Which industry sponsors employee MBAs the most?
The military has some of the highest number of sponsorship for employees' MBA tuition. Source: Shutterstock

The benefits of an MBA are well-known. You learn the theories and practice of how businesses operate. You brush up on “soft skills,” like communication, teamwork and leadership, the essential components towards that corner office. You get to network with faculty, fellow students and alumni – all of which translate to promising opportunities in the future.

There is no shortage of good business schools to get all of these. But one big obstacle usually stands in the way: Money.

Gone are the days where sponsoring a full-time MBA is part of the employee benefits package (it should be, given an investment like this will pay back several times over for the company). Our best bet is to instead work in an industry which still has a high rate of continuing this practice.

Bloomberg looked into its Businessweek’s MBA rankings to find out which industries sponsored how much of tuition for their employees’ MBAs. These are the results:

Industry Number of students % funded
Consulting 430 72%
Financial 268 31%
Technology 119 16%
Health Care 66 41%
Energy 57 44%
Consumer 52 42%
Manufacturing 51 61%
Government 43 88%
Defense and Aerospace 38 84%
Real Estate 38 47%
Media 35 23%
Retail 32 19%
Construction 25 40%
Education 21 24%
Engineering 21 57%

The finding is based on a survey of 10,473 MBA graduates from the class of 2018 at 126 schools around the world collected for the ranking. Of the 1,484 students who returned to work to their previous employer after graduating, 35 percent said that they received at least 75 percent tuition coverage.

More than half of this group (57 percent) were sponsored by their consulting firms, financial services companies or the government (which mostly refers to the military).

Consulting firms funded the largest number of employees for their MBAs.

Deloitte’s Graduate School Assistance Program, for example, is open to high performing consulting professionals to attend some of the top graduate schools. Those who qualify get an offer to return to Deloitte as Senior Consultants upon completion of their graduate degree. Their tuition is fully reimbursed after two years of employment at Deloitte following graduate school.

If you want a free MBA, get a job in consulting. Source: Shutterstock

The goal is to enhance “growth and development” as well as to support the firm’s mission “to be the first choice of the most coveted talent”.

“Typically, professionals work at Deloitte for three to four years, attend graduate school, and then return as Senior Consultants. Deloitte acceptance rates for the top 20 business schools are approximately three times the national average (based on data provided via Bloomberg’s business school ratings),” its website states.

Another industry which sponsors a fair bit of its employees’ MBA is the military.

In business schools like the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University or the Mason School of Business at William and Mary, they account for more than one-fourth of the student cohort. Post-MBA, these graduates return to more specialised roles in elite units or teach at military economies.

One of them is Jacqueline Harris, a US peacetime army officer who enrolled in an MBA at the Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business while on active duty.

In return for sponsoring the two-year program, Harris agreed to spend up to six more years in the army.  After graduating her assignment is a three-year term teaching cadets about operations management at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Speaking to Forbes, she said: “The opportunity for me to go back and teach future leaders is something I just couldn’t resist,”

“To be around and influence people who will go on and do what I did really means a lot to me. This is something I really wanted to do.”

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