What Does the Future Hold for MBA Candidates?: The Fuqua School of Business Q&A | TopMBA.com

What Does the Future Hold for MBA Candidates?: The Fuqua School of Business Q&A

By Niamh O

Updated March 30, 2021 Updated March 30, 2021

After a difficult year, the MBA job market is finally bouncing back.

But what does the future hold for MBA candidates and business schools?

TopMBA caught up with Sheryle Dirks, associate dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business Career Management Center, and Shari Hubert, associate dean of Admissions at Fuqua School of Business to find out.

How has the job market changed this year from last year?

SD: For 2019-20, most students were affected in some way, whether they had already accepted employment or were actively searching last spring.

Many recent graduates and interns were converted to remote work, while smaller numbers experienced delayed start dates or shortened internship programs. Even fewer encountered opportunities being cancelled due to the employer’s current business scenario. Those actively seeking a position over the past six months have reported search processes unfolding more slowly or sometimes stalled due to uncertain conditions.

Despite the rapidly changing and challenging circumstances, we’ve also seen firsthand how proactive, focused job seekers can succeed! More than ever, candidates need to differentiate themselves by demonstrating the agility, grit and courage that organizations need right now. We anticipate just-in-time recruiting, which occurs in late winter and spring, to be especially relevant this year for both companies and soon-to-be graduates.

What special resources does Fuqua have for business school students when it comes to careers? How do you prepare them for life after graduation?

SD: Fuqua’s resources prepare students for a lifetime of career success, not just the first job after graduation. Our structured careers curriculum, combined with knowledgeable, accessible support from our Career Management Center (CMC) staff and peer student coaches offers an approach that spans the diverse spectrum of career interests. Our CMC team has deep knowledge and industry connections to best serve both our students and employers.

How successful are Fuqua MBA graduates at landing a job after graduation? What is the success rate? And what are some of the notable companies?

SD: While statistics alone don’t tell the whole story, our employment numbers have been on the rise for the past few years. For the graduating class of 2019, 97 percent had received job offers and 95 percent had accepted offers. Median annual base salary rose by 8 percent from the previous year. McKinsey hired the most graduates in 2019, followed by Amazon, BCG, Microsoft, Dell and Google. Fifty-nine companies hired three or more grads or interns. Additional information is listed in our employment report.

Could you tell us some facts and figures for Fuqua MBA graduates and their job sectors and industries?

SD: In 2019, 32 percent of the class went into consulting, 23 percent into tech, and 20 percent into finance. For the third consecutive year, the West Coast was the top geographic destination for our graduates, attracting approximately a quarter of the combined graduating and intern classes. I attribute this trend to the popularity of the technology and health care industries, along with increased numbers of graduates going to work in consulting in the region. There is more information in our employment report.

Recent GMAC figures show that MBA recruitment and salaries might boost again in 2021. How confident are you in the value of the MBA in the current job market? Do you expect to see more positive trends in the upcoming months?

SD: I’m extremely confident in the value of the MBA, not just at Duke, but across the graduate business education industry. Business operations, workplace safety, employee health, organizational culture, and much more will forever be changed by today’s crises. We don’t yet know exactly what the future holds. Amid that uncertainty, the need for agile leaders with excellent business fundamentals, decision making, and data analytics skills will only increase. Not surprisingly, many top business schools are seeing a rise in applications.

I’m especially excited on how Fuqua is adapting to meet the current and future needs of businesses. One example is new curriculum that reflects the complexities of the business environment created by COVID-19. These courses focus on: building common purpose in a world of difference, leading technology innovation, and the entrepreneurial mindset. Innovations like these mean our students remain in demand and are prepared to succeed in today’s fast-paced, rapidly evolving conditions.

What is the recruitment process like at Fuqua? Would you say it’s difficult to earn a place on the MBA program?

SH: We encourage prospective applicants to think extensively about the decision to apply to Fuqua, and recommend consulting with family, friends, mentors – even our student ambassadors. Virtual events and one-on-one connections with our community are an excellent way to determine if you will thrive at Fuqua. Once the decision is made to move forward, you will undertake the application process – the complete application process is outlined here. All applicants are considered for our merit-based scholarships upon submitting their application and are notified during the admissions decision. Fuqua is a highly selective school, but we also review applications holistically; look for people who aren’t just smart, but share our belief that business can be used as a tool for good. We encourage people not to get fixated on a single part of their application, like test scores, but to be genuine. We are really assessing your fit as a whole. This is why the essays are incredibly important.

What do you look for in candidates?

SH: We are looking for students who will not only be successful in a rigorous academic environment, but also share our belief that business can help change the world for the better. Integral to this expectation is selecting students who are humble, authentic and have an appreciation for the strengths that lie in difference. We strive to get to know the candidates applying on a truly personal level. This is instrumental in making sure our incoming students find belonging within our culture and our Team Fuqua approach. Our “25 Random Things” essay question allows for deep reflection and we continuously hear from students about how much they learned about themselves from this exercise.

Why should students choose to study an MBA at Fuqua?

SH: Students have many options for pursuing an MBA and we have a great deal of respect for our peer schools. We want to make sure that the Team Fuqua way of working and collaborating appeals to them. We continuously hear how experiencing the Fuqua community firsthand helped a candidate to realize that they would thrive in our community. It’s possible to have the best of both worlds as a student at Fuqua - an MBA from a top school in a warm climate, inexpensive cost of living, a hip, eclectic, diverse and supportive community, AND unlimited geographic access to a dream job.

What do you think the future holds for the MBA?

SH: An MBA can be leveraged to build new skills, refresh current ones or pivot into a totally new direction. It helps you think critically about organizational issues and challenges, and is a universal credentialing that is well understood and valued by employers, regardless of industry, sector, function or region of the world. For international students, global mobility is a great reason to pursue an MBA.

I think you’ll see an interest in further opportunities to customize the MBA, by finding programs that are more condensed, less expensive or offer additional online options. With that said, I believe there will always be a market for the traditional two-year, full-time MBA at top institutions. It will be important for schools to remain competitive by providing a portfolio of options, as Fuqua does, to meet demand based on ever-evolving consumer needs.

This article was originally published in October 2020 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Written by

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.