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MBAs are being snapped up by tech firms that emerged victorious from the pandemic

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Companies like Amazon.com Inc. and Zoom Video Communications Inc., which have seen their businesses grow through the pandemic, are snagging some of the M.B.A. talent entering the workforce, helping to counter pullbacks in sectors hit hardest by the Covid-19 economy.

According to a survey of nearly 100 schools conducted by industry group MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance, tech job openings increased at 57 percent of full-time Master of Business Administration programmes this past fall. Overall, however, the survey showed that business schools have had a poor recruiting season, with nearly half reporting a decrease in student opportunities.

According to the survey, sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, such as retail and electricity, have reduced their M.B.A. hiring. This is particularly true for companies in the hospitality sector, which, according to 61 percent of business schools, has reduced job prospects.

Nearly half of the schools have registered a drop in hiring from consulting companies, which are historically among the top employers of M.B.A. graduates. Last year, some of these companies, including PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Bain & Co., announced that they would make fewer hires for second-year M.B.A. applicants, except those who interned during the summer.

According to Megan Hendricks, executive director of the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance, some of the biggest recruiters have been tech companies whose business has boomed during the coronavirus crisis, such as Amazon, Zoom, and Netflix Inc. According to a company spokesperson, Amazon expects to employ over 1,000 M.B.A. students for full-time positions and internships this year, while Zoom plans to hire more M.B.A. graduates as part of a new global emerging-talent initiative. There was no response from Netflix.

Akintayo Abiodun, a 38-year-old Nigerian who is in his second year of M.B.A. studies at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business in Houston, had intended to work in the oil and gas industry. However, he said he changed his mind after learning that several non-tech companies were not funding foreign students this year. Indeed, according to the MBA study, 65 percent of schools recorded a decrease in job opportunities for international students.

Mr. Abiodun accepted a position with Amazon’s finance leadership-development programme in Seattle once he graduates this spring, after a summer internship with a regional bank did not result in a work offer.

“Your opportunities are already limited as an international student,” he said, adding that seeking work “would have been more difficult without Amazon.”

In recent years, business school graduates have gravitated toward careers in technology, frequently beginning and progressing in product-management positions that incorporate marketing, design, and problem-solving elements. As a result, more graduate degrees with training in software skills like data analytics and artificial intelligence have been developed by business schools.

Rice’s business school dean, Peter Rodriguez, said that some of the school’s M.B.A. graduates used to go to big energy firms including Exxon Mobil Corp. However, he says that more of his students now work in technology than in electricity. This year, he said, the school would not send any M.B.A.s to Exxon for the first time in his memory. An Exxon spokesman refused to comment on the company’s M.B.A. hiring, but said the company fills vacancies based on its business needs.

A similar pattern, according to Senior Assistant Dean Jason Rife of Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business in Dallas. Financial services, consulting, and real estate were the top three sectors hiring its graduates in 2018, he said, with around 5% of them going into technology. This is shifting as more tech firms, such as Oracle Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprises Co., relocate or expand to Texas. Last year, 17% of Cox students took jobs with tech firms.

Employers in tech, venture capital, private equity, and renewable energy have continued to hire this year, while others, such as airlines, have cut back internships and work offers, according to Mr. Rife.

“Flexibility is the name of the game,” he said of business students’ ability to switch industries.

Julie Pollok, a 25-year-old first-year M.B.A. student at SMU, said she entered the programme hoping to work in brand management for a consumer packaged goods company, but is instead searching for marketing positions in the tech industry. This summer, she intends to intern at Samsung Electronics Co.

“Technology recruitment was just more positive,” she said.

According to John Helmers, associate director of graduate career management at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business and president of the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance, several companies that reduced M.B.A. recruitment in fields like hospitality or consulting could resume hiring later this spring as the US economy improves.

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s fall survey of corporate recruiters, most businesses anticipate M.B.A. recruiting to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2021.


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