Why an MBA in CSR Helps Employability

This post is a response to Does an MBA in CSR Hurt Your Employability? written by Catherine C. Chong on the Vault CSR blog.

An article has been making the rounds recently asking the question, “Does an MBA in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Hurt your employability?”.  And in my opinion the answer is no. Actually, an MBA in CSR is more likely to land you a job if anything.

The author makes three inferences:

1. Judging from the title of the article  she’s pretty scared that CSR educations lower your chances for a job after graduation (even though I didn’t see any hard evidence for this.)

2. There is general ignorance around the topic of corporate social responsibility, and that there is a perception that people concerned with CSR “have no numerical skills or business acumen.”

3. One might not have the proper background to succeed in a CSR career, or might do better in other careers.

Let’s get down to business.

You can always try cashing in on a book deal (nathanschock)

First, there is huge demand for people with CSR and Sustainability educations, and it’s only getting stronger.

At a recent International Business Leaders Forum Barend van Bergen of KPMG predicted that sustainability is headed in a positive direction:

“There will be more regulation kicking in; emerging markets will become more active in sustainability and the capital markets and the financial sector will become more active in coming years.”

And when asked about job opportunities, he stayed optimistic:

“Yes, I do think [the demand is going to grow] so. At KPMG, we are looking for these professionals. The financial sector is huge, the corporate sector as a whole, and consulting will all see a strong demand for CSR professionals.”

One only needs to look at the plethora of CSR and Sustainability job listing sites to see that job opportunities are on the rise. Which leads me to point #2.

There are plenty of businesses who realize the value of a CSR education, and they expect strong business and financial skills from their employees, regardless of whether applicants have a traditional MBA or and MBA in CSR or Sustainability.

Go ahead and check out some of the listings on the job listing sites.  What do you see? Beyond the niche jobs you might expect for CSR and sustainability, there are positions open for communications coordinators, director of business development, CEOs, VPs of finance and administration, and beyond. You need to have pretty strong business and financial know-how for many of these positions.

These businesses understand the added value that a focus in CSR will bring. As long as the core education of your MBA is solid, a focus on CSR can only add to your education, not subtract from it. Sure, some people and businesses will not recognize the value of CSR, but those who do will value it and seek it out. You just need to start looking for those companies. Besides, would you really want to work for a company that doesn’t respect something you’re passionate for?

Finally, one’s passion for CSR will always outshine any lack of experience you might have in a CSR career.

With respect to the academic who gave advice to the author, he’s kind of bad at his job. He advised that she didn’t have the proper background to succeed in CSR, and she would have better career opportunities elsewhere. Of course she might have better opportunities elsewhere, but would she be happy in those career paths? And what would a proper “background” look like to have a successful career in CSR? As long as you are passionate about your job neither of those points really matter. In my opinion, being happy in your career is infinitely more important than the ease in which to find a job.

Don’t let fear and the ignorance of others get in the way of doing what you love.

Alex Salkin grew up in Seattle with a background in social media and wildland firefighting. He is currently pursuing his MBA in Sustainable Business from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute. He enjoys telling it like it is and pushing the boundaries of sustainability. He may be contacted on twitter @EcoErudition.



2 responses to this post.

  1. I couldn’t agree more.

    I have seen a spate of “MBA’s don’t help employability” articles lately, and am just finishing up my MBA at Antioch New England. I can say that I have gained incredible insight, knowledge, and skills which I would never have gotten from a regular MBA program at Antioch.

    I went in thinking I would get strong environmental/sustainable business knowledge, and I have certainly gotten that, but i was not expecting the improvement in my critical thinking, creative problem solving, and teamwork skills.

    Programs that force us to work on these skills (of which most of the good “Sustainable MBA” programs) are putting us in a place to succeed in the changing business world.

    The ability to lead, to listen, to shift gears, to consider complex impacts, to build community, and to treat our communities and environment as equal stakeholders in our business are skills that are most definitely needed.

    Thanks for writing this response!


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