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Best & Worst Industries for Career Advancement for MBAs

You’ve heard phrases such as “the sky’s the limit” all your life. However, does this childhood expression translate to the post-graduate employment world?

As a graduate student, you funnel your ambition into your studies, internships, and eventual careers. While many factors can help you decide which industry you’d like to pursue a career in, it can be helpful to know how your hard work will pay off. Whether you have dreams of becoming the CEO of an international company or just want to increase your responsibility and impact over time, career advancement is a natural goal.

While much of your career will rely on building your personal brand and hard work, we wondered if the industry you choose could have an effect on how quickly, or how high, you climb the company ladder.

How Top Industries Rank for Career Advancement

We’ve asked more than 50,000 post-grad employees about what it’s like to have a career in their industry. One question posed was about career advancement. Employees across the country ranked their industry in terms of how far they felt they could advance upward in their career, on a scale of 1 to 10. From these results, we’ve found the best and worst industries for career advancement, as ranked by your peers.

The Best – Consulting

Consulting is one of the most popular industries for MBA graduates. In fact, more Columbia graduates accepted jobs in consulting than finance for the first time ever this year. Class of 2018 graduates are in for a pleasant surprise when they start their consulting careers since it came in number one on our list with a career advancement score of 7.3.

A majority of graduates working in consulting have a positive outlook on their future prospects, and training and development efforts in the industry gained a 6.9/10. Company culture and overall happiness also received strong ratings, with each averaging 6.7/10.

The amount of travel to be expected in a consulting role is higher than other industries at nearly 40% of the time, but that didn’t stop consultants from ranking their flexibility at 6.6/10.

For the time consultants are actually in the office, there’s a generally healthy relationship with coworkers – the average quality of coworker ranking clocked in at 7.7/10.

Accounting & Audit

Coming in just behind consulting for significant career advancement is accounting & auditing, with a score of 7.2/10. While the average culture rating in the accounting industry is lower than consulting at 5.7, there’s a strong focus on employee development.

Post-grads in accounting granted an average training and development rating of 7.3/10 for their companies. If you’re weighing a career between consulting or accounting, know that the latter will earn you more time on your home turf. With an average of 52.1 hours worked per week, accounting employees report traveling only 19% of the time.

Work flexibility outlook is favorable at 6.5/10, and accounting & audit employees rank company benefits and perks as a 6.0/10.

Investment Banking

Rounding out the top 3 best industries for career advancement is investment banking. Employees at companies such as Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, and Citigroup, Inc. rank career advancement within the industry as 6.8/10.

MBA grads in the industry work an average of 69.9 hours a week, but overall happiness is still an average of 6.1/10. Employees rank career training and development at 6.4/10 and give the quality of their coworkers a 7.3/10.

Travel time is minimal for investment bankers, with an average of 9.7%, and employees gave their industry a 5.6/10 for balance and flexibility.

The Worst – Printing & Publishing

The digital era is no doubt changing the printing and publishing era, but is the industry flatlining for graduate degree earners? Our users put printing & publishing last on our list of best and worst industries for career advancement.

At 4.3/10, the average career advancement score doesn’t instill a lot of confidence. Graduates in this field do still feel they’re making an impact, with an average impact rating of 5.7/10. The average training and development ranking is also among the lowest at 4/10.

There are still redeeming qualities for the industry, though. For one, the workload is lighter with an average workweek of 48.7 hours and time spent traveling just under 10%. Overall happiness garnered a 5.3/10, and the quality of coworkers checks in at 6/10.


The second lowest ranking industry on the list is Education, with an average advancement ranking of 5.1/10. Despite middle-of-the-road advancement prospects, overall happiness is high at 6.7/10. Training and development also fare decently at 5.9/10.

The average workweek reported by our users in education is 43.9 hours, and these employees rated their work/life balance and flexibility as 7.2/10. The average quality of coworkers is also better than some other sectors on the list at 7.4/10, and employees in the industry rate the impact of their work at 7.3/10.

While consulting and investment banking may be among the most popular post-grad career choices, education shouldn’t be written off. Employees in the industry rank their employer brand prestige at 6.5/10, and they feel secure in their career with an average firm stability score of 7.4/10.


The second runner up from the bottom of our list is law. Users who work in this line of work, across functions such as research, human resources, marketing and more rate their advancement opportunities at 5.2/10. Training and development within the industry received a score of 5.7 from our users.

Employees in law enjoy firm stability of 7.3/10 as well as a coworker quality score of 7.3. Workplace balance earned an evaluation of 6.5/10, and benefits and perks also measured well at 5.8.

Honorable Mentions

We’ve covered the industries at the top and bottom of the list, but what about all the others? Fields with advancement scores above 6.0 include Pharma, Medical Devices, & Biotech (6.5), Private Equity (6.4), and Insurance (6.2).

Training and development are also fostered in industries such as Government, Military, & Politics (6.7),  Investment Management (5.8), and Commercial Banking (5.9). If you’re looking for an line of work full of happy employees, Non-Profit, Social Impact, & Social Work is ranked the highest at 6.8/10.

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