B-School Opens Doors to Entrepreneurship, New Survey Shows

More than 1 in 10 business school alumni are self-employed, and the longer they’ve been out of business school the more likely they are to have taken an entrepreneurial career path, says a worldwide survey of nearly 21,000 business school alumni from the classes of 1959-2013, released this week by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

“While entrepreneurship is a hot topic and is a very popular course of study at today’s business schools, these findings suggest that business schools have always prepared students to launch and manage their own businesses,” says Sangeet Chowfla, president and CEO of GMAC, the worldwide association of business schools that conducts the GMAT exam.

“Even if alumni don’t become entrepreneurs at graduation — something more common with today’s graduates — their business education provides the career flexibility and the skills that help them start businesses years later.”

Surveying alumni from 132 business schools around the world, the 2014 Alumni Perspectives Survey is the largest and most far-reaching alumni survey GMAC has ever produced and offers insights into career progression, job and degree satisfaction, and school engagement with alumni spanning more than five decades.

Around the world, the vast majority of MBA and other graduate business degree holders rate the value of their degree highly (94 percent), report high degrees of job satisfaction (83 percent), and say their expectations for the financial return on investment of their graduate management education were met or exceeded (79 percent).

In general, the percentages of alumni reporting satisfaction with their business degrees, jobs, and careers increased the longer they have been out of school.

The survey found that overall, 79 percent of alumni from the classes of 1959-2013 currently work for an employer, 11 percent are self-employed, and 5 percent were retired. The findings include a snapshot view of business school alumni entrepreneurs:

  • The percentage of business school alumni who are now self-employed ranges from 5 percent of the classes of 2010-2013 to 23 percent of those who graduated before 1990. Average time from graduation to self-employment also varies by graduation decade: three years for the classes of 2000-2009, nine years for 1990s graduates, 15 years for 1980s graduates, and 20 years for those who graduated before 1980.
  • Forty-five percent of alumni entrepreneurs from the classes of 2010-2013 started businesses at graduation, as compared with just 7 percent of alumni entrepreneurs who graduated before 1990.
  • 14 percent of recent (2010-2013) alumni entrepreneurs work in the technology sector, compared with just 2 percent of those graduating before 1990. More than 3 in 10 self-employed alumni work in both products and services and consulting (each 31 percent).
  • Entrepreneurship rates among business school alumni vary by world region, with higher entrepreneurship rates in Asia/Pacific Islands, Canada, and Latin American than the United States. Across all regions, the proportion of alumni who are self-employed increases with time out of business school.

“Without the entrepreneurship education I received [while at business school], I would very likely not have started my own company and therefore I would not have become financially independent and surely not have become a professor for entrepreneurship myself,” commented one alumnus.

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