A professor who taught MBA students for 15 years says the jobs today's graduates dream of are very different from the ones they used to want

Courtesy of Tomas Chamorro-PremuzicCorporate giants may be less appealing than they once were. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is pictured.
  • A Columbia University psychology professor, who has taught MBA students at New York University and the London School of Economics, says they increasingly want to become entrepreneurs.
  • Research suggests that few MBA grads go on to start their own companies – except at top programs for aspiring entrepreneurs.
  • Opinions differ as to whether an MBA is helpful for people who want to become entrepreneurs.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic started teaching MBA students more than 15 years ago.

Back then, all his students wanted to work for corporate giants like Goldman Sachs, IBM, and Unilever.

A decade later, Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon were the big draws.

But now, graduates aren’t flocking to the corporate world at all, whether IBM or Amazon. When I interviewed him by phone in July, for a story about the dangers of “entrepreneurship porn,” he said of his students that today, “the vast majority tell me, ‘You know, I’m going to be a startup guy. I’m launching something. I’m going to create the next big X, Y, Z.”

Chamorro-Premuzic is a psychology professor at Columbia University and the chief talent scientist at Manpower; he’s held positions at the London School of Economics and New York University.

His observations are anecdotal, so it’s hard to draw any general conclusions. And data on the kinds of jobs MBA students want, as opposed to the jobs they ultimately land, is scarce. The data that is available suggests that technology is the fastest growing sector for MBA graduates, The Economist reported.

But some research does suggest that graduates of top business programs, and programs geared toward entrepreneurship, are more likely to become entrepreneurs than they were in the past.

Graduates from top MBA programs for entrepreneurs may be most likely to start their own companies

Business Insider previously reported on a study of over 30,000 Wharton graduates, which found that more than 7% of 2013 graduates started their own company right away. That was five times as many as in 2007. (Interestingly, the study also found that Wharton MBAs who become entrepreneurs tend to be happier than grads who pursue other careers.)

On the other hand, a Bloomberg survey, cited on Quartz, found that among 118 international and US MBA programs in 2016, just 3% of recent graduates at the median school started new businesses. But at Babson, where the MBA program focuses on entrepreneurship, that number is 19%. And at Stanford, which has classes and a coworking space for entrepreneurs, it’s 16.4%.

Wharton, Stanford, and Babson are also included on US News & World Report’s 2018 ranking of the best MBA programs for entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs can’t agree on whether an MBA is necessary

As for whether an MBA is necessary – or even helpful – for aspiring entrepreneurs, opinions differ.

Jon Staff, the CEO and founder of Getaway, a company that designs and rents out tiny houses, graduated from Harvard Business School in 2016. On the HBS blog, he wrote that getting an MBA was critical to becoming an entrepreneur: Aside from the educational component, he says 60% of the seed capital he raised while at HBS was the result of meetings he wouldn’t have had if he hadn’t been a student there.

Meanwhile, in a Financial Times Q&A, Brent Hoberman, executive chairman at Founders Factory, Founders Forum, and Firstminute Capital, says most MBA programs “are struggling to adapt fast enough to meet changing circumstances and demand.”

He adds, “Some of the most important qualities in an entrepreneur are tenacity, determination and an ability to embrace uncertainty and risk. Business schools can’t teach that.”

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