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M.B.A.'s Are Hot Once More

Graduates are finding new opportunities in tech firms and abroad.

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A survey of employers by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) in late 2011 suggests that M.B.A. prospects are looking up: 28 percent more companies plan to hire in 2012 than added business school grads in 2011. There is also good news on the salary front; about a third of companies expect to raise starting pay.

"This is the first time since we've started this poll that the majority of companies intend to hire at all levels across the board," says Alex Chisholm, GMAC senior manager for statistical analysis. "That's a great sign."

Measured by absolute numbers, U.S. jobs for new M.B.A.'s are most plentiful in perennials such as consulting and finance, but these fields are not setting the pace in growth. Technology, for example, was up 54 percent in 2011, according to QS Quacquarelli Symonds, a higher education research firm, which produced the TopMBA.com Jobs and Salary Trends Report 2011/12.

Some students are taking advantage of the expanding opportunities to reconsider their career options. Dev Sathe, 28, entered the Haas School of Business at the University of California–Berkeley planning to switch to technology after spending the past two and a half years as a private equity analyst.

"I wanted to build something or be part of something being built, and the investing and finance world does not provide that," he says. After graduating in May, he will start work at Google.

[See what's new in U.S. News's Best Business Schools rankings.]

In fact, the tech sector has upped its hiring of M.B.A.'s because these companies "obviously need good, smart financial bean counters, not just the banks," says Matt Symonds, chief editor at MBA50.com, a guide to the top business schools.

Nicola Kamath, a student at Columbia Business School who considered a job offer from Amazon but is now targeting start-ups in her job search, says that while Columbia sends many of its M.B.A.'s to Wall Street, it also takes students on a Tech Trek to Silicon Valley each year to introduce them to opportunities in technology as well as venture capital, healthcare, energy, and other sectors.

[Learn more about jobs for M.B.A. graduates.]

At the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the student-led High Tech Group has seen its membership grow from 120 members to more than 200 in just one year, says Nima Merchant, associate director of employer relations.

International firms are also calling on U.S. campuses, seeking talent to help them diversify into emerging markets such as China. "There's been a major increase in the number of companies hiring M.B.A.'s around the world," says Nunzio Quacquarelli, QS's managing director. Consulting and technology sectors particularly are doing a lot of the hiring, he says.

To meet the demand, schools are adapting their offerings. Berkeley, for example, has expanded its international business development program to help students get global experience. "In spring 2012, 54 percent of the first-year class" will do field work at organizations overseas, says Kristi Raube, executive director of the program.

In general, people entering b-school now will find professional paths "much more abundant" than even 10 years ago, says Roxanne Hori, associate dean for corporate partnerships and career management at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. For graduates, the future has certainly brightened.

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