Kellogg | Ms. Big4 M&A
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Stanford GSB | Mr. Army Engineer
GRE 326, GPA 3.89
Chicago Booth | Mr. Healthcare PM
GMAT 730, GPA 2.8
Harvard | Mr. African Energy
GMAT 750, GPA 3.4
Columbia | Mr. Energy Italian
GMAT 700, GPA 3.5
UCLA Anderson | Mr. SME Consulting
GMAT 740, GPA 3.55 (as per WES paid service)
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Quality Assurance
GMAT 770, GPA 3.6
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Salesman
GMAT 700, GPA 3.0
Chicago Booth | Ms. Indian Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 9.18/10
INSEAD | Mr. INSEAD Aspirant
GRE 322, GPA 3.5
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Army Aviator
GRE 314, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Mr. Renewables Athlete
GMAT 710 (1st take), GPA 3.63
Harvard | Mr. Healthcare PE
GRE 340, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Military Quant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Wharton | Mr. Future Non-Profit
GMAT 720, GPA 8/10
Kellogg | Mr. Concrete Angel
GRE 318, GPA 3.33
Kellogg | Mr. Maximum Impact
GMAT Waiver, GPA 3.77
MIT Sloan | Ms. Rocket Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.9
Wharton | Ms. Interstellar Thinker
GMAT 740, GPA 7.6/10
Harvard | Mr. Finance
GMAT 750, GPA 3.0
Harvard | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Kellogg | Ms. Sustainable Development
GRE N/A, GPA 3.4
Chicago Booth | Mr. Unilever To MBB
GRE 308, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Ms. Female Sales Leader
GMAT 740 (target), GPA 3.45
Tuck | Mr. Liberal Arts Military
GMAT 680, GPA 2.9
Harvard | Ms. Gay Techie
GRE 332, GPA 3.88
INSEAD | Mr. Product Manager
GMAT 740, GPA 63%

What MBA Grads Made In 2014 & Why This Year Could Be The Best Ever

Money man

For MBA students who decided to go to business school over the past five years, it’s been an amazing time, rich with career opportunities and increasingly handsome pay. If anything, the value of the MBA itself has been confirmed again and again as one of the very few degrees that brings an immediate payoff.

For the Class of 2014, starting pay packages and job placement rates are at either record or near-record levels. Indeed, at some of the super elite schools, the job offer rates may seem somewhat lower than a casual observer might expect. It’s only because the MBA job market has become so frothy that graduates of a handful of very prestigious schools have become ever more choosy and are holding out for the perfect opportunity, highly confident it will come.

Starting salaries of $110,000 to $125,000 are now the median at 16 top U.S. schools, ranging from Harvard where the median was $125,000 to the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business where the median was $110,000. Median sign-on bonuses–now given to the vast majority of MBA graduates from top schools–are $25,000. And all these numbers tend to be highly conservative because they do not include increasingly common year-end bonuses, tuition reimbursement, stock grants and relocation expenses. The graduates of several top European schools, including such key players as London Business School, INSEAD and IESE Business School in Spain, are also in that upper range.

PLACEMENT RATES SUGGEST NEAR FULL EMPLOYMENT AFTER THREE MONTHS

Most importantly, the placement rates at these schools are virtually near full employment, a massive turnaround from the numbers posted in the depth of the recession in 2009 and 2010. Last year, a remarkable 98% of the MBAs from Emory, Wharton and Chicago had job offers three months after graduation. None of the top schools had placement rates below 90% at the three-month mark.

At Emory’s Goizueta Business School, where its job offer rate at graduation was higher than any other MBA program at 90.4% and equal to the very best rate of 98%, it was a landmark year. “2014 was a very strong year for the MBA job market and Goizueta,” says Wendy Tsung, associate dean of MBA Career Services at Goizueta. “Last year, our top hiring partners extended more offers on campus and we also saw a 15% increase in new companies recruiting on campus. 2015 has been just as strong, especially in consulting and financial services. This is a good time to be graduating from an MBA program.”

Another telling statistic about the demand for MBAs: The starting pay packages being landed at such schools at the University of Texas’ McCombs School and Vanderbilt University’s Owen School are nearly as much as those at the highest ranked elite schools. McCombs grads reported starting salaries of $105,000 this year, while Owen MBAs hit the $100,000 mark. That’s just $20,000 or $25,000 lower than the $125,000 commanded by Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton MBAs. If you adjusted those numbers to account for pay and cost of living in the wider markets of Austin and Nashville and again for industry choices, the difference in MBA starting pay would be negligible.

‘2014 WAS A VERY STRONG YEAR AND IT LOOKS LIKE 2015 RESULTS WILL BE EVEN BETTER’

For graduates of the Class of 2015, it looks only to get better and in all likelihood could be the single best year in history to graduate with an MBA. In fact, the latest research is suggesting that the demand for MBA talent is so great that major corporate recruiters are now reaching deeper into the pool at second tier schools ranked between 20 and 100. Another sign of good fortune is that the most significant increase in recruiting is coming from financial services, a sector that is likely to boost overall salaries and bonuses as it competes more aggressively for the best grads at top schools.

Most of the finance jobs lost in the recession have been offset by the consulting and technology industries whose needs are as great today as they have been in the past three or four years. With finance roaring back, the increased demand for MBAs will likely lead to significant pay gains.

This week’s release of the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance survey found that 64% of the responding schools have seen increased recruiting for full-time jobs, up 23% over last fall. And more than three-quarters reported an increase in full-time job postings. At B-schools ranked from 21 to 50, the increases in on-campus recruiting were nothing but massive, with 81% reporting increases. That compares with 57% of schools ranked from 1 to 20 reporting increases, while 67% of those ranked 51 to 100 reported increases.

“2014 was a very strong year for MBA employment and the increases noted by the majority of participating schools suggest that the 2015 results will be even better,” says Damian Zikakis, director of career services at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. It’s highly possible that this year will be the best year to ever graduate with an MBA degree, even better than the 1980s and 1990s when business school education had its biggest gains.

THE VASTLY IMPROVED JOB OUTLOOK ALSO IS A REFLECTION OF MAJOR INVESTMENTS BY SCHOOLS IN CAREER MANAGEMENT SINCE THE GREAT RECESSION

While some surveys have shown the degree to have a declining return-on-investment, most of that data has been impacted by the Great Recession, when salaries and offers took a severe dive for every sector of the economy. The ROI data in the recent Financial Times global MBA ranking, for example, is essentially four years old, since it measures alumni who have been out of school for three years. In effect, the FT measured the class most impacted by the Great Recession. Moreover, those ROI figures rarely–if ever–account for massive increases in scholarship aid at many of the schools ranked in the top 50. Many MBA programs today have been discounting their tuition at rates never seen before. So the true cost of getting the degree is not nearly as large as many expect when they first see the sticker price of the degree.

While there can never be a 100% guarantee of placement in the job a graduate most wants, it’s just about as close as it can get to that ideal. “Placement in our tradition MBA program is probably as robust as ever, with over 95% of the graduates reporting employment success within 90 days of graduation at the top 10 schools,” says Paul Danos, dean of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. “And the total pay packages are exceeding pre-crash levels.”

Average starting salaries at Danos’ school hit $117,860 last year, up 2.5% from $115,031 a year earlier. Average signing bonuses–reported by 87% of the class–were $28,712, while other guaranteed compensation averaged $34,431. For a graduating student who collected all three forms of compensation, the average would have totaled a whopping $181,003–to start.

(See the following page for what MBAs made last year)

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.