Go West, Young MBA! Kellogg Grads Do

For the first time ever, more of the MBAs graduating from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management landed jobs outside the midwest this year. Nearly a third of the Class of 2017—more than any other elite business school outside the west—accepted employment in the Bay Area, Seattle, Los Angeles and other key western cities. Only two years ago, the school sent 21.8% of its students to jobs in the region (see table below).

The shift occurred as more Kellogg MBAs stream into the burgeoning tech industry which took a record 25% of this year’s class, up from 22% a year ago, to remain the second most popular industry choice of students. While Amazon led the parade of tech firms recruiting Kellogg MBAs, hiring a record 32 this year, double its take in 2015, a wide range of tech players made offers to Kellogg’s students.

They include the big tech brands everyone knows, including Microsoft, Apple, Google, Adobe, Cisco, Intuit, and salesforce.com, but also many lesser-known startups and VC firms.  “It’s not dominated by Amazon,” says Liza Kirkpatrick, Kellogg’s director of the career management center for the full-time MBAs. “We have 50 other unique tech employers who hired our grads in the Class of 2017. It’s the big guys, but it is also startups, too. It really comes down to student choice about where they want to go, whether they want to work with two guys in a garage or something that is more mature.”


Kellogg students are now flocking to tech at nearly double the rate of financial services which employed just 13% of the class, exactly the same as last year. The range of jobs in tech varies widely as well. “The students are being hired for a lot of different functions in tech, including product marketing, product management, strategy, strategy, business operations and supply chain management.”

Kellogg’s new MBA employment report, made public today (Nov. 14), is yet another in what has become a steady stream of highly favorable outcomes for the MBA Class of 2017. Total median compensation, including base salaries and sign-on bonuses adjusted for the percentage of students receiving bonuses, rose slightly to $140,350 this year from $139,750. That compares with median packages of $141,500 for MBA graduates from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and $154,750 median packages for MBAs from Harvard Business School. The Harvard total, however, includes other guaranteed compensation reported by its graduates. Booth and Kellogg decline to report other guaranteed comp.

After two consecutive years of increases in median base salaries, Kellogg said salaries remained unchanged this year at a median of $125,000. But a slightly higher percentage of the school’s graduates, 61.4% versus 59.0% last year, received median signing bonsues of $25,000, which also remained unchanged.


Liza Kirkpatrick is the director of Kellogg’s career management center for full-time MBAs

The school said that 94% of its MBAs received job offers three months after graduation and 91% accepted those offers. That’s slightly down from year-ago numbers of 96% and 93%, respectively. At graduation, some 85.4% had offers and 79.5% accepted their jobs. The response rate for Kellogg’s employment report is 99.8% and covers one-year, two-year and MMM graduates.

“The data speaks of freedom of choice,” says Kirkpatrick. “There is a strong market and that gives students the confidence to pursue opportunities that are more narrow in focus and take more time to get. We’re obviously really happy with where our students have landed. They are taking jobs in a mix of industries which again shows that Kellogg offers students a breadth of industry opportunities.”

This year’s big story in the report, however, is the appeal of jobs in the west. Among even the very best business schools, geography has been destiny. The largest single group of Harvard MBAs this year’s landed jobs in the region where the school is located: some 44% accepting job offers in the northeast. At Wharton, the same is true. Last year, 43.6% of its graduating MBAs started their employment in the northeast.


Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business has had so much trouble getting its MBAs to take jobs outside of California that this year the school began offering full-ride scholarships worth $160,000 to students who agree to work in the midwest for at least two years after graduation. Only 2% of the graduating class last year took midwestern jobs, compared to the whopping 65% who stayed put in the west.

Most of Kellogg’s western-bound MBAs, not surprisingly, are piling into the Bay Area to take advantage of tech opportunities in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. But a fair number are also landing jobs in Seattle and Los Angeles as well.

For a school with more than regional ambitions, having alumni widely dispered across both the U.S. and the world is important for networking but also student recruitment and employer access. With this new report, Kellogg becomes the first school to place more of its students out of its home region and in the most dynamic and fast growing sector of the economy.


To be sure, Kellogg still funnels a lot of graduates to midwestern locations—30.2%—but the 31.4% who ventured west now exceeds Harvard (25%), Chicago Booth (21.6%), Wharton (21.5%). Only MIT Sloan sends a slightly higher percentage of its graduates to the west—33%—but still counts on the northeast to employ 43% of its students.

For Kellogg, the west surpassed the midwest in geographic preference in a year in which the school began a pilot program for students to spend a quarter of their MBA studies in San Francisco (see Kellogg Does Its Own Bay Area Startup). The launch of that immersion program has helped Kellogg more deeply tap into its Bay Area alumni for in-class speakers, company visits, and working internships. “We are staffing a coach to work with students in San Francisco to network and secure internships for that program,” adds Kirkpatrick. “That is a key component in seeing ourselves staying relevant.”

Like many other business schools, Kellogg also has been active in bringing MBA students to Silicon Valley and developing deeper relationships with potential employers. Over the summer, Kellogg’s employer relations group went in-market to meet with a wide breadth of employers across the country, including 39 company visits with West Coast companies.

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