Duke Drops Early MBA Job Report

Sheryle Dirks of the Fuqua School

Sheryle Dirks of the Fuqua School

Every late July or early August, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business would ordinarily be one of the first of the top business schools to release employment data for its latest graduating class of MBAs. The preliminary report often was more detailed than the final employment surveys released by rivals in the fall.

This year, however, Fuqua decided against publishing its preliminary pay and placement numbers. But Sheryle Dirks, associate dean for career development at Fuqua since 2005, says it is not because there’s any bad news to report. Instead, the MBA marketplace is changing in ways that make a preliminary survey less meaningful.

“Students appreciated the transparency of it, but some said they weren’t going to be reflected in it because they accepted their jobs later in the cycle,” says Dirks. “It painted a picture of more traditional MBA recruiting and hiring. And by the time we released the final report in late September, not many people would go back to see the results. They felt they had already seen it.”


The job market, adds Dirks, remains strong, and the school expects to improve on last year’s stats when 81% of the Class of 2013 had job offers at graduation by May 12 and 91% had offers three months later.

“It’s been a good year,” she proclaims. “Our numbers will be up in comparison to where we were last year at graduation in early May and three months later. MBA demand is still good. I have not seen a fundamental shift. The market is pretty robust right now, but student interests are very diverse and employer interests are very specific.” Dirks says that some companies are increasingly looking for a set number of years of work experience, or certain backgrounds in work for jobs.

Though Deloitte Consulting will for the fourth consecutive year be the top MBA employer at Fuqua (last year Deloitte hired 28 full-time and 19 interns), an increasing number of MBA students are searching for jobs with companies and organizations that tend not to recruit large numbers of graduates. This is especially true in mid-sized and startup technology companies as well as social impact organizations.


A recent analysis by Dirks’ office found that 81% of the hiring companies at Fuqua in the past two years hired just one or two of the school’s graduates. At Stanford Graduate School of Business, 85% of the recruiting companies hired just one or two MBA graduates.

“The number of companies hiring for very specific needs or on a localized scale are increasing,” she says. “That more focused and localized activity is a real reflection of the overall diversification of the market right now. The reality is that the vast majority of companies are hiring only one or two students so the data shows that you can be successful as an employer coming here to recruit just a few students. And from the student perspective, if you don’t get hired by a large company, you can still be very successful and have a fruitful career. You are just not seeing hundreds of companies come on one campus and hire 15 students at a time.”

That’s the primary reason she decided to shelve the preliminary employment survey. “In years past our preliminary report was a preview of the full data dive on what percentage of students when into different functions, industries and geographies. What we learned through that process is that in recent years student interests are increasingly diverse and in many cases that causes students to think differently about the timeline of their search process. Many students are intentionally not looking to ramp up their search efforts until spring or even early summer.”


For MBAs keen on working in Silicon Valley or for social enterprise, just-in-time hiring is more of a reality. “We have more and more students interested in social impact jobs and those students often wait until the spring to look for jobs,” she says. “There is not a lot of activity. They don’t hire on a planned programatic basis like the large consulting firms, investment banks and consumer product companies. It’s more of a just-in-time recruiting cycle. We also had a number of students who knew they wanted to go to Silicon Valley and work with small companies. Many waited until they graduated and could go to California to land a job.”

Dirks says Fuqua will continue to gather data on the Class of 2014 through early September and release its final report by the end of the month. “Consulting definitely dominates as an industry on our top employer list. Tech is increasing its share of MBA graduates, with companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Google. and Amazon. That is a space where we have seen growth in the last several years and continued growth this year.”

Asked about starting salaries for Fuqua MBAs, Dirks was reluctant to provide any details—just yet. Last year, the average base salary was $112,751, with a high of $260,000 for an MBA who landed a job in the energy field and a low of just $24,000 for a graduate who took a job with a social and environmental impact organization. The average signing bonus last year was $28,710, with a high of $76,000 and a low of $2,000.