georgia Tech Scheller grads and only 6.6% of Ross grads go into Operations. But if you look at the number of students, since Ross is a bigger school, that ends up being 13 grads from Scheller and 21 from Ross. Both data points are important. The percentage helps you determine which functions are well-represented at different MBA programs, while the number helps you determine the actual number of job opportunities coming out of each MBA program.   

Here’s how we compiled this information.

We downloaded each school’s career placement report for the Class of 2020, extracted and compiled the data, and did our best to compare the data apples to apples. If a school did not report their data the same way, or only provided partial career data, we’ve excluded them from the charts as necessary. Otherwise, we went as granular as we could with the data. For more information, head over and download the complete report and check our Appendix and Methodology for further explanation and links to the original data.

What’s the best MBA Program for Your Function?

In the following charts, we’ve taken the Placement Reports and looked at them by Function. 

This first chart shows what percentage of graduates go into each function. You’ll see that consulting, finance, and marketing/sales take up the majority of the graph – similar to what we saw above. But here, you can look by school.  

For example, let’s look at the Marketing / Sales function – the medium blue bar. At MIT Sloan, a small percentage of students go into this function, while at Minnesota Carlson, it’s the most represented function, by far. This will start to help you decipher your job opportunities by MBA program. 

This next chart shows the number of graduates that enter each function. As we mentioned above, this is important since some of the schools have much smaller programs than others.

Note: We’ve aggregated this data as reported by schools. However, not all schools report all functions, so if you see a function reported as zero, it likely means that function was combined into another function. For example, Stanford reports zero Business Development, but it’s likely captured within Marketing/Sales, Strategic Planning, or Finance.  

What if you know exactly what function you want to do post-MBA? In that case, it might help to look at which schools will help you do that. See below for a breakdown of the data by function, ranked in order of which MBA programs send the most students into that function.

We’ve given you consulting and operations here. If you want a close look at all the other functions, including Marketing and Sales, General Management, Product Management, Business Development, Strategic Planning, IT, and HR, download our full report: What’s The Best MBA Program for Your Career? 

Here’s a list of some surprises you’ll find in the report!!

  • Kellogg sends a higher percentage of students to consulting (37%) than marketing (10%), despite its strong reputation for marketing. 
  • In fact, the schools sending the highest percentage of students into marketing are UW Foster (33%) and Indiana Kelley (29%) – likely due to their strong regional connections with tech (Foster) and consumer goods (Kelley) companies. 
  • Yale sends one of the highest percentages of students into consulting (37%) despite its reputation for social sector leadership. 

And a big stereotype confirmed…

  • The Wall Street Proximity advantage in Finance is real. The schools that send the highest percentage of students into the financial services industry are Wharton (36.2%), Cornell Johnson (34%), HBS (34%), Stanford (34%), Stern (33.5%), and Columbia (33.2%).

We know it’s tempting to make MBA decisions based on stereotypes — just make sure you do your research to validate whether they’re true or not first!! Go get our report for more in-depth data and many more insights!! 

Wanna know more? Check out this YouTube video about it!!

YouTube video
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