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Work Experience Pays Off for Grads on the Job Market

Work experience — both pre-degree and through internships — makes a big difference in how management graduates fare in the job market, according to a trio of research surveys conducted in 2011 by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Pre-degree work experience can set up management graduates with a better chance of finding a job and earn more than their inexperienced peers. Surveying members of the class of 2011 in September, the 2012 Alumni Perspectives Survey found: 

  • Some 19 percent of who had less than a year of experience before getting their degree were unemployed in September, compared with just 15 percent of those with one to three years of experience and 14 percent of those who had worked six years or more.
  • Salary range differences for the alumni from full-time MBA programs show that those with less than one year of experience (or none at all) had starting salaries in the US$40,000-50,000 range, compared with those who had at least one to six years of experience, who had starting salaries in the US$70,000-90,000 range.   

Internships echo trend

Some of today’s younger graduate management students may not have had the chance to develop their résumés before entering an MBA or master’s program. “Job candidates can often prove themselves in their targeted industry of employment through an internship,” said Michelle Sparkman Renz, GMAC director of research communications.

  • Data from the 2011 Global Management Education Graduate Survey, which queried students before graduation, found that those who had internships were more likely to have a job offer in hand than classmates without an internship. 
  • When many of these graduates were surveyed again in September for the Alumni Perspectives Survey, the average starting salary of those hired from internships was more than US$86,000, much higher than the US$72,000 average of peers who had not had an internship. The difference was most dramatic for full-time two-year MBA graduates — US$19,000 more  for having participated in an internship, with an average annual starting salary for those with internships at US$94,000 vs. US$75,000 for those without.
  • The 2011 Corporate Recruiters Survey found that employers hiring MBAs in the consulting and high-tech sectors hired 70 percent of their student interns for full-time positions after they graduated.

Why experience matters to employers

The employer survey, conducted in February and March, also found that 41 percent of the employers worldwide planning to hire MBAs wanted graduates with three to four years of experience, and 32 percent wanted MBAs with at least five years of experience. Just 27 percent of the companies planning to hire MBAs sought to hire graduates with less than three years on the job.

Across world regions, a proven ability to perform was the No. 1 trait employers sought in MBA graduates, Sparkman Renz said. “Employers value the skills, knowledge, and abilities that those with graduate-level degrees bring to the job, but they also want to know that they can function well in the work environment,” she added.  “Work experience, whether before the degree or as an internship, gives employers a level of reassurance that graduates can hit the ground running.” 

About the surveys

GMAC’s worldwide Corporate Recruiters and Global Management Education Graduate surveys are conducted annually between mid-February and mid-March. A total of 1,509 employers representing 905 companies in 51 countries responded to the 2011 Corporate Recruiters Survey, which asked about their hiring plans for 2011. The 2011 Global Management Education Graduate Survey included 4,794 members of the class of 2011 at 156 business schools worldwide. Students graduating from MBA, specialized master’s, and executive MBA programs are asked about their job search and employment picture, as well as what they got from their programs.

GMAC’s 2012 Alumni Perspectives Survey was conducted in September and followed up with 4,135 alumni from the classes of 2000 to 2011, including 963 members of the class of 2011. The longitudinal survey asks about career progression and the relevance and value of their degrees over time.

Reports for all three surveys are available free to the public, and interactive data reports are available to participants of the surveys. Two free GMAC Data-to-Go reports, Alumni Job Search Strategies, Class of 2011, and Alumni Career Levels: Job Attributes and Satisfaction, feature data from the Alumni Perspectives Survey not available in the summary report.

Schools that facilitate the Corporate Recruiters and Global Management Education Graduate Survey receive confidential interactive benchmarking reports that allow them to see how they compare to aggregate data from peer schools.



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