More finance professionals are taking MBAs for career progression, but over half want to leave the industry

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MBAs are back en vogue in among financial professionals. After a period of unpopularity since 2009, more people are applying to advance their career in 2012 – unfortunately, the majority are doing so to exit the industry.

Financial services is now the biggest source of MBA candidates of any industry in Western Europe, according to the new QS TopMBA.com Applicant Survey. This year, 15.9% of total applications have a background in the sector, which is nearly double the proportion in 2011 when just 8.1% came from a career finance.

Taking an MBA has long been a popular route for those in investment banking to advance their career and increase their earning potential. Analysts either look to move back into banking, or leverage the MBA to make a switch into private equity. You could view this uptick an indication that more financial services professionals are taking shelter from the storm for a couple of years in the hope that job prospects pick up down the line.

The largest proportion of potential MBAs from the financial sector this year are still looking to move back – 47.6%, to be exact, which is better than any other industry. However, the majority are still looking to leave.

It’s not easy for financial services professionals to move into other industries – it’s doubtful an MBA would help you move into engineering or a pharmaceutical company, for example. This helps explain why the most popular exit route is consulting, where 28% of this year’s applicants intend to move after graduation.

The other question is how realistic they’re being with salary expectations. The average pre-MBA salary in the UK is $54k. After completing the qualification they expect to increase this 2.6 times to $139k, which is particularly ambitious in the current era of cost-cutting across all sectors. In the financial sector, the average compensation for MBAs last year was $124.8k.

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