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6 MBA Programs to Launch Your Career in Social Impact

Social Impact MBAsWritten by Molly Ellison. Photo courtesy of Steven Zwerink via Flickr.

A growing number of companies are dedicating themselves to using the power of the private sector to solve society’s most pressing problems. Do you want to join their ranks and use your MBA for good? If so, read on.

There are hundreds of strong MBA programs around the world that say they can help you launch your career in social impact. We’re here to help you sift through the rankings and industry jargon to find the right fit for you. We’ve identified six standout b-schools that complement their strong curricula with robust co-curricular opportunities in order to expose students to the social impact, social entrepreneurship, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) industries. Some of these, like Duke University’s Fuqua, dominate international specialty rankings. Others, like the University of Oxford’s Said, let their impressive employment stats do the talking.

For a post-MBA career path as hands-on and unconventional as social impact, what you do outside the classroom is just as important as what you do in it. While your classmates may be accepting six-figure offers with consulting giants and hedge funds, you’ll be heading down a less trodden – yet hugely rewarding – path. The right MBA program will expand your network and open your eyes to the ways you can harness the power of business to do good.

The Best Full-Time MBA Programs for a Career in Social Impact

Berkeley Haas Logo

The University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business (Berkeley Haas)

Berkeley, California, United States

With Berkeley’s notorious reputation of being a hippie-crunchy-granola haven, it’s no surprise that its business school is a pioneer in social impact business education. The MBA program provides a plethora of options for students to break into the sector. MBA candidates can participate in one of the largest student-run socially responsible investment funds and serve on the board of a non-profit for seven months while taking courses through the coveted Center for Social Sector Leadership. The school’s proximity to Silicon Valley also infuses the MBA with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Social Impact in the Classroom

All Berkeley Haas MBA students are required to take “Ethics and Responsibility in Business” as part of their required coursework. The school also offers electives ranging from “Strategy and Leadership for Social Impact” to “Social Investing–Recent Findings in Management and Finance.”

Through the b-school’s Center for Social Sector Leadership, students can take the “Social Sector Solutions” course, which assigns students real-world clients in the social enterprise, public, and nonprofit industries.

Social Impact Outside the Classroom

In addition to traditional coursework, Berkeley Haas MBAs participate in Applied Innovation modules. Opportunities include participating in the Socially Responsible Investment Fund, which is the biggest student-run fund of its kind at a top business school, and other hands-on learning opportunities.

Where Do Grads End Up?

Over the last three years, an average of about 2.5% of graduates have landed jobs in the nonprofit and public sectors each year. About 0.7% have worked specifically in the CSR function.

Social Impact in Practice: A Berkeley Haas MBA’s Success Story

Pin Chin Kwok, Berkeley Haas MBA ‘09, was tired of working in finance. So, she used her MBA experience to launch her career in social impact. Pin knew exactly where she wanted to go and only applied to one program: Haas. Now, she’s the Innovation Director at LumenLab, a MetLife Innovation Centre. Listen to our recent interview with Pin to hear more.

Michigan Ross Logo

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business (Michigan Ross) – Touch MBA Interview

Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States

The Michigan Ross MBA ranks #4 in Financial Times’ 2017 “Top MBAs for CSR/Ethics” and #3 in Net Impact’s 2014 “Business as UNusual” lists. Being housed at one of the U.S.’s top public research universities grants students access to a range of interdisciplinary research centers and extracurricular activities to enhance their socially conscious learning experience.

The b-school sits in picturesque Ann Arbor – a classic, Midwestern college town that’s also been dubbed the smartest city in America. Though it’s not located near a major city like New York or San Francisco, Chicago is just a 4-hour drive away.

Social Impact in the Classroom

Academically, the Michigan Ross MBA leads the pack. MBA candidates can opt for a concentration in Business and Sustainability. Social impact-focused electives range from “Leading Nonprofit Organizations,” to “Global Corporate Social Responsibility,” to “Systems Thinking for Sustainable Development.”

The “MAP” course is one of those b-school activities that students carry with them far beyond graduation. The class takes students around the world to work on seven-week consulting projects and solve real business challenges. In 2017, MBA candidates worked on 83 projects in 25 countries.

Social Impact Outside the Classroom

Michigan Ross’s Center for Social Impact offers MBA candidates scholarships, academic opportunities, special events, and so much more. Students can also collaborate with the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, The Center for Positive Organizations, The William Davidson Institute, and the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.

MBA candidates can participate in clubs and activities like the Impact Challenge, Net Impact @ Ross, Detroit Revitalization and Business Initiative (Detroit R&B), and Community Consulting Club.

Where Do Grads End Up?

About 1.5% of the Class of 2016 landed jobs in the education, government, and nonprofit industries, with another 0.6% having jobs in the CSR function.

Social Impact in Practice: A Michigan Ross MBA’s Success Story

After graduating from Ross in 2012, Lauren Foukes Shaughnessy landed a job at The Bridgespan Group, a management consulting firm for philanthropists and nonprofits. She’s now the Director of Measurement and Learning for Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco. She credits her experiences at Ross for teaching her about what it means to work in social impact.

“We had to think very carefully about the impact that a social enterprise was creating, the business value it was creating. And, bringing those all together to make it a solid investment,” Lauren says here.

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) – Touch MBA Interview

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

RSM is the only school on this list that’s a member of the Academy of Business in Society (ABS), which is a Belgium-based organization dedicated to using business to create a sustainable global future. Outside the classroom, MBA students can participate in competitions and conferences focused on social impact. Despite not having as many bells and whistles as other schools on this list, RSM saves you time and money. It’s only one year and costs just €47,000.

Social Impact in the Classroom

RSM embeds sustainability into every single one of its MBA courses. For students who want to take it even further, the program provides a few special opportunities. In their third term, students can choose to focus on Advanced sustainability via a concentration course. Elective course offerings include “Corporate Social Responsibility” and “Entrepreneurship.”

Social Impact Outside the Classroom

The graduate-level chapter of Net Impact at RSM has consistently held a gold standing because of its robust event programming. MBA students can also submit their plans to affect positive change to the annual I WILL Award competition. In 2018, the winning plan will be awarded €15,000.

The school hosts the annual RSM Sustainability Forum. In 2017, the event focused on sustainable business models and attracted about 200 attendees. It’s also committed to environmental sustainability with its school-wide Sustainable RSM initiative.

Where Do Grads End Up?

About 2% of the Class of 2016 landed nonprofit jobs.

Social Impact in Practice: An RSM MBA’s Success Story

Post-grad, Maeve Quigley, RSM MBA ‘14, worked as an independent consultant for tech and social impact organizations. She now works for Ingenico ePayments, an e-commerce company around the world.

“I chose the RSM MBA programme because of its values of sustainability, innovation and global leadership development – values to me that reflect RSM’s commitment to shaping leaders who will make a positive impact in society,” she says. “I came out of the RSM MBA programme having gained a concrete skill set to make an impact improving sustainable business practices globally.”

Get an Early Indication of Fit from RSM MBA

Said Oxford Logo

University of Oxford, Said Business School (Said) – Touch MBA Interview

Oxford, United Kingdom

Despite the university’s old-world reputation, the Said MBA is a young and cutting-edge program. More than 10% of its Class of 2016 landed social impact careers – that’s more than any other program on we profile. Being socially conscious is at the heart of the MBA, which is designed around three pillars: global rules of the game, entrepreneurship, and responsible business.

Social Impact in the Classroom

For all you aspiring MBAs who loved a good Socratic Seminar in college, Said is the place for you. All MBA candidates take “Global Opportunities and Threats (GOTO),” which challenges them to solve the world’s most pressing issues using innovative solutions. They can also take elective courses such as “Social Finance,” “Rethinking Business,” and “The Nature of the Corporation.”

Social Impact Outside the Classroom

Said’s Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship anchors social impact in the MBA program. In addition to naming Skoll Scholars each year and providing leadership development opportunities, the center hosts the annual Social Impact Careers Conference in Oxford. The 2017 event featured speakers from across the public and private sectors, including UBS, Social Value UK, Oxfam, and Costa Coffee.

Where Do Grads End Up?

In 2016, more than one in every 10 Said MBA graduates landed jobs in the social impact sector. Notable employers included Ashoka UK, Impact Investment Partners, UNESCO, and the Australian Department of Industry. Six percent of the Class of 2013 landed nonprofit jobs.

Social Impact in Practice: A Said MBA’s Success Story

Ernest Darkoh has used his business education to tackle one the world’s largest public health crises: the HIV/Aids epidemic. After working on the issue with multi-sector stakeholders ranging from McKinsey, to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to the Government of Botswana, Ernest founded his own company. BroadReach Healthcare works to improve the health of underserved groups around the world.

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business (Fuqua) – Touch MBA Interview

Durham, North Carolina, United States

Fuqua’s social impact MBA offerings may outrank the university’s famed basketball team. The b-school sweeps both U.S. and international lists, falling in the top 10 for Financial Times’, U.S. News and World Report’s, and Net Impact’s specialty rankings. Its diverse international offerings and extracurricular activities help take MBAs social impact-related experiences to the next level.

Despite not being located in one the U.S.’s major cities, b-school students are still in very smart company. Durham, which sits in North Carolina’s “Research Triangle,” is the #4 most educated city in the country, according to WalletHub’s 2017 rankings.

Social Impact in the Classroom

MBA students can concentrate in Energy & Environment, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, or Social Entrepreneurship. Core and elective course offerings include “Impact Investing,” “Energy, Markets, & Innovation,” “Global Institutions & Environment,” and “Health Policy & Management.”

Social Impact Outside the Classroom

Fuqua’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) was founded in 2002 with a focus on three areas: education, practitioner engagement, and thought leadership. A number of extracurricular activities are housed at the center, including Fuqua on Board, the Net Impact Club, the Student Advisory Committee for the Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke (SEAD), and CASE Launch Pad. The center also offers two fellowship opportunities for second year MBAs and a speaker series.

Through the Program for Entrepreneurs (P4E), MBA candidates can collaborate with other Duke students to launch innovative initiatives. Students interested in social impact endeavors can also go international. The Global Academic Travel Experience (GATE) and the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP) offer hands-on experience in the field.

Where Do Grads End Up?

Socially conscious employers of the Class of 2016 include the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Ashoka, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CommunityCode, Ecolab, and the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP).

Social Impact in Practice: A Fuqua MBA’s Success Story

Recent grad Tim Scales, Fuqua MBA ‘17, won the CASE Launch Pad Award and has used the support to develop an app aimed at increasing political engagement in the U.S. CivicRise gives advocacy organizations a platform to disseminate tangible action items to their supporters.

Yale SOM Logo

Yale University School of Management (Yale SOM) – Touch MBA Interview

New Haven, Connecticut, United States

In many circles, the Yale SOM MBA is revered as the program for social impact. And, the rankings don’t lie. The program comfortably sits at #2 in the Financial Times and Net Impact rankings, while it tops the U.S. News & World Report list.

If you’re looking for a more holistic MBA experience, then Yale SOM may be perfect for you. Students leave the program with a well-rounded education and a hearty network that lay the foundation for a meaningful career. Oh, and did we mention that it’s an Ivy League?

Social Impact in the Classroom

Required courses include “Power and Politics” and “Organizational Perspectives,” a course that includes sections on “State and Society” and “The Global Macroeconomy.” Business-specific elective courses range from “Strategic Management of Nonprofit Organizations,” to “Transnational Corporations and Human Rights,” to “Ethical Choices in Public Leadership.”

Yale SOM MBAs are given the unique opportunity to take elective courses from across the entire university. Do you think brushing up on your Spanish skills will help you work in an emerging economy post-grad? Or maybe a biology course will increase your understanding of the healthcare industry? Yale SOM has got you covered.

Social Impact Outside the Classroom

Just the sheer quantity of co-curricular offerings are evidence enough that Yale SOM has earned its reputation in the social impact world. In addition to the classic club offerings, the b-school hosts many events on social impact and enterprise. With everything from the Yale Philanthropy Conference, a premier nationwide event, to the Economic Development Symposium, there’s an event for everyone. Many of these offerings are housed at the Yale SOM’s Program on Social Enterprise.

Where Do Grads End Up?

Nearly 5% of the program’s Class of 2016 landed jobs with nonprofits. Notable employers include the U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID), the National Park Service, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Ashoka: Innovators for the Public.

Social Impact in Practice: A Yale SOM MBA’s Success Story

Neal Keny Guyer, Yale SOM MBA ‘82, has worked for humanitarian organizations around the U.S. and the world. For more than 20 years, he’s been CEO of Mercy Corps – a role in which he’s managed a team of 4,500 people and a budget of more than $300 million.

Head to Head

Read below for a head-to-head comparison of top social impact MBA programs.

Berkeley Haas MBA vs. Michigan Ross MBA vs. RSM MBA

Oxford Said MBA vs. Duke Fuqua MBA vs. Yale SOM MBA

Last updated November 2017

Berkeley Haas MBA vs. Michigan Ross MBA vs. RSM MBA

 Berkeley HaasMichigan RossRSM
% of graduates going into field1.2% - Nonprofit and public sectors

0.6% - CSR function
1.5% - Education, government, and nonprofit sectors~2% - Nonprofit sector
Related courseworkEthics and Responsibility in Business

Strategy and Leadership for Social Impact

Nonprofit Boards

Strategic and Sustainable Business Solutions

Social Investing--Recent Findings in Management and Finance

Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund

Topics in Social Sector Leadership

Social Sector Solutions: Social Enterprise

Topics in Socially Responsible Business

Ethics and Responsible Business Leadership

Special Topics in Business and Public Policy
MAP Course

Strategies for Sustainable Development

Systems Thinking for Sustainable Development & Enterprise

Business Strategies for the Base of the Pyramid

Leading Nonprofit Organizations

Global Corporate Social Responsibility
Corporate Social Responsibility

Related co-curricular opportunities"Applied Innovation" Modules - Extracurricular and elective coursework outside the classroom

Center for Social Sector Leadership

Haas Socially Responsible Investment Fund

Global Social Venture Competition
Center for Social Impact

Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise

The Center for Positive Organizations

The William Davidson Institute

Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies

Net Impact @ Ross

Detroit Revitalization and Business Initiative (Detroit R&B)

Community Consulting Club
Net Impact Club

I WILL Award Competition

RSM Sustainability Forum

European Business Plan of the Year Competition
Related international opportunitiesTata Social Internship

International Business Development Course
MAP Course

Global Practicum Courses

Global Immersion Courses
Financial Times 2017 - "Top MBAs for CSR/Ethics"#3#4#7
U.S. News & World Report 2017 - "Best Nonprofit MBAs"#3#7N/A
Corporate Knights 2017 - "Better World MBA Rankings"N/AN/A#13
Net Impact 2014 - "Business as UNusual: Top 50 Schools for Social Impact"#7#3N/A

Oxford Said MBA vs. Duke Fuqua MBA vs. Yale SOM MBA

 SaidFuquaYale SOM
% of graduates going into field10.3% - Social impact1% - Social and environmental impact sectors

<1% - Government sector

0.6% - CSR function
4.6% - Nonprofit sector
Related courseworkGlobal Opportunities and Threats (GOTO)

Entrepreneurial Finance

Political Economy for Business Leaders

Rethinking Business

Social Finance

Strategy & Innovation

The Nature of the Corporation
Impact Investing

Energy, Markets, & Innovation

Global Institutions & Environment

Health Policy & Management

Leadership, Ethics & Organizations

Entrepreneurial Strategy
Power and Politics

Organizational Perspectives

Strategic Management of Nonprofit Organizations

Transnational Corporations and Human Rights

Ethical Choices in Public Leadership

Global Social Entrepreneurship

Business Ethics

Sustainability Finance

The Future of Global Finance

Strategy, Technology & War

Policy Modeling

Managing Social Enterprises

Business and Government after Communism

International Entrepreneurship

12 Design Ideas that Changed the World

Race and Gender in Corporate Law and Governance

Public Sector Economics

Business and the Environment Solutions
Related co-curricular opportunitiesSkoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship

Social Impact Careers Conference

Business in Society Series

Venture Idea Exploration Workshop

Entrepreneurship Project
Program for Entrepreneurs (P4E)

Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE)

Fuqua on Board

Net Impact Club

CASE Speaker Series

CASE Fellows

Case i3 Fellows

Student Advisory Committee - Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke (SEAD)

CASE Launch Pad
Program on Social Enterprise

Yale Philanthropy Conference

Economic Development Symposium

Education Leadership Conference

Africa Business Practicum

Global Social Enterprise Club

Net Impact Club

Social Impact Consulting Club

Nonprofit Board Fellows Club

Economic Development Club

Business and the Environment Club

Business and Politics Club
Related international opportunitiesStrategic Consulting ProjectGlobal Academic Travel Experience (GATE)

Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum
Global Network Week

Global Network Course
Financial Times 2017 - "Top MBAs for CSR/Ethics"#8#9#2
U.S. News & World Report 2017 - "Best Nonprofit MBAs"N/A#6#1
Corporate Knights 2017 - "Better World MBA Rankings"N/A#12N/A
Net Impact 2014 - "Business as UNusual: Top 50 Schools for Social Impact"N/A#6#2

Behind the Rankings for Social Impact MBAs

U.S. News & World Report – Best NonProfit MBA Programs (2017)
This list is kin to some of the most prominent higher education rankings out there. The only downsides? It only includes U.S. schools and is based solely on nominations of business school deans and directors, which essentially makes it a lagging reputation ranking.

Financial Times – Top MBAs for CSR/Ethics (2017)
Though this list comes from a well-regarded source and includes schools from around the globe, it only ranks 10 programs and is based on data from 2013 b-school graduates.

Corporate Knights – Better World MBA Rankings (2017)
This list has been around for 15 years and uses a methodology based on three criteria: curriculum, institutes and centers, and faculty research. It’s one of the most comprehensive and current resources out there on social impact b-schools.

Net Impact – Business as UNusual: Top 50 Schools for Social Impact (2014)
Net Impact has separate lists for top programs in social impact, environmental sustainability, and social entrepreneurship. The report even includes extensive data on student opinions on the industry. But, it’s a bit stale – the latest version was published back in 2014.

What Do You Think?

While we’ve highlighted our favorite social impact MBA programs, we know there are many great programs. Is there another b-school that you think deserves to be featured? If so, let us know why in the comments below.

Two thoughts on “6 MBA Programs to Launch Your Career in Social Impact

  1. Pingback: Standing out from the b-school crowd: Fuqua’s academic centers make an impact with prospective students - EDGE

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