Carnegie Mellon University

Tepper MBA graduates

December 02, 2020

MBA Employment Report: 2020 Graduates' Salaries Jump Nearly 8%, Despite COVID-19 Challenges

As Tepper MBA students navigate recruiting during the coronavirus pandemic, the Class of 2020 reports another year of record-breaking starting salaries.

The Tepper School released the Class of 2020 Full-Time MBA employment report detailing employment outcomes for the 2020 graduating class of Full-Time MBA students by industry, function, geography, and median compensation.

Despite the incredulous disruption from COVID-19 during the spring semester, the Masters Career Center (MCC) — ranked #7 by The Economist and #11 by the Financial Times — reported impressive outcomes for the Class of 2020. Within three months of graduation, 89% of students received employment offers, with a record average starting salary of $136,000. The consulting sector took the top spot with a record 33% of Tepper School Full-Time MBA graduates joining consulting firms.

“Given the extremely challenging environment this year, the employment statistics for the Class of 2020 are quite remarkable,” said Tepper School Dean Isabelle Bajeux.

“I attribute this to the perseverance of our students, the quality of the education they’ve received, the support of our alumni and recruiter networks, and the dedication of the Masters Career Center team throughout these unprecedented times.”

Stronger, More Stable Job Market

“When the March shutdown happened, the 2020 employment numbers were already strong and on track with 2019, which was a banner year,” said Stephen Rakas, Executive Director of the MCC.

“As the shutdown continued, some companies made unprecedented cutbacks while others experienced growth and new opportunity. Most of our recruiting partners were proactive in assuring students they intended to honor their offers. Ultimately, only a few students had full time or internship offers rescinded and each of them were able to find other opportunities.”

Three months after graduation, 89% of the Class of 2020 reported receiving an offer. In 2019 (the strongest year in more than a decade), 94% of the graduating class received an offer. For a broader perspective, the average percentage of graduates with offers for the three previous years (2016-2018) was 91%.

“Given the slower pace of recruiting due to the growing impact of the global pandemic, a decrease of only four to five percentage points from our best year, and a decrease of only one to two percentage points from recent strong years, is exceptional and speaks to the value of the Tepper MBA in the marketplace,” Rakas said.

Regarding accepted offers, 87% of the Class of 2020 reported accepting an offer three months after graduation. In 2019, 91% of graduates reported accepting an offer. For context, the average percentage of graduates with accepted offers for the three previous years (2016-2018) was 88%.

“According to industry standards, we cannot include employment outcomes occurring more than 90 days after graduation, but we continue to hear from our remaining 2020 MBA grads who are accepting job offers at this time,” Rakas added.

Another reason cited for the positive outcome was the recent shift by some companies to a virtual recruiting model, which helped prepare the MCC to successfully pivot in the spring when 100% of recruiting events and interviews transitioned to online platforms. “Having that head start with supporting virtual recruiting undoubtedly helped smooth out any bumps to what might have been a wildly disrupted process,” Rakas said.

Because the recruiting process was virtual and traveling to campus was unnecessary, more Tepper School alumni were able to participate via virtual panels and attending events on Zoom, Rakas said.

“The MCC team and I are grateful for the support so many of our alumni offer to our students. Their alumni engagement remains a hallmark of the Tepper community.”

Daniel Marquez (MBA 2020), who interned at Amazon and accepted a full time job with Microsoft in their MBA sales program, agreed.

“The Tepper alumni network was incredible in helping us prepare for the interviews and our roles prior to starting. I was able to communicate with alumni from the classes of 2019, 2018, and 2016 regarding Microsoft and the career opportunity in front of me.”

Record Salaries and Starting Bonuses in 2020

Shilpa Misra (MBA 2020), a consultant at AlixPartners in Michigan, has found her Tepper School experience essential in her new career.

“The strategy I learned in the areas of technology and operations enabled me to excel at building sound recommendations for clients, and the analytic-intensive education at Tepper made me stand out from the first day at my job.

“The finance courses enabled me to develop cash flow models, understand company valuation, and analyze income statements of companies to assess risk. Overall, my education has prepared me to deal with ambiguous and challenging situations at a job and still deliver results,” Misra said.

The Class of 2020 set a new high for accepted salaries, with a median of $136,000, which is $10,000 more than last year’s record-breaking MBA salaries. Signing/starting bonuses continued to grow to a median of $30,000. Of those who accepted offers, 91% reported receiving a signing/starting bonus.

Peter Dalack (MBA 2020), who interned with Zimmer Biomet and accepted a full-time job with Philips Healthcare in their operations leadership development program, feels that the Tepper School set him up for success.

“The analytical rigor of the program prepared me for the kinds of business problems I would be solving in the real world. Using data analysis to drive actionable decisions is a key aspect of my current job.”

Additionally, Dalack noted the importance of cross-functional communication skills.

“At the Tepper School, I became more aware of how crucial it is to reach across the aisle and engage with colleagues that are outside of your core function to generate real results. Furthermore, the variety of my Tepper School education made me a more effective communicator who can understand diverse perspectives within the business and foster collaborative working environments.”

Industry and Geographical Choices

Consulting was the top industry of choice for the Full-Time MBA Class of 2020, accounting for 33% of accepted offers, followed closely by technology industry jobs at 31.4% of accepted offers.

Misra noted why getting a job in consulting became her focus.

“The diversity in the school (i.e., students from different backgrounds) opened my eyes to explore different career alternatives. After interacting with seniors at my school I understood that my real interest was in consulting,” she said.

She credits both her internship with Altman Solon and her current position as vice president of enterprise improvement with AlixPartners, as well as the support and guidance provided by the Tepper School’s professors, counselors, seniors, and fellow MBAs.

“Our school organized a well-planned trek to different consulting companies in Chicago, New York, and Boston. It provided an excellent platform to know more about the firm as well as meet firm representatives.

“This enabled me to get a closer look at the industry and get more facetime with company representatives, including those at AlixPartners,” she said.

This is the first time in nearly a decade that consulting jobs surpassed technology jobs for Tepper MBAs. These two sectors were followed by financial services (13.1%) and biopharma/healthcare (7%). The remaining 15% of accepted job offers were in industries such as manufacturing, energy, retail, and media/entertainment.

“Overall, these results demonstrate the strengths of our program in delivering exceptional analytical and leadership skills and our students' ability to apply those skills across industries and functions,” Rakas said. “We’re very proud to celebrate the exceptional successes of our graduates this year.”

“Reflecting on how we collectively achieved such strong outcomes in an extremely challenging environment, we are cautiously optimistic for 2021.”

For a comprehensive breakdown of career and internship statistics, see the 2020 MBA Summary Employment Report.