After Jill Huggett received her MBA from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, her career soared. She landed a job at Fidelity Investments and, after many promotions, became a vice president.
Her last position left her unsettled, though.
"I got moved into a division that did not provide flexibility," says the mom of two. Huggett had to commute an hour each way to work and put in about 45 to 50 hours each week. The pay was great, but for her it couldn't make up for the challenge of balancing a high-powered job with parenting.
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Instead, she broke out on her own and became principal of her business, Bridgepath Career Advisors, in 2011. Being her own boss allowed her to control her schedule and make a salary that's comparable to her Fidelity earnings. Most importantly, it gave her more time to be a mom.
"It's all around my children's schedule," she says.
Finding a career that won't keep MBA graduates tethered to their desks but provides a comfortable salary can be a challenge, experts say.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced in June that people across all fields worked on average 7.7 hours a day in 2012. For MBA graduates, that average inches up to nine hours a day, according to survey results released by the Graduate Management Admission Council in January.
"Work-life balance is definitely a topic we talk about," says Naomi Sanchez, the assistant dean of MBA Career Management at the University of Washington's Foster School of Business.
She estimates that some Foster graduates may end up working as many as 60 hours per week.
An MBA graduate who's working a more-desired 50-hour week in the office may still put in a few hours at home, making the work week harder to measure. In certain fields, such as investment banking, employees are more prone to working around the clock to bring home a large paycheck.
Whether it's finance, entrepreneurship or another popular area of business, there is no discipline that guarantees a 50-hour work week and competitive salary, which ranges from $90,000 to the lower $100,000s for new business school grads. A low salary would be in the $70,000 range, experts say.
"There are four main factors that are going to go into being able to get a job that pays well and yet gives you the work-life balance," says Huggett, who is also a resume consultant for the Harvard Business School alumni network. "Those factors are based on the industry that you're going into, the level of the role you're looking at, geographic location and then also what business school you came out of."
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There are certain jobs that raise the likelihood of graduates finding a balance. Business career specialists recommend three for prospective students, current students and new graduates to consider.
Sales: A job in pharmaceutical sales, mutual fund wholesales or other sales positions may pay handsomely, depending on how much the employee wants to work, Huggett says.
Many sales jobs include a base pay, which can be well under $50,000, and also allow employees to bring home commission.
"The jobs that pay on commission, you have more control over," she says.
With so much flexibility, employees are often responsible for making sure they are regularly selling enough to make their desired income.
"There are people who will shy away from that to get that consistent paycheck," Huggett says. "It's a big risk, and that's why the reward is higher."
To secure a sales job, business school students should try to develop expertise in a certain subject and take classes in sales and marketing, Huggett suggests.
Consulting: There are two kinds of consultants, says Edward Shugrue, director of corporate relations at the Mason School of Business at The College of William and Mary. Some are in the public sector and often work for the federal government, while others work in the commercial sector.
"The commercial side would be paid more. The revenue that they generate for a company is more," he says. Both types of consulting jobs can still provide a desirable lifestyle.
"I see them making clearly in the mid-80s to the upper 90s," Huggett says.
Consultants typically work eight-hour days, except when there's a client's project on the line that requires 10. They often spend days working from their client's site, however, and may not get a chance to catch up on email from their employer until after business hours.
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The key to forging a strong career in consulting is taking on pro-bono consulting jobs while in business school, interning as a consultant and narrowing your focus of interest, Huggett says.
"Really you just need to develop an expertise," she says. That expertise could be in finance, marketing or another core area.
Marketing: A career in marketing can easily provide graduates with a manageable work day and a good salary, Shugrue says.
An employee may work for eight or nine hours a day, and even longer during critical times. The relatively lighter workload can come with an $80,000-$90,000 salary, depending on a graduate's work experience, he says.
Focusing on market research or marketing strategy classes while in business school could lead to these jobs, Huggett says.
Experts agree that salary and hours aren't the only things students should weigh as they plan their careers. If a graduate takes a job at a global finance company, work during a 50-hour or more week may require 3 a.m. phone calls with clients abroad.
"You're going to be communicating with people around the world," Shugrue says.
There are also benefits, office culture and other nuances to consider. B-school graduates are urged to research the roles or companies they want to work for before making a decision.
"Pick something that you're going to enjoy," Huggett says. "Even if it pays well and has flexibility, if you don't like it, you're not going to last very long."
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