MBA Employment At Top 50 U.S. B-Schools

by John A. Byrne on

jobsIt’s almost as if the Great Recession never happened.

In the past two years, the job market for MBAs has been so good that some of the employment at graduation numbers look bad. Say again?

That’s right. Instead of grabbing the first job offer that comes along, many MBA graduates during the past couple of years have been holding off for their dream job. The result: employment at graduation, especially at the very best schools where confidence is highest, tends to look not nearly as good as you would expect.


Consider Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. Only 81% of the Class of 2013 had accepted their job offers by graduation but 91% actually had offers of employment. These days more MBAs are getting multiple offers and they are far more willing to turn them down to hold out for what they really want. Three months after Tuck’s commencement last year, 95% of the class had received job offers but 91% had accepted them.

“The current student population is definitely willing to wait for the right opportunity,” Jennifer Bridge, director of recruiting at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, told The Wall Street Journal. At Haas, only 74% of the Class of 2013 had accepted their offers at graduation, although 84% had offers. The ten-point gap between offers and acceptances is more than double the more typical four-point difference. At Stanford last year, the difference was five points, with offers for 77% at graduation and acceptances at 72%. At Chicago Booth, there was a 4.2-point gap, with offers exceeding acceptances by 86.3% versus 82.1%.

So when you look at employment numbers over the past five years at the top 50 U.S. business schools, you’ll notice some interesting trends. At Harvard Business School, the employment rate by graduation last year was not much different from the recession-plagued year of 2009. It was 78.7% last year, versus 76.8% in the heart of the Great Recession. The fact that there was little variation in employment numbers over these years tells you something about the value of the HBS brand. Even when all hell broke loose in the economy, Harvard grads did surprisingly well.


In contrast, MBAs from many other highly prominent schools struggled during the economic collapse. At Wharton, for instance, only 65.8% of the Class of 2009 had jobs by graduation. Last year, that number jumped to 79.7%–a difference of 13.9 percentage points, compared to Harvard’s 1.9 percentage point change. It’s a similar story at Columbia Business School where employment at graduation fell to 61.1% in 2009. Last year, it had improved to 74.9%.

More impressively, though, Columbia’s offer-acceptance gap was seven full percentage points three months after graduation when 97% of the class has offers but only 90% accepted them. Of course, both Wharton and Columbia were especially hit hard during the recession due to the implosion of Wall Street. Last year, however, Wharton reported that 97.8% of the Class of 2013 had received a job offer three months after graduation, the best number at the school in over ten years.

Many business schools, of course, have had major turnarounds in job placement. The single biggest increase in employment at graduation occurred at Emory University’s Goizueta School where employment sagged to 50.9% in 2009 but has since risen 30.8 percentage points to a healthy 81.7% last year (see table below).

Top 50 Schools With Biggest Improvement In Employment


School Five-Year Change 2013 Employment 2009 Employment
Emory (Goizueta) +30.8 81.7% 50.9%
University of Washington (Foster) +29.1 82.4% 53.3%
Vanderbilt (Owen) +28.0 81.8% 53.8%
Rice (Jones) +24.2 79.2% 55.0%
Brigham Young (Marriott) +23.8 87.8% 64.0%
North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) +22.7 76.5% 53.8%
Purdue (Krannert) +20.5 85.0% 64.5%
Notre Dame (Mendoza) +20.3 80.0% 60.6%
Michigan (Ross) +19.3 85.1% 65.8%
Florida (Hough) +15.9 67.9% 52.0%

Source: Poets&Quants analysis of employment at graduation rates (not job offers) from business schools

Surprisingly, too, among the top 50 U.S. schools, there were just six that reported a decline in employment at graduation last year versus 2009 when the recession hit hardest. The University of Southern California’s Marshall School had the biggest decrease, a 10.7 percentage drop to 55.2% in 2013 versus 65.9% in 2009. Boston University, UC-Irvine, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M, and the University of Iowa were the only other schools in the top 50 to suffer declines (see table below).

Top 50 Schools With Decreases in Employment


School Five-Year Change 2013 Employment 2009 Employment
Southern California (Marshall) -10.7 55.2% 65.9%
Boston University -7.8 65.9% 73.7%
UC-Irvine (Merage) -5.8 58.1% 63.9%
Southern Methodist (Cox) -4.9 55.8% 60.7%
Texas A&M (Mays) -3.4 63.4% 67.2%
Iowa (Tippie) -1.3 67.9% 69.2%

Source: Poets&Quants analysis of employment at graduation rates (not job offers) from business schools


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  • Zach

    It seems to me that any school that has a hard time placing at least 2/3 of their graduates in a good job right out of school should be penalized severely in the rankings. I look at the top 25 and can’t understand how some are in the top 25 with such low employment numbers. This isn’t a degree in philosophy; when I get out I want meaningful work.

  • JohnAByrne

    I agree with you. People go to business school largely to get the jobs they really want–not unemployment. So this data is extremely important.

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