Landing a job after graduation can be hard anytime, but especially during a recession. When the job market is bad enough some people figure they have little to lose dropping out of it for a couple of years. That would explain the 12% increase in the number of business school admission tests taken in 2009 over 2008.
On the other hand, a bad economy makes it more difficult to get a good return on your investment on the cost of going to school. A mere fifty percent of the class of 2009 was offered a job three months before graduation, down from 62% last year, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council. Unemployment is a tough pill to swallow when tuition and two years of forgone salary at an elite program put one out $250,000.
Business schools have responded by creating programs that offer more “real life” experiences to support traditional textbook- and case-study-based offerings. John J. Fernandes, president of the accreditation body the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, says that the pressure is on schools to produce a graduate who is not just smart and knows the subject matter but knows how to apply it in a typical work environment.
Called experiential learning programs, many top schools have been putting the programs in place over the last two decades. Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management started one of the first almost twenty years ago. Today, it offers 19 courses with more than 500 students participating annually. Michigan’s Ross School of Business has been putting students to work since 1992. Emory’s Goizueta Business School made experiential learning part of the core curriculum last fall. The University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management will require students to take such a program this fall. MIT-Sloan started its Global Health Delivery class last year, placing 53 students in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
By giving students real life experiences, some say they will have skills relevant for consulting jobs. Companies report that students from these programs come with more creative ideas and different problem-solving skills.
If going back to school to advance your career is not the career alternative you are looking for then maybe you should explore your option in business ownership.