What do graduates expect to be doing in the next few years amid continuing economic volatility

Looking to the volatile business world of tomorrow, MBA graduates largely see themselves as people who are able to impact directly on their organisation’s performance by thinking differently and being solutions-focused, according to new research from the Association of MBAs (AMBA).

AMBA’s latest research on MBA careers provides fresh insights into how graduates view the next few years of their working lives developing. The period in which AMBA has captured these views – within the first two years of each participant’s MBA graduation – is a time when management professionals are most determined to make a step-change in their careers; often defining, or re-defining, the rest of their working lives. In total, 1,591 MBA graduates completed an online survey to explain how they expect to develop over the next few years.

This study shines a light on this critical point in many graduates’ careers, where their career vision and drive is most focused.  As part of the survey, graduates were able to reflect on how their learning experience will influence what attributes they take into their future roles within business.

Making an impact

The results demonstrate that graduates largely see themselves as people who are able to impact directly on their organisation’s performance by thinking differently and being solutions-focused. Specifically, from a list of several ways graduates could contribute to the organisation for which they work, more than seven in 10 said they are likely to improve operational efficiency (73%); innovate through coming up with ideas and solutions that make their organisation work better (72%); and make the organisation more efficient (71%).

When asked how they would use their MBA to ignite change in their own organisations in the future, MBA graduates said:

I am likely to make better business decisions

I am likely to make my teams operate more efficiently 73%
I am likely to come up with ideas and solutions which change the way the organisation works for the better 72%
I am likely to help the organisation be more efficient 71%
I’m likely to make decisions which consider the wider implications outside my organisation 66%
I am likely to execute large-scale projects more effectively 58%
I am likely to contribute towards a more profitable business 58%
I am likely to raise the profile of issues relating to wider society within my organisation 40%
None of the above 2%

Changing careers

The study highlights how many recent graduates are motivated to complete an MBA so they can trigger change in their careers.

Almost half (48%) of all graduates believe they are likely to change sector in the next year, while almost a quarter (23%) do not know what they will do. Therefore, only a minority of MBAs wish to remain in the same sector after they graduate.

The most popular desired transition is into consultancy (19%), although a wide range of sectors were mentioned including banking and financial services (8%), IT (6%), energy (5%), healthcare (5%), consumer goods (5%), the not-for-profit sector (4%), marketing (4%), food and drink (3%), education (3%) and government-related work (3%). This indicates that graduates are not singularly motivated to move into a small number of sectors, but that they see themselves working across a broad spectrum of markets.

AMBA’s study examined MBA salaries, but asked MBA graduates to predict the real change in their salaries as a result of their MBA. Therefore, rather than crudely analysing salaries, we are achieving a more balanced sense of how much financial impact recent graduates believe their MBA will achieve.

During the survey, MBA graduates were asked how much higher or lower a salary, as a percentage change, they expected to be paid in the future as a result of completing their MBA, without factoring inflation. As such, we were looking to measure the MBA’s real salary contribution.

AMBA’s study indicates that graduates believe that their study will lead to a substantial increase in their salary as a result of their MBA in the near future. More than three quarters (78%) say that they predict that they will earn 20% more in the next three years and almost half (47%) expect to earn at least 50% more within the same timeframe.

Will Dawes, Research and Insight Manager at AMBA, said: “The research revisits some of the traditional ways in which MBA paths have been assessed, by offering a fresh way of looking at MBA impact, in terms of their management mindset and implementation of skills, rather than potentially crude measurements of MBA performance, such as realised salaries.”

The study was designed with more questions looking at values, as opposed to a focus on salaries and job roles, in order to capture the contribution of MBAs. For example, it looks at how graduates intend to apply the skills they have developed from their study and how confident they feel about making an impact.

The findings suggest that graduates believe MBAs will have a transformative impact on their salary earnings within the near future. The study also indicates that even those who do not think they will be earning substantially more, still feel that they will reap the benefits of an MBA and, crucially, that this will outweigh the financial cost of completing one.

The benefits were seen to be borne out in a range of ways, such as the utilisation of improved mental resilience and entrepreneurial attributes.


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