MBA graduates report higher salaries

The GW School of Business’s MBA program reported the highest salary earnings ever for recent graduates as fewer students contend for lower-paying nonprofit and government jobs.

Last year’s graduating class accepted jobs with an average starting pay of $84,208 – nearly a 7 percent increase from the year before, according to data released by the school’s career services office this month. Those starting salaries are even slightly higher than before the financial collapse uprooted many businesses five years ago.

Finance and consulting continued to dominate students’ choice of industries, while the number of students going to work for the government dropped sharply. Eighty-five percent of MBA graduates were hired, on par with previous years.

Gil Yancey, the executive director of the F. David Fowler Career Center, said 59 percent of the class of graduate business students sought out positions in fields that pay at least $80,000 – which was true of only 44 percent of last year’s class.

The percentage of MBA graduates pursuing government positions dropped from 19 percent in 2011 to 5 percent last year. Instead, they took more jobs in fields like consumer products and hospitality. One-fifth of students took consulting services jobs, while fewer students concentrated in finance.

“The higher salaries had more to do with the career industries and fields that this class of students pursued and their preparation to compete effectively,” Yancey said.

He added that negative job growth in the public sector may have also contributed to the trend.

The increased salaries are good news for GW’s ranking. U.S. News & World Report, which lists GW’s MBA program at No. 57, factors in starting salaries and employment success for 35 percent of its methodology.

Salaries for GW’s 123-person graduating business class also beat the nationwide median of $85,000 for two-year MBA programs. They were also higher than some MBA programs ranked closely to GW, like Boston University and Syracuse University.

Yancey pointed to an increasing focus on career-related assignments, as well as growing relationships with employers as factors in the increased starting salaries.

“We’ve been convincing employers who never before recruited at GW to participate in information sessions, career fairs and on-campus recruiting,” he said.

The uptick that comes as MBA pay levels have stalled nationwide in recent years as more students have flocked to fields that are less lucrative, Bloomberg BusinessWeek staff editor Geoff Gloeckler said.

“Not as many grads are going into high-paying finance jobs. More are looking to nonprofits and startups – jobs that pay less and bring the averages down quite a bit,” he said.

Gloeckler added that graduate salaries would send a strong signal to potential applicants. The school saw a 15 percent rise in applications this year, even as other top business schools reported falling numbers.

“If I’m a prospective student, I want to see that grads are doing well on the job front. It’s the most important piece of the puzzle,” Gloeckler said.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.