Dec. 26.

Improving Job Prospects for MBAs in the South and Midwest

KSU is a great school in almost every respect, though business grads have taken a beating over the past few years when it comes to job placements and starting salaries. Things may soon be on the mend, however. The Wildcat 91.9 has reached out to business expert Abigail West to walk readers through some of the changes ahead — and what the school can learn from recent success stories like the stellar reviews coming out of UT-Austin. Abigail writes a lot about business school, and recently reviewed the top MBA programs of this year on her main website.

Improving Job Prospects for MBAs in the South and Midwest

An October 2012 survey of over 3,000 employers found that US companies only saw a 2% hiring growth. Employers continue to look for MBA graduates with at least three years of work experience behind them, creating a difficult market for recent graduates. Only 6.2% of respondents say they prefer those students, down from 12% in 2009. In 2012, the MBA Career Services Council found fewer schools reporting an increase in on-campus recruiting, and most of those that did reported modest increases. The struggles do not end for students who find work, either. Salaries for MBA grads have hovered around $90,000 since 2008, when the global financial collapse significantly changed the perceived value of an MBA throughout the marketplace. In the midst of these these disheartening trends, though, the University of Texas at Austin has found remarkable growth by investing in the city’s rich culture. Taking a close look at UT’s success may help other programs — including those at Kansas — pick up speed.

In this unsteady market, the recent growth of the University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business is all the more impressive. In the 2011 annual US News and World Report survey, McCombs’ MBA program was ranked 17th in the nation, behind only four other public schools. CNN/Money calls the Texas executive MBA program “an unqualified bargain.” The cultural benefits of the University of Texas have largely been attributed to the unusual background of its students. Some 42% of the 2012 EMBA class hail from high-tech industry, while 39% already have advanced degrees and 5% have the title of president, CEO or chairman. Most programs, meanwhile, draw largely from financial services and consulting. Both men and women in the class of 2012 received post-MBA salaries that were more than a 60% increase over their pre-MBA salaries.

Many experts point to Austin’s culturally vibrant community as a key factor in the growth the city’s economy and the bright future of its MBA graduates. A 2012 report on the economic impact of the South-by-Southwest music festival found that it brings a total of $190.3 million into the local economy through sponsors, attendees and exhibitors. “Although the media exposure enjoyed by SXSW and Austin comes without a cost the city, such coverage does have a value,” states the report. The festival has played a significant role in helping Austin define itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Another report, from Forefront Austin, found that the impact of music in Austin totals more than $616 million annually, including almost 11,200 jobs and over $11 million in City tax revenues. Various studies have suggested a significant relationship between the breadth and scope of cultural offerings and the growth of a technology-based economy, suggesting Austin’s cultural richness could play a key role in the entrepreneurial spirit that is driving MBA graduates to find growing opportunities.

Kansas, a state with a strong history of music and live performance in its own right, might look to Austin as an example of how to spark economic growth through cultural offerings.The Wichita Business Journal list of MBA programs recently found that 11 of the 16 schools have experienced sharp declines in MBA headcount since fall of 2010. MBA program directors say that economic conditions have lead people to decide against pursuing an advanced degree. “A lot of it has to do with the economy,” says Michelle Case, executive director of Baker University’s MBA program in Wichita. “People aren’t willing to pick up that extra debt in student loans.” Research is increasingly finding that cultural vitality plays a major role in the breadth and scope of a region’s economy. “Technical innovation, entrepreneurship, and the arts all involve a creative impulse,” states The Role of Music in the Austin Economy: Executive Summary. By championing these assets, Kansas schools and cities may be able to carve a valuable niche for themselves based on their own cultural heritage and history.


Abigail West is a writer and researcher for Feel free to check out more of her writing!

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