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They say "those who can't do, teach," but at Wharton, "those who can't do" may be few and far between.

Over this past year alone, two prominent Wharton faculty members, including the current dean, Patrick Harker, have announced plans to leave the business school for outside post.

And many of their colleagues receive a steady stream of outside job offers.

Wharton's Vice Dean of Executive Education Jonathan Spector will also leave Penn this month to become president and chief executive officer of The Conference Board, a not-for-profit global business research organization.

Spector, who arrived at Wharton in 2003 with 20 years experience as a consultant for McKinsey & Company, said "the skill sets" of his Wharton post and his new CEO title "are I think, significantly overlapping."

Wharton professors, too, often find themselves with offers from the private sector, though for different sorts of positions.

Calls from top firms are the norm for faculty at highly-ranked business schools like Wharton, Finance professor Andrew Metrick said.

He added that Wharton professors are more likely to be headhunted for jobs related to their research fields: Finance professors, for example, get offers to do quantitative research at places like hedge funds.

Marketing professor John Hutchinson agreed, saying people in his field are commonly tapped for positions related to areas of expertise.

The choice whether or not to accept such offers, however, is not always a clear one.

"Being a professor is kind of a very specific lifestyle," Metrick said, adding that he is in academia for the long haul despite calls from recruiters.

But for others, a less-lucrative life in higher education has its drawbacks.

Spector said he is looking forward to engaging on a global level as leader of The Conference Board, which "operates more on the pace of business."

And sometimes - when a professor doesn't receive tenure, for example - moving to the private sector is more a necessity than a choice, Hutchinson added.

And once someone leaves academia for the "real world," returning can be nearly impossible due to the difficulty of getting back on track with research, Metrick said.

This path of academic-turned-businessman can also be reversed.

One may not be qualified for a tenure-track job, but senior businessmen like Spector can be recruited for more administrative roles, while high-profile figures can even become candidates for university deanships or presidencies.

"I think it would be a good thing if more business people were involved in academia," Spector added. "It would really benefit both communities."

Still, "for people just starting out, the boundaries between industry and academia are a little less permeable," said Jennifer Furlong, a Penn Career Services Counselor who advises Wharton doctoral students.

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