Wharton MBAs See Slip In Employment Rate, Median Salaries Flat

An MBA graduate in Wharton’s Class of 2019. Courtesy of Wharton’s Instagram feed

After two years of steady gains, the median salary for Wharton MBA graduates remained flat at $150,000 this year, according to the school’s just-published 2020 employment report. That’s a big change from last year when Wharton’s 2019 graduates had reported significant gains in median salary, a $15,000 bump from $135,000 in 2018 to the $150K mark.

But while salaries remained steady in a coronavirus-plagued year, Wharton’s overall employment rate dipped a bit. Of 681 graduates seeking employment, 637 received a job offer three months after graduation, for a rate of 93.5% — down four and one-half percentage points from 98% last year. Some 91.6% reported accepting a job offer, also down from last year’s rate, which was 93.0%.

“Given the extraordinary circumstances of spring and summer 2020, we are so proud of our students for their resilience and perseverance and grateful to our recruiting partners for their commitment and adaptability as conditions shifted and changed,” says Maryellen Reilly, Deputy Vice Dean of Wharton’s MBA Program. “While some summer internships were delayed, shortened, or unfortunately canceled, we are thrilled to report that 99.9% of first-year students seeking a summer internship received an offer. While 93.5% of students seeking employment in the graduating class received a full-time offer is a decrease from last year at 98.5%, we are very satisfied with these numbers given the headwinds the job market was facing.

“We will continue to work with our students, alumni, and companies to continue to find new ways of adapting the recruiting experience, providing means of connecting and developing relationships in a virtual world, and joining high-quality candidates with highly desirable opportunities.”

Wharton’s employment report is skimpy and late. It lacks the transparency shown by many of its peer schools and has been made public nearly a month later than usual. Last year, for example, the school’s employment report was made public on Oct. 23. More substantively, however, Wharton failed to disclose sign-on bonuses or what percentage of the class received them. The school also failed to include job offer and acceptance rates at graduation, preferring only to provide a more positive look at employment three months after commencement. Wharton also did not report on “other compensation” that is guaranteed to new MBA hires in their first year of employment.

The school also did not share the list of the largest employers of the class, preferring to list 65 companies that hired two or more graduates. That list includes many of the larger mainstream MBA employers, including the big financial players Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P Morgan, Blackstone, and BlackRock; big tech companies Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft; and global consulting firms McKinsey, Bain and Boston Consulting Group. But it also includes such firms as Spotify, TicToc, and DoorDash.


The highest reported median salaries went to the few graduates who ventured into the legal and professional services field, most likely graduates with dual law and business degrees. The median salary for the 1.2% of the class in this category was an eye-popping $190,000.

Otherwise, Wharton MBAs lucky enough to land a job in venture capital—and 7.1% of the class took VC positions this year—were the next most highly compensated with median salaries of $171,500.

Not surprisingly, graduates who took jobs overseas did not do nearly as well as the MBAs who stayed in the U.S. Mostly international students who went back to their home countries, these MBAs earned considerably less than the overall median of $150,000 in starting salary. 


Once again, consulting and financial services were by far the most popular industries for Wharton MBAs. More than two-thirds (36.2%) of the class went into finance compared to 35.8% last year, and 24.5% took consulting positions, down from 25.1%. Another 16.2% accepted jobs with companies in the technology industry, up from 14.8% last year. For the second straight year, the median pay for finance jobs was $150,000, and for consulting positions, $165,000. Median salaries for tech positions rose a bit from $135,000 last year to $139,345 this year.

In terms of job functions, consulting/strategy was the most popular choice with 31.4% of the class going into those sorts of positions. The other two most popular functions were private equity (14.7%) and investment banking (10.3%). The Northeast and the West were the two most popular regions where 41.6% and 26.8% of the class went to work, respectively. There was a slight uptick in students taking jobs outside of the U.S. — up to 13.4% compared to 12.3% last year.

While most of this year’s data doesn’t stray much from previous years, there are a few small trends to glean from this year’s report. Though just a slight dip, Wharton MBAs going into consulting is at a four-year low from a peak of 28.3% in 2017. Meanwhile, tech is at a four-year high, but just slightly above the 16% reported in 2017.

Wharton MBAs had their best year in taking private equity and buyout positions, with 11.9% of the class going into the lucrative field, earning a median salary of $170,000. Both the percentage and median salary figures are four-year highs for Wharton MBAs. Healthcare also hit a four-year high with 6.7% of the class entering the field with median salaries of $140,000 — another four-year high.


Wharton MBAs taking jobs in Asia reported median salaries of $124,744, more than $25,000 below the class median; those taking jobs in Europe were at starting pay of $110,736, about $40,000 less than the class median. The gap was even greater for graduates who took jobs in Latin America where the median salary was a mere $77,596, or slightly more than half the class median. Some 13.4% of this year’s graduates landed jobs outside the U.S.

It’s not conclusive without more details, but the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the report could be showing up in consumer products/retail and manufacturing, both of which are at four-year lows. Just 5.6% of this year’s class took positions in consumer products/retail, down from 8% last year. Manufacturing jobs also dipped from 2.4% last year to just 0.8% this year. Both industries have been impacted more so than many other industries represented on the jobs report.

Wharton’s numbers resemble a trend seen at other top MBA programs that have released their 2020 employment numbers: a top-shelf MBA remains strong in an otherwise battered economy. Yesterday (November 18), we reported 2020 MBA graduates of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management also saw only a modest dip in employment rates. However, Kellogg MBAs enjoyed a record-high median base salary of $144,000 with median signing bonuses of $30,000.

In a preliminary report, Chicago’s Booth School of Business also reported median base salary gains, increasing to $150,000 compared to $145,000 last year. And while some employment metrics fell for New York University Stern School of Business MBAs, median base salaries did not.

The full Wharton report can be found here.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.