Delivering STAR in an American Context

Guidance for every step of the MBA admissions process!

Culture dictates the way we approach everything, even the STAR format of interviewing

This is a guest post by Grayson Leverenz of MBA in the USA.

It was late in the spring, and the international student sitting across from me was nervous because she didn’t have an internship yet. She had solid skills, a flawless resume, and she prepared for her interviews. What was the problem?

We started her session with a behavioral question. I asked, “Tell me about a time when you worked on a virtual team project.” She launched into her answer using the MBA STAR framework: Situation, Task, Action, Result.

About two minutes later, I recognized the issue. The student was still explaining the Situation.

Americans communicate directly. We value clear, concise messages, and don’t require a lot of background (or context) before the main point.

This student was from a highly indirect culture. She was taught the value of nuances in word choice, tone, and non-verbals. Her culture also required significant background in communicating messages. The Situation and Task were important to her because they provided the context.

I explained the cultural dimension of Communication to her, and gave details about the range from direct to indirect. “Americans prefer a direct communication style and are highly results-oriented. What that means for STAR is that you spend very little time, no more than 45 seconds, on the Situation and Task. You focus the majority of your answer on the Action and Results.”

Her eyes brightened. She understood. We practiced again, and she integrated the new information perfectly. The student ended the season with multiple internship offers, and used her new cultural communication skills to succeed on the job.

Culture dictates the way we approach everything, even the STAR format of interviewing. As you’re preparing to be Accepted, communicate with the receiver in mind, both in interviewing and in writing.

Advice for demonstrating leadership in you application essays.

Grayson Leverenz founded MBA in the USA® to help international students build networks, find jobs, and have fun in the USA. Hundreds of global professionals have benefited from Grayson’s intercultural workshops, and she has worked with people from Brazil, China, India, South Africa, South Korea, the UK, and the USA to build effective virtual teams and craft brilliant careers.

Positive Employment Feedback from B-School Class of 2013

For essay tips for top b-school applications, check out our free special report!

90% of 2013 graduates were employed by September

In September, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) polled graduates in the b-school class of 2013 and found overall success when it came to finding jobs and valuing their degrees. Here are some highlights from the Global Management Education Graduate Survey:

• 90% of 2013 graduates were employed by September. By world region, U.S. respondents fared the best with 95% employment; this is followed by 92% of Latin Americans, 87% of Indians, 85% of Asia-Pacific citizens, and 82% of Europeans. 92% of full-time, two-year MBA alumni were working at the time of the alumni poll – the highest level since the class of ’09.

• In 2009, only 84% of respondents were employed by the September following their graduation; in 2012, that figure was at 92% (slightly higher than this year).

• 74% of those queried said that they would not have gotten their jobs without their business degree.

• 15% of class of 2013 grads entered the technology sector, compared to 12% in 2009.

• 5% of 2013 alumni reported that they were entrepreneurs or self-employed.

• An eye-popping 96% of 2013 grads declared that the value of their business degree was “outstanding, excellent or good.” This is comparable to past years.

• Median full-time salary for two-year b-school grads (U.S. citizens) in 2013 was $90,000 with additional compensation/bonus of $10,000; for Indian citizens in this category, the starting salary was $34,988.

• For citizens of European countries who graduated from full-time one-year programs, the median starting salary was $101,093.

• Median part-time salaries for U.S. citizens came in at $85,000.

See the GMAC press release, “Nine Out of 10 Class of 2013 Business School Alumni Employed, Poll Finds,” for more info.

Takeaways

The #1 lesson from this data (and the Forbes ROI ranking) is that reports of the MBA’s demise are greatly exaggerated. There are very few initiatives, educations, or projects in life that get the kind of approval ratings and can report the kind of results that GMAC is reporting here. Now is it possible that the 915 responses are somehow positively biased? Yes, but GMAC had a healthy 19% response rate and sent questionnaires to graduates of 129 business schools including the 10% that report they are not yet employed.

For the first time, GMAC also studied entrepreneurs (5% of the class) and asked about their plans. However, the interesting entrepreneurial data from my perspective was the entrepreneur’s view of the MBA. 87% reported that “their education provided them with the essential knowledge, skills, and abilities to develop their business.” Given the small sample size (approximately 46 MBA entrepreneurs), I’m not sure this is quite as compelling as the other data, but it does give an indication that MBAs find their education valuable in an entrepreneurial setting.

Is the MBA a great investment for everyone? No. Poets & Quants recently ran an article on a new book, The MBA Bubble by Mariana Zanetti [Disclaimer: I have not read the book]. According to P&Q and the comments Zanetti posted on P&Q, she acknowledges she went to business school for the wrong reasons and now she has written a book claiming that the MBA is not worth the money and time it requires.

For some people and some business schools, she’s right. For others, she’s wrong. It’s up to you the applicants to make sure that you apply to programs that will help you achieve your professional goals with a strong likelihood of positive ROI. If you do, chances are high that you will graduate into the happy 90% of employed and the 96% of satisfied b-school grads.








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How to Optimise a LinkedIn Profile in Anticipation of a Job Search

Actively Add Contacts

Actively add contacts.

LinkedIn, although one of the oldest social networking sites, is probably the most important when it comes to looking and applying for jobs. Your profile on LinkedIn is your chance to really sell yourself on the professional market and get the best opportunities available to you. With over 200 million members from 200 different countries it is important that you make your profile stand out from the mediocre. Here are just a few tips that will help you spice up your profile, get it read and make you look even more attractive to prospective employers.

Keywords: Since there are so many profiles on LinkedIn, employers have to search through them automatically. One of the main ways that they find profiles that they wish to look at in detail is through a basic keyword search. All you need to do is make sure that your profile contains as many relevant keywords to your line of business as possible. But it is not enough to just put these keywords anywhere on your profile and hope for the best. Research has shown that a matching keyword in your headline, company name, job title and skills will rank you higher on the search results. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t include keywords elsewhere. By including them in your job experience section you can push your profile even higher up the list automatically, as well as appealing to employers when they read your profile manually.

SEO: Not only do the keywords need to be included once, but many of the LinkedIn searches operate using Search Engine Optimization. In order for your profile to be the one that comes up first, you need to have the keywords repeated throughout the whole of your profile. Don’t just put them in at random, though, it still needs to read coherently as at some point it will be seen by human eyes.

Don’t Limit Yourself: Just because you are working as a Marketing Manager at the moment doesn’t mean that is all you are qualified to do. When writing down your job title you can use far more words than perhaps you would think to. Include all the jobs you have had as well as all the ones you would like to have, separated by a forward slash. For example, Marketing Manager/Social Media Manager/Marketing Executive/Content Advisor. This gives you more keyword matches every time and will help you to appeal to more employers searching on LinkedIn.

Add References: Include references and recommendations from previous employers. Ask previous employers to write you a blanket reference, just a few sentences will do, and these will help verify what you are saying about yourself.

Keep Your Profile up to Date: It will only take a few seconds to add a new qualification or achievement to your profile, but if you let them all build up, then you will have a mammoth task on your hands trying to update the whole thing all at once. Another reason to keep your LinkedIn profile up to date is that the more you update your profile, the more you will show up on news feeds etc. You will seem more like an active member of the LinkedIn community and your profile will therefore be more attractive to prospective employers.

Contacts: Actively add contacts and accept all of the requests you receive. The more people who get to see your profile, the more chances you have of somebody wanting to offer you an opportunity. Adding contacts will increase your level of activity on LinkedIn too, making you show up on news feeds more often.

Attention to Detail: You should treat your LinkedIn profile just like your resume. You don’t want people to think that you can’t type or spell. Make sure that you proofread everything that you put up.

Personalize Your Profile: Change all the names of the links on your profile to be specific to you. Instead of having the section labeled ‘My Company’, change the settings so that the actual name of your company appears. This will look far more professional, and it will look like you have spent much more time on creating your profile.










how_2_becomeThis article was contributed by How2Become, a leading career website run by Richard McMunn. McMunn’s aim is to guide as many people as possible through the recruitment process to help them secure the job they have always wanted.  The site offers a wide range of books and training courses for those who want to ensure they are fully prepared. You can also connect with How2Become on YouTube.

Against the Odds: Indian MBA Applicants – Prepare for Your Job Hunt Now

Prepare for Your Interviews

Be Prepared for Your Interviews.

So what if you make it? You get into your dream MBA program. Next you’re expecting to land your dream job upon graduation—in the US. It might not be that simple if you’re an Indian national.

According to a recent Bloomberg article, only two out of the top MBA programs responded to a survey about international student job placement rates: Chicago Booth—95.2 percent, and Stanford—91 percent. Those are pretty good stats, but they do not differentiate between placement inside the U.S., or whether those jobs were elsewhere.

Across the board, new MBAs hit a rough patch in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, especially foreign nationals. Some US investment banks and other companies stopped hiring foreigners and even rescinded offers.

Hiring practices have recovered since those dark days, but stats are still hard to find. Some sectors, though, didn’t change their recruiting – like tech firms who value strong analytical and engineering skills, say admissions officials. They offer jobs to many Indian nationals and have been consistently hiring.

But there are key issues that Indian nationals should be aware of as they contemplate the end game in their MBA experience – the job offer.

Visas

One obstacle that can stand in the way of international MBA students seeking placement in the US is obtaining a work visa, according to Bloomberg:

International students have F-1 visa status, which means they are non- immigrant students in the eyes of the law. They can all stay in the U.S. to work for 12 months after graduation without an additional visa; those with pre-MBA backgrounds in science, technology, or engineering can stay for 24 months. After that, international grads must get an H-1B visa, which requires employer sponsorship.

Most top MBA programs have already thoroughly vetted the companies that recruit on their campuses. They know which firms are willing to hire foreign nationals and sponsor their visas, or not. For each position you consider, be prepared to show how your specific skill set is vital to that job description—an essential part of the visa process. Do that research now so that you know in advance if your goal career is attainable.

Stay Informed

Take at close look at your chosen industry. Careers in tech, consulting and supply-chain management are globally oriented and employers are seeking international candidates to expand their reach. Marketing, however, is increasingly hyper-local. With your cultural knowledge, you may be better served to look for placement, even an MBA, domestically in India. Several MBA programs are sending out summer reading packets about US business upon acceptance. Delve into these materials so you have a clear picture of what’s ahead.

Be Flexible

Associate Dean of Admissions at Emory Goizueta Julie Barefoot says she would give the same advice to Indian nationals as she would to any student on the job hunt: “Be flexible. There’s more than one desired path, and you might have to take an interim step.”

That could mean working for your choice employer back in India, or elsewhere outside the United States. Some companies now offer a training year in the US before sending MBAs back to their home country. They’re aware of the US salary differential, and may offer a bonus or commensurate salary to make it worth your while, according to Bloomberg.

Be Prepared

To properly prepare for your job search, Kellogg’s Director of International Coaching and Global Relations Carla Edelston says the first step is to be self-aware – of your strengths, your preferences, and weaknesses you need to improve.

She advises foreign nationals to take advantage of the resources they are already paying for as part of their MBA experience to successfully land a post-MBA position. Kellogg offers access to the Career Leader, a psychological assessment tool designed by two Harvard faculty members, to help students identify a career match. Job hunters are then advised to conduct a market-assessment, and network with fellow students who are some of the best resources for leads and connections.

Finally, job seekers need to prepare themselves for interviews – how to convey what Edelston calls, “an executive presence,” the ability “to speak with a firm tone, with confidence.” Career offices offer many opportunities to work on your interview skills and MBA officials strongly recommend that you internalize their feedback, and willingly adjust your style.

Here are some common issues Indian nationals can run into during the interview process for US companies:

- Fixation on touting credentials over answering the question. Interviewers want to know they are being heard. Avoid weaving in your academic record or list of awards in responses. They can gather this information from your resume. Recruiters want direct answers.

- Identify pronunciation problems. Candidates from many English-speaking countries, not just India, can be difficult to understand to a foreign recruiter. Get some honest feedback from a US-based friend or coach and work on your phrasing or vocabulary. This is important across the board, but especially important for communications-heavy positions like consulting.

- Overly long resumes. One page. Just one page. That is the only format acceptable in US business practice.

Again, take the time now to research how best to target your industry, and start working on your “executive presence.”

An MBA is just a piece of paper – you need to embody the title.

Get the rest of the series: Download Against the Odds: MBA Admissions for Indian Applicants now!







Michelle Stockman is a professional journalist, former Columbia Business School admissions insider, and experienced MBA admissions consultant.

Introducing GMAC’s New Reflect Self-Assessment Tool

Reflect Self-Assessment Tool

“Reflect.”

GMAC has just launched a self-assessment and development tool called Reflect™. The online program will help MBA applicants and MBA graduates discover and strengthen their professional and personal strengths, measure soft skills, identify and improve weaknesses, and create an action plan to help boost job performance. The tool will help put incoming students on the right path to find and then advance in their ideal careers.

John Byrne from Poets & Quants offers a thorough review of Reflect. He explains how the assessment works – 574 questions, some of them “rather silly or frivolous” (you can see his examples on his post), to be completed and then analyzed by the program. The user than receives grades in 10 different competencies. Bryne likens Reflect to the Myers-Briggs test, but instead of focusing on psychological preferences focuses on soft skills solutions. Applicants can use the tool to showcase their leadership qualities to graduate school adcoms, while graduates can gain a new way to present themselves to corporate recruiters.

One benefit of Reflect (compared to other assessment programs) is that the tool can be used effectively without a coach or facilitator – all you need is a computer.

Once you receive your scores, you’ll also gain access to 200 learning resources to help you develop a customized work plan, 300 tips, and guidance on career benchmarking in various job functions.

The Reflect tool costs $99.99.

See GMAC’s Reflect™ Self-Assessment and Development Tool for more details.





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Job Opportunities Increase for B-School Students

MBA Jobs

“Things are looking good!”

We recently posted an article on the current job market for 2012 business degree holders (see “Job Market Looking Good for Class of 2012 Business Grads”). Now we’ll offer some related information from a Poets & Quants article on a report released by the MBA Career Services Council on February 4th. Here are some highlights from the P&Q post:

  • In 2012, 45% of b-schools reported a boost in on-campus activity for full-time jobs. (That’s following a 70% increase in 2011.)
  • Last year, 58% of programs reported an increase in full-time job postings (on top of a 68% increase the year before).
  • 45% of schools also reported an increase in on-campus recruiting (the same as last year), compared to 15% that experienced an on-campus recruiting decrease.
  • For schools ranked in the top 20, 47% of programs reported an increase in on-campus, full-time opportunities; 13% reported a decline.
  • Among those schools ranked from 21st to 50th place, 40% reported increases and 20% reported decreases.
  • 60% of b-schools ranked 51st to 100th reported increases while 15% reported a decrease.
  • 30% of schools reported job increases in the following industries: consulting, consumer products, energy, financial services, healthcare products/pharmaceuticals/biotech, real estate, and technology.
  • 50% of b-schools reported an increase in on-campus internship recruiting.
  • 53% saw increases in internship job postings.
  • For internships, the industries with the largest increases were the technology and consulting industries.

Notice that a school’s ranking bears little to no bearing on its increases in job offers.

Things are looking good!

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Job Market Looking Good for Class of 2012 Business Grads

According to a recent GMAC press release, the job market is strong for 2012 business and management graduates. The report states that 92% of grads surveyed were employed within three months of graduating; in 2011, that percentage was 86%. GMAC surveyed 834 members of the class of 2012 among the 4,444 MBA and graduate business alumni who participated in the survey.

Here are some more highlights from the press release:

  • 77% of class of 2012 grads said that their starting salaries met or exceeded their expectations.
  • 76% of grads said they wouldn’t have been able to secure their jobs without their management/business degree.
  • Median salary for full-time two-year MBA grads was $85,000 last year; for full-time one-year MBA grads, that number was considerably less at $59,000.
  • Self-employment rates ranged depending on where grads operated their businesses. In the Middle East and Africa, that rate was at 20%, while in the U.S. it hit only 5%. Self-employment rates in Latin America were 13%, in Europe 11%, and 6% in Asia/Pacific Islands.
  • 95% of alumni value their business/management education as good to outstanding.

GMAC Alumni SurveyThe GMAC Alumni Survey certainly provides encouragement to those seeking a graduate management degree because of the incredibly high degree of alumni satisfaction combined with improving employment rates, but one should also note that there are other factors that improve salaries upon graduation:

  1. 2012 grads with at least three years of work experience at matriculation earned $25,000 more on average at graduation than those with less experience.
  2. Alumni who had an internship during their program saw an average $21,995 increase in salary at graduation compared to those who didn’t have an internship.

Take-aways for MBA Applicants from the GMAC Alumni Survey

  1. Reports of the MBA’s near-term demise are overblown. That doesn’t mean that inexorably rising tuition and fairly flat salaries will have no impact. If these trends continue, they definitely will. In fact, they are probably pushing the schools to experiment more with accelerated programs, as Kellogg is doing, and to offer more specialized, one-year masters degrees, as many programs are doing. However, in the short-term the threat to the traditional two-year, full-time MBA comes from alternatives not from lack of satisfaction with the degree or poor employment prospects.
  2. Early career applicants are going to find increasing difficulty making a case for themselves when applying. Employment is a big driver of admissions decisions. And average salaries are a major factor in school reputation and several rankings. If less experienced applicants don’t command similar salaries, two-year programs are going to prefer more experienced applicants.
  3. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You need to arrive on campus with a clear idea of what you want from your MBA. Then you’ll know which internships to aim for. Internship recruiting starts within weeks of schools opening, and you want to be ready. Landing a great internship can put you ahead when you seek your full-time job and pay off big time as you can see from #2 above. If you flounder due to lack of focus and direction, you reduce the likelihood of getting an internship at all, which can shrink the value of your entire MBA experience. Let your MBA goals guide you.

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

 

The Importance of Being Employable

Good Goals

“Start with the end in mind.”

Being “employable” won’t just earn you a good job, but may also help you secure a seat in a top business school. A recent Wall Street Journal article talks about the increased emphasis b-school admissions boards are placing on job placement. In an uncertain job market, schools want to show that they can place their students in prime positions; the best way to do this, of course, is to admit highly employable applicants.

Admissions boards are inviting career services staff to weigh in on admissions decisions. In addition to matching up potential students with industry needs, career services representatives are also evaluating leadership potential and interview capabilities. In a way, by having the career services staff on the admissions board, adcoms learn to evaluate applicants as corporate recruiters might – they look for applicants who will have “the same traits a hiring manager might, such as the ability to assess a problem and self-edit their remarks.” Additionally, this “integrated” admissions approach helps the students set out on a clear career path early on in the game.

Analysis

I’ve said it for years, and it is the premise of my book, MBA Admission for Smarties: Realistic, attainable professional goals are a must when you apply to business school. You need them to guide you in choosing schools and to show “fit.” You need them to hit the ground running and to dodge the flood of activities and internship recruiting when you arrive on campus.  And not surprisingly, you need them more and more simply to get in, just like the GMAT (or GRE) and an undergraduate transcript.

Too many applicants try to shoe-horn or manufacture a goal based on what they imagine the schools will want to hear. That’s backwards. Figure out first what you want to do post-MBA. Then research the schools that will help you do it.

Good goals are the foundation of employability, but there clearly is much more to it than one’s aspirations, as the article points out. EQ, leadership, communication, and a host of personal qualities are also critical to employability. Make sure you show them not only in your essays, but in all interactions with school representatives.

Obviously an appropriate goal and even employability are not sufficient to guarantee acceptance; you also need to be competitive. But by starting with the end in mind and showing that you, with your professional experience, academic credentials and personal qualities PLUS the MBA experience at Top Choice U are employable, you are enhancing your chances of acceptance and of that plum position upon graduation.

Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.





2012 Employer Rankings of Global B-Schools

Global B-Schools

Global B-Schools

QS World MBA Tour recently compiled a report on the world’s top 200 business schools according to employers. The findings are based on a survey of over 3,300 international recruiters for full-time MBA graduates. Employers that focus on domestic hiring only were not included. Employers were asked to identify those schools (out of a list of 500 global business schools) that they found attractive in regards to MBA hiring.

Employers chosen were spread across 20 major industries, with consulting and professional services representing the largest sector. This is followed by banking and financial services and then HR/recruitment services. Other industries include manufacturing FMCG, IT, and energy. (You can view the chart on page 18 of the report for more details. Please note that it is not clear what the minimum number of hires a recruiter had to have to be included in the report)

In terms of geographical distribution of the employers, the breakdown goes as follows:

  • Latin America 33%
  • Asia Pacific 29%
  • Western Europe 20%
  • Africa & Middle East 6%
  • Eastern Europe 6%
  • US & Canada 6%

The report categorizes the ranking in various ways, so we’ll present here a sampling. See the full report for the full rankings.

Elite Global 2012: North America (2011 rankings are in parentheses)

  1. Harvard Business School (1)
  2. Northwestern Kellogg (3)
  3. Stanford Graduate School of Business (2)
  4. Wharton (4)
  5. Columbia Business School (5)
  6. Chicago Booth (6)
  7. MIT Sloan (7)
  8. UC Berkeley Haas (8)
  9. UCLA Anderson (9)
  10. Duke Fuqua (10)

Elite Global 2012: Europe (2011 rankings are in parentheses)

  1. INSEAD – France (1)
  2. London Business School – UK (2)
  3. IMD – Switzerland (8)
  4. IE Business School – Spain (5)
  5. IESE Business School – Spain (4)
  6. Oxford Saïd – UK (3)
  7. SDA Bocconi School of Management – Italy (6)
  8. HEC MBA Program – France (9)
  9. ESADE Business School – Spain (7)
  10. The St. Gallen MBA – Switzerland (18)

Specializations: Finance

  1. Wharton (1)
  2. Chicago Booth (2)
  3. London Business School (3)
  4. Harvard Business School (5)
  5. NYU Stern (4)
  6. Columbia (6)
  7. INSEAD – France (7)
  8. IE Business School (8)
  9. Stanford GSB (9)
  10. Northwestern Kellogg (10)

Specializations: Entrepreneurship

  1. Harvard (1)
  2. Stanford (2)
  3. Wharton (3)
  4. IE Business School (5)
  5. INSEAD – France (4)
  6. MIT Sloan (7)
  7. Babson College (6)
  8. London Business School (8)
  9. Northwester Kellogg (9)
  10. Columbia (11)

Specializations: Corporate Social Responsibility

  1. Harvard Business School (1)
  2. Stanford GSB (2)
  3. INSEAD – France (3)
  4. Wharton (4)
  5. IE Business School (11)
  6. Columbia (8)
  7. Dartmouth Tuck (5)
  8. London Business School (15)
  9. Northwestern Kellogg (7)
  10. Michigan Ross (9)

Other specializations include Innovation, Information Management, International Management, Leadership, Marketing, Operations Management, and Strategy.




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Grad Degrees that Lead to Jobs

Where are the headlines? Where are the screaming press releases? The talking heads proclaiming opportunity?

Right here folks:

One-Year Graduate Programs See Sharp Rise in Recruiter Interest

One-year specialized masters programs in business have seen a 30+% increase in recruiter interest per GMAC‘s 2012 Year-end Poll of Employers. At a time when recruiter interest in people with a bachelor’s degree has actually declined slightly, specialized business masters programs are increasingly viable and appealing options for college graduates according to a survey of 200+ employers conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Percentage Increase in Recruiters Hiring -- Specialized Masters

Who are these programs for?

Perhaps someone like you, if you:

  • Are currently a hard science major, but not too keen on spending your working life chained to a lab bench. And you find that business intrigues you.
  • Studied communications, but are less than thrilled with a starting average salary of $42,286*, and are attracted to commerce as well as communications.
  • Thought you would like to be a doctor, but organic chemistry and molecular genetics zapped your GPA while the world of medical devices has captured your imagination and passion.
  • Studied political science because you liked it and had some vague notion of becoming a lawyer, but the current legal job market necessitates a Plan B.

And What About ROI?

It’s great that recruiters are looking to hire more of these degree-holders, but is the education worth the cost? That depends. Let’s take a look at a few salary figures for college grads in specific fields:

Bachelors Average Salaries

Let’s also examine a few specialized masters programs and average salaries for those grads:

Specialized Masters Salaries

Obviously, there is variability here, and the specifics matter. You as an individual need to weigh your tuition and opportunity cost (the earnings you lose by not working for a year) against the anticipated increase in earnings associated with your particular specialized masters. You should also consider the value of pursuing a career you enjoy.

If the average cost of tuition is $50K and the opportunity cost is let’s say $45K, then your educational investment is $95K.  Let’s examine the anticipated return: If your earnings are increased by $20,000 per year as a result of your degree, you recoup your investment in roughly five years. (Yes I know I have not calculated the future value of money, non-financial benefits, the multiplier impact of salary increases starting at a higher base, and the impact of bonuses, but I’m trying to keep this simple.)

Curious about the recruiting experience of one leading specialized masters program, I spoke to Sheryle Dirks, Associate Dean for Career Management at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. I asked to what she attributed the increased recruiter interested in these one-year degrees and specifically in Fuqua’s MMS holders.

She attributed it to two main factors:

  1. Recognition of these degrees and their value to employers is increasing as grads make their impact in the workplace. She proudly said Fuqua’s MMS program gets a lot of “repeat business” from recruiters.
  2. Business continues to evolve and remains a “complex animal.” Companies, frequently the same ones that hire MBAs, are seeing benefit in hiring for their entry level positions people with a bachelors in a field other than business supplemented by rigorous business analytical skills and a strategic framework.

Take-aways:

  1. Yes Virginia, you can pursue non-business interests in college and study business later. The combination can be powerful in the marketplace.
  2. If you are a college senior looking for a job and concerned that you won’t find one, consider applying to specialized masters programs while seeking that career-propelling position. And if you don’t get the job of your dreams, attending a top specialized masters program may be better for your career than flipping burgers or doing data entry.
  3. If you are already in the work force, realize that hiring for MBAs and a variety of specialized masters programs that cater to more experienced students is also up. The percentage increase is smaller, but existing demand was much greater.

Let your goals guide you. Do your cost-benefit analysis. And then pursue an education likely to lead to a satisfying career AND to provide a return on the investment you made to acquire it.

* From NACE 2012 Salary Survey

This article first appeared on Technorati.

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Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

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