UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business became the latest top U.S. B-school to release its MBA employment numbers for those graduating in this most unusual and disruptive year. Berkeley also became the latest school to show a decline in job offers and acceptances even as starting salaries and bonuses crept upward.
Haas MBAs’ average pay climbed in 2020 to $139,423, and bonus averages inched upward by about $2K from last year. Median starting salary was flat at $140K. But placement rates were the real story. Job offers at three months dropped for a second straight year, to 89.1% from 92.9% — a decline of more than 4% — while 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.
All things considered, says Abby Scott, the Haas School’s assistant dean for MBA career management and corporate partnerships, the UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business MBA Class of 2020 overcame the unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and made the school proud.
“It was a tough year, but I think it came out surprisingly well,” Scott says. “I was pretty pleased to see how well the students did actually given the extraordinary time that we’re in.
“At the end of the day, it felt like the students performed almost as well as they had last year with respect to the numbers employed, salaries — and signing bonuses even went up a little bit. So I was really quite pleased.”
SALARIES UP - more
Only a few of UC-Berkeley's peer schools have released their 2020 MBA employment reports so far, though a flood of releases is expected in the coming days and weeks. What we have seen is similar to what the Haas School reports. Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management saw job offers and acceptances drop but median base salary climb. Likewise at NYU Stern School of Business; and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, in a partial report, revealed a bump in median salary for most of the class — but left out the fate of nearly 200 MBAs who presumably were still on the job hunt when the report was released in mid-October.
At Berkeley Haas, the pay numbers kept trending in the right direction even as the pool of successful job seekers shrank. Average salaries increased from $137,819 in 2019 to $139,122 this year, based on the 199 MBAs who reported salaries, out of 238 looking for jobs and 291 total in the class.
On the bonus front, in 2019 the Haas School saw an increase in grads reporting signing bonuses to 76%, tying the high mark set in 2017, at an average of $29,141; this year, the reporting number dropped to 73.4%, but the amount grew to $31,164, an increase of $2,023, or just under 7%. Also last year, the school for the first time reported that 46% of grads received stock options as part of their starting pay packages. This year that number dropped to 42.7%.
There were few surprises, meanwhile, in Haas MBAs' choice of industry. From last year, tech slipped half a point to 32.4%, still by far the top sector, with a median salary of $140,000, up slightly from $138,500 in 2019. Consulting was flat at 25.1% ($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 last year). Interestingly, healthcare/biotech jumped to a record 11.6% of the class, the only other industry in double digits, up from 6.8% (more than 70%) in 2019, with a median starting salary of $135,000.
"Honestly, there were really no surprises there," Scott says of Haas MBAs' industry choices. "I think the one big change that I've noticed was the uptick in healthcare. That was not unexpected given the interest in areas like digital health or health tech — those have been areas of interest from our students. We've seen growth in our MBA/MPH program. And so that was just a nice outcome."
A LOT OF HARD WORK LEADS TO 'EXCITING RESULTS'
It was a tough year, Abby Scott says, but not the toughest she has seen in her 20 years at the Haas School.
"I've been around a long time," she tells Poets&Quants. "I wouldn't say that it was the toughest year, mostly because there was still a lot of optimism and it felt because this was kind of an economic shock rather than the true economic downturn that I think we've seen in previous recessions and years. It felt like things were going to be OK. And that proved to be true, it feels like. Companies were able to invest in our grads, and in many cases, we didn't have a lot of people's full-time offers rescinded."
It was a harder summer for interns, Scott says. Most rising second-years went into tech — 37.4% — with consulting (16.3%) and finance (13.7%) well behind. Ten percent interned for healthcare/biotech companies. But many needed a boost.
"In the summer internship space, we certainly had delayed start dates," Scott says. "That was one of the challenges that we and so many other schools faced this year, but students made the most of it — they figured out really interesting things to do during that time off, whether it was a part-time job on campus or working for a political campaign or working with a nonprofit organization. So I think the students were able to fill their time well."
As at other schools, alumni pitched in to help.
"We did have a number of calls for help with alumni and from the dean on down. We had quite a few jobs come in or be created on those calls for help.
"We also saw quite a few of alumni, especially those who graduated during previous recessions, really stick their neck out for students and go the extra mile. For example, we had a panel of students who graduated in 2008 and 2009 and we found these people who had very publicly on LinkedIn or through our alumni office stated that they want to help: 'We understand what it's like to graduate in this kind of environment and we want to be there for our students.'
"I'm very proud of our Class of 2020. I think it was a really tough year. The community came together and the students worked really hard and my team worked really hard. And so I think it was a pleasure to see what I think are exciting results."