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Training The Street MBA Employment Survey: Banks Remain Top Employment Destination For MBAs

-Survey Finds Slight Decline in Starting Salaries Despite Strong Hiring Numbers-

MBA students and graduates are receiving multiple job offers and feel confident in their employment prospects in a competitive recruiting environment, according to the seventh annual MBA Employment Survey conducted by Training The Street (TTS), the leading corporate training provider for Wall Street firms and top-tier business schools. A vast majority of MBAs (86%) are either very or somewhat optimistic regarding their job prospects after school, while only 4% are pessimistic. Reflecting this optimism, over 80% of students have already received employment offers, with over half of survey respondents receiving at least two job offers.

Despite the positive hiring environment, the percentage of MBAs entering the highest salary bracket has shrunk. Forty percent of respondents are earning an annual base salary of $125,000 or more, down from 43% in the same income bracket last year. The percentage of those falling in the lower tier of $76,000-$99,000 grew to 16% of respondents, up from 13%, while the $100,000-$124,000 bracket remained flat at 36%.

MBA salary satisfaction has decreased slightly. Eleven percent say they are “dissatisfied” with their offers, compared to just 8% a year ago, while those saying they are “very satisfied” shrunk to 51% from 54%. The “satisfied” camp remains at 38%.

“Overall, MBAs continue to follow the most available and financially secure job options, and those jobs remain on Wall Street,” said Scott Rostan, Founder and CEO of TTS. “However, the slight dip in starting salary is reflective of subtle changes in MBA job preferences. Although salaries at Wall Street banks and consulting firms have not changed much, a slightly larger share of graduates are looking to join startups. These firms may offer lower base salaries and have different compensation structures that may include equity instead of the cash offerings provided by banks.”

Contrary to concerns that Wall Street isn’t as appealing to new graduates as it used to be, respondents indicate that large global financial institutions remain the top destination of choice. Over a quarter of respondents name large banks as their top preference, followed by 17% who choose consulting firms. Those preferring private wealth management, hedge funds, and private equity amount to a combined 20%.

Boutique advisory firms and middle market banks, which saw their share of advisory and transactional work grow in 2015, have increased their recruiting efforts and enjoy a slight uptick in interest this year compared to last. Boutiques have tried to recruit 32% of survey respondents, up from 28% last year. Eight percent of MBAs chose boutiques as their top choice in 2016, higher than the 6% seen in 2015.

Twenty-three percent of MBA students were targeted by startups for recruitment, an increase from 18% a year ago. But, only 7% of respondents chose startups as their top employment destination, compared to 5% last year. Consulting firms also continue their recruitment push, courting 43% of MBAs for the second straight year. Only 17% of MBAs, however, picked those firms as their top choice.

“While positions at hedge funds, private equity firms, and to some extent startups, are highly coveted job posts, they are only available to a select few MBAs. Job seekers understand this reality and are focusing their job search on more readily available positions in banks and consulting firms,” added Rostan.

Campuses remain the overwhelming conduit to securing employment for MBAs. Fifty-nine percent of respondents found their position through on-campus interviews, followed by 21% that secured a position through an independent job search, and 11% through a personal reference.

Having strong interpersonal skills/teamwork is the most important attribute needed for securing a job, according to 36% of MBAs, followed by communication skills (18%) and having industry expertise (17%).

Other findings:

Women made up a larger share of the survey pool this year at 30%, compared to 24% last year.
85% of respondents prefer to work in the United States, while New York is the top US destination for 48% of those polled.
55% of respondents are between 26-29, 30% aged 30-34, and 13% between 21-25.