By J. Todd Rhoad
- The MBA market in the United States easily surpasses over 100,000 graduates per year (as estimated by the Graduate Management Admission Council). The MBA degree accounts for about two-thirds of all graduate business degrees conferred in the United States. But, of all of the MBA professionals in the country, nearly 13% are in the state of California. This is a slight decline of about 1% compared to previous years but this is still better than the national trend of MBA working professionals in the US. What makes California such a hot spot for the MBA?
California has one of the largest economies in the world, estimated around $1.75 Trillion. Someone has to manage, direct and grow all of this money and there’s no one better than a local Californian-grown MBA. Of course, being one of the world’s technology meccas, California’s companies are always in a state of change, transforming themselves to the ever-changing needs of the world market. California’s high tech companies grow through innovation. This requires a constant flow of new ideas and solutions to meet the existing customer demand and create the next demand. According to the USC Marshall School of Business, most of their MBAs stay right at home in California after graduation. About 77% of their graduates find employment in Consulting and Technology. There’s no need to go anywhere else.
Some of the top MBA employers in California include a lot of company names you’ll be very familiar with, such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Walt Disney, Oracle, Hewlett Packard, Cisco Systems and IDEO. These companies typically pay well but salaries between the highest paid MBA and the lowest paid MBA can vary by 41%, according to Education News. Graduates from Stanford have a median salary of $125,000, while USC Marshall posts $120,000 for consulting and $101,000 for technology jobs.
Now, let’s consider how California supports these high tech companies with an endless stream of business leaders by looking at some of the universities that call California home. In the Financial Times’ 2012 Global Ranking of MBA programs, California has 3 universities in the top 35, including Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Just a little further down the rankings were some other great programs like the University of Southern California (USC) and University of California at Irvine. These programs support industries such as Hospitality, Entertainment, Healthcare, High Tech, Energy, Green, and Education.
Seth Godin, graduate of the Stanford MBA program and author of 12 bestselling books, says that MBA offers a few key benefits. First, it acts as a screen for the local industries. If you can make it through a top program, you might just be what they need. Second, the networking opportunities are abundant and backed by a “social insurance policy” among students where successful graduates are obliged to provide opportunities for future graduates. Networking is serious business at Stanford. Students gather for two weeks every six weeks for team building activities. It’s virtually impossible to graduate without a huge list of contacts who will help you and your career in the future. The third reason Godin says students engage in business school is to learn. Godin posits that top programs like Stanford teach course content that is capable of becoming a bestseller. People buy books on how to become successful. That’s exactly what Godin says Stanford teaches. Of course, top ranked programs, like Stanford, don’t just provide “bestseller” content, they’ll even get the author to teach it you in the classroom.
All of the reasons mentioned by Godin were also very important to Josie Baik, a current Korean-American USC Marshall MBA student and entrepreneur. Baik is the President and Co-founder of cyPOP.com and a Korean/US cultural expert specifically as it relates to technology, fashion and pop culture. USC’s MBA program is one of the top entrepreneurial programs, which also has a strong alumni network in California, especially Southern California. While Baik feels the alumni network is very helpful and responsive across many industries, the advantage of being a USC graduate is that you’re supported by the whole USC Trojan network. Just in case you do think about leaving California with your MBA, California is a state well-known internationally. Baik states that “to be from there affords you immediate name recognition as you explore opportunities abroad.”
Finally, California is the melting pot state with Spanish, Mexican, Asian and Eastern United States cultural influence, bringing their language, traditions, and cuisines together to bask in the sunshine. From the Gold Rush of the 1850s to the early 20th century when it became the heart of the American film industry, California has been long admired by those searching for academic, economic, leisure, social and technological opportunities. As Josie Baik puts it “The sheer size of Los Angeles allows for many opportunities both professionally and culturally.” If there’s an argument for bigger is better, California might just be it.
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