Business Majors: The Degree That Gets You A Job

Undergraduate students at The Wharton School

Undergraduate students at The Wharton School

Barbara Hewitt, senior associate director of career services at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, was more than pleased when she noticed that only 4.2% of bachelor of business administration graduates from the class of 2014 was still seeking employment four to six months after graduation.

“That’s almost the lowest I’ve ever seen it,” Hewitt said.

That wasn’t the only good news in the school’s career plans survey report. Salaries were on the upswing, with 2014 graduates pulling in average base salaries that were $1,520 higher than their 2013 counterparts. And sign-on bonuses were up slightly, with the average signing bonus $157 higher than the previous year.

The highest paid Wharton undergrad last year landed a $112,000-a-year salary, though there were undergraduates of other schools that hit even higher numbers. Washington University’s Olin School of Business, where 98% of the graduates accepted jobs three months after commencement, had one Class of 2014 who started a new job at a salary of $130,000, even higher than most MBA graduates, and Boston College’s Carroll School had a graduate win a $115,000 starting salary.

STRONG JOB NUMBERS FOR THE CLASS OF 2014

Wharton is among a number of leading undergraduate business schools that reported strong job numbers for the 2014 class in recent career placement reports, driven by a robust hiring market for finance, steady internship-to-job conversion rates, and an increased appetite for jobs in the tech sector. Career services offices are responding by offering more intensive career prep to students, from career workshops as early as freshman year to hosting industry panels in growing areas of finance, such as investment management.

“Employers are finding these students well prepared to hit the ground running,” says Idalene Kesner, dean of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, which offers undergrads workshops in such fields as investment banking, consulting, sales, and investment management for practical hand-on learning. “This is great talent and it comes at a low price point relative to MBAs.

But in the midst of the improving job market, some schools have noticed a dip in the number of employers coming to campus, as well as a decrease in the number of interviews they conduct, a sign perhaps that students are becoming less dependent on the campus recruiting process to land jobs, career services officers said.

TECHNOLOGY HIRING GAINING MOMENTUM

At most schools, there has been consistent employer interest in hiring for entry-level consulting and finance-related jobs, especially those in investment banking. Yet one of the areas that gained hiring momentum in 2014 was the technology sector, where tech companies and startups have been increasingly aggressive about hiring BBAs for entry-level jobs, schools said.

At the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business, the percentage of students who took jobs in the technology and finance fields was “neck-to-neck” this year for the first time, said Velma Arney, McComb’s director of BBA career services, with 12% of students heading into technology and 13% going into banking. Tech recruiters are courting undergraduates more aggressively, hosting additional office hours, coffee chats, and informal events for them, Arney said.

“The largest major here at McCombs for undergraduate business students is finance, so when you see technology starting to rise, it is a bit surprising,” she said. “The technology companies are appealing to this generation of students, who see these companies as a fun place to work. There’s also the cool factor.”

STARTING SALARIES FOR THE CLASS OF 2014 AT SOME TOP SCHOOLS

SchoolMedian SalaryHighLow
Virginia (McIntire)$65,000$110,000$35,000
Cornell (Dyson)$65,000$105,000$30,000
Boston College (Carroll)$60,000$115,000$30,000
Washington University (Olin)$60,000$130,000$36,000
Texas-Austin (McCombs)$60,000$63,000$51,000
Pennsylvania (Wharton)$70,000$112,000$30,000
Indiana (Kelley)$56,000$97,250$21,600
Emory (Goizueta)$60,000$105,000$32,000
North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)$63,000$75,000$24,000

Source: School career management reports and interviews by Poets&Quants