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U.S. News Data Indicates More Jobs for M.B.A.s

An analysis of business school data indicates that the M.B.A. hiring market is heating up.

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The M.B.A. hiring stagnation that took place during the recession has reached an end and more business school graduates are getting jobs, according to an analysis of data provided to U.S. News by business schools nationwide. Of the 437 schools surveyed, 119 provided job placement data for both 2009 and 2010 graduates. Among them, an average of 75.7 percent of 2010 graduates were hired within three months, up from 70.8 percent, on average, in 2009. 

[See complete rankings of U.S. News's Best Business Schools.] 

The average 4.9 percentage point gain represents an average of 7 percent growth in the M.B.A. hiring market among the schools that provided data. This is encouraging for M.B.A. students who have been bombarded with headlines and anecdotes of hiring freezes and salary cuts since the housing market collapsed in 2008, catalyzing the nation's worst recession in decades.

While M.B.A. hiring hasn't returned to the levels seen in the years prior to the recession, it appears that the market has reached bottom and is beginning to rebound, much like the stock market—the value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen more than 85 percent since bottoming out in March of 2009. The national unemployment rate, too, has shown signs of improvement and is down to 8.9 percent from a January peak of 10.6 percent. M.B.A. students may outpace the rest of the hiring market because of the nature of their degree, experts say. "The M.B.A. degree is sought after," says executive recruiter and career counselor Bruce Hurwitz. "It is respected [by employers]." 

[See how the M.B.A. degree is begin reinvented.] 

Schools like the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, for instance, claim the overwhelming majority of their M.B.A. students were hired in 2010. The school had an 89 percent job placement rate three months after graduation among its May M.B.A. graduates, far outpacing the national average, and up from 78.3 percent in 2009. "We realize that job placement and career counseling have become important parts of the educational experience at universities that really want to see their graduates succeed beyond school," Amy Hillman, executive dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business said in a press release. "That's why, in addition to the university's main resources, the W. P. Carey School of Business has separate, dedicated graduate and undergraduate business career centers to help our students." 

At the end of the decade, many business school students had trouble finding a job, much less one that could subsidize their hefty student loans (the average 2010 M.B.A. graduate had $41,676 in student loan debt according to finaid.org). Those horror stories have faded, and students like Kyle Zahorsky, who quit his job as a pilot to pursue a business degree, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma's Price College of Business in December, are finding the job market more hospitable than it was for predecessors. 

According to U.S. News data, average starting salaries have fallen from their pre-recession peaks, but appear to have reached bottom and are trending downward only slightly. The average starting salary for 2009 graduates was $91,442 among the 8,915 students for whom business schools reported salary data to U.S. News. For 2010 graduates, the figure dipped to $90,602 among the 9,978 students whose salary data was conveyed to U.S. News

[Find an online M.B.A. program that's right for you.] 

Zahorski amassed interviews for seven jobs before graduating and was hired by ONEOK, an energy firm based in Tulsa, Okla. He claims his initial salary is slightly lower than he expected when he started his M.B.A. and that his $22,000 in student loan debt could be burdensome during his first years on the job, but he is pleased with the doors the new degree has opened. "I often consider [whether I should've pursued an M.B.A.] and I have no regrets," he says. "I'm very happy with my decision." 

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