Upper Midwest MBA Jobs Report: Minnesota Carlson Posts Warm Numbers

At Minnesotas Carlson, 90% of MBA job seekers found work by 90 days after graduation. The school’s careers office helped secure 75% of the positions. File photo

Can a positive MBA jobs report amid the chaos of coronavirus reverse the ongoing slump in applications at one of the premier Midwestern public business schools in the United States?

Minnesota Carlson’s leadership hopes so.

Carlson is reporting that even as Covid-19 caused nightmares for recruiting — particularly for recruitees — in spring and early summer, 88% of the MBA Class of 2020 had found work by graduation, same as last year, and 90% by three months afterward, only a slight decline. Salaries, bonuses, and negotiated vacation time all were up. And in perhaps the school’s most remarkable achievement, in a season of rescinded summer jobs, 100% of Carlson’s Class of 2021 MBAs accepted internship offers.

“Ninety percent feels respectable, considering everything that’s happening,” says Maggie Tomas, director of Carlson’s Graduate Business Career Center, which was responsible for three of every four jobs Carlson MBAs secured this year. “And the fact that we’re at 88% of accepted offers at graduation,, which is the same year over year, felt really good in terms of tremendous support.

“I think we were lucky. One of the things is, we were ahead — we were tracking ahead all year, year-over-year. We did a really good job in on-campus recruiting and all of the traditional recruiting and we were about 6 percentage points ahead of where we were last year. So when Covid hit, we started in a fairly decent place, because it wasn’t our entire class that was looking, it was a smaller portion that was looking, and we were really able to do very individualized service to each of those students. We were meeting with them weekly, particularly the ones that were ready and willing to be engaged.”


Maggie Tomas

What does engagement look like at Minnesota Carlson’s GBCC? While this year was unlike any other in many ways, in this one regard, broadly speaking, little changed: It was intense. In the past year, the GBCC held more than 855 employer meetings, hosted 136 companies, and organized 174 events across nine programs. Carlson’s coaches managed over 4,400 coaching appointments — 400 more than last year — and delivered dozens of workshops. “We strive to not only prepare our students well, but also deliver excellent customer service to our company partners,” Tomas, who took over the reins of the GBCC in June 2014, says in the introduction to this year’s employment report. She quotes a recruiter: “We commented multiple times throughout the day on how well taken care of we were by the GBCC. We very much appreciated all of the hospitality and are always excited to come back on campus and recruit with the GBCC and the caliber of students from Carlson.”

“We definitely were really busy giving our MBAs very tailored service,” Tomas tells P&Q. “We have a smaller class size, so we’re able. But we serve a lot of programs. We have a really good part-time population, nearly a thousand. And then we have a small full-time population and then a growing number of specialty masters in business. Our full-time classes hover around 75 in the past few years. So we have coaches that support all of these programs, yet students can see any coach. The full-time population ends up getting really specialized services because our team is fairly large. They get to know a coach really well. And so I think what happened is, we already knew our students very, very well — typically students use anywhere from 18 to 22 appointments with us by the time they graduate. So if you consider that they were three months shy of graduation when Covid hit, they knew us really well.

“So we already have formed a tight bond with them, we know what they want, and because we know them so well it’s a huge boost when our employer-facing team, our business development team, is out trying to source as many opportunities with alumni as possible. They’re able to quickly email a coach and say, ‘OK, here’s the opportunity I have. Can you give me three to four names that would fit it?’ And the coaches can quickly come up with those. So in the last three to five months between when Covid hit and that 90-day mark, we ended up being matchmakers constantly. We were able to pick up the phone and call alumni and say, do you have anything for these students in terms of internship or full-time?”

The result: Nine out of 10 MBA grads looking for a job found one, down only slightly from the mark of 93% in non-Covid 2019 — and, no small feat, with superior pay to the previous class. Carlson’s overall salary average was $116,995, a 3% improvement on last year’s $114,065, and its mean bonus was $27,967, up 11.3% from $25,138. Paid time off, which Carlson began monitoring last year, increased from three to three-and-a-half weeks.


“Our average salary was up 3% year over year, so that felt good,” Tomas says. “And then another thing, the vast majority of the offers, 75%, did come from our office, as reported by the students. We want to enable the students, obviously, to find the jobs on their own, and have the tools to dip into their own network, but it does feel really good when they cite the school as their source. About 60% of accepted offers also came from internships that the students completed last summer.

“The other thing that I thought was interesting is PTO. We found that when students were coming to us to negotiate their offers, one of the things that they wanted to negotiate was the vacation time, or they wanted to at least know the standard, because quality of life is becoming quite important to the students. And so we started tracking it last year so we could tell them. It wasn’t something that we tracked before, we just knew anecdotally from looking at so many offers. So last year the standard PTO was three weeks and this year it was three-and-a-half weeks. It’s two years of data, so it’s hard to make any big claims on it, but I thought it was interesting that it did increase.

“It’ll also be interesting to see, when all of this is done and we’re on the other side of the pandemic, how those types of benefits — the flex, the working from home, having the flexibility to get work done the way you want to and the way to be successful that works for family — how that will shift. Will students be able to negotiate that more than they have in the past? I certainly think so, but it’ll be interesting to see how all of this shakes out.”


Though long a school associated with the healthcare industry — in large part because of the predominance of healthcare giants based in the Twin Cities, including the Mayo Clinic, HealthPartners, Fairview Health Services, Allina Health, and Essentia Health — consulting was the top destination for Carlson MBAs this year, at 20% of the class, up from 16%, with healthcare slipping to second (19% from 23%, where it had surged 6 points from 2018). Consumer goods (14%), manufacturing (13%), technology (10%), and finance (10%) were the other major industries. Retail claimed 5% of the class.

Once again, most of Carlson’s MBAs stayed in the U.S. Midwest (79%), most of those in the Twin Cities region, with another 10% going to work in the West. Six percent found work in the South.

“We have a lot of strong healthcare connections, but I think in general, a theme is students saying, ‘I need to work in an industry where I feel connected to the mission and impact,’ and healthcare very naturally helps students do that,” Tomas says. “And they also get to utilize MBA skills, make an MBA salary. There are a lot of pipelines MBA roles, and they feel connected to the mission. And I don’t know that every industry fits all of those buckets quite so easily — and healthcare is so dynamic and ever-changing, I think the students find the problems that they’ll be solving really interesting, and they feel connected to those problems. Who doesn’t feel connected to healthcare?”


The most notable data in the new Carlson jobs report shows what the school was able to achieve for its next class of MBAs. All of those seeking internships were able to secure one, despite a well-documented wave of rescissions and curtailments. Pay, however, suffered, with the average hourly wage shrinking to just under $41 from just over $43 in the summer of 2019. Most internships were in healthcare (26%), up from 19% last summer, with CPG second at 17% and finance and nonprofit tied for third at 12% each. Consulting interns, 7% of the class, made the most: an average hourly wage of $62.62; healthcare interns made an average of just over $40 per hour.

“We did a huge outreach to alumni, working with our alumni relations team, doing mass outreach to all of our alumni — tens of thousands of alumni,” Tomas says of the effort to find both internships and full-time jobs this summer. “We said, ‘Hey with Covid hitting, one, it impacted internships, so do you have any opportunities in your organization, any project or anything that you could use an intern for? And two, if you’re considering hiring new talent, particularly if you’re in an industry that is booming and it’s growing right now, please consider Carlson talent and fill out this form and we’ll connect with you in 24 hours.’ We made it really easy for alumni to feel like they were helping with employment. And I think because of everything going on, alumni were really eager and willing to help. So those were some of the two things that I think really did help us out.”

The positive jobs numbers somewhat offset the troubling picture in applications at Minnesota Carlson, which has struggled to shake off the image of a regional business school. (See table above for details.) That struggle was made easier when U.S. News bumped the school up to 28th in its latest ranking, an improvement of seven places. (Carlson is currently ranked 32nd by P&Q.) Is Carlson in the midst of a turnaround?

“This year has been unexpected and challenging, but it has also filled me with hope about the generation of business leaders coming out of the Carlson School,” Tomas says. “I am excited to watch them continue to grow, lead, and give back to our local, national, and global community.”


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