MBA Internship Pay & Placement At The Top 25 — Before & During Covid-19

Hello, rising second-year MBA students. How’s your summer going so far? As your internships get underway, we hope you have signed up for rich and fulfilling experiences full of career promise, and that they are live and in-person — or at least less remote than your colleagues experienced last summer.

We also hope that some of you from certain business schools make 2019 — and not 2020 — wages.

That’s because nearly half the schools in the Poets&Quants top 25 saw declines in the monthly rates of pay for MBA interns in 2020 compared to the previous year. Several others saw only nominal increases. Unless you spent 2020 under a rock — and who could blame you? — you know the cause: coronavirus, and the fact that so many internships were remote, or truncated, or cobbled together through the Herculean efforts of schools and well-connected and concerned alumni. Many were unpaid altogether.

THE SCHOOLS WITH THE HIGHEST INTERN PAY GROWTH IN 2020: USC MARSHALL & WASHINGTON FOSTER

Overall last year, median monthly intern pay declined at 11 U.S. B-schools, as well as at London Business School and INSEAD. Declines ranged from low single digits to double digits, but seemed concentrated at the top of the ranking, with nine of the top 10 U.S. schools experiencing slight or slightly-more-than-slight downturns. The biggest intern pay drop-off occurred at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, which saw a 11.5% decrease to $9,200; only UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, with a 5.4% increase to $7,586, avoided the slump. Overall in the top 10, among the six schools that reported sufficient data, intern pay was down 5.6%.

Across the top 25, while 13 schools saw increases in intern pay, many were very small. Tracking from 2018, when only one U.S. B-school cracked the $9,000 threshold for median monthly MBA intern salary (NYU Stern School of Business), we see a jump in 2019 when there were seven, and two others that were only $23 short. But then came coronavirus, and in 2020 only five schools eclipsed $9,000.

Intern pay data is always a bit spotty; even among top-25 schools, most have always had gaps in reported numbers. Some do not report overall median pay for each class; some do not report ranges of salaries. The 2020 data were harder to pin down than they have been in past because the pandemic made a few schools reluctant to publish any intern data whatsoever. But what we can find shows an interesting phenomenon: interns from the elite schools, and in particular the top 10, had a harder time than those elsewhere, making less money than their predecessors (to say nothing of losing out on the networking benefits of in-person work).

Six schools in the top 10 reported internship median pay declines averaging 5.6%, a number we applied to four other schools to get a working estimate for their interns’ pay rate. While Wharton had the biggest decline, Chicago Booth (-6.5%) and Stanford GSB (-7.3%) also saw significant setbacks. This is especially interesting compared to lower-ranked schools, where intern pay declines were much rarer.

Overall in the top 25, two schools stood head and shoulders above the rest for growth in intern pay: USC Marshall, where the average (not median) monthly salary leaped from $7,641 to $8,960, a 17.3% increase; and Washington Foster, where median monthly pay rose 11.5% to $8,750. One word explains both schools’ increases: tech. Foster sits smack in the midst of tech bastion Seattle, and Marshall is a rising star in the rankings that has been among the biggest gainers in tech MBA graduates since 2016, enlarging its share of the total class by more than 90% between then and 2020 (click here for an exploration of these salient facts).

SCHOOLS GO ALL-OUT

Pay ranges — who made the most on a monthly (or weekly) basis, and who made the least? — are becoming rarer in MBA employment reports, but they are not yet extinct. There are a lot of gaps, but from what we know, the highest high monthly pay was reported at Columbia: $29K; while UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School reported the lowest high: $13.7K. The highest low was at Washington Foster ($2K) and the lowest low was at CMU Tepper ($250).

Many more schools used to include bonus data for summer positions; few still do. Among the admirably transparent is Harvard Business School, where, in 2020, 13% reported receiving a median $4,000 in guaranteed other compensation. That's down in both respects from 2019, when 16% reported a median of $5,000. The reporting percentage has been slipping for years; it was 18% in 2018 and 34% in 2014. The money, however, had been steadily going up, from $4,500 in 2018 and $2,500 seven years ago, until hitting the pandemic wall last year.

Several schools, contacted for this story, urged us to include the obvious context of coronavirus, which we would be sorely remiss to omit. As MIT Sloan included in their employment report for last year, market uncertainty in the spring of 2020 severely impacted internships for the Class of 2021, with 18 rescinded or cancelled offers. "Many students actively interviewing with companies found internship hiring stalled due to hiring freezes," Sloan writes, painting a picture familiar (to one degree or another) at all B-schools.

Also familiar: resilience in the face of adversity.

"The MIT Sloan community — our leadership, alumni, faculty, and centers, including the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship — came together to source approximately 200 new opportunities," the report reads. "Senior leadership and our alumni also supported a fund for select unpaid internships and research projects to ensure students could participate in this important professional development experience," with more than 100 pursuing startup opportunities, more than 60 finding work at MIT itself, and another 34 receiving support through a specially created school fund.

Is 2021 destined to be different? Don't keep us in suspense — if you have an internship story to share, send it to Poets&Quants!

BIG JUMPS IN FINANCE & HEALTHCARE SUMMER JOBS

Where MBA interns went to work in 2020 is as instructive as how much they were paid. Put simply, it was a hard year to find a job — and schools pulled out all the stops to make it happen for as many of their students as they could. Alumni networks in particular got a workout last year as schools called in favors amid the chaos of the extended shutdown.

"Our partnership with employers and alumni was key to student success as we deepened existing connections and created new opportunities," Beth Briggs, associate dean of career services at NYU Stern, told P&Q last year. "These relationships resulted in all first-year students who were seeking a summer internship securing one."

At Stern, more than a third of MBAs found work in finance, while tech (from 14% to 21% of the class) saw a big jump and consulting (from 27% to 22%) a big decline. This more or less mirrors the overall picture. Consulting lost favor across the board, with 19 schools seeing declines and only six increases. The top consulting school was MIT Sloan School of Management, with 31% of the Class of 2021, followed by Emory University Goizueta Business School at 30%. Among the biggest declines was USC Marshall School of Business, which dropped to 11% from 19% the previous year.

Tech could be expected to thrive in an all-remote world, and the data indicates a meeting of that expectation, with 13 schools up and 11 down. Washington Foster — based in Seattle and a favorite of both Microsoft and Amazon — led all schools with 44%, though London Business School also reported 44% of its interns in tech. Besides Stern, big increases were reported at Emory Goizueta (19% from 10%), UC-Berkeley Haas (37% from 31%), and LBS (44% from 37%); big drop-offs occurred at Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business (29% from 39%) Virginia Darden School of Business (17% from 24%).

Finance, meanwhile, saw a big surge in interest as 17 schools reported increases, led by Duke Fuqua School of Business (26% from 17%) and USC Marshall (18% from 9%). Columbia Business School led all schools with 44% of the class in finance, followed by Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Business (38%).

Another interesting wrinkle: As the world reeled from a once-a-century pandemic, more MBAs interned in healthcare jobs at 16 schools, and fewer only at three. Washington Foster saw healthcare internships increase to 14% from just 5% in 2019, while Duke Fuqua saw them jump to 15% from 11%. At Indiana University Kelley School of Business, however, healthcare summer hires dropped to 13% from 19%.

See the next pages for tables on intern pay and placement at the top 25 U.S. business schools as well as INSEAD and London Business School. 

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