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business | opinions & advice | miscellaneous
Alternative Career Paths for MBAs: Nonprofit and Government Jobs
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Don't be misled by your Wall Street–obsessed classmates; not all MBAs seek a corporate career following graduation.
Some choose to pursue less lucrative (but often very satisfying) jobs with non–profit organizations or the government.
Most business students find that their skills translate easily to the non–profit world. After all, non–profits operate and compete like businesses. The main difference between the two, of course, is that for–profit companies succeed or fail based on how much revenue they earn, while non–profits are measured by how successfully they achieve their altruistic goals.
B–schools differ in their approach to nonprofit management. Some simply offer a handful of courses while others provide full programs. Topics covered often include social entrepreneurship, philanthropy, ethics, global development and board governance (to name a few). Even if you're not planning to enter the nonprofit world you'll likely find these classes beneficial, especially if you're interested in volunteering or sitting on the board of an organization.
Since non–profits often lack the recruitment resources of their corporate brethren, finding a job can be labor–intensive. Keep an eye on the websites of organizations that interest you (positions are generally posted as they open up) or check out career sites like idealist.org. As with corporate gigs, networking is the best way to find and snag the position you want.
Government agencies in search of qualified managers are increasingly relying on MBA recruitment. At the federal level, the Treasury Department, the Commerce Department, the Labor Department and the IRS maintain the most active b–school recruitment programs. Of course, your MBA will likely give you a leg up when pursuing any government job. Even the CIA recruits MBAs to fill financial analyst positions.
Finance and management courses will prepare you well for a government position. Some business schools also offer a concentration in public policy or a joint MBA/MPP (Master of Public Policy) degree.
As you might expect, the government hiring process is very bureaucratic. You can find open positions on USACareers.com, or on the website of individual agencies. But be aware that finding and applying to government jobs through the web is a time–consuming and often–fruitless pursuit. You'll likely use these sites as a purely informative reference, learning what types of jobs are available and the salary range. Then it's time to network, network, network.
…that business degrees carry a hefty price tag. If you go into the non–profit or government fields, it may take quite a bit longer to pay off your investment. Some students happily accept this fact. Others work in the corporate sector until they've paid off their student loans. If you're still searching for a school, keep in mind that some MBA programs offer loan forgiveness programs for students who find non-profit or government jobs.