State of the Job Market for M.B.A.s

In late April, Anthony Laurino graduated from Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management with an M.B.A., five years' experience in risk analysis, a semester in Brazil and an internship at Coca-Cola under his belt. But graduation came and went, and like many graduating M.B.A.s this year, he still didn't have a job.

Despite tapping his extensive network and leveraging the school's resources, Mr. Laurino found interviews were hard to come by during the on-campus recruiting season. While more companies came to recruit this year, their numbers were still fewer than pre-recession. And companies that did come had fewer positions to offer.

Associated Press

Students at the Columbia University School of Business in New York attend commencement ceremonies several years ago.

Overall, for business-school students in the class of 2010, finding a job has been a mixed experience.

At some elite schools like University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, hiring has picked up over 2009, one of the worst years many administrators can remember. Others, like University of Texas-Austin's McCombs School of Business and New York University's Stern School of Business, say the situation is about the same as last year—in other words, not great. At NYU, 76% of grads had a job offer at graduation in 2009; at Texas, that figure was 70%. In non-recession years, it's not uncommon for more than 90% of students to have job offers by graduation.

Soon-to-be grads say the bulk of their job search has shifted from a robust school-led recruiting effort to the sort of individual search most job seekers already in the workplace face. Abby Scott, executive director of M.B.A. career services at University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business, has dubbed it "the year of the networked job search."

Mixed Bag

Where the jobs for M.B.A.s are...

  • Investment management
  • Management rotations
  • Consumer goods

..and aren't

  • Private equity
  • Retail and luxury goods
  • Venture capital

Source: WSJ reporting

"Just getting a coffee and exchanging an email with an alumni isn't enough," she says, adding that students are encouraged to deeply research a handful of target companies. "The student has to drive the interaction."

Many sectors haven't seen much hiring growth for M.B.A.s. Jobs at luxury firms and in retail have been difficult to find. Private-equity and venture-capital jobs, always hard to land, have had virtually no positions to offer this year.

Still, there are some signs that companies are beginning to ramp up. Consulting and financial services have shown recent signs of a hiring rebound—as evidenced by recent job offers. Berkeley's Ms. Scott says hedge funds and investment-management firms have begun hiring just weeks before graduation—evidence of the just-in-time hiring, posting positions as they arise in the late spring instead of following the tradition of offering jobs to a "class" of students earlier in the year.

In years past, Boston Consulting Group, for example, made most of its offers in the fall. This year, the firm just finished its hiring for full-time post-M.B.A. spots, says Mel Wolfgang, a partner and head of Americas recruiting. New hires usually begin work several months after graduation, but the firm is asking new hires to start sooner, says Mr. Wolfgang. "We've been growing faster than we anticipated," he says.

There's also been a resurgence in rotational positions, where graduates work across a few functional areas in a company, such as sales or operations, for several months at a time before eventually landing a management role.

Stacey Rudnick, director of M.B.A. career services at University of Texas-Austin, says 27% of offers accepted by its current students are for rotational programs at major corporations. In most years, that figure would be closer to 18%.

Franklin Fuchs, who will graduate from University of Texas-Austin's business school at the end of May, recently landed a rotational management position with General Electric Co.'s Experienced Commercial Leadership Program, starting with an eight-month stint in the company's renewable-energy headquarters in Schenectady, N.Y. While he nabbed the "dream job" back in January, he says he had to do most of the work off-campus through professional projects and networking with target companies.

The programs' appeal as training for a broad general management career is also on the rise. Interest in the McGraw-Hill Cos.' 18-month rotational program rose 36% this year, says Stuart Thompson, director of talent development. The program brings aboard three to five M.B.A.s a year and starts newbies in product development, he says. "We don't artificially create projects for this program," Mr. Thompson says. "We have them addressing real business needs, and throughout, we are evaluating their skills and planning for their future in the company."

Some schools, like Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, say they've seen growth in hiring from companies based overseas, particularly in Asia and South America—with higher salaries than in years past. "A few years ago, companies abroad just couldn't offer the financial incentives," to hire U.S. grads, says Blair Sheppard, the school's dean. "Our students wouldn't have been able to pay off their loans. Those [salaries] have increased significantly."

And some companies say they plan to take advantage of the wide pool of available newly-minted M.B.A. talent. Bart Watts, recruiting manager for BB&T Co. leadership development program, says he will start recruiting for the bank's January intake of the program in July. He says interest from M.B.A.s, which normally make up just 30% of the 80-person leadership program, has already skyrocketed.

"The MBA market has been really good to us this year," he says.

And there are signs that next year's graduating class will do better in their job hunt, as many schools report that internships are at or close to pre-recession levels. Michelle Antonio, director of career management at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, says on-campus internship postings increased 30% for this summer. Investment banking and consulting firms in particular have expanded internship programs. "This will have a huge impact on the number of students who return to campus for their second year with a full-time offer," she says.

As for Mr. Laurino, lately his luck has been changing. He recently landed an interview with a Chicago online marketing firm.

"It's taken me a lot longer than I thought it would," says Mr. Laurino.

Write to Diana Middleton at

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