Peers are often confused when they meet MBA students who want to pursue careers in the education sector.  “Why didn’t you go to the Graduate School of Education or the Kennedy School?” they often ask.  Those are phenomenal programs (and some MBAs pursue joint degrees or cross-register for courses there). However, there’s a lively and robust education sector community within Harvard Business School and you can learn a valuable set of skills and perspectives to take into the education field.

For example, what do Boston Public Schools, Google Education, Altschool, Minerva, UC Berkeley, UP Education Network, the Gates Foundation, New Schools Venture Fund, and the Harlem Children's Zone have in common? Our HBS friends work there. 

The education sector needs talent and expertise from a variety of different fields with a variety of different perspectives.  HBS is a great place to develop skills and experiences that school districts, universities, non-profits, state and federal agencies, think tanks, education start-ups, and large companies with education divisions are looking for in the next generation of innovators and leaders.  Here are some of the paths we’ve taken to develop these skills and experiences:

Courses and Independent Projects

The required curriculum truly does prepare you with the foundation to enter any field, but there is some metacognitive work to be done to apply what we learn in accounting to school district budgets or in strategy to innovation plans. The work certainly builds your skill set, and perhaps most importantly, helps you think about how to bring best practices into education. 

The elective curriculum then provides many opportunities for education deep-dives. Alyssa pursued her interest in education through classes such as Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovations in Education, Managing Human Capital, and an independent project through the Social Innovation Lab.  She was also able to examine the economic forces around teachers unions through her group paper in the Role of Government in Market Economies and explore current issues facing school districts through Systemic Reform in Urban Districts and Schools, a class at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Chelsea hopes to follow a similar pathway with an emphasis on changing systems from within through courses like Public Entrepreneurship.

Student Clubs and your Peer Network

Outside of class, there are opportunities to join student clubs with others who share your interests.  This year, Chelsea will be the Co-Chair of the Social Enterprise Club, the umbrella organization that inspires, supports, and connects members who seek to create positive social impact. The club coordinates social and professional programming for cross-sector interests and hosts five interest groups, including Education (EIG).  The EIG hosts education-specific events throughout the course of the year, from “treks” to local education technology start-ups in Boston and panels about impacting education across sectors to “Think and Drinks” to discuss key issues in education and cross-school happy hours with the Kennedy and Education schools.

There are many other ways to engage with the world of education on campus, including weekly tutoring at a local elementary school or participating in the annual Social Enterprise Conference that draws speakers from across the social sector.

Beyond the experience themselves, these events create the opportunity to build a network of diverse peers who share a common interest in education but typically come from a variety of fields and backgrounds. One of the greatest benefits at HBS is the wealth of knowledge, experiences, and insights that other students bring to the table to challenge ideas and support deeper learning. 

Internships and Fellowships

Beyond your experience on campus, HBS prepares education-focused students for diverse opportunities through internships and careers.  The Career and Professional Development office (CPD) has career coaches available with deep expertise in education careers of all kinds, including connections to education-based alumni who are happy to connect with students.  

Alyssa leveraged CPD for help exploring education career opportunities, connecting with alumni in the field, refining her resume and job applications, and even deciding which offer to accept.  In addition to this personalized support, CPD also collaborates with the Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) to offer programming focused on social enterprise careers including alumni panels, organizational information sessions, and more. 

Alyssa and Chelsea both pursued summer internships with the help of SEI’s Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship program, which provides funding for summer internships. For full-time roles, HBS also has a program called Leadership Fellows, which provides year-long senior-level positions in public-sector organizations. The prestigious program also provides a cohort of peers, professional development, and continued access to CPD.

Life After HBS

HBS’s education community and opportunities don’t stop on graduation day as HBS alumni are actively leading the education field.  Now that Alyssa has graduated, she is still deeply involved with HBS alums and students in the education sector. Not only are there education-specific facebook and linkedin groups and groupme threads, there are also programs designed to connect recent grads with more experienced alumni in their fields.  Through the Compass mentorship program, Alyssa has been matched with a local alum with decades of education sector leadership.   

More about Alyssa and Chelsea:

Alyssa Schechter is the Manager of Strategic Growth at Empower Schools, an education non-profit working to create systemic change. Before HBS, she was a consultant at Bain & Company and spent her six-month externship at Education Pioneers. During her MBA summer, she explored the charter school sector by joining the Human Capital teams at Crescent City Schools and FirstLine Schools. Alyssa graduated from UVA in 2011 where she majored in Political Philosophy, Policy and Law (PPL) and Spanish.

Chelsea Banks began her career as a middle school math and science teacher through Teach for America in New Orleans, Louisiana. After earning her Masters in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, she joined the Education Practice at The Parthenon Group. Before HBS, Chelsea was the founding Director of Strategy at Empower Schools, where Alyssa now works. This past summer, Chelsea was a a summer fellow in the Office of Innovation at Boston Public Schools. Chelsea graduated from Princeton University in 2009 where she majored in Public and International Affairs.