Rebounding from the pandemic, the job market in 2022 continues to improve across the board, with the outlook for MBAs looking especially promising.
“It’s a great time to be an MBA student because you have your pick of what sectors you’d like to consider,” says Jeff McNish, assistant dean of the Career Center at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. “Given how hot the job market is currently, all sectors are seeking strong MBA talent.”
Lesley Kromer also says she is recognizing the signs of a strong labor market for this year’s graduating class. As director of consulting and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business, Masters Career Center, Kromer says she is noticing an uptick in the number of companies seeking the foundational skills provided by an MBA. “I think you’re seeing a significant increase in firms that want individuals to come in with a strong quantitative skill set,” she says. GMAC data from last year also indicates that demand for MBAs is returning to pre-pandemic levels, with 91 percent of recruiters surveyed stating they planned to hire MBAs.
All of this is good news for MBAs, whether you are looking for your first post-MBA role or simply a new opportunity. But beyond the overall positive outlook, certain sectors are experiencing more growth than others — some of which has been driven by the pandemic — and boast a plethora of opportunities for MBAs looking for either internships or full-time employment.
Areas of Growth & Opportunity
One sector in which hiring rarely seems to slow and that is currently experiencing additional growth is consulting. “Firms are hiring individuals for full-time positions, as well as eagerly looking to hire interns for their summer programs,” Kromer explains. “This is pretty much across the board, whether it’s a large firm, a medium-size firm or a smaller firm.”
Within consulting, Kromer is seeing an increase in demand in areas such as supply chain and logistics, mergers and acquisitions, turnaround and restructuring and life sciences (including pharmaceuticals and healthcare). She believes much of this surge is associated with the pandemic.
“The supply chains have become more stretched as they’ve [been put] under so much more pressure. I also think you’ve seen a significant increase in the life sciences and pharma space for both pandemic as well as non-pandemic issues,” she says. “The pandemic has forced a lot of firms to re-evaluate what their product portfolio looks like, how they’re going to respond to the changes that are necessary, and I think that has led to a lot of the restructuring activity that you see going on today.”
Lisa Bradley-Kern, director of industry relations at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, has noticed a related trend. “Even within consulting, you are seeing technology, each of the major consulting firms having some tech division that they didn’t have previously,” she says.
Both technology as a sector and interest in it have exploded, with tech now a key component of every company. “It touches everything,” Bradley-Kern says. “So, I think most students coming in need to be comfortable with that.”
Data analytics is another area that is seeing both a surge in demand and interest among MBAs. (In fact, Ross will be launching a data analytics concentration in fall 2022.) However, Kromer says these roles are being filled by more than just MBA talent. “We’re definitely seeing big increases in terms of interest in individuals for data analytics roles,” she says. “We see industries and leading companies within those industries that are augmenting their data analytics groups and looking to MBA as well as master’s of science and data analytics programs to obtain additional talent.”
One area that is experiencing a surge in interest — that has exceeded demand — is product management roles. Because these marketing-focused positions are increasingly popular among MBAs, companies in a variety of industries look to MBA programs for product managers. “I think that the number of individuals applying for those roles has increased so much that firms can be more selective and can ask for or look at candidates who have specific product experience prior to coming into that role,” says Kromer.
Conversely, there are areas seeing declining interest that are still in high demand, like consumer packaged goods (CPG) and corporate finance, according to Bradley-Kern.
Recruitment & Retention
With an eye for gaining access to top MBA talent, one growing trend when it comes to recruiting is companies getting an early start.
“One of the things we’ve noticed in tech in particular is they are interviewing summer intern candidates so much earlier than they [did] in the past,” Kromer says. “Most of the top 30 schools typically allow campus-facilitated recruiting for interns to start in January. So, many of these firms are now doing things outside of campus-facilitated recruiting to get access to candidates and interview them even in October or November.”
Another trend is the increased focus on attracting diverse candidates. A growing number of companies are expressing an interest in and are dedicating resources toward recruiting and retaining diverse MBA talent, with some developing programs specifically aimed at these candidates.
“A lot of firms are looking and continue to develop tools and programs that could really help develop and retain that talent,” says Kromer. “They will offer programs prior to students joining an MBA program — usually in July or August. We have seen a few more companies specifically put together these types of pre-MBA programs for diverse candidates. They want to attract these individuals; they want those candidates to get as much information about the firm as they can, prior to them joining an MBA program.”
Part of many employers’ recruitment strategy, companies have invested more time, energy and resources toward telling their story, including capturing their internal culture as well as demonstrating the role employees play there and the value they add. McNish believes this will improve retention, especially among diverse and underrepresented MBAs.
“Students are getting a better perspective on what it’s like to work at a particular organization, because companies are putting so much energy into sharing their stories,” he says. “That could lead to students or MBA graduates staying in companies longer or having a more tenured career at a particular organization because they enter these roles with more information about what it’s like to work there. In turn, this corporate transparency and authenticity creates a stronger sense of belonging and purpose among employees.”