The old saying at Columbia Business School had been as Wall Street goes, so do Columbia. It’s fortunes have been so closely aligned with the financial sector, that a prolonged downturn inevitably has a big impact on the uptown school. But that is now changing as the school and its students have increasingly diversified their career choices.
For the Class of 2014, Columbia sent nearly as many of its graduating MBAs into consulting as it did into finance. Only 35% of the class picked finance as their chosen career, down from 55.6% in 2008 when Lehman Brothers, a major Columbia recruiter, went bankrupt. The biggest decline occurred in investment banking and brokerage jobs–once a mainstay for Columbia grads. This year, those positions fell to a new low of 16%, from 18.6% last year and 29.4% in 2008. Just three years ago in 2011, more than half of Columbia’s class was still venturing into the world of finance.
“There has been a shift in the industries that our students are pursuing and for which they are being recruited,” says Christopher Cashman, director of public relations at Columbia. “More Columbia students are obtaining jobs in the consulting industry than before. That said, we continue to have a healthy number of students interested in and pursuing careers in the financial services sector, and we feel that our numbers show the remarkable progress the school has had in diversifying the industries that actively recruit and hire our graduates.”
Despite the massive shift away from finance, however, the Class of 2014 has done exceptionally well in the job market. The school reported that 83% of the class had job offers at graduation, while a healthy 97% had at least one employment offer three months later. That’s even better than the 95.1% offer rate in 2008 before the economy tanked and a complete recovery from the 85.3% offer rate for the Class of 2009, the graduates most impacted by the recession.
This years’s median salary rose an impressive 8.5% to $119,400, from $110,000 last year. Median sign-on bonuses of $25,000 fell $5,000 from last year when they were $30,000. Other guaranteed year-end bonus was $22,390, slightly higher tun the $20,000 reported last year. For a graduating MBA collecting all three forms of compensation, the total first-year pay package for this year would come to $166,790.
The school rolls out a revamped core curriculum in its MBA program for the incoming Class of 2015. Columbia’s curriculum was last redesigned in 2009 to respond to the changing business environment wrought by the financial collapse. The new core comes on top of a highly successful fundraising campaign that has raised more than $500 million toward the $600 million cost of a new campus for the school in early 2018.
Among the latest changes, Columbia will now teach some technical components of courses online to free up more classroom time for deeper dives and discussions. The school also will increase the number of electives students can take in the first year to allow them to make a stronger impression on employers during their summer internships. In the second half of the second term, MBA students at Columbia will have no core courses at all but five different elective courses.
Columbia’s new core is made up of two full-term courses–Financial Accounting and Finance– and nine half-term courses that range from Business Analytics to Strategy Formulation. Incoming students at Columbia are assigned to clusters of 65 to 70 students who take all of the first-year core classes together. Before each term, students can opt out of a core course by exam and replace it with an elective.
Dean Glenn Hubbard, who had been chief economic adviser during the Bush administration, has worked hard to get the school a sorely needed new home in the Manhattanville section of New York in West Harlem where Columbia University is developing another campus. The business school will eventually be housed in two new buildings on that 17-acre campus at a cost of $500 million. And it’s location in New York City allows the school to tap into one-of-a-kind executive talent in a world capital.
Until it can occupy its new home, Columbia Business School remains centered in Uris Hall, a 12-story high concrete building that opened in 1964 following protests from architecture students who objected to its design, and Warren Hall, a 1999 facility it shares with the law school. Cramped conditions mean researchers share windowless cubicles and former basement space was cleared out to use as a laboratory. The problem is that the new campus won’t be complete until 2030, though the business school is expected to be among the first to move there years earlier.