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by Vault Education Editors | April 07, 2011


The typical job for a business school graduate has commonly been in finance or consulting. But should MBAs also be looking in education?

Via Businessweek:

MBAs, who typically make a beeline for the corporate world after graduation, are increasingly taking a road less traveled. With the latest generation of MBA students embracing social enterprise, interest in education jobs—from assistant principals to finance chiefs to human resource directors—is growing. And K-12 institutions have begun to establish a recruiting foothold at some top MBA programs.

The article mentions various contributing factors for why MBAs are taking that less traveled road. For one, mentioned above, this surge in interest in education arises in part from a kind of do-gooder spirit typical of the millennial generation—a hybrid ethos of selflessness and personal success that informs much of the culture that drives community capitalism and social enterprise.

Then there is the need for public school administrators with management skills, given that they are facing massive state budget cuts and an increased reliance on data-driven analysis to measure success and ensure accountability. Lacking the resources to recruit executive talent, some educational matchmaking organizations like the nonprofit Broad Center have been stepping in to provide that service for which there’s a rising demand.

Educational recruiters like Broad are used, the article argues, because “when it comes to recruiting MBAs for administrative jobs in the educational world, on-campus recruiting really isn't an option for many school districts, which can't afford the expense of travel. So business schools and outfits such as Education Pioneers [a nonprofit that matches grad students to internships] have stepped in to fill the gap.”

As K-12 schools have increasingly come to resemble corporations in governance, the MBA skill set is desired by school administrators who are seeking seasoned business school grads strong in the ways of management and data analysis. And some b-schools, alert to the demand for manager-educators, have been adjusting by putting a little more emphasis on education.

Berkeley’s Haas, which holds an Educational Leadership Case Competition (sponsored in part by Broad and Educational Pioneers) has seen the number of students who chose education as a primary industry preference double from the class of 2006 to 2012.

“Duke’s Fuqua School of business has likely lured education-focused students away from other graduate degree programs, says Matt Nash, executive director of the school’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship.”

Rice University created an MBA program specifically for assistant principals and teachers. The inaugural class graduated seven students last year.

There’s also a quote in the article from a Stanford b-school alumni, now the COO of a D.C. charter school, and it reminded me of a couple other reasons, not mentioned in the article, why so many people interested in finance are now starting to turn their attention toward education. Here’s the bit I’m referring to:

Jimmy Henderson, for example, the chief operating officer of E. L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., manages a $17 million budget and oversees human resource decisions—situations into which he previously gained insight while working at Boston Consulting Group. He will soon arrange the purchase of two sites for future schools.

"It's basically real estate development you would see in the corporate arena," says Henderson, who has an MBA and a masters in education from Stanford and is an Education Pioneers alumnus.

That reminded me of this 2010 expose by the Daily News’ Juan Gonzalez, whose head-scratching over the same question of why so many hedge funds were getting involved with charter schools, led him to discover that “wealthy investors and major banks have been making windfall profits by using a little-known federal tax break to finance new charter-school construction.” But it could also be, as these two Times pieces suggest (here and here), that the culture of charter schools—disciplined, experimental, privately run, anti-teachers union-y, modeled on the free market—rallies a social reformist mission that business-minded folks can easily relate to.



Filed Under: Education|Grad School