Finance & Consulting Down At Wharton

Locust Walk on a beautiful fall day just outside the Wharton School of Business

Locust Walk on a beautiful fall day just outside the Wharton School of Business

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School continued to reduce its dependence on the financial sector this year, sending fewer graduating MBAs into the highest-paying jobs in private equity, venture capital and hedge funds. The percentage of the Class of 2014 who entered the world of finance is the lowest in recent memory: Just 35.5%, down from 38.5% last year and a high of 47.7% in 2008.

The numbers were disclosed today (Oct. 3) by Wharton on its website, though the school’s full 2014 employment report is not yet public. The good news in the report: Wharton is successfully diversifying the industries and companies that recruit its MBAs, and 98.2% of the class had job offers three months after graduation. The bad news: Those declining finance jobs tend to pay less than positions in finance that are among the most lucrative for MBA graduates.

Despite the shift toward jobs in technology, healthcare and consumer products, the median base salary was unchanged from last year at $125,000. So was the median $25,000 sign-on bonus, received by 65% of the class. About 15% of the graduates reported getting other year-end guaranteed compensation of $27,000, while half the class said their new employers also paid a median $10,000 to help them relocate to their jobs. For MBA students who received all three forms of comp–salary, signing bonus and other year-end guaranteed comp–the potential median pay package was $177,000.

This year, the highest reported starting salary in the class was $300,000–$50,000 shy of last year’s high–but the high end for other guaranteed year-end compensation for at least one lucky Whartonite hit $350,000, well ahead of the $260,000 high for 2013, though the median in guaranteed actually fell from $31,500, in all likelihood a consequence of the decline in PE and hedge funds jobs landed by Wharton MBAs. The median year-end bonus achieved by those who did get a hedge fund position was a whopping $150,000, while those who joined a PE firm reported a median of $127,500.


The decline in PE jobs runs counter to what Stanford’s Graduate School of Business reported only last week. Roughly 12% of Stanford’s MBAs went into private equity this year with median base salaries of $170,000. All told, nearly three of every ten MBA graduates at Stanford, or 29% of the Class of 2014, accepted job offers in finance, up from 26% last year, allowing finance to reclaim its No. 1 position at Stanford.

At Wharton, the highest median starting salaries went to the graduates who entered venture capital ($145,000), private equity ($140,000) and hedge funds ($140,000), and consulting ($135,000)–all fields attracting fewer Wharton MBAs this year. VC hires accounted for 1.7% of the class, down from 2.5% last year; PE and buyout firm hires fell to 8.5% from 10.8%; hedge funds captured only 3.4% vs. 4.2%, while consulting hires also were down to their lowest level in many years, 25.9% compared to 29.3% a year earlier.

Only two finance areas turned up for Wharton this year: Jobs in investment banking and brokerage and investment management. I-banking was up just slightly to 14.2% of the class, better than the record low of 13.2% last year but well off the 25.5% of 2008. Investment management climbed to 6.7%, an improvement on the 5.5% in 2013 and not all that different than the 2008 high of 7.2%.


The slack in finance was taken up largely by the technology industry–which paid median salaries of $115,000, some $10,000 below the class median–healthcare and consumer products. Some 13.7% of the class went into tech, up from 11.0% last year and more than double the 5.6% who chose technology only four years ago in 2010. MBAs accepting jobs in healthcare and pharma represented 5.8% of the class, up from 3.9% a year earlier. Those entering consumer goods companies rose to 7.5% from 6.5%.

There also were slightly fewer Wharton MBAs this year who started their own companies out of school: 6.7% versus last year’s record high of 7.4%.

Interestingly, as more graduates accept jobs in tech, an increasing percentage of the class is relocating to the West Coast. The percentage of jobs accepted in the West has increased to 23.0% this year from just 13.4% in 2010, while the jobs in the Northeast–largely due to the decline in Wall Street–fell to 25.4% this year from 32.8% in 2010. The biggest increases occurred in San Francisco, where 9.3% of the Class of 2014 is headed, more than double the 4.3% in 2010, and Seattle, which attracted 3.1% of Wharton grads this year, up from 1.5% in 2010.

The recovery of the U.S. job market from the days of the Great Recession as well as a decline in international enrollment has also resulted in an increase in the percentage of Wharton MBAs finding jobs in the U.S. This year, 80.6% of the class landed U.S. jobs, up from 75.7% in 2010. International jobs fell to 19.4%, down from 24.3% during the same timeframe. These numbers also coincide with a decline in the number of international students at Wharton. Roughly 37% of the Class of 2014 was international, compared to 45% in 2010.


How Wharton’s Class of 2014 Compares

With Other Top Business Schools


School Median Base Sign-on Bonus Other Bonus Jackpot Graduation Offers Offers 3 Months Later
Wharton $125,000 $25,000 $27,000 $177,000 88% 98%
Stanford $125,000 $25,000 $31,500 $181,500 80% 94%
Dartmouth (Tuck) $116,000 $25,000 $25,000 $166,000 91% 98%
Michigan (Ross) $115,000 $25,000 $16,750 $156,750 89% 93%
Cornell (Johnson) $106,000 $25,000 $12,500 $143,500 87% 92%
UCLA (Anderson) $110,000 $25,000 $15,000 $150,000 75% 90%
Virginia (Darden) $110,000 $25,000 $9,500 $144,500 89% 94%
UNC (Kenan-Flagler) $100,000 $25,000 $16,625 $141,625 81% 92%
Texas-Austin (McCombs) $105,000 $25,000 $12,600 $142,600 80% 94%
Emory (Goizueta) $100,000 $25,000 $12,500 $137,000 90.4% 98.0%
Vanderbilt (Owen) $100,000 $15,000 $12,000 $127,000 83% 94%

Source: Business school employment reports & P&Q reporting

Notes: Jackpot refers to graduates receiving the median of all three forms of compensation: salary, signing bonus, and other year-end guaranteed bonus. Not all graduates are given all three. At Stanford, for example, sign-on bonuses this year were collected by half the class, while 38% of the MBAs received other year-end guaranteed compensation.

Differences in pay often reflect industry choices and geography. Stanford’s higher median base can largely be attributed to the fact that 12% of this year’s class went into private equity, which currently pays the most lucrative comp packages to MBAs. The median PE starting base salary this year was $170,000. At Tuck, for example, only 4% of this year’s class went into private equity and the base for those PE jobs was just $120,000.

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