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Uncle Sam Wants MBA Grads

Uncle Sam Wants MBA Grads

A crowd of MBA graduates near Northwestern University (Image courtesy of Flickr. Creative Commons)

Peter Vogt | Career Coach

If you’re like most people who pursue a master of business administration (MBA) degree, your overriding motivation is almost certainly not a future career with the federal government.

Indeed, according to a March 2006 study by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), just 1.4 percent of the more than 6,100 MBA students surveyed said they planned to pursue government jobs after finishing their degrees. Perhaps that’s understandable considering the average base salary for MBA grads in the government/nonprofit sector is only $63,565, according to an April 2006 GMAC study – compared, for example, with $99,672 for MBA grads who work in consulting.

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But perhaps money isn’t the only form of pay you’ll consider, or even the most important one. Perhaps you’re seeking something more in your post-MBA career. If so, look into federal government opportunities, because the federal government is certainly looking for you through innovative recruitment programs like these.

US Department of Labor

The Department of Labor (DOL) became one of the first federal agencies to target MBA graduates when it created the MBA Fellows program in 2002.

Each year, the program hires 15 graduates of accredited MBA programs, who are then appointed to two-year positions in Washington, DC. Participants rotate through assignments in a variety of areas – for example, through budgeting, program analysis, financial management and human resources – and also spend 90 days working in one of the department’s regional offices around the country.

The application period for the MBA Fellows program begins in early January and ends in late February each year.

The DOL also offers an MBA Internship Program geared toward current MBA students. The program’s paid internships run from late May to late August each year, while its volunteer and course-credit internships are available year-round.

US Securities and Exchange Commission

Like the DOL, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) offers two special MBA-related programs – one for MBA graduates, the other for continuing MBA students:

• The Business Associates Program, which recruits candidates every other year (2008 is next), is a two-year appointment for graduates of MBA programs (though it’s also open to graduates of closely related master’s degree programs). The experience introduces participants to regulation of the securities markets and the key role the SEC plays in that process.

•The Summer Honors Business Program is a 10-week summer internship for continuing MBA students (though it’s also open to students in related graduate programs), with an application period that generally runs for about six weeks in the fall or early winter. Among other things, participating students have access to professional development seminars and SEC mentors.

US Postal Service

As part of its “Careers That Deliver” initiative, the US Postal Service has developed the Management Intern Program. Open to MBA graduates as well as master’s degree grads in related areas, the two-year internship – which has an application deadline in November every other year (2007 is next) – gives participants the chance to take on assignments in plant processing, delivery and transportation, and retail operations.

Satisfactory performance in the program leads to a midlevel management position in a field operations capacity, such as managing a large post office or branch.

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

The Bank Examiner Cooperative Education Program at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which is part of the Treasury Department, targets both graduate and undergraduate students in business administration and other business-related fields. The program’s Bank Examiner Intern positions, available nationwide, teach students the ins and outs of examining and supervising national banks.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) may be a space organization, but it’s also a business with an annual budget of about $16 billion. In the NASA Contracting Intern Program, graduate and undergraduate students in business-related fields spend 30 months learning how NASA builds business relationships with organizations offering products and services that help the agency achieve its goals. (The application period for the program is generally in the late fall or early spring, though as of fall 2006, the recruiting process had been put on “indefinite” hold, according to the program’s Web site.)

Sure, it may not be space travel. But, like all the other initiatives described here, it’s certainly a way to explore how your MBA might turn into a federal government career after all.

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