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The Most Popular Industries For MBA Applicants—Consulting, Finance, Technology, And More

Latest QS report shows men still favor careers in finance and tech, while women look to non-traditional MBA industries


Thu Apr 12 2018

3,850 MBA applicants were surveyed for the QS Applications and Aspirations Report, asked about both their study plans and their future career ambitions.

Their answers provide an intriguing snapshot of the mindset of today’s MBA students, and what we should expect to see as they progress through their degree, through to graduation.

Consulting was the most popular target industry for applicants, with 40.2% of those surveyed expressing an interest in this particular field. Following consulting, the next most popular industries were finance, technology, government/public sector, and engineering.

So far, not very surprising. What was particularly interesting, however, were the differences between male and female applicants. While there were broad similarities—consulting remained the most popular industry with both—there were notable differences in the level of interest men and women had in certain sectors.

For instance, 37.4% of men favored finance, compared to only 30.2% of women. Similarly, 29.8% of men wished to launch careers in tech, compared to just 21.9% of women.

Where were these women expressing an interest in working instead?

Media and advertising, and HR, recruiting, and training both received twice as much interest from women as they did from men, suggesting some long-held stereotypes about particular industries aren’t about to be forgotten any time soon.

Women, though, arguably deserve credit for recognizing the versatility of their MBA in a way many male applicants seem unable to. While men continue to target the same traditional MBA-related industries, women are expressing an interest in working for non-profits, in hospitality, and other diverse sectors.

MBA applicants were also asked where they see themselves in 10 years’ time (everyone’s least favorite job interview question). Over 60% said running their own business. This is no surprise, as MBAs see the array of skills they will learn during their degree as fundamental to launching their own successful ventures.

This entrepreneurial outlook was strongest among students from Latin America, where 68.2% of applicants expressed a desire to be running their own company.

Traditional career ladder aspirations haven’t completely died though. 51.7% of students said they see themselves as director in a large company, while 49.4% saw themselves as a CEO (applicants were allowed to select multiple options).

These aspirations were most common among European applicants, which might suggest that the robust economies and plentiful career opportunities in this part of the world may make starting your own company feel less essential.

One thing is for sure: few people expected to be restricted to a lower-level management position once they have an MBA. In fact, only 7.7% of those surveyed said they saw themselves as a middle manager. Given the time and money that must be invested into an MBA, and the knowledge received in return, it’s no surprise this figure is as low as it is.

The full Applications and Aspirations Report 2018 discusses these and other global, and regional trends, in greater detail.