The Best MBA Programs  by Industry

When you look at MBA courses, it's likely you'll first look at best business school rankings. But we would argue that it’s WAY more important to go to a business school that you know will you help you get a job in the industry you want post-MBA.

Yes, 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 a 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:

If you want to know more about function placement, then check out this article about the Best MBA Programs by Function. But for a quick peek into industry placement insights, read on!! 

Quick reminder: industry often connects with your sense of purpose.

The best way to think about choosing an industry is to think about it like this: you’re choosing what types of world-sized problems you want to solve. While function determines your day-to-day work, industry determines how you’re going to impact the planet. All companies are focused on increasing profits. That’s a given. But if you look at what they are providing to their customers and specifically how they generate profits, you’ll start to find that you prefer one approach to another.  

For instance, the types of problems you’ll solve in Healthcare vary dramatically from the types of problems you would be solving in the Retail industry. At a high level, the Healthcare industry is focused on improving people’s lives through pharmaceutical products, medical devices, and healthcare services that can prolong or improve quality of life. The Consumer Goods industry, on the other hand, is focused on improving people’s lives by creating better products that solve their day-to-day problems and needs, or provide a more enjoyable or customized shopping experience. Ultimately, you will want to choose an industry that excites you. When someone asks you about your work, what would you be excited to talk about?  

Another thing to note is that while functions tend to be industry-agnostic (for instance, marketing or operations), the industry you choose will narrow down your expertise. Once you’ve developed a few years of industry expertise, it can be harder to switch industries than to switch functions within the same industry. Moving from finance to strategy in Oil & Gas is easier than moving from Oil & Gas finance to Tech finance. This is because you develop very specific human capital (knowledge, skills, and networks) that applies specifically to your industry and doesn’t necessarily translate well to a different one. This makes it a bit more important to choose the right industry early on.  

There’s one exception to this rule. If you choose an industry like Consulting or Financial Services (such as Investment Banking), where you actually get to work across a number of different industries based on your project or deal, then your mobility is greater. Consulting and Financial Services tend to be feeders into all sorts of other industries, so if you’re not quite sure what industry you want to work in, you might choose one of those two industries post-MBA, rather than risk committing to an industry too early.    

While it’s generally true that most schools place students in all industries, looking closely at placement stats will give you a sense of the opportunities available by school, especially if you’re set on working in a less common industry like Media & Entertainment or Oil & Gas. These numbers can also help you figure out how likely you’ll be to source your job on campus versus via an off-campus job search.

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 industries, e.g. which MBA program sends the most graduates to tech companies, etc. 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 Manufacturing, for example. 13% of Minnesota Carlson grads and only 4% of HBS grads go into Manufacturing. But if you look at the number of students, since HBS is a much bigger school, that ends up being 10 grads from Carlson and 22 from HBS. Both data points are important. The percentage helps you determine which industries 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.

One more thing. Geography plays a large role in this! Our data does not account for geography — what state or region recruiters are hiring for — but you can look that up on each school’s website. In general, the higher ranked the MBA, the less locally-focused the recruiters will be who hire on campus. If you have geographical constraints, be sure to ask the Career Services office about placement in your preferred geography for the jobs you want!  

You’ll also probably notice that where a school is located influences the industries that grads enter. For example, Los Angeles has the best MBA programs for entertainment, and Texas for energy. This happens because many companies recruit MBAs locally, and because schools become well-known for regional industries and attract students who want to work in those industries.

Now for the Top MBA Schools by Industry Placement

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

This first chart shows what percentage of graduates go into each industry. You’ll see that consulting, technology, and financial services take up the majority of the graph, but here, you can look by school.  

For example, let’s look at the Healthcare industry – the yellow bar. At Booth, a small percentage of students go into Healthcare, while at Minnesota Carlson it’s the 2nd most common industry after consulting. This will start to help you decipher your job opportunities by MBA program.

In this next chart, you’ll see the number of graduates that enter each industry, which is important to look at since the school sizes vary so dramatically.

What if you know exactly what industry you want to enter post-MBA? In that case, it might help to look at which schools will help you break into that industry. See below for a breakdown of the data by industry for Consulting and Manufacturing, ranked in order of which MBA programs send the most students into that industry. We’ve shown the data by both percentage and number of students, since the percentage is largely influenced by the size of the program.

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

We know a lot of people are tempted to make MBA decisions based on stereotypes, so after looking at the data collectively, we wanted to point out a few surprises:   

  • Harvard’s 3rd most popular industry after finance (29%) and consulting (25%) is technology (19%), despite being about as far from Silicon Valley as possible. 
  • While USC Marshall and UCLA Anderson send the highest percentages of graduates into Media / Entertainment (11% and 5.5% respectively), Columbia actually sends more grads into entertainment than UCLA Anderson (Columbia’s 20 to UCLA’s 13).

The schools sending the highest number of grads into the technology industry are Kellogg (137), Harvard (106), and Wharton (101). 

And here are a few confirmed stereotypes!

  • Rice Jones sends both the highest number (12) and highest percentage (12.8%) of graduates into the Petroleum / Energy industry, followed by UT McCombs (11 / 5.1%) and UNC Kenan-Flagler (11 / 5.0%).

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!

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Career Protocol Team

Career Protocol Team

Our mission is to help you leave a distinctive, lasting,
positive mark on the world through your career.

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