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Despite uncertain economic times, the latest MBA graduates from business schools in Canada and around the world are landing jobs (and good salaries) at a speedy pace unparalleled in a decade, according to a new survey.

The annual survey of MBA alumni by the Graduate Management Admission Council shows that 91 per cent of 2012 graduates from Canadian business schools (compared with 92 per cent for schools worldwide) were employed at graduation, the highest rate since 2003. In Canada, the median salary for new MBA hires was $81,443 (U.S.), with more than three out of four graduates worldwide reporting their pay met or exceeded expectations.

"Business skills have had a resiliency in the marketplace, not in spite of the downturn but in some cases because of the downturn," observes Michelle Sparkman-Renz, director of research communications for GMAC, based in Reston, Va. "Companies tell us that they will focus their corporate goals on a need for greater efficiency as well as a need for growth."

She adds, "The sweet spot is that the business graduate is valuable whether the company has efficiency or expansion goals."

The survey results "send a very strong message" about the value of an MBA, says Tamer Boyaci, associate dean of masters programs at McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management. "It means the investment the students are making is paying off."

One factor in the successful hunt for a job is the willingness of graduates to explore other industries and job functions beyond traditional fields of finance and accounting, according to the survey.

For example, technology edged out finance and accounting as the third most popular sector for 2012 graduates, behind products and services and consulting. However, 22 per cent of recent graduates were hired to fill finance and accounting positions, more than any other job function, in diverse fields, including health care and information technology.

"Firms in non-traditional industries are discovering that business talent can help them and business talent is discovering that they have opportunities in other industries," says Ms. Sparkman-Renz. In effect, Wall Street is no longer the ultimate, secure job destination.

Prof. Boyaci says, "There will always be some bankers who want to be bankers … but there are a lot of sectors of the economy where a better understanding of business management and managing in general is going to be highly valued."

The alumni responses underscore an ongoing shift in demand for business education, with growing interest in programs offering flexibility, such as part-time or executive education, or specialties, such as finance and sustainability.

In 2002, 87 per cent of survey respondents they earned a full-time MBA, compared with 59 per cent of 2012 graduates who answered the questionnaire. Last year, 31 per cent of graduates earned their degree in another format, such as part-time or online.

Finally, the proportion of those graduating from specialty MBA programs climbed to 10 per cent in 2012, up from 1 per cent in 2002.

The GMAC survey, first conducted in 2001, tracks responses from MBA graduates on a number of issues, including field of employment, salary and working conditions. This year's survey gathered responses from more than 4,400 alumni worldwide who graduated between 2000 and 2012, including 834 of the class of 2012.

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