Where Consumer Goods Firms Get Their MBAs

The business school that sends the highest percentage of MBAs into the consumer packaged goods industry? Wisconsin School of Business, which paces a strong Midwestern industry feeder system at 27%. Courtesy photo

The Midwest is the best — at least when it comes to cracking the job market in consumer packaged goods. Eight of the top nine business schools for sending newly graduated MBAs into the CPG industry in 2016 are based in the region, from public stalwarts like the University of Minnesota to the private halls of Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. Leading them all: Wisconsin School of Business, which sent 27% of its Class of 2016 to the likes of General Mills and PepsiCo.

Midwestern business schools’ emphasis on consumer packaged goods as a viable MBA career path is not exactly a surprise when you think of all the CPG firms based in the Midwest. Major employers of MBAs abound. Procter & Gamble’s home is Cincinnati, Ohio. Ecolab is in St. Paul, Minnesota. Target is minutes away in Minneapolis. Kraft Heinz has a major presence in Chicago, and Kraft Foods is based in Northfield, Illinois. And so on.

Wisconsin was the only school to send more than a quarter of its grads into the industry dominated by such names as Procter & Gamble, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and the Coca-Cola Company, leading a trio of Midwestern public schools atop the CPG list: Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business was second at 17.4%, and Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business was a close third at 17.2%.

Following them were a pair of private schools, Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business (14.6%) and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (14%). Kellogg, by the way, sends seven times the MBAs as Stanford, four times the MBAs as Harvard Business School into consumer goods and twice as many as Wharton. After that comes four schools tied at 13%: Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and another private school, Washington University’s Olin School of Business in St. Louis, Missouri, as well as the top European school for the CPG industry, IESE of Madrid, Spain, and Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business.

But while Wisconsin’s 27% is certainly a gaudy number, it also comes out of one of the smallest MBA classes among the 35 examined by Poets&Quants for this story: only 99 students. That makes for only 26 or 27 actual employees (Wisconsin does not provide a breakdown of graduates and their employers). Only one school P&Q looked at had fewer students in its Class of 2016: No. 3 CPG producer Michigan State, with 67, for a grand CPG total of 11 or 12 employees. Kelley, with a class of 185, produced 32 consumer goods-bound MBAs.


So where did the biggest chunks of CPG MBAs come from? The top producer is Kellogg, whose class of 653 yielded 91 MBAs for the industry, making sure the industry maintains that Midwestern flavor. A pair of Ivies then chime in: the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania (7.2%) with 61 MBAs, and Columbia Business School (67%) with 52. And it turns out that INSEAD, the Fontainebleau, France-based management consulting factory — 46% of its MBA Class of 2016 went into that field — does other things, too, including sending more MBAs (6% of 999, or about 60)  into consumer goods than any of its European counterparts (or most of its U.S. ones, for that matter).

Many of the top CPG feeder schools saw big leaps in percentages of MBAs going into the industry between 2015 and 2016. Notre Dame Mendoza leaped the most, 9.3 percentage points, while Indiana Kelley jumped 7.2 points and Wisconsin grew by 4 points. Elsewhere, UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business grew by 7.6 points, to 11.5%, while Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business increased its CPG placement by 6 points, to 12%. Dartmouth Tuck’s CPG total crept up 3 points, to 13%, good for 32 or 33 employees.

Some other schools had notable outputs even in what was a slightly down year. These include NYU Stern School of Business, at 8.7%, down 1.3 points but still good for 31 CPG MBAs; and another public Midwestern school, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, which sent 9.8% of its class of 448 into consumer goods, a drop of 1.2 points but still good for 44 MBAs.

But the biggest shift away from CPG came at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, which dropped 15 points from 18% in 2014 to just 3% last year, further evidence of the school’s hard embrace of entrepreneurship and technology paths. The only other schools examined by P&Q that lost more than 2 points were Yale School of Management, which dropped by 3.8 points to 4.2%, and Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, which fell 4 points to 6%.


There isn’t much disparity in base salary pay among graduates of the top consumer goods programs. Most make a median salary of between $100,000 and $110,000, with MIT Sloan School of Management MBAs earning the most at $115,000, and CPG-bound grads from Stanford Graduate School of Business ($110,000), Columbia ($107,500), and Berkeley Haas ($106,500) in the upper ranks. Yale grads earned the least (among U.S. schools) at $98,000. Wisconsin, the top CPG feeder school by percentage, is near the lower end at a median base salary of $100,000; Kellogg, the top feeder school in actual MBAs accepting jobs, is middle-of-the-pack at $105,000.

Some schools report average salary numbers in place of median; among those, the top reported base salary was $104,133 at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management, while three schools failed to crack six digits: Washington Foster ($92,333), the University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business ($98,750), and Minnesota Carlson ($99,200).

European schools, for the most part, trail their U.S. counterparts in median base salary for CPG-bound MBAs. Of the five schools examined by P&Q, an INSEAD MBA yields the highest pay, at a median $99,300. Next is London Business School (average US$92,192), followed by IESE (median US$83,881), which has the highest percentage of CPG-bound grads among the European B-schools (13%), and IE Business School in Madrid, Spain (average US$73,869). HEC Paris does not provide salary information in its annual employment report.

(See the following page for our list of the top schools that supply the most and least talent to the consumer packaged goods industry)

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