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Entrepreneurship gains in popularity for business graduates worldwide

The percentage of business grads who go into self-employment is still small – about 10 per cent – but it’s growing.

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Self-employment holds growing appeal for those with an MBA or specialty business degree, with recent graduates more likely than older counterparts to become entrepreneurs immediately after leaving school, according to a new global survey of alumni by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Entrepreneurs are still a minority of those earning graduate business degrees, with about one in 10 self-employed, based on responses from almost 21,000 business school alumni from the classes of 1959 through 2013 at 132 universities worldwide.

But increasingly, younger alumni who choose to work for themselves are setting up shop faster than was the case for their older counterparts.

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Of the 2010-13 alumni who reported self-employment, 45 per cent began their business straight after graduation compared to 24 per cent of self-employed graduates in 2000-09 and just 7 per cent before 1990.

Historically, according to the survey, 80 per cent of self-employed alumni worked for a company first for a number of years before going out on their own.

Whether the appetite for entrepreneurship is fed by economic change or a proliferation of business school programs catering to those eager to start their own business – or a combination of the two – is not clear yet, according to GMAC.

"With schools providing more entrepreneurship education opportunities, we see there is a market for those [programs]," says Gregg Schoenfeld, GMAC director of survey research and author of the study.

"Those people who are interested in it [entrepreneurship] actually want to start right away," he added. "They want to come and develop their ideas in school, learn how to develop and build and operate a business. Immediately on graduation, [they] set off on their own to fulfil that expectation."

For the classes of 2010-13, 14 per cent of alumni entrepreneurs work in the technology sector compared with just 2 per cent who graduated before 1990.

Of all Canadian alumni who identified themselves as entrepreneurs, 29 per cent went into consulting, 28 per cent choose products and services, 19 per cent opted for finance and accounting and 11 per cent set up businesses in technology, said Mr. Schoenfeld, citing responses from Canadian schools.

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When self-employed business school graduates worldwide were asked whether they were satisfied with their decision to work for themselves, 91 per cent said yes.

Among other findings from the survey:

– Two of five alumni work in finance and accounting, with the same proportion in the products and services sector.

– Globally, 13 per cent of alumni work outside of their home country compared with 23 per cent of Canadians employed abroad and just 3 per cent of Americans.

– Alumni who worked for a multinational organization earned a median salary of $104,000 (U.S.) compared with $75,000 for those working for a company with a local focus.

– Soft skills, such as the ability to work with others, are used most frequently on the job.

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