awaits MBA graduates
say MBAs are still important in the business world, but
experience has become almost as important.
The lingering economic recession has affected all parts
of the economy and the job market has taken an especially
And experts say those with graduate degrees have not been
For years, business students have believed that an MBA
would ensure them of an easy job hunt and a prosperous
salary. But today, the reality is that more is required
of a student than a degree.
Bob Greer, associate dean for graduate programs and research
at the Neeley School of Business, says he is not worried
because he believes the job market will improve when the
In the meantime, he thinks the Neeley School has done
a good job of adapting to the changing conditions. He
said 85 percent of TCU MBA graduates received job offers
within 90 days of graduation.
It is difficult to isolate MBA degrees in the figures
dealing with unemployment.
But in December 2000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported
that the unemployment rate for people with bachelors,
masters, professional and doctorate degrees was at 1.5
percent, the lowest of the decade.
Since then, the rate has risen slowly, and has been hovering
around 3 percent since the third quarter of 2001.
While this number is low compared to the national unemployment
rate, it still means there were 1.169 million people with
college degrees unemployed in February 2004.
Bud Weinstein, director of the institute of applied economics
at the University of North Texas, said these numbers are
small compared to the national unemployment rate of 5.6
Those numbers would only be alarming to me if I
was a college graduate without a job, Weinstein
Part of the issue is that in a market with more applicants
than jobs, employers can be more selective of whom they
The tightening economy is making businesses more selective,
In a slow economy and a tight job market, businesses
can afford to be more choosy, Weinstein said.
Carol Nichols, division director of the Fort Worth Office
of Robert Half Finance & Accounting, said a decrease
in the number of job offers for graduate students could
be explained by the cyclical nature of the job market.
Companies are looking for more than a diploma on
the wall, Nichols said. They want to hire
a well-rounded individual.
Nichols said one reason fewer MBAs are being hired is
that businesses are being more specific about what they're
An MBA is still a prerequisite for some jobs, but
in addition, theyre also looking for certain certifications,
Nichols said. Because certifications demonstrate
Certifications such as a CPA (certified public accountant)
or CFA (chartered financial analyst) require more schooling
but can look good on a resume, Nichols said.
However, Shirley Rasberry, director of the graduate career
service center, said she has not found that certifications,
except for the CFA, do much for students.
Employers I have talked to have not indicated that
professional certifications make a difference, Rasberry
said. Having one on your resume may get you an interview,
but you still have to interview well, show leadership,
accomplishments and experience to get the offer.
Despite TCUs record of quick job offers, Jose Tamez,
managing partner at the San Antonio office of Austin-Michael,
an executive recruiting firm, said students shouldn't
expect immediate employment.
Getting an MBA is just like any other investment,
but an MBA is an investment in yourself, Tamez said.
Sometimes, however, the return comes later than
you might expect.
Andy Chan, director of the MBA Career Management Center
at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, made a similar
point in a 2003 interview with Business Week.
Getting an MBA can be a stepping stone to a new
career, but its not an automatic ticket, Chan
said. It was never that way. An MBA opens doors,
but you have to do a lot on your own to persuade employers
to hire you.
Nichols said MBA students also have a misconception about
how much their salary will increase when they get a job.
What I have found is that students need to be reasonable
about how much an MBA will increase their salary,
Nichols said students shouldn't expect more than a 10
percent increase in salary with an MBA. Experience and
soft skills also come into play when it comes to salary,
Tamez agreed and said students cant assume an MBA
by itself always gives them an advantage over an undergraduate
degree. He said an MBA looks good on a resume, but that
an experienced applicant with a BBA could win a job over
an less-experienced applicant with an MBA.
But if a BBA and an MBA had similar skills and experience,
Nichols said the degree could end up being the deciding
An MBA definitely gives applicants a leg up,
Nichols said. But an MBA and good experience will
give applicants the best opportunity for success.
Tamez said experience is starting to play a bigger role
when companies choose an applicant for a job.
In todays economy, companies are more likely
to hire people that can come on board with little or no
ramp-up time as possible, Tamez said.
Tamez said since some businesses have eliminated internal
training programs because they came to believe that they
did not offer results quickly enough.
Now, he said, businesses want to hire people who already
know what they're doing.
Businesses are working on a much narrower time frame,
Tamez said. It is more necessary to get someone
who can add value immediately.
Tamez also said that students must also perform well when
they are gaining experience.
Experience coupled with above average performance,
along with an MBA would set a student apart from the crowd,
Tamez said. But you have to interlock experience
with performance because the experience doesnt do
anything for you if you dont do the job well.
Greer said finding experienced MBAs usually is not hard,
since most graduate business schools require at least
two years of experience. Most TCU MBAs already have three
to four years of experience when they graduate.
Thats one factor in TCUs success rate, Greer
said. Another is the graduate career services center.
Greer said the business school started adding extra staff
in the center after the market started to decline.
Rasberry said the center brings in employers to discuss
the job market and the job opportunities they will face
when they graduate.
Every MBA has one mandatory one-on-one session with
a career counselor, an assigned career counselor, and
of course our door is open at all times, Rasberry
Students also take an assessment that gives them specific
job interests that they are best suited for, Rasberry
said. She said the counselors then encourage students
to find targeted companies that have those specific jobs.
Rasberry said TCUs placement and salary statistics
have remained fairly flat for the last three years, but
notes that the job market has picked up over the past
Rasberry said the center's primary assistance is in employer
Our MBA class is very small and typically would
not fill a whole interview schedule for a major company,
Rasberry said. Where we provide the most help is
with placements on a one-on-one basis with targeted employers.
And while the school does all it can for graduating MBA
students, Greer said it is absolutely critical
that students be looking toward the job market on their
own while they are still in school.
Students need to be continually networking and making
connections with people in the industry, Greer said.
They need to keep track of and strengthen contacts
through friends, family and the school.
Tamez said it is very important for students to be watching
job trends in college to see what sectors of the economy
are hiring and to try to match those with their interests.
Nichols said students should limit their search to about
20 companies if they want to be successful.
And after making that list, she said it is important for
students to market themselves well.
What I tell people is that they need to make a 30-second
commercial about themselves, Nichols said. It
really helps when you go into an interview prepared and
with your game-face on.
Tamez said he still believes students should strive for
an MBA if they are willing to go through the extended
An MBA is worth the investment, but its like
any other investment, Tamez said. You may
not have an immediate return, but as long as its
coupled with above average performance, youll get
a great return.