Early-career progress among MSc graduates

Early-career progress among MSc graduates

Project manager: SISSEL JENSEN

Project duration: 01.06.2020 for 10+ years 


The project will study the careers of students who graduated from the Master of Science program in Economics and Business Administration at The Norwegian School of Economics between 2004 and 2012. The aim is to provide detailed documentation of early-career development for these cohorts of MSc candidates from NHH and to increase our understanding of the factors that drive differences in career dynamics among this group of high earners in the business sector.

Findings in the literature suggest that early-career dynamics are important for the entire career and it is therefore important to understand the drivers of success in the labor market in this part of the career. Although MSc graduates start in their first job with very similar earnings, the earnings trajectories soon diverge. In particular, jobs in large corporations, consulting firms and financial sectors, where many of the candidates end up working, pay high wages. Some jobs in these sectors pay exceptionally high wages and some workers thus ends up being among the top earners in the economy. Consequently, the dispersion in earnings in the upper part of the earnings distribution increases later into the career.

There are many potential reasons for why people end up with different career paths, despite having very similar educational background. Differences in aspirations as well as in preferences and personal traits may lead to differences in career paths, but individual level information on differences along these dimensions are hard to obtain. Moreover, fertility decisions may have career consequences – at least for females, but decisions about family formation are not endogenous. High career investment, say, in term of working long hours, is also likely to yield high pay off in through higher and more frequent wage increases and promotions. Workers also need to make the right decision about when it is optimal to stay in the firm, and when it is better to switch employer. Finally, we also believe that differences in academic achievement upon graduation, i.e., differences in grades and courses in the master’s degree, are important drivers for differences in individual career progress. We would, for instance believe that taking more finance courses yields higher rewards in the labor market because of the high earnings in the financial sector.

The data used in the project will be a combined dataset with high quality administrative data. Through a rich individual-level panel dataset, we will follow the ten first years of the careers of the candidates, after graduating from NHH. In particular, the data will provide detailed information about each job-spell, including earnings (all wage components), weekly hours worked, occupation, promotion, sector, firm characteristics, colleagues, networks, etc. Matching the career data to individual level register data on courses and grades, demographic information, data on social background, fertility and marital status, will give us a unique dataset to both explore and document many aspects of early-career development and the impact of the various factors listet above on career progress and outcomes over the first ten years of work-life.

The project will process registry data from Statistics Norway and the Norwegian School of Economics. In addition to data on the MSc students described above, data includes registry data about parents income and labor market status when the students were 16 years old, as well as education, earnings and occupation code for individuals working in the same firm as the students. The project will process data in accordance with data protection legislation and is approved by the Norwegian School of Economics. Any individual can request to have information about him or her erased from the data by contacting the project manager.

Core research team


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