MBA in Job-Hunting?

Helping new M.B.A.s find jobs upon graduation has now become a central task of the modern business school... but

While having an M.B.A. used to be a sure way to move up in the business world, helping new M.B.A.s find jobs upon graduation has now become a central task of the modern business school. Wake Forest University has taken this responsibility to heart, and administrators there have taken extra steps to ensure career success -- practically making getting a job a course requirement.

The school's dean, Steve Reinemund, has made improving job placement rates for all students, but particularly full-time M.B.A. students, a top priority. He has hired an army of career counselors, integrated "career management" into the curriculum, and aggressively sought out mentors to work with students. And that effort has paid off for graduates, with the school's job placement rate - measured by the number of students employed within three months of graduation - jumping from about 77 percent to about 92 percent in three years. That jump comes at a time when many business schools, particularly those that, like Wake Forest, aren't at the very top of the list for employers or students, have struggled with job placement rates.

For comparison, a recent survey by the Graduate Management Admissions Council found that 54 percent of full-time M.B.A. students in the U.S. had job offers at graduation in 2011, up from only 40 percent the year before.

The decision to focus on ensuring that students find jobs has paid dividends for the school, which is making headlines, moving up in rankings, and seeing a stronger applicant pool. But it also raises questions about how central a role career services should play in a business education, particularly at a time when some critics say business schools lack a philosophical direction.

Wake Forest's push is one example of how business schools, much more so than other professional schools such as law, focus on the employment of their graduates. In recent years there has been a significant push in business schools to focus on career services and a professionalization of such offices, said Rakesh Khurana, a professor at Harvard Business School who has studied the development and social role of business schools and M.B.A. programs...

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