Still Rising: In 2020, MBA Salaries Just Kept Growing

NYU Stern Class of 2020 MBAs reported the highest average bonuses, at nearly $38K — which was actually down slightly from last year. File photo


Mark Brostoff

At USC Marshall, where Mark Brostoff serves as the assistant dean and director of Graduate Career Services at USC Marshall, the impact of the pandemic was ultimately seen as not as bad as it could have been.

“For full-time employment, the only trend that I saw early in April was some hesitancy with start dates,” said Brostoff, who has been . “We did not see a great number of offers being rescinded. That was really good news — the number of rescinded offers was very low, in fact almost negligible. And if we did have a rescinded offer, the good news was the student was somewhat positioned to follow up in other areas. So anyone who was affected by rescinded offers ended up finding alternative of full-time work experience. So that was really good.”

Brostoff echoed others’ refrains on alumni stepping up, particularly on internships.

“Basically I took a strategy out of my playbook during the financial crisis in ’09 and ’10,” he says. “In mid-March, immediately, when we realized that this was not going to be a short-term virtual work from home, but we were in for a long haul — as soon as I saw two or three companies completely canceled their internships, we began to reach out to the Trojan network. The dean reached out, I reached out, the alumni development folks reached out and we started to identify really high-level, MBA-level projects, or what I call summer work experience. The clubs did the same.

“In our backyard, for example, here in L.A., the entertainment industry was obviously hit pretty hard for on-site work because the studios were all closed, but work had to be done. It was just that they were not filming. There were no studios open. So we began to identify these projects. Some had stipends, some were paid, and some were unpaid. But as I talked with recruiters in April about whether it would have a negative impact if the student had on their resume, not a traditional internship — one of those 12-week internships for X number of dollars — a meaningful summer experience instead. And 100% of them said that would be not only a good thing but a very impressive thing. It would show that your Marshall students did not sit back and simply say, ‘Oh, look what Covid-19 did for me. Boohoo, I don’t have a summer internship.’”

As Berkeley Haas’ Abby Scott says, it was a tough year. But tough times bring out the best in tough people.

“I’m very proud of our Class of 2020,” Scott said. “I think it was a really tough year. The community came together and the students worked really hard and my team worked really hard. And so I think it was a pleasure to see what I think are exciting results.”


It wasn’t just alumni stepping up that got the MBA Class of 2020 out the door and into their new careers, largely successfully and for more money than their predecessors. It was also a lot of hard work by schools’ career management teams.

Stephen Pidgeon, executive director of career services at the Tuck School at Dartmouth College, told P&Q in November that the school’s success — Dartmouth’s average MBA base salary grew 3.5% in 2020, and its signing bonuses grew nearly 10% — can be attributed not only to the contributions of a robust network of alumni, but to the dedicated work of the careers team, as well. “In the middle of a global health crisis, we anticipated that recruiting might be more difficult this year,” Pigeon said. “The mechanics of recruiting remain much the same remotely, but we were mindful at the onset about the number of opportunities that might be available. In the end, a common theme emerged: organizations prioritizing collaborative, team-oriented leaders — a bill that Tuck students fit perfectly.

“I was pleased to see where we ended up with offers and acceptances. When I think back to the spring, when the pandemic was sweeping across the world and the economic situation was very uncertain, I did have a moment of concern, but I think our class of 2020 ended up doing very well. Salary numbers are up considerably, and I’m very pleased for our graduating students that they were able to achieve such high salaries. Some of this is driven by an increase in the percentage of students going into consulting, where companies are very competitive with each other to land the best talent, but overall we see companies recognizing the value of the MBA.”


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