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Tech Bounces Back In New Duke MBA Jobs Report

The bust of J.B. Fuqua in the school hallway at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. Justin Cook photo

Pandemic or no pandemic, it would have been hard for Duke’s Fuqua School of Business Class of 2020 MBAs to match the employment rate of their immediate predecessors.

In 2019, within three months of graduation, 97% of Fuqua MBAs received jobs offers, and 95% accepted. Those are astronomical numbers, among the leaders of any top business school in the U.S., that would have been difficult to match under the best circumstances.

As Sheryle Dirks, associate dean of Duke Fuqua’s Career Management Center, notes in a blog post accompanying the school’s new employment report, released today (December 15), Fuqua Class of 2020 MBAs did not graduate into the best circumstances — not by a long shot. Because recruiting slowed dramatically in the spring and summer, the final rates of 93% with offers and 91% who accepted after three months are down from 2019, Dirks writes, yet they still “are remarkable in the context of global hiring freezes and layoffs prompted by the pandemic.”

And it was a team effort, she adds.

“In a year when all campus activity, including recruiting, came to an abrupt halt mid-year, one might think students were on their own finding a job,” Dirks writes. “To the contrary, Fuqua served as the employment source for 80% of accepted full-time jobs among 2020 graduates, up from 73% for the Class of 2019, with a higher rate of 84% for 2021 interns.

“As the world changed around us, our career team quickly found new ways to provide and deliver career support and helped our students find and go to work during a global pandemic. What didn’t change, though, was the philosophy that every student deserves meaningful work and the commitment we share with students to reaching their goals.”


For the 369 Duke Fuqua graduates who entered the job market in 2020, average first-year compensation reached an all-time high at $171,000, up 3% from last year, including a slight rise in mean salary to $136,000 and a 7.5% increase in signing bonus to $35,000, Dirks writes. By industry, consulting led all fields with a mean salary of $154,423, followed by financial services ($139,354), tech ($128,246), and manufacturing ($123,750).

Consulting continued to be the most popular destination by job function (33%) and industry (31%) for Fuqua MBAs, while marketing and technology were the school’s “biggest movers,” Dirks writes, with both up by 4 percentage points from last year.

“Employers also hire our graduates for finance (22%), general management (18%), and other important functions such as human resources and operations,” she writes. “While consulting and technology accounted for 58% of the class by industry, this year’s employers represent financial services (18%), health (8%), consumer goods (5%) and many other industries.”

Three sub-categories attracted the majority of tech-bound Fuqua 2020 graduates: Internet services/e-commerce accounted for roughly 40% of technology positions; general technology employment accounted for 28%; and software accounted for about 17%. The remaining accepted jobs were in equipment/hardware/networking, multimedia products and services, and other technology areas.

Source: Duke Fuqua


Climbing into prominence as the top employer of Fuqua MBAs in 2020 was consulting firm Deloitte, which hired 32 Fuqua MBAs, one more than Amazon and 10 more than the next closest consulting firm (Boston Consulting Group, at 22). See the table below for other top employers over the years.

Geographically, within the U.S., Fuqua students accepted positions across the country, with top destinations including New York, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco, among others. Those staying in North America made the highest mean base salary, $138,925, compared to those who went to work in South America or the Caribbean ($88,073) or Asia ($86,482).

As Dirks writes, despite visa uncertainty, international students landed U.S. jobs. in large numbers.

“From 2015 to 2019, the percentage of graduates accepting jobs in the United States ranged from 89% to 92%. For the Class of 2020, that number was even higher at 94%,” she writes. “Navigating employer visa sponsorship and cultural differences always adds complexity for international students seeking post-graduation jobs in the United States. This year brought new complications — visa delays caused by pandemic shutdowns, job market disruption, and rumored and actual changes to U.S. immigration policy. Success in the face of these challenges is even more impressive.”


It was a challenging year, Sheryle Dirks writes, but Duke Fuqua Class of 2020 MBAs largely overcame the hurdles — even when they had more hurdles to overcome than the coronavirus pandemic and a world gone awry.

“So many of our graduates made significant career transitions, whether by function, industry, geography — or sometimes all three — despite difficult market conditions,” Dirks writes. “From grant writer to tech product manager. From economic development in another country to the music industry in the U.S. From professional lacrosse to private equity. From special events at the White House to impact consulting at a certified B Corp. From lawyer to McKinsey consultant. From a mid-Atlantic university to a California consumer foods company. From piloting Apache helicopters for the U.S. Army to strategizing M&A transaction execution for EY-Parthenon.

“It’s successes like these, especially in a year as turbulent as 2020, that bring the numbers in our employment report to life. We believe when students find work they define as meaningful, it not only makes their lives better, it makes companies better. More than ever, the world needs the types of graduates we produce at Fuqua — leaders who know how to embrace differences to work toward a common goal.”