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North American MBA Job Outlook Looks Bright for 2014

North American MBA Job Outlook Looks Bright for 2014 main image

The 2013/14 QS Jobs & Salary Report reveals that the MBA job outlook in the US and Canada is extremely positive in 2014.

Employer respondents in the global survey, upon which the report is based, are forecasting an extremely healthy 16% rise in MBA opportunities next year to bring to an end the stagnancy felt over the past 12 months, which saw North American employers reporting a mere 2% MBA job growth.

“The US is looking like it will grow MBA opportunities quite substantially in the next couple of years, so although the growth of MBA opportunities has been relatively low in the last couple of years, the projections of employers in this year’s survey for 2014 is very encouraging”, says Nunzio Quacquarelli, QS founder and managing director.

Quacquarelli goes on to say that if this 16% growth is achievable, it will be on top of the already large number of existing opportunities offered by the region. “From a big number [of existing MBA jobs] that’s a lot of new MBA opportunities”, he adds.

Optimism in job growth lies with confidence in economic recovery

Faith in improved MBA job growth ultimately rests with employer confidence in the North America’s economic recovery. Up until now, any tangible signs of progress have been shaky at best, and this has been the chief culprit in the stagnancy predicted by last year’s report coming to fruition. 

Marie-José Beaudin, executive director of the Soutar Career Centre at Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University believes caution must still be exercised. “I think we have to be careful. The outlook for the US is really more positive, there’s no question about that, but I think they’re fragile on the political and on the economic front. That said, we’ve seen on-campus recruitment right now has been much more active on every sector, so the outlook is certainly better”, she says.

It does appear as if a corner has been turned, with financial services stabilizing and a smattering of manufacturing industries regaining ground. Resultantly globally-orientated employers across North America will once again be spurred into further MBA recruitment, creating the brighter job outlook ahead. Additionally – and crucially – new MBA employers are again setting up shop in the region.

Sector-specific rises in MBA jobs offset by poor performers

Although the overall picture of growth has been fairly flat in the US and Canada over the past year, there have been notable rises in reported MBA jobs in a couple of sectors.

Firstly, the technology sector has displayed continuing zeal by posting a 21% reported growth for 2012/13.

“The high tech corridor on the west coast remains vibrant”, says the University of California, Irvine’s director of career services, Tom Kozicki.

Indeed, major companies such as Google have been quick to snare the best MBA entrepreneurial talent. Google is, “still looking for risk-takers—that means having a startup on your résumé is a plus, even if the company went bust. Yet a career at Google offers MBAs much more stability and longevity than offered at dotcoms past”, says Google’s staffing programs director, Judy Gilbert.

McGill MBA students represent growing ethical trends

Entrepreneurship is also of increasing interest for McGill MBA students, as their recent success in the Hult prize for social enterprise indicates.

“The students are definitely socially conscious and I think now also there’s a whole aspect of their wanting to have a positive social impact. I think that’s going to continue. This generation is looking at their imprint a lot more”, says Beaudin.

Relative success over the past year was also enjoyed by North America’s manufacturing and general industry (consumer goods, construction, energy, retail etc.), in which MBA jobs grew by 15%. Here, recent reassessments of budgets have resulted in increased demand for general managers within the region, after overseas operations at many companies were repatriated. As Beaudin explains, in many cases, this is simply because it, “doesn’t make sense anymore to have it anywhere other than locally.”

These successes have been offset by poorly-performing sectors to produce the final figure of 2% total MBA job growth in terms of employer demand.

Central to this has been the experiences of the consulting industry, in which there was only 1% growth in MBA jobs, pharmaceuticals, in which there no growth; and financial services which – despite the positive outlook for 2014, reported a 1% drop in employer demand.

However, speaking for Canada’s recent experience, Beaudin says she is happy to continue encouraging McGill MBA students to look into these sectors. In particular, she points to how the needs of a country like Canada, which has an ageing population, should incite healthcare growth in the near future as well as impacting on the asset management and insurance sectors.

Beaudin adds that, “Where I see more market development is with the boutique type of consulting” – specialists in the supply chain or technology are examples.

Even employers within the worst-affected sectors have plans in place for the impending recovery, so candidates can take heart from 2014’s optimistic job outlook. Indeed, the slowdown itself will mean that hiring must increase. “Companies have delayed recruitment so now they’re feeling that their leadership pipeline is really slowing down, so they’re going to need to up that, that’s for sure”, says Beaudin.

This year saw many companies test the waters of MBA recruitment with the establishment of internship programs. This trend does seem likely to continue in the year ahead as prospective MBA recruiters seek evidence of the benefits before formalizing their MBA hiring policies.  

Beaudin views internship programs as essential. “It’s the best way for both parties to gauge the value fit, the technical fit, the personality fit and we see that growth”, she says, before adding that the McGill MBA has a program specially tailored for this growth, boasting a high conversion rate of students being offered full-time employment after successfully completing an internship.

Beaudin feels a shift has taken place in what employers are looking for in their MBA recruitment. “Before, it was very specific to certain sectors, now I think we’re looking at a change to find the right talent with the right skillset. Something that’s really important is what we call intellectual agility. More and more companies are saying its more than adaptability – it’s that intellectual capacity to really be agile.”

International students in North America set to increase their options

With the US and Canada seemingly poised to emerge from their financial period of drought, one might expect them to find the supply of international students graduating from its MBA programs has been beginning to dry up, such has been the growth elsewhere.

The type of MBA job growth witnessed in the recovery period in emerging market areas, such as Asia, has inevitably led to a shift in the approach of some international students in North America. Remaining in the region after graduation is no longer the very definition of success as an excellent MBA job outlook can be found in many other parts of the world.

“A higher percentage, perhaps as many as two out of every three international students, are returning to work in their home countries, or in emerging markets, rather than staying in the US”, said Mauro Guillén, dean of the Lauder Institute at Wharton (which recently celebrated 30 years of offering the Wharton MBA with an MA in International Studies as a joint-degree aimed at serving a globalizing economy.)

However, Beaudin says that as far as McGill MBA students are concerned, “most of them want to stay here in Canada and they successfully do it. They have opportunities here in Canada, but sometimes companies trumpet that with much better offers for them to go back.”

On the whole, no one could deny that North America has experienced some trying times in recent years, but as long as confidence in the economic recovery there remains, the MBA job outlook looks strong in a wide variety of sectors for the year ahead.

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Written by Tim Dhoul

Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).

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