Home > News > Other Masters > What MBAs Want from Work

What MBAs Want from Work

Each year, Universum surveys MBA candidates about what they are looking for in their future careers. In this post, we look at what MBAs wanted in 2013 compared to 2008, and what 2014 will bring.


As a business school student, you probably spend hours attending lectures, studying, networking, and learning about different industries and companies – and while business school is an incredibly valuable experience in itself, most MBAs are constantly thinking about what’s next.  Are you looking for a management consulting firm that will give you a breadth of experience?  Or are you more inclined to work at a tech startup where you can innovate and create every day? These are the questions you’re likely going to come across as you encounter different industries and companies. 

It’s pretty clear that in the modern career landscape more careers are becoming closely intertwined with personal life, and because of this, more people want a job that is more than a way to pay the bills.  For many, work is a vast and important part of their lives. Positive coworkers, culture, and work environment are essential for the overall happiness of a company’s workforce.  

Let’s look at some of the ways MBAs have thought about their careers differently across the past 5 years.   

Leadership a consistent theme

In 2013, the highest priorities for MBA candidates were leadership and development.  In Universum’s student surveys, students are presented with a list of forty job attributes and are asked to rank them by importance.  Last year, “leaders who support development” was the highest-ranked job attribute, followed by a creative workplace, challenging work, leadership opportunities, and opportunities for training and development.  Interestingly, those attributes are far more attractive than characteristics often associated with business students, like a performance-related bonus, client interaction, and a company’s financial strength – in fact, these more traditional job attributes didn’t even make the top ten.     

Interestingly, desire for leadership and development is not a new phenomenon among MBA candidates. Five years ago, having leaders who support development was also the top-ranked attribute, and challenging work and leadership opportunities also made the top ten.  This reinforces the notion that although industries and students are changing rapidly, the students most often drawn to business are more interested than most in leading and developing within an organization.  In other words, leadership has always been (and probably always will be) extremely important for MBA candidates.

Then and now

While leadership is a consistent theme, there are certainly differences in how MBA candidates thought about their careers five years ago compared to today. For example, MBA candidates now show a stronger tendency to be forward thinking about their career prospects than their 2008 counterparts. In 2013, 41.6 percent of students surveyed selected “good reference for a future career” as an important attribute in a career, whereas five years ago, only 21.8% of students prioritized it.  

An organization’s reputation is another interesting example.  In 2008 a company’s reputation was one among the most important characteristics, something that might be attributable to the backlash surrounding companies involved in the financial crisis.  However, in 2013 reputation and ethical standards have taken a backseat to exciting attributes like innovation and attractive products and services.  In 2013, 40.6 percent of MBAs selected innovation as a top attribute, compared to only 28.8% in 2008, which is mirrored by a similar leap for attractive products and services.  As technology continues to take over important aspects of diverse industries, MBA candidates are increasingly interested in seeing cutting edge innovation from their ideal employers. 

What employers are MBA candidates choosing?

In looking at the organizations that MBA candidates voted as their most ideal employers in 2013 – with the top five being Google, McKinsey & Co., Apple, Amazon and the Boston Consulting Group – the themes mentioned above are clearly reflected.  It’s no secret that those five companies are associated with leadership and innovation, both by students and the general public.  These organizations are so successful with the MBA crowd in part because they invest in understanding and providing what is important to their future workforce.  MBA candidates say they want leadership, creativity, and innovation in their future employers, and the world’s leading employer adapt accordingly. 

What about 2014?

Only time will tell how the employment landscape will continue to evolve and change – however, if life and work continue to merge as they have over the past several years, it’s likely MBA candidates will continue to prioritize the attributes that are most important to them on a personal level.   

Tell employers what YOU want in a future career

The 2014 survey is currently open through January 6 – and we want to hear what you think!  More than 1,200 employers will be reviewing the aggregate data to uncover what this year’s crop of MBAs want in their future career.  If you’d like to share your opinions about your ideal employers and career goals, take the survey here.


About Universum

Universum is the global leader in student perception and preference data on employers, partnering with 1,200 top universities around the world to ask students what employers they would consider working for, their five ideal employers, and what they are looking for in an employer and career. Across the past 25 years, Universum has helped employers understand, attract, and retain current and future ideal employees through its research, strategic consulting, and media solutions. 

Leave a comment.

Maximum 1000 characters