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New Data: Was Covid-19’s Impact On MBA Job Prospects Overstated?

In the all-important question of the MBA’s ROI, perhaps, in retrospect, 2020 wasn’t as bad as conventional wisdom has portrayed it.

Newly released survey data from the MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance shows that while salaries and job offers and acceptances did decline amid the global health crisis that began in March 2020, the pandemic’s “most significant impact” was not in recruitment for full-time employment at all. Instead, internship conversion to employment took a major hit.

“We saw negative impact in 2020 FT MBA overall salary and a ~5% decrease in three-month offers,” MBA CSEA reports. Meanwhile, “Many summer 2020 internship programs were reduced or eliminated. As such, it’s going to be of strong interest to see how that impacts the Class of 2021 FT MBA employment data.”

In 2020 and in spite of the pandemic, only 4.6% fewer graduates received at least one offer by graduation than in 2019, and only 4.4% more were still seeking employment three months after graduation than in 2019. MBA CSEA


MBA CSEA captures employment data from member schools through an online Employment Data System that allows for school-to-school benchmarking as well as aggregate data reporting. All data collected is captured according to the Standards for Reporting Full-Time MBA Employment Statistics©, providing consistent and comparable data. Recent surveys have focused on remote recruitment of MBAs and MBA student engagement in the classroom.

For its latest survey, 114 member business schools submitted employment data for their 2019 full-time MBA program graduating class, and 117 schools did so for their 2020 graduating class. The bottom-line finding: While the pandemic recruiting environment delayed the offer scenario for full-time MBA graduates, the overall impact on offers to students in MBA CSEA member schools was less than 5% in that three-month time-frame. Only minor shifts were detected in sources of job offers: In 2019, 69.1% of full-time MBA graduate job offers were obtained from school activities, led by graduates converting school-sourced internships into full-time offers (23%); in 2020, 68.1% of graduate job offers were obtained from school activities, with 25.9% reporting conversion of their school-sourced internship as the leading source of offers.

“Campus interviews were the next strongest source of offers (15% in 2019 and 14.8% in 2020), followed by school job postings (8.7% and 8.5%) and other activities run by school career centers (8.5% and 5.8%),” MBA CSEA reports.

Poets&Quants‘ own analysis has found that at the leading business schools, the coronavirus pandemic mostly harmed recruiting, negatively impacting offers and acceptances but only mildly slowing the rise of salaries, particularly in the top three industries. Yet at most B-schools, even that decline has been largely erased in 2021.

Acceptances of job offers followed a similar pattern to offers: 84.5% of MBA CSEA member school full-time MBA graduates had accepted an offer by three months after graduation in 2020, compared to 89.3% in 2019 — a -4.8% difference. MBA CSEA


MBA CSEA membership includes business schools around the globe; data from the new survey includes schools from Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and Oceania. However, the majority of schools participating in the data collection are from the United States: 14% of schools reporting 2019 data and 16% of schools reporting 2020 data were non-U.S. institutions.

MBA CSEA found that in 2019, 84.9% of full-time MBA graduates with permanent work authorization in the country where their program was located 
planned to seek employment at the conclusion of their degree, compared to 79.7% of full-time MBA grads with non-permanent work authorization. Combined, 83.2% of 2019 full-time MBA grads planned to seek employment at the conclusion of their de
gree. In 
2020, as the pandemic began and raged out of control across the globe, 84.6% of full-time MBA graduates with permanent work authorization in the country where their 
program was located planned to seek employment at the conclusion of their degree, compared to 79.1% of full-time MBA grads with non-permanent work authorization. Combined, 82.9% of 2020 full-time MBA grads planned to seek employment at the conclusion of 
their degree.

Additionally, “The percentages of students planning other endeavors after graduation, such as continuing education, starting a business, or that were sponsored by an existing employer, were similar between the two years of data,” MBA CSEA reports. Meanwhile, salaries, as shown in the following chart, continued to grow.

Of all full-time MBA graduates from member schools who reported job acceptances, 89.2% reported usable salary information in 2019, and 87% did so in 2020, according to MBA CSEA


For the most part, even as job offers and acceptances declined, MBA salaries held firm as Covid-19 upended the global economy in 2020. Some industries even saw what could be characterized as a boom. Graduates accepting job offers in the hospitality industry reported the greatest change from 2019 to 2020, with a 16.18% increase in mean accepted salary. “Interestingly, during much of the 2020 employment recruiting season, many hospitality organizations were experiencing closures and layoffs, so this increase is notable,” MBA CSEA reports.

The next highest mean salary increase was the nonprofit sector at 9.39%, followed by the consulting industry at 5.3%. The most significant decrease in mean accepted salary for 2020 compared to 2019 was in the transportation and logistics services industry (-7.2%), followed by slight drops for consumer packaged goods (-1.99%) and energy (-0.088%). See the table below for details.

MBA CSEA member schools are currently completing employment data uploads for the 2021 graduating class, the organization says, promising a summary of that data will be launched in early spring 2022 “along with further 2019-2021 three-year trend data.”

The most significant decrease in mean accepted salary for 2020 compared to 2019 was in the Transportation & Logistics Services industry (-7.2%), with Consumer Packaged Goods (-1.99%) and Energy (-0.088%) also dropping slightly. MBA CSEA

See MBA CSEA’s full report, 2019/2020 Full-Time MBA Employment Data Review, here.