Every MBA Class of 2021 employment report released so far this fall has contained some sign (or signs) of the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley, which released its report on Tuesday (November 30), that sign is in placement rates — both job offers received and accepted three months after graduation have barely budged from a year ago, at the conclusion of the recruitment and hiring period when the pandemic’s effects were felt most acutely.
But because Berkeley is Berkeley, a top-10, world-class business school, the signs of recovery in this year’s jobs report far outweigh the negatives. Both median salaries and bonuses were way up in 2021, driven by increased hiring into the consulting and tech industries, and that drove overall compensation into positive territory a year after it remained flat amid the worst of the worldwide health crisis.
Is 2021 the beginning of the end of the disruption of the pandemic on graduate business education? Or just the end of the beginning? Berkeley Haas’ jobs numbers, at least, suggest that by the time top schools’ employment reports are released in 2022, coronavirus may not even merit a mention.
6.5% JUMP IN TOTAL COMPENSATION FOR BERKELEY MBAs
At the Haas School in 2o20, the pay numbers kept trending in the right direction — barely — even as the pool of successful job seekers shrank. Average salaries increased from $137,819 in 2019 to $139,423 last year, based on the 199 MBAs who reported salaries out of 238 looking for jobs and 291 total in the class. Bonus averages inched upward by about $2K from 2019, to $31,330. Median starting salary was flat at $140K.
The median salaries are the story this year. They jumped by $9,000 to $149,000, a 6.4% increase. Average bonuses, meanwhile, saw their own impressive climb, up 7.8% to $33,775 — and it all adds up to an impressive total. By combining median salary and mean signing bonuses and weighting the calculation based on the number of grads who reported receiving a bonus, Berkeley MBAs' total compensation comes out to $173,351 in 2021, up 6.5% from last year's $162,749.
"Both consulting and tech jobs were up this year, and that drove overall median salaries up an incredible $9,000," Abby Scott, Haas assistant dean for MBA career management and corporate partnerships, tells Poets&Quants. "We were really thrilled with that increase."
Haas' average salaries grew, too, to $143,696 from $139,423, a more than $4K jump, or 3.1%.
TECH & CONSULTING SALARIES GROW
There were few surprises in Haas MBAs’ choice of industry, but plenty of happiness about the salaries reported out of them. Last year at this time, tech — long Haas grads' top choice of sector — had slipped half a point to 32.4%, with a median salary of $140,000, up slightly from $138,500 in 2019. Consulting was flat at 25.1% (median salary $160K, down from $162,500, after jumping more than 18% from 2018), and finance saw a small decline, to 14.5% from 15% ($150K, same as 2019).
This year, both consulting and tech are up — the former to 28.4%, with a median salary of $165,000; the latter to 34.1%, with a median salary of $144,000. Finance declined for the second year in a row, to 12.3%, but stayed flat in base salary, a median $150K.
One other industry merits mention: healthcare. Last year, healthcare/biotech jumped to a record 11.6% of the class, the only other industry in double digits, up from 6.8% in 2019, with a median starting salary of $135,000. That's a more than 70% jump in one year.
Twas not to last. This year, healthcare snapped back to 6.6% of the class (salaries stayed at a median of $135K). But that's not unusual, Abby Scott says. Besides a dip in 2018 and the surge in 2020, the healthcare industry usually draws around 6% of Haas MBAs, "so last year was the abnormal one," she says, "probably driven by a desire to help bring strategic thinking to the fight against the pandemic."
ABOUT THOSE PLACEMENT RATES ...
In 2020, job offers at three months dropped for a second straight year for Haas grads, to 89.1% from 92.9% — a decline of more than 4%. Accepted offers slipped to 86.9% from 91.2%, a drop of 4.7%. In 2018, 94.4% of Haas MBAs had job offers after 90 days, and 93.4% had accepted.
This year, for 239 graduates looking for jobs out of a class of 283, 215 got offers, and 211 accepted. That's a 89.9% offer rate, and a 88.3% acceptance rate. All things considered, not terrible — but definitely lagging Berkeley's peer schools. This year, 97.1% of Northwestern Kellogg School of Management’s two-year MBA graduates received offers by three months after graduation, up from 95% last year, and 96.1% accepted, up from 93%. At Harvard Business School, 96% of Class of 2021 MBAs who were seeking work receiving an offer three months after graduation and 92% accepted, up from 90% and 83%, respectively.
After dropping from 92.4% in 2019 to 90.2% last year, offers at three months at Yale School of Management bounced way back to 95.7%; after slipping to 85.9% from 91.4%, acceptances at 90 days roared back to 94.1%. And at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, by 90 days after graduation, 97% of the Class of 2021 had received a full-time offer — better than any top-25 school last year and in league with Wharton and Kellogg numbers from 2019 — and 95% had accepted, up from 93% and 91%, respectively.
See links to P&Q's coverage of those schools' employment reports at the bottom of this page. Click here to go directly to Berkeley Haas' 2021 jobs report.
'LEARNING TO ADAPT'
Last year, Abby Scott told P&Q, in reference to the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic: “It was a tough year, but I think it came out surprisingly well. I was pretty pleased to see how well the students did actually given the extraordinary time that we’re in.”
And this year?
"I think what can be interesting is what you don't see in the detailed report," she says. "As usual, we have diversity in what students are choosing to pursue.
"Our students, being so close to Silicon Valley here, tend to focus on what's next, and are at the center of things like the mobility wave, sustainable finance, blockchain. You don't see those stories in our numbers, but certainly some of our financial services, tech, transportation — those stories are embedded in those industries. And they do tend to represent very cutting-edge companies that students are choosing to join upon graduation."
Once again, as they did amid the throes of the pandemic year of 2020, alumni played a huge role in helping Haas grads find jobs.
"We measure job leads from alumni through a program called Hire Haas," Scott says. "And in fact, we saw double the number of postings in this 2021 cycle than we had seen in 2020. So as usual, our alumni responded very positively to support our community. And I think we had a little bit more of a campaign around it this past year, which helped to drive the spike.
"And also, I think the world is just learning to adapt, unfortunately, to these really unusual times."
AND CHECK OUT OUR COVERAGE OF THE JOB PROSPECTS FOR OTHER SCHOOLS' MBA CLASSES OF 2021: