There's been a shift in the country's manufacturing industry, and MBAs may benefit from this change.
Business school students who graduated in 2014 were more successful at receiving early job offers in manufacturing, as well as health care, than those going into more traditional industries such as finance or consulting, according a June report from the Graduate Management Admission Council.
"There is a trend to bring some manufacturing jobs back to the United States," says Lawrence Matteson, an executive professor of business administration at the Simon Graduate School of Business at University of Rochester. And industry insiders agree with him.
It's not as cost-efficient as it once was to produce goods in countries such as China, and the U.S.' energy and technology advances have encouraged companies to bring their manufacturing operations to the States, according to a June 2013 article from Inside Supply Chain Management Magazine.
This trend opens the door to more jobs for MBAs interested in managing how products are built and how quickly customers can get them – an area of business that's similar to supply chain management. The career opportunities in manufacturing are numerous, experts say, and a business school background can help with the transition from MBA student to employee.
[Consider using an MBA to work in supply chain management.]
They can also become a sourcing manager like Harshit Purwar, a 2012 MBA graduate from the University at Buffalo. In this role, "you are responsible for the procurement cycle in your company," he says. Purwar chooses vendors, works on contracts and handles other related duties for manufacturing a product.
Although he had some experience in manufacturing before business school, his MBA program certainly enhanced his skills for the industry, he says. Participating in a leadership development program, which covered decision-making and people management, among other topics, as well as taking courses in strategy and data modeling, were especially helpful, Purwar says.
A class in negotiations can also be important for students planning to enter this field, says G. Logan Jordan, associate dean for administration at the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University—West Lafayette. At Purdue, about 35 percent of the full-time MBA students in each class choose the manufacturing and technology management track, he says.
A course in negotiations, Jordan says, can help students learn how to get the best deal for their organization and maintain the relationship with a supplier.
[Find out which MBA programs lead to jobs.]
In some cases, students with a more technical understanding of products – such as those who once studied or worked in engineering – can make a smoother transition into a manufacturing careers, experts say.
"They kind of understand the guts of it," Logan says. Someone with technical knowledge may better grasp how a factory is run, he says.
MBAs who go into manufacturing typically start with a salary that's modest compared with what they could make in something like finance, experts say.
Starting salaries can range between $65,000 and $70,000, says Suresh from University at Buffalo—SUNY, but the salaries "rise up very quickly." Salaries are more likely to jump when MBAs also have manufacturing-related certifications, such as those awarded through APICS, a professional organization for those working in supply chain and operations management. The University at Buffalo's MBA program prepares students to get certified, Suresh says.
Besides the promise of compensation, those familiar with the manufacturing field believe the current industry dynamics can lead to a satisfying career for MBAs.
"It's a great industry," Purwar says. "Manufacturing is the core of an economy."