Grads Do ’Good’ for a Profit

Thursday, December 1, 2011

At first blush, it looks as though M.B.A.s aren’t doing much “good” upon graduation.

Despite the fact that students sign up en masse for social-entrepreneurship classes, intern at nonprofits and participate in charitable extracurricular activities, fewer than 5% of graduates from many top business schools take jobs in nonprofit organizations right out of school, with some institutions placing just 1% or 2% in the field. Even the Yale School of Management, which has built a reputation for creating nonprofit managers, sent just 9% of its class into that sector this year.

But these days, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Schools say that plenty of students are going on to do good works, just not in traditional nonprofit jobs. Instead, many students opt for social-responsibility positions at Fortune 500 companies or working at for-profit enterprises that explicitly address energy-access or economic-development issues.

The reasons are many. For one thing, most traditional nonprofits don’t offer the financial security that finance or consulting jobs can provide, with nonprofits commonly offering starting salaries as much as 30% below those of their for-profit counterparts. Nor, say students, do they provide as clear a career path. Some also feel they might be able to make more of a difference at a bigger organization.

“The boundaries between the sectors are getting increasingly blurry,” says Laura Moon, director of Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Initiative. Though 3% of 2011 graduates accepted jobs in the nonprofit and government sectors, Ms. Moon says others are pursuing private-sector jobs that address global poverty, supply-chain issues and environmental or sustainability concerns, or other social needs.

Source: The Wall Street Journal (link opens in a new window)