In discussion after discussion this fall about the recently graduated MBA Class of 2022, a few words keep coming up. Resiliency. Grit. Determination. Fortitude.
The class earned these descriptors, of course, by starting its MBA journey in the teeth of a global pandemic, attending classes remotely, unable to network, limited in their recruiting activities — limited, for a while, even in their personal freedom. One of the main graduate business education stories of 2022 is how much, and how well, the MBAs graduating this year overcame these challenges to emerge in the job market as some of the most highly paid in history.
“They did — they absolutely went through the ringer,” says Sheryle Dirks, associate dean for career management at Duke University Fuqua School of Business, the latest school to release its 2022 MBA employment report. “I think the level of achievement that they made both in the classroom and on their way out, from an employment perspective, is really remarkable.”
'A TEAM FUQUA EXPERIENCE'
How remarkable? Duke Class of 2022 MBAs are reporting a 14% jump in median starting salary, to $160,055 from $140,000 in 2021. This mirrors the big jumps in median salary reported at such peer schools as Michigan Ross School of Business and Virginia Darden School of Business. Including a median $30,000 signing bonus that 91% of Duke MBAs reported receiving this year, total median compensation for Fuqua MBAs was $187,355.
"$20,000 in one year is remarkable, given all the uncertainties and everything, so we were certainly excited to see that," Dirks tells Poets&Quants.
Duke's MBAs were rewarded for their trials with an abundance of employment opportunities: 98% of the Class of 2022 had received at least one job offer by three months post-graduation, and they achieved a new school record when 97% accepted.
"I've seen the articles from the other top schools, and certainly talked to my counterparts at other schools regularly," Dirks says. "There are a lot of the themes that I think are similar across the board. I think for us, it's been a Team Fuqua sort of moment in that they went through that experience of coming in together at such a difficult time, and navigating all of the changing circumstances and environments — masks and virtual and all that kind of thing. And then to really come out on the back end and have folks be so successful – it was a real Team Fuqua experience, and I think it has helped give us a lot of insights moving forward as it relates to the new world that is largely more hybrid than what it used to be."
CONSULTING GROWS & NORTHEAST OUSTS WEST COAST AS TOP REGION
Consulting was once again the top industry for Fuqua MBAs, at 36% of the class — another school record — up from 32% in 2021. Consulting has accounted for around a third of every graduating MBA class at Fuqua since at least 2015; this year, the MBB firms accounted for 70 hires, including 42 at Boston Consulting Group. The prominence of consulting for Duke MBAs was even more dramatic by job function, with 40% citing their role as consulting, up 7 percentage points from 2021, a 21% jump in only one year.
And as placement in both finance (16% of the class from 17%) and tech (23% from 27%) slipped this year, it was consulting salaries that powered the big boost in the class median: industry median salary was $175K this year, compared to a 2021 mean (Fuqua changed its reporting this year) of under $160K.
"I think certainly part of the surge can be accounted for by the increase in consulting," Dirks says. "That's certainly part of the story."
Another part of the story is the 4-percentage-point drop in tech, which mirrors a decline felt across business education as the industry itself undergoes a contraction.
"Savvy students are going to always have a plan A and a plan B," Dirks says. "And in many cases it can be tech and consulting. And especially what is happening with the tech market right now, if consulting works out, that may feel like obviously a more stable path to pursue."
Hiring freezes at tech giants like Amazon — which nonetheless hired 18 Fuqua grads this year — may also explain the geographic distribution of the school's 2022 MBAs. Those relocating to the West Coast, primarily the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Los Angeles, declined this year to a quarter of the class from 28% in 2021. The West Coast had been Duke's top MBA destination for three years, but this year more students moved to the Northeast corridor of New York and Boston: 29%, up from 23%.
Dirks focused on another geography statistic: 98% of the class's MBAs found work in North America this year, meaning international students are having fewer difficulties finding employers willing to work with them through visa issues.
"Our international students are getting jobs in the United States at a really remarkable rate, which is certainly something that we're always excited about," Dirks says.
JOBS REPORT BASED ON 99.2% OF CLASS
Dirks points to an under-reported but significant statistic: percentage of the class reporting employment data. This year's Fuqua jobs report is based on 99.2% of the class.
The MBA Career Services and Employer Alliance sets the industry standard for reporting data at 85% or higher. At Fuqua, "we strive to provide the most complete representation possible of Duke MBA employment, and thus work to learn as much information as possible about each student’s status," Dirks says. "Maybe it seems like a small thing to some people, but if you're a prospective student, it is important to understand what percentage of the class do those employment stats represent. This really does represent the whole."
As a whole, it was a class that learned struggle and perseverance. Surviving and thriving through the pandemic was a "Team Fuqua" effort, Dirks says.
"How do you build connectivity? How do you build culture in that environment that is not 100 percent in-person like it used to be?" she says. "I think for us, that is really one of the insights that we're trying to take from the last two years: How do you have those unique cultures and traditions, but in a way that's a little bit different now than it was before the pandemic?"
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