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MBA Job Market Picking Up

After a year of serious contraction, the market for B-School students is bouncing back. At Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, a flat fall recruitment season gave way to a flood of spring job offers. Recruiters posted 40 percent more frequently through May than they did in 2009, and it’s the biggest push since Executive Director of Career Services Abby Scott started a decade ago. “Maybe being a little further from Wall Street,” helps, says Scott.

At Columbia Business School, though, it’s the same story: Slightly less on-campus visits with a 40 percent increase in job postings. Regina Resnick, managing director of the school’s Career Management Center, wouldn’t report specifics but says that full-time offers for graduates are trending ahead of 2009. “I always do add a word of caution,” says Resnick, “that we’ve seen a lot of volatility in the past couple of years.” Almost half of the Class of 2008 landed a job in financial services, but in one year, the rate dropped by a full 10 percent.

At Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, 45 percent of the hired students found employment through an on-campus interview, a doubling from 2009. Down the road at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler, there were 13 percent more on-campus visits. It’s not surprising that Haas, uniquely positioned in the heart of techland, powered through the volatility. Four American tech companies – Google, IBM, Apple and Microsoft – top the list of most valuable global brands this year. More than 60 percent of 2009 graduates landed full-time jobs in the Bay Area, and now, despite cautious employers, the average median base salary for Haas held steady at $100,000. For companies looking to court less expensive dates with a summer fling, on-campus intern recruitment was up 15 percent this fall.

Business is picking up again for business-school graduates in most areas of the country, but they’re moving away from finance and into sectors like consulting, marketing and general management (Scott says management consulting “continued very impressively with their hiring”). At many of the top schools, the prestige management consulting firms recruited record numbers of MBAs, helping to partially offset the decline of jobs in other parts of the economy. That trend began last year and continued through this past recruiting season. McKinsey & Co., for example, was the top recruiter at most major schools last year, hiring more MBAs than any other company at Harvard and a host of other top schools. In fact, not including Harvard, McKinsey hired a total of 176 MBAs from Wharton (50), Columbia (46), Northwestern (26), Chicago (23), London (21), and Michigan (10). Boston Consulting Group hired 98 MBAs from those same six schools, while Bain and Co. carted away 80 grads.

Seventeen students from Fuqua’s Class of 2010 landed full-time jobs at Deloitte, the auditing and consulting firm, and in total, 30 percent of this year’s Duke grads are headed into consulting. Sheryle Dirks, associate dean for career management, credits a strong relationship with Deloitte to frequent sponsorship of case competitions and diversity initiatives. Marketing, meanwhile, jumped five percent from 23 in 2008 to 28 this year; Johnson & Johnson, Fuqua’s top employer for five years running, and Pepsi, are always a force. Financial services went in the other direction – dropping from 32 percent to 22 percent over the same period.

For Darden Graduate School of Business, general management and consulting attracted more than half the students, combined. Over the past year, the number of students going into general management doubled as companies seek an “enterprise-wide perspective” during rapidly changing times, says director of career development Jack Oakes. Investment-management job recruiting at Darden hasn’t rebounded since 2008 even though students are interested. And, the recession’s financial shakedown has put new grads in competition with laid-off workers, keeping some students on the sideline. Pat McGee, Class of 2010, says, “You can hire somebody newly minted, or you can go to this guy who’s right in New York who’s a proven commodity.”

With his lease up at the end of July and the B-School loan maturing in November, McGee manned the phones to reach out to potential employers. Hunting down an equity research position was frustrating for McGee, a former member of the school’s Finance Club and Darden Capital Management, the program that lets students invest UVA’s endowment. Despite his experience helping invest the school’s money and a summer internship at Avondale Partners in Nashville, McGee waited out the lull. “The whole time I’ve been at Virginia, it’s been the singular focus,” he says of equity research. Recently, he signed on with Avondale as an associate analyst looking at the airline industry.

It’s not a permanent trough for the finance sector, though. Darden internships on Wall Street in investment banking, trading and private wealth management rebounded strongly. “We’re back nearly to the heady days for people who interned in the summer of 2007,” Oakes boasts. First-year students at Columbia have enjoyed a “serious rebound” in financial-services internship opportunities, too, according to Resnick. Bank of America, which acquired Countrywide Financial in 2007 and Merrill Lynch in 2008, scooped up a dozen Fuqua interns this summer and crop of Darden students for its general management rotational program.

Speaking of general management, Fuqua’s Class of 2010 is sending eight graduates to Apple, where they’ll be working in operations and supply chain. As the recent iPhone fiasco shows, there’s always a need for fresh eyes.