Consulting Overtakes Finance At Booth

Chicago Booth MBA students

For the first time ever, more graduating MBAs from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business accepted jobs in the booming consulting industry than in finance. For a school where finance has always dominated, consulting’s rise is yet another indication of the decline of finance in MBA recruiting.

Ever since the Great Recession of 2007-2008, the leading schools that funnel MBAs into Wall Street—Wharton, Columbia, Booth and NYU Stern—have seen fewer and fewer of their graduates headed into the core finance jobs in investment banking, investment managment, private equity, venture capital and hedge funds. But never before has an elite school known for its strength in finance seen another industry topple the financial sector as the leading employer of its MBAs.

Some 34.7% of Booth’s Class of 2017 ventured into consulting, up more than seven full percentage points from the 27.5% a year earlier. MBAs going into the financial sector, meantime, fell to 30.7% of the class, down from 36.0% last year. As recently as 2010, 45.0% of graduating Boothies rushed into the finance industry. The biggest declines in financial services occurred at what the school calls “diversified finance,” a category that drew only 3.8% of this year’s class, down from 7.7% last year. Investment management, private equity and insurance also fell. I-banking jobs showed a slight rise to 14.7%, from 13.6%.


In an interim report on the employment prospects of the Class of 2017, Chicago Booth also reported that median starting salaries and sign-on bonuses remained unchanged this year at $125,000 and $25,000, respectively. But a slightly higher percentage of graduates received sign-on bonuses in the interim report, 66%, versus the 60% of graduates who got signing bonuses last year.

As a result, total median compensation, adjusted for the percentage of students receiving sign-on bonuses, was up slightly to $141,503, from $140,020. For the first time, Chicago Booth did not disclose other guaranteed compensation for its graduates. Last year, Booth said that 16% of its graduates received median extra comp of $25,000, pay that is typically reported by MBAs who head into finance.

“We had a really strong year at Booth, says Julie Morton, associate dean of career services and corporate relations. The students did really well. There wasn’t a lot of job search angst in the spring of last year, and the people who are still looking are fine with the fact they were still in the market.”

Booth said that 91% of its graduating class had job offers at graduation and 97% gained offers three month after commencement. The final 3%, adds Morton, were “people who were looking for very specific stuff that was just going to take longer to get. They were willing to hold out and we stop officially tracking three months post.”


Four of the top five employers this year were all consultants: McKinsey & Co. led the pack with 48 hires, followed by Amazon and Boston Consulting Group, both employing 26 Booth MBAs, then Bain & Co., with 22, and Accenture, with 13. The first financial services firm—Morgan Stanley—on the list came in sixth place, with 11 hires.

“It’s the first time in recent history that consulting has outpaced financial services, for sure, if you lump everything finance related together,” adds Morton. “What the industry figures mask is that if you look at it by function, consulting and finance are just about the same.” The interim report shows consulting at 38.3% by function, versus 37.0% for finance.

Morton attributes the shift from finance to both changing student preferences and less hiring by financial service firms. “The financial services appetite for MBA talent has certainly diminished from what it was in its heyday,” she says. “But student interests at Booth have certanly gotten way more diverse. They are interested in a broader range of employment opportunities. Students are getting have become more interested in lifestyle issues and the changes banks have made on that front have helped somewhat but students are interested in going into careers where they have some control over how they spend their time.”

Median starting salaries for those taking consulting jobs were the highest of any industry employer this year at $147,000, up from $145,000 a year earlier and $140,000 two years ago. In contrast, median salaries to MBAs who took jobs in the financial sector was $125,000, some $22,000 less than consulting. Boothies who went into finance, however, received higher sign-on bonuses that helped to diminish the gap. Median signing bonuses in finance were $40,000 versus $25,000 in consulting.

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