Applications to the highly ranked MBA programs in the U.S. may be declining, but the compensation that MBA graduates are getting this year keep going higher and higher. The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business reported that median starting salaries and sign-on bonuses reached a new record, rising by 6.6% to $162,000 for this year’s class of MBAs from $152,000 last year, according to the school’s preliminary employment report.
The percentage of graduates receiving job offers within three months of graduation also hit a record at 97%, while the percentage of MBAs accepting those offers–94%–in the same timeframe tied a record at the school. Some 97% of the reporting graduates received more than one offer within the three-month timeframe.
The $162,000 total, not including other guaranteed compensation in the first year, is composed of median salaries of $135,000, up by $10,000 from the $125,000 a year earlier, and median signing bonuses of $30,000 reported by 90% of Darden’s Class of 2019. Sign-on bonuses were unchanged year-over-year.
‘STUDENTS WERE GETTING OFFERS LEFT AND RIGHT’
“It is a very good market and there is great demand,” says Jeff McNish, who joined Darden’s Career Development Center as assistant dean in late 2016 after serving in a similar role at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School since 2010. In his nine years in career development, McNish says 2019 was the best year he has ever experienced for MBA graduates. “This is by far the best year for the diversity of companies, the starting pay, and the percentage of international students getting jobs. Students were getting offers left and right. You could tell back in April it was going to be good, and I think all of us are going to report pretty solid outcomes.”
What’s more, international students have done very well despite initial worries over work visas. The job offer and acceptance rates were only slightly below the overall class, with median signing bonuses equal to the class median and median salaries $10K less at $130,000. Those results were partly the result of a new STEM-designated track in the MBA program made available for the first time to the Class of 2019. Some 80% of Darden’s international students took advantage of the track. “We had six students who, if it weren’t for STEM, wouldn’t be employed in the U.S. this year,” says McNish.
The highly positive outcomes make Darden the second major business school to report record pay in what has been one of the hottest markets for MBA talent in many years, even outdoing a remarkably strong run through the economic expansion. Chicago Booth earlier reported median pay–starting salary and sign-on bonus adjusted for the percentage of MBAs reporting a bonus–this year rose 12.5% to a record $163,900 (see War For Talent Between Consulting & Finance Lead To Soaring MBA Pay At Chicago Booth).
BIGGEST YEAR-OVER-YEAR JUMP IN SALARIES IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
McNish confirms that consulting and financial services have largely driven this year’s increase. “These firms started to see that the competition for talent was going to be fierce and they decided to make a move. Once one went, they all went.”
Just as at Chicago Booth, the increasing scramble for MBA talent by consulting firms and the financial services industry led to substantial increases in median salaries, though year-over-year median salary increases were reported in eight different industries, including energy, real estate, retailing, and consumer products. In financial services, median salaries jumped 16.0% to $145,000 from $125,000, the largest increase for any industry. Median salaries in consulting rose 8.2% to $159,000 from $147,000 last year, Median salaries in retail, including some Amazon hires classified as retail, increased 8.3% to $130,000 from $120,000.
The $10K bump in consulting salaries, no doubt, helped the industry lure more of this year’s Darden class into the fold. Some 35.3% of the class accepted jobs with consulting firms, up from 31.5% a year earlier. After all, the highest comp packages went to consulting-bound MBAs, with starting median salaries and signing bonuses that totaled $189,000. In fact, the highest reported salary this year–$173,000–went to a student who accepted a job in consulting. Financial services fell slightly to 24.8% from 26.2%, while Darden MBAs headed into technology amounted to 16.1% from 18.1%.
NEW RECRUITING SEASON FOR THE CLASS OF 2020 OFF TO A FAST START
The new recruiting season is also off to a fast start, according to McNish. Some 88% of the students who did their summer internships in investment banking returned to campus with offers, a conversion rate that compares with just 70% two years ago and 78% last year. “The conversion rate for bulge bracket banks was four for four,” says McNish. “The recruiters are banging on the doors to start. On the first day of class on Aug. 26th, we had a company do an off-grounds and unofficial event. It’s just nutty.”
The offers coming out of the internship season are also getting increasingly creative. McNish notes that one firm offered a student a sign-on bonus of $37,500, with $7,500 immediately available if the student signs on by the end of September, another $15,000 within three months and the final $15,000 when the student shows up for work.