Last was certainly not least. Stanford Graduate School of Business released its MBA Class of 2020 employment report today (January 14), the last major U.S. business school to do so, showing that the No. 1 school in Poets&Quants‘ composite ranking suffered the same coronavirus-caused struggles in job offers and placement. But Stanford graduates also overcame the unprecedented disruption in 2020 to once again become the highest-paid MBAs in the world.
Last was not least — just the opposite. Stanford Class of 2020 MBAs once more landed the highest starting compensation for MBAs anywhere in the world, reporting new records in all pay categories: average starting base salary ($159,544), average sign-on bonus ($32,551), and average expected performance bonus ($78,299). With sign-on bonuses reported by just over half the grads and performance bonuses by 71%, average total compensation comes to $231,737 — 7.2% more than last year’s mark, and a nearly 11% increase in two years.
It was the sixth straight year Stanford MBAs set a new record for salaries, and the seventh consecutive year of improving on the benchmarks of the year before.
“What strikes me about the Class of 2020 is that despite the challenges in the global pandemic and with the economy, the job outcomes were strong,” Jamie Schein, assistant dean and director of the GSB’s Career Management Center, tells Poets&Quants. “The mean and median salaries were record-breaking for the sixth consecutive year, and signing bonuses were up as well.
“Our graduates remained focused and determined, finding careers that allowed them to make a difference in the world around them, despite the turmoil in the economy and global health crisis. The strong outcomes in this employment report are a testament to their value in the marketplace.”
‘OUR STUDENTS WERE SORT OF DEAD IN THE WATER FOR A WHILE’
In median numbers, too, Stanford saw new records, with a median class salary of $156,000, up $6,000 from last year’s $150K, and a median bonus of $26,500, up from $25K. Median performance bonuses, which had dipped to $33K in 2019, rebounded to their 2018 levels at $35,000. All told, the median total compensation for Stanford Class of 2020 MBAs was an estimated $194,365, up 3.5% from 2019’s $187,760 and up 7.4% from 2018. And no other B-school really comes close. Columbia Business School reported a median total compensation in 2020 of $174,313, while Harvard Business School’s record median total comp was $173,500, and Chicago Booth reported $170,100.
Not all was rosy for the 265 Stanford grads seeking employment this year. As at other top business schools that we have reported on, GSB saw declines in the number of job offers and acceptances three months after graduation, with 91% of students reporting at least one offer after 90 days, down from 94% in 2019, and 85% reporting accepting an offer, down from 88% last year.
“The pandemic certainly did have an impact,” Jamie Schein says. “But if we think back, the Class of 2020 started in September of 2018 during a pretty healthy economy, and as they were rounding their last lap into the spring of 2020, the pandemic hit. And where we see that impact here is really related to the timing of offers and acceptances. Many of our students tend to want to join smaller, high-growth companies. And those companies in particular tend to start recruiting late in the academic year. So, many of our students were still in the search process. And as we remember very acutely, companies just took a pause to see how the pandemic was going to impact their prospects. So our students were sort of dead in the water for a while — they were just not able to interview.
“For the Class of 2021, they certainly felt the impact of the pandemic because a lot of summer internships just braked. Our students who wanted internships were still pretty much able to get them. We called on our alumni network to support our students, and our alumni heeded the call and shared with us about 200 summer opportunities that our students could take advantage of.”
Adds Jonathan Levin, Stanford’s dean: “If there was one constant this year, it was change. In times like these, you want to have a network of supporters who can be a safeguard against potential negative shocks. Thanks to our generous and close-knit community of alumni who provided that wonderful safety net, we sourced around 200 summer opportunities and some 100 full-time positions as well.”
A LONG SEARCH BEARS FRUIT
Allegra Tepper, a member of the Stanford MBA Class of 2020, was still searching for a job after 90 days. And then she was still searching after 150 days.
“My attitude went from being bold and brash and willing to pitch myself at any company where I knew I could deliver value to being very pragmatic,” she says. “Covid required a relentless effort to figure out how you could position yourself in the market.”
Before business school, Tepper worked in media entertainment and social media as a journalist covering the intersection of entertainment and technology; she then pivoted into product marketing for an early-stage social startup in Los Angeles. Her goal as she neared the conclusion of her MBA was to secure a product marketing or product management role at a major tech company focused on an entertainment or social product. “One of the things that’s so exciting about the GSB is that it’s a place that makes you feel like there’s so many different avenues that you can take and a lot of different potential,” she tells P&Q. “And so I was exploring a lot of different pathways that also might kind of align with my skills and my passions.”
In December, she turned down a job that wasn’t the right fit. Then March brought coronavirus, and the world stopped.
“It became clear that a laser focus was going to be the most effective way to tackle the job search,” Tepper says. “I did receive an offer in December and it wasn’t quite the right offer for me. And obviously the kind of macro climate at that time looked different. And I just, I was kind of sticking to my guns, wanting to seek out something else.”
There were moments of regret in not accepting the December offer, she says.
“I think you have those little pinch moments where you’re like, ‘God, wouldn’t things be a little bit easier if I’d taken that role, but it really wasn’t the right fit for me. And I really wanted to stay focused on what I could achieve and what I felt was what I was looking for. I had a really clear idea of what I wanted in terms of function, industry focus, the values of the company and the pace of innovation where I was at.”
The Career Management Center helped immeasurably, she says. Finally, in November — after five months and multiple interviews — Tepper accepted a job at Apple as a product manager for FaceTime. It turned out that it was more or less exactly the job she had been looking for from the start, as a friend reminded her.
“It’s funny because when I got the job, one of my friends from the GSB said to me, ‘You told me at the beginning of 2020, but this was the job that you wanted.’ And then you get caught up in the shuffle of pursuing all these different things. And it was funny that a friend reminded me this is really what I was pursuing. And I feel very happy that that willingness to not focus on the setbacks, but to instead focus on the potential, paid off in this way.
“I ended up with exactly the job I wanted, but I had to hold very fast to the belief that I knew what to look for and that I was being realistic about what to aspire to. It was important to stay grounded in that, especially when a lot of people in my life were asking whether I might need to lower my expectations. The Career Management Center was a godsend in those moments, when I could go in and get a reality check — to ask whether my determination was my superpower or my Achilles’ heel.”