Stanford Graduate School of Business Dean Jonathan Levin praised the adaptability and resilience of his school’s most recent graduating MBA class last month to mark the release of Stanford’s 2021 employment report. But the words Levin chose could apply to just about all of the MBAs from the top B-schools in the United States.
“More than other classes,” Levin said, “the Class of 2021 learned how to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty, and to be adaptable and resilient. We are thrilled to see how they are applying what they have learned, going on to incredible roles in numerous industries.”
A year removed from the deepest impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, Stanford was one of many success stories on the MBA employment front. It was certainly not alone. Most schools in the Poets&Quants top 25 reported stable or growing salaries, and every one of the 23 schools for which data is available reported jumps — sometimes dramatic — in both job offers and acceptances.
BIGGEST SALARY JUMPS: RICE JONES & MICHIGAN ROSS
Stanford, once again, reported the highest average starting salary of any leading U.S. B-school, at $161,831; among the other schools reporting averages, the next closest is New York University's Stern School of Business, at just under $150K (see page 2 for all salary data from the top 25 schools). But with a median starting salary of $158,400, Stanford eclipses the 10 B-schools that report medians, too, including the University of Chicago Booth School of Business ($155K), the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania ($155K), Harvard Business School ($150,500), and Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management ($150K). The lowest starting salary in the top 25 was the $120K median at Indiana University Kelley School of Business, or the $125,130 average at Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management.
Stanford did not, however, have the biggest salary increase: That distinction was claimed by either Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business, which saw a more-than-6% jump to $131,384; or, if you prefer medians, the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, where starting salary grew to $144K from $135K (6.7%). And Stanford lost ground in average sign-on bonus, one of 10 B-schools to do so but by far the worst, slipping more than 10% to $29,148. Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business saw both average starting salary ($142,719) and average sign-on bonus ($33,745) dip slightly, though the school's median stayed flat at $150K (as indicated in the table above; see the table on page 2 for the school's averages); and Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business, USC Marshall School of Business, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, Georgetown McDonough School of Business, and Vanderbilt Owen all saw minor declines in average starting salary, as well. McDonough's salary drop was the steepest, though it wasn't really steep at all: a reversal of about 1.6% to $126,107. The schools with the biggest overall sign-on bonus both hail from New York: NYU Stern ($38,211) and Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management ($37,684).
Overall, mashing together mean with median (as a fun thought exercise!), the average starting salary for all 25 schools is $140,294, about a $2,304 (1.67%) increase from the average starting salary in 2020, which was $137,990. Looking at just the 15 schools that report mean, the average is $137,183. In sign-on bonus, the total average was $31,780 (just mean: $32,966 at 15 schools), up just $150 from $31,630 the year before.
THE BIG BOUNCE-BACK: JOB OFFERS & ACCEPTANCES
2020 saw surprising stability in salaries at a time when placement rates at many schools were plummeting; 2021 saw those rates rebound while salaries remained steady. And what a rebound. No school in the top 25 for which data are available — all but two schools — saw declines in either job offers or job acceptances after three months, and some schools saw remarkable increases.
Penn Wharton led all B-schools in offer rate, at 99%, followed by Dartmouth Tuck and Duke University Fuqua School of Business, both at 98%, and seven schools at 97% or more: Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, Virginia Darden, Michigan Ross, Cornell Johnson, Rice Jones, and Vanderbilt Owen. In 2020, the number of schools at 97% or more offers was zero, the highest being the Owen School's 96%. The biggest improvement in offer rate in 2021 came at UCLA Anderson School of Management, where offers jumped nearly 10 percentage points to 93.1%. Overall, the average offer rate for 24 schools in P&Q's ranking was 95.9%, up from 91.4% (23 schools).
In acceptance rate, the biggest in 2021, like 2020, was at the University of Washington Foster School of Business: 97.2%, up from 94.2%. Foster was followed by the Tuck School's 97% and several schools close behind (see page 3 for details). UCLA Anderson enjoyed the biggest increase, of 14.4 points to 92.7%; Harvard Business School notably jumped 9 points to 92%. Overall, the average for job acceptances in 2021 was 94%, up from 88.5%.
A TESTAMENT TO MBAs' 'PERSISTENCE'
As another Stanford official told P&Q last month, echoing Dean Jonathan Levin, the steady rise of MBA salaries and the rebound of placement rates gave 2021 something of a 2019 shine, raising hopes that the global health crisis is finally fading as a major factor in MBA employment prospects. Jamie Schein, assistant dean and director of Stanford GSB's Career Management Center, echoed the sentiments of many in graduate business education who are breathing a little easier after the second — and far more stable and encouraging — pandemic graduating class.
"I was really pleased that our numbers came out as they did," Schein said. "We sort of had a hunch that it would look similar to 2019, and indeed it did. So for our students, the 2020 report really was where we felt the impact of the pandemic, and from a job opportunities perspective, it's nice to see that the Class of 2021 had opportunities that they could really make meaningful choices from, and they were able to land great jobs."
Once again, a description of Stanford's 2021 grads could apply to MBAs from any B-school last year:
"It's really a testament to them and their persistence," Schein said.
See the next pages for salary and placement data for the top 25 U.S. business schools.
AND DON'T MISS OUR COMPREHENSIVE COVERAGE OF THE MBA EMPLOYMENT REPORTS AT THE LEADING BUSINESS SCHOOLS:
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