Is the Grass Greener? Sector Shifting and Choice of Sector By MPA and MBA Graduates

by Mary Tschirhart, Kira Kristal Reed, Sarah J. Freeman, and Alison Louie Anker, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Volume 37, Number 4, Sage Publications, December 2008.

Which pasture holds the greener grass for aspiring graduates: business, government, or nonprofit?

The authors of this study published in the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly surveyed 688 graduates to track their careers within and between sectors. They argue that today’s graduates have abandoned the traditional view of a career inside one workplace, concluding that few stay with just one employer throughout their working lives. However, there has been little empirical research addressing whether or how graduates shift between sectors and how graduates decide upon which sector to work.

In this piece, the graduate programs studied: MPA (Master’s of Public Administration) and MBA (Master’s of Business Administration) attract individuals from across the three sectors. Examining the stated preferences of these graduates, the authors’ findings reveal subtle shifts in perception about the sectors. As expected, those seeking work in the business sector did not expect job security. Yet the study findings also revealed those who desired to work in government had no expectation of long-term employment security either.

Overall, it’s believed individuals who move across sector boundaries shift because they feel competent in the new field. This indicates that hands-on experience within a graduate program may be the key to encouraging more individuals to build their competencies and potentially shift sectors upon graduation.

Social sector organisations that want to attract graduates should consider making available opportunities for graduates to familiarise themselves with the field and develop competencies. Creating opportunities for individuals from business and government to work within non-profit organisations may attract them to the sector over the course of their careers.

To access the full article see: nvs.sagepub.com

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