Optics: Frequently asked questions

Background & details to help you find the answers you need from admitbrain's Optics.
Have a question not covered here? Send us a note at heyteam@admitbrain.com

About admitbrain Optics

admitbrain Optics are the only objective, third-party analyses of business schools' admissions & employment outcomes in the world. They're sort of like your due diligence before you make your MBA investment.
In many cases, yes. Schools build their employment and admissions reports with survey data from graduating students. This is similar to the methods employed by many of the large 'top MBA rankings': students are asked to report what sort of work they're doing, how much they make, etc.
Optics, on the other hand, don't rely on student surveys at all. The team at admitbrain spent months researching several public data sources to figure out where a school's graduates end up.
'Better' is subjective, but, yes, Optics are better. When we were MBA applicants, our biggest question was 'can this school get me where I want to go, and do I need it to?' We're building Optics because we never found a good answer to that question.
The biggest advantage you get with Optics is connecting the dots in the data. Optics can tell you, for (a fictional) example, that 85 % of people who went to a school from marketing ended up back in marketing, or that only 15 % of people who landed PE jobs post-MBA came from fields other than PE.
We think traditional sources of data around admissions have fundamental conflicts of interest that admitbrain doesn't. School employment reports, for example, are a critical piece of the school's recruiting efforts. Similarly, business school rankings rely on surveys of a school's graduates (who don't want their MBA's brand diluted) and recruiters (who want to maintain strong relationships with the schools). While we believe most business schools have unimpeachable integrity, an MBA is expensive, and you should never make an investment solely on the word of the person selling it.
Optics Sharp (a.k.a. Optics#) is the Optics premium tier. We wanted to make our data available to everyone regardless of ability to pay, so the high-level conclusions of our research are available to anyone with an admitbrain account.
For users who want to dig deeper, though, there's Optics#. Optics# unlocks powerful tools to slice & dice nearly all of Optics' data so you can get a sense of what kind of ROI an MBA offers to someone like you.
admitbrain's numbers are a sample of the last 3 years' admits & graduates. We think focusing too much on the last year is sort of like buying a stock because it performed well last week--it's crucial to look at trends when predicting future performance.
We encourage you to sanity-check our numbers against the schools' employment reports.
Because we rely on our own taxonomy for classifying different jobs (e.g., which jobs qualify as 'Product Manager,' or 'Corporate Finance'), a 1:1 comparison isn't always possible. admitbrain classifies a few job types, like 'investment banking' and 'operations,' in mostly the same way that schools do, so we recommend comparing our metrics in these areas to the schools'.
Our numbers will usually be in the same ballpark, but they'll rarely line-up perfectly with the schools. This is a feature, though, not a bug: because we use a different methodology, our numbers serve as a cross-check to schools' numbers.

About Optics' charts

When a chart's x-axis is labeled "Portion of group," it means the percentage of all students / graduates represented in the chart at that moment.
If, for example, you've filtered the results to show results only for female graduates, then a value of '15 %' means '15 % of female graduates'.
All values below 3 % (but greater than 0) are rounded-up to 3 %.
admitbrain estimates students' ages based on their career paths. We assume each student finishes undergrad at 22 years of age, then we estimate a student's age at matriculation into their MBA program.
This may skew our results a bit younger than reality (as people who graduate undergrad later are assumed to be younger), but we expect this effect is marginal.
Because we don't survey students or graduates themselves, we make some assumptions to determine gender. Given a student's name, we use commercial data sets to compute the probability of that student identifying as 'male' or 'female.' We then count as 'male' or 'female' any name with a probability of 90 % or higher.
This method may bias our results if there's a high proportion of androgynous names (e.g., 'Kelly'), or of names not common in the U.S., Europe, or India (as this is where our name data focuses).
This chart contains so-called 'box plots,' which are a way of visualizing the differences between distributions.
Specifically, the chart illustrates what the GPAs of admitted students looked like relative to their GMATs.
We think this is helpful alongside a school's published data, especially for people who may have very high GMATs, but low GPAs (or vice-versa).
Bear in mind that, unlike much of our data, this data is self-reported, and anonymous. We decided it was still helpful enough to include, but bear in mind that the actual numbers may look quite different.
This chart shows the GMAT scores of admits with a certain GPA. For example, given a 3.1 GPA, the chart will show how many people admitted with a 3.1 GPA had a GMAT of 700 or below, 710 or below, etc.
It's a cumulative histogram, so each bar represents the portion of admits with that GPA and a GMAT score of at or below the x-axis number. E.g., a '20 %' at '700 GMAT' means '20 % of admits with this GPA had a GMAT of 700 or lower. This differs from a non-cumulative histogram, where a '20 %' bar at '700 GMAT' would mean '20 % of people with this GPA had a GMAT of 700.'
Note that we present the GMATs for people with GPAs around the selected GPA, usually within +/- 0.1.
For now, we only count GPAs on a 4.0 scale, and we don't convert GPAs on non-4.0 scales.
This chart shows what jobs students had prior to matriculation. For example, if a school shows 18 % of students in 'Private Equity' jobs pre-MBA, this means that, for around 18 % of admits, the job they worked most recently before matriculation was in a private equity role.
If, on the other hand, a student applying from private equity took a new job at a hedge fund after applying, admitbrain would count them as 'Hedge Fund,' while the school likely counted them as 'Private Equity.' Our data shows that this isn't terribly common, though.
To learn more about how admitbrain classifies different jobs, check out this question.
This chart examines the sorts of jobs students had first after graduating. We make a crucial simplifying assumption here: that students graduate in May. This means that if a student graduated in January, started a job, then switched jobs in August of that year, admitbrain would count their August job as a 'first job.''
To learn more about how admitbrain classifies different jobs, check out this question.

Job types

admitbrain's job types are an effort to report data in the same language applicants use when talking about jobs. For example, HBS reports outcomes for jobs in "Investment Management / Hedge Fund", and "Venture Capital / Private Equity." While these job groupings aren't totally illogical, to the prospective student with her heart set on venture capital, seeing it grouped with private equity (or, worse, lumped into "Other Finance") can render an employment report useless.
We classify each job based on the nature of a person's responsibilities. So, while a person might work for Accenture as a consultant, if the bulk of their work deals exclusively with corporate finance, we count them as 'Corporate Finance.' If they worked in strategy consulting at Accenture, on the other hand, we'd label that job 'Management Consulting.'
At the moment, most of our job types don't deal with industry. Our research (and personal experience, being MBAs ourselves) shows that students typically aim for certain functions, with industry often being of secondary concern (e.g., you hear 'I want to work in banking' much more often than 'I want to work in leveraged finance banking'). There are some exceptions, though: we classify jobs with non-profits and within government as 'Non-profit / Philanthropy' and 'Government,' respectively.
Adding industries is on our product road map, though. We recognize that in highly specialized industries, like healthcare, the story's different: someone aiming for business development at Amgen isn't likely interested in a BD job at Walmart.
The answer to this depends a lot on the school you're examining. We try to track our classifications as close to conventional definitions as possible, so there shouldn't be too much difference in practice.
The biggest deltas will likely come from precision. Schools use statistical reporting techniques like grouping similar labels, or listing "Other" catch-all categories, that admitbrain avoids.
We've listed each job type we use here with a brief explanation. This classification system is constantly evolving, though, so if you have a specific question, feel free to email us at heyteam@admitbrain.com.
Accounting / Control
Beside the obvious jobs of accountant & controller, this category includes related jobs, like audit & assurance. This category also includes consultants whose primary responsibilities are in accounting, control, etc.
Business Development
Includes people tasked with growing a business through partnerships, acquisitions, new market entry, etc. While many strategy consultants & bankers work on the same sorts of deals that a business development person might, this job category deals exclusively with people who do this work on behalf of their own company--i.e., internally.
C-Suite Executive
This includes any of the conventional 'CxO' jobs, like 'CEO,' 'CFO,' and 'CMO.' Unorthodox titles, like 'Chief Awesomeness Officer,' are not included here (because come on).
Commercial Banking
People involved in non-investment banking operations, like lending money. This category also includes a number of different principal investment structures (like Business Development Companies), as the day-to-day work of these firms is more similar to commercial banks than it is to other principal investment firms, like Hedge Funds.
Corporate Finance
Any job charged with managing the financial aspect of a business. While there's some overlap here with other areas, like Accounting / Control, 'Corporate Finance' typically refers to treasury or financial planning & analysis (FP&A) roles. This category also includes consultants who specialize in Corporate Finance advisory.
Data Science / Analytics
This job type includes anyone who deals primarily with data & analysis, including 'Analytics' and 'Business Intelligence.' Of course, nearly every job deals with data in some capacity, so this category only includes people who identify their jobs as analytics-focused first--i.e., 'Market research analyst' would fall under 'Marketing.' While this category also includes bona fide data scientists, the job is relatively rare within the data set.
Engineers & people in engineering-adjacent jobs (e.g., cost analysis, engineering management, etc.). Most of the time, jobs in this category come with certain education requirements that other jobs (like Product management) don't. Because jobs in the sciences (like 'R&D Scientist) are relatively rare, we count them as 'Engineering' jobs as well.
Executive Staff
Typically, jobs that report directly to an executive-level leader. Examples include 'Chief of Staff,' or 'Special Assistant to the CFO.' Similar Military jobs, like 'Aide-de-Camp,' are classified instead under 'Military.'
A difficult-to-define title, we consider 'Fellows' to be a professional (or scholar) away from their primary employer on temporary assignment to an organization. Fellows in the medical world, however, are classified as 'Physicians' (where appropriate), and Fellows serving at non-profits (like Harvard's 'HBS Fellows') are counted under 'Non-Profit / Philanthropy.' Secondments are not classified under this job type, but instead under the type of job the person fills during their secondment.
Anyone who identifies as a founder or co-founder of their primary company (i.e., not a side-job). This doesn't include related jobs like 'Founding team member' (which is classified under whatever job type that person fills) or 'Founding Partner' (which we classify as 'Private Equity,' as this is a special role we've only seen in PE portfolio companies).
General Management
People responsible for the outcome, financial or otherwise, of a specific area of the business. Often, these jobs are characterized by having P&L responsibility, as well as oversight of subordinates. Some variations of the 'general management' job, like Product Management or Project Management, are classified under their own job type.
Any person employed by a government entity. This doesn't include teachers or members of the armed forces, who are classified under 'Teaching' and 'Military,' respectively.
Hedge Fund
People who work on evaluating and executing investments on behalf of a hedge fund. Nailing the definition of 'hedge fund' is a little out of scope here, but, generally, we defer to Bloomberg's classifications of different funds to decide what counts as a 'hedge fund,' and what's a conventional 'asset manager.' Included in this category are 'special situations' investors within larger organizations (like Goldman Sachs' 'Special Situations Group'). This category is limited to people making or advising on investment decisions. Because these career paths are distinct from other areas of a hedge fund, the 'Hedge Fund' job type doesn't include people involved in client-relations & fundraising (which we consider 'Sales & Trading') or general management jobs, like 'Management Associate' at Bridgewater ('General Management'). Also not included in this type are jobs managing funds-of-funds (which we consider 'Investment Management.'
Human Resources
People involved with the recruitment & retention of a firm's workers. This category also includes people working for headhunting firms, or other consultancies with an HR focus.
These jobs deal with the underwriting aspects of the insurance business. Other parts of the insurance world, like managing an insurance company's portfolio, aren't included in the 'Insurance' job type.
Investment Banking
People who advise clients on financial matters like M&A, capital structures, or debt & equity markets. Depending on the bank, a banker might work in an industry coverage group, a product specialty group (like Leveraged Finance), or as a more flexible 'generalist'. People who work in support roles within investment banking groups aren't classified here, but instead under their primary duty (e.g., 'Operations').
Investment Management
People responsible for making investments on behalf of their clients. This category includes only those jobs where client portfolios are the primary responsibility (e.g., 'Portfolio Management'). Adjacent jobs, like client relations or research on one-or-more asset classes are classified elsewhere (for these examples, 'Sales & Trading' and 'Securities Research,' respectively). This category only includes general asset management jobs (like the 'Investment Management Division' at Goldman Sachs, or a 'Fund-of-Funds'). Several specialized areas of investment management, like 'Real Estate Investment,' 'Private Equity' or 'Hedge Funds,' are classified under their respective types.
A practicing attorney, either for a large law firm or a government entity. Adjacent jobs, like paralegal, are not included here.
Jobs that oversee the materiel requirements of a business. In some businesses, this might be just include 'office supplies,' but in logistics-centric businesses, like retail & parcel services, this category includes dozens of jobs, from 'merchandising' to 'vendor management.'
Management Consulting
McKinsey, Bain, etc. We've tried to limit this category to people working in 'strategy consulting' (as opposed to 'tech consulting,' or 'transaction services consulting'.
Anyone involved in the pricing and/or advertising of a firm's goods & services. This can include jobs like digital marketing, SEO specialist, or 'brand manager.' Also included are adjacent jobs, like 'public relations' or 'communications' (while neither of these are strictly marketing jobs, because they're relatively infrequent, we've grouped them with Marketing).
Media / Entertainment
Anyone involved in the creation or distribution of media (e.g., movies, art, music). This includes everyone from producers, to artists, to freelance writers.
An actively serving member of the armed forces of any nation. Not included in this category are reservists (who normally have other primary jobs in the civilian world), or civilians working for Defense Departments / Ministries (which we count as 'Government'). While these jobs are fairly common pre-MBA, very few people enter the armed forces post-MBA.
Non-Profit / Philanthropy
While a non-profit employee could perform any number of different jobs, we classify any job at a non-profit under this job type. Jobs at governmental organizations are not included here (they're classified under 'Government').
Non-financial Research
A very broad category, this job type includes any role with research as a primary duty. By 'Non-financial,' we mean research on anything except areas covered under 'Securities Research' (so, we count 'economic researcher' as 'Non-financial Research,' but 'natural gas market analyst,' we consider 'Securities Research').
Jobs of this type can vary widely in responsibilities, but are normally described as 'operations,' irrespective of industry or firm. The only obvious operations job not classified under this type is 'Chief Operating Officer,' which falls under 'C-Suite Executive.'
A medical doctor, either actively seeing patients, or serving in an administrative / research capacity in a medical organization.
Policy Analysis
Someone who studies and/or advises on policy, either for a think tank, a consultancy, a private firm, or a government entity.
Private Equity
People involved in the sourcing & execution of private equity investments, including leveraged buyouts, infrastructure investments, and growth equity investments. Not included are funds that deal mostly in real estate acquisitions, which fall under the 'Real Estate Investment' job type. This job type also includes private equity groups internal to larger organizations, like an investment bank's 'merchant banking division.' Not included under this job type are people involved solely with the due-diligence of a private equity deal, as well as those managing private equity funds-of-funds (which we classify as 'Investment Management').
Product Management
Similar to General Management, PMs are responsible for the overall performance of their product. This can vary from company-to-company, but typically, we count as a PM anyone who coordinates the efforts of the various product teams (e.g., engineering) and prioritizes which product features the team will focus on next. Because their duties can touch so many different parts of a business, PMs are often called 'Mini-CEOs.'
Project Management
Also called 'Program Management,' Project Managers oversea accomplishment of one-or-more objectives. This is somewhat vague, but fortunately, most 'Project Management' jobs are plainly named, so it's fairly straightforward to determine if a job falls under the 'Project Management' job type. Adjacent jobs that don't fall under this job type are Product Management and 'Special Projects' (which we classify as 'Executive Staff,' as these jobs typically report directly to an executive).
Real Estate Development
Jobs that deal with the design, construction, and operational elements of a real estate project. While Real Estate Development often overlaps with Real Estate investment, the latter places less of an emphasis on the design & operational elements of a real estate project.
Real Estate Investment
An investment vehicle (often, a Real Estate Investment Trust) that deals primarily in the acquisition of commercial or residential real estate. Though the two can overlap considerably, this job type differs from 'Real Estate Development,' described above.
Rotational / Leadership Development Program
A structured program, typically at a larger firm, that places recruits into various parts of the firm for fixed periods of time. An example of this is the Amazon Retail Leadership Development Program, which places recruits into two different jobs over a period of 36 months.
Any job responsible for acquiring new customers, or for managing relationships with existing customers. This includes euphemisms for 'sales' like 'Account Manager' and 'Account Executive,' as well as customer support jobs. Any sales job that deals primarily in financial securities, however, is classified as 'Sales & Trading.'
Sales & Trading
This includes either traders (equities, commodities, etc.) or sales / client-relations people. Adjacent jobs not included here include quantitative analysts (considered 'Securities Research') and people working on the operational aspect of trades (which we classify as 'Operations').
Search Fund
An investment fund assembled with the sole purpose of acquiring a single small-/medium-sized business to operate. These funds are often led by one-or-more recent MBA graduates, with investor capital financing operational expenses during the search. Typically, the founders seek separate capital (e.g., debt financing) to finance the acquisition.
Securities Research
Jobs of this type research (and often publish on) certain asset classes, like 'equities research.' While 'sell-side analyst' in an investment bank clearly falls into this category, less obvious jobs include a commodities researcher at an energy company, or an analyst at a credit rating agency.
Startup Accelerator
A special sort of seed-stage investment organization, Startup Accelerators offer early-stage companies expertise, services, office space, and, often, cash. In return, most accelerators take single-digit equity stakes in the startup. Examples here include Y Combinator, Mass Challenge, and TechStars.
Strategic Planning
A broad category of jobs with a lot of overlap with Corporate Finance and Business Development, we consider 'Strategic Planning' to include any job at a firm where a person's primary duty is planning for the firm's future. This can include so-called 'internal consulting roles,' as well as any number of specific 'Strategist' roles, like 'New Markets Strategist.' Jobs that fall clearly under another job type, like 'Brand Strategist,' or 'Financial Planning & Analysis,' fall under other job types (in these examples, 'Marketing' and 'Corporate Finance,' respectively).
Anyone who instructs students, including college lecturers, university professors, grade-school teachers, and Teach For America volunteers.
Tech Consulting
Consultants who advise companies on either software product development, or the integration of enterprise software systems.
Venture Capital
People who source deals & make investments in early-sage companies. This category includes angel investors, but does not include startup accelerators (like TechStars, which are classified as 'Startup Accelerators') or private equity funds with substantial growth equity activity.