One key benefit of an MBA that isn’t always advertised in brochures

As the Assistant Dean of Daytime Career Services at Duke Fuqua School of Business, Ed Bernier gives MBA grads the tools they need to launch a successful career. We spoke with him to learn about the track record of the Duke careers team, the most in-demand MBA industries right now, and the biggest benefit of an MBA from Duke.

In short

The Duke careers team and their track record

What are the benefits of an MBA? 

Many are well-known. MBA graduates get a good grounding in the business fundamentals, experience working with reputable companies, and an expanded network of contacts. However, there is one key benefit that isn’t always advertised in MBA brochures.

Coming to Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business opens up opportunities for all of its students through the Duke brand reputation. Ed’s job is to ultimately prepare students to land and succeed in these opportunities.

“My team focuses on the 900 full-time students we have across the two-year program,” he explains. “We have a big team of around 12 coaches that focus on those 900 students to help them figure out what they want to do next and how they get there – and once they get some of those offers, how they can get the most out of the process. We want to maximize what those offers look like.” (00:09)

Given the costs involved with an average MBA, Ed admits it’s difficult to look past the financial benefits of an MBA as well. Duke Fuqua graduates receive some of the highest post-MBA salaries of any program in the world.

“From a base salary perspective, on average our Class of 2021 made a little more than $140,000,” he tells us. “On top of that, there was an average signing bonus of about $35,000. Add in relocation costs and some form of a target annual bonus, and for the total first-year compensation for a graduating MBA student, you’re talking close to $200,000.” (01:19)

Why Duke graduates top salary rankings

What’s the secret to Duke’s success? According to Ed, it’s that magic word again: opportunity. Duke graduates don’t have a higher average salary simply because they’re Duke graduates. Ed believes they thrive after graduating because they’re given access to opportunities that wouldn’t be available to them otherwise.

“It’s more of an indicator of the access to opportunities that Duke students have, as well as historical choices by students,” he explains. “Many of our Duke students have access to specific roles and responsibilities. That’s a very select group of companies that paid a lot of money, so they have access to it.” (05:06)

Although Duke MBA graduates fare well when it comes to average salary, Ed cautions that you should always take these rankings with a pinch of salt. There are a number of reasons why some schools rank higher than others – one being the industries that MBA graduates tend to favor.

“Maybe not every student is choosing to pursue the job that’s paying the most money. Maybe you have some schools where some students are more interested in going to these high-paying financial services roles, while at other schools, students are less interested in doing that. So, that’s always something to consider when students are looking at those rankings,” says Ed. (05:56)

The industry that’s finally starting to recruit MBA graduates

Ed mentioned the financial services sector, but perhaps the industry most associated with an MBA is consulting. It’s an association based on merit. According to a GMAC report, 95% of consulting firms planned to hire MBA graduates in 2021. Why are consulting firms always recruiting MBA grads?

“It’s a hot industry, and it’s hot for two reasons,” says Ed. “One, they need people. The other one that people don’t talk about so much is that they lose people. It’s a high burn industry. So, when you have an industry that’s constantly turning through folks, they’re going to constantly need to bring more folks in.” (09:13)

Financial services and consulting may be the traditional MBA sectors, but things are changing. Ed says he has seen a noticeable difference in the recruiting habits of one specific industry when it comes to MBA graduates.

“It may sound obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. Tech has been growing like crazy globally, for a lot of different reasons,” he reveals. “This is the place where you see some really fun, sexy growth that historically – and I’m talking more like 10/15 years ago – was not necessarily so open for MBA talent. But now, they’re hiring a whole bunch of MBAs.” (09:53)

Why international MBA students in the USA get the same opportunities as domestic students

The target industries of MBA graduates aren’t the only thing that’s changing. Since COVID, Ed has seen a small but noticeable increase in the percentage of Duke graduates that accept a job offer within the United States – rather than moving abroad. That number, of course, includes international students. It begs the question: can international students land a job in the USA after they graduate?

“Easy: Yes. It’s been happening every year. And it’s been actually happening at a higher rate for the past couple of years than it has for the last 10 years before,” Ed says. (12:25)

Being an international student certainly doesn’t limit your job opportunities in the USA post-graduation. According to Ed, your skills, knowledge, and experience are far more important than the country you come from.

“The limitation tends to be less about [the] visa that you’re holding, and more about how you can communicate that you’re going to be great for that company,” he states. “That’s the same thing I say to somebody who’s from Ohio, versus somebody who’s from Asia. It’s the same thing for me.” (13:32)

It can sometimes be difficult to truly understand the benefits of an MBA. They do provide you with business skills and international experience – but then again, the same could be said for hundreds of other business degrees. More than anything, an MBA provides you with opportunities: job opportunities, networking opportunities, travel opportunities. It opens doors for your career that other programs simply can’t. That’s why these opportunities are the biggest benefit of an MBA.

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