It’s no secret that Wall Street can be miserable. High-pressure deadlines. Pecking orders. And long hours. Now more data shows that recent college graduates going into investment banking are more overworked than in any other industry. New data released exclusively to Poets&Quants reveals that recently graduated college students entering investment banking work more than 77 hours a week on average. The self-reported data to Transparent Career‘s online jobs platform is substantially higher than the next industry — private equity — at about 65 hours a week. Recent graduates going into accounting and audit reported the next-highest work-week hours at about 58.
Investment banking and private equity both outpaced all other industries by quite a bit. Of the 23 industries included in the data, 17 had averages between 47 and 57 hours per week. Some 15 industries reported working fewer than 50 hours a week. All of the data is self-reported by users on the Transparent Career platform. Formally TransparentMBA, the startup, which is a little over a year old, was founded by MBAs from the Chicago Booth School of Business. To get access to the aggregated data, Transparent Career asks users enter their own data. At the undergraduate level, the data skews heavily toward business majors, but other majors are included.
In addition to the aggregated industry data, Transparent Career reported company-specific data. Young professionals at Chicago-based investment bank William Blair reported working more hours than any other company at just over 74 hours per week. The reason the total is lower than the industry level is that some companies didn’t have enough data to be reported on an individual level, but were nevertheless part of the aggregated industry averages. For example, investment banking behemoth Goldman Sachs was not included in the company data but was likely represented in the industry totals. Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company were the two next-highest companies with 70 and 66 hours per week, respectively.
RECENT GRADS AT UNITED AIRLINES AND ADOBE ENJOY ‘NORMAL’ 40-HOUR WORK WEEKS
At the other end of the average work hours was aerospace and aviation, where recent graduates reported working 45 hours a week. Recent grads going into nonprofit, social impact, transportation, and retail all reported working just under 46 hours per week, suggesting those industries enjoy the best work-life balance. Only two organizations — United Airlines and Peace Corps — had recent graduates working the typical full-time 40 hours per week. Progressive Insurance and Adobe had recent graduates report working just over 41 hours per week.
According to Rebecca Cassidy, associate dean of the undergraduate office of professional development at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, the data is not all that surprising. Cassidy says about 75% of McDonough’s graduates typically go into either banking or consulting, with about 50% of that being banking. According to Cassidy, the continued interest of business students in investment banking has a few causes. First — and as reported last week by Poets&Quants — large banks and consulting firms are coming to campus earlier and earlier. According to Cassidy, they are almost in the dorms. When younger students see juniors and seniors walking around campus in suits interviewing for financial services internships and full-time positions, Cassidy explains, many assume that is the job market for business majors. A lot of students assume that is the job market, period.
Those banks and consulting firms are also often flashing around high salaries. When staring down a mountain of debt, those high salaries look a little better — despite the number of hours that will be worked. Also, Cassidy explains, seeing friends and peers going into banking and consulting creates a “push and pull” to look at those industries.
Cassidy believes the “adults in the room” have a responsibility to inform interested students exactly what going to the large firms entails, and to let them know that there are industries and companies looking for business talent outside of the traditional paths. “First and foremost, there is an education component that the adults in the room need to provide,” she tells Poets&Quants.
RECENT BUSINESS GRADS STILL GOING INTO BANKING AND CONSULTING DESPITE LONG HOURS
At the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, Velma Arney, director of undergraduate career services, says McCombs also sees “quite a few” graduates going into investment banking despite knowing the hours will be brutal. “They see opportunity,” Arney says. “It could be a platform to move forward and move on.”
Kevin Marvinac, co-founder and the chief operating officer at Transparent Career, says recent business grads often use their experience at investment banks to transition into graduate school or a different career path. Late last month, Marvinac told Poets&Quants that many recent graduates see spending a few years at an investment bank as a “long-term play.”
“There’s a significant trend in both investment banking and consulting to stay for two or three years, then pivot to something else,” he said. “The skills and credibility you can build in a banking or consulting role command a lot of respect across many industries — tech, CPG, financial services, health care, you name it.”
TECH INCREASINGLY COMPETING FOR TOP TALENT
Marvinac believes work-life balance and “impact of work” are both highly correlated between recent graduates and job satisfaction. Arney and Cassidy both agreed work-life balance seems to be valued more by this generation compared to previous ones. Larger companies have noticed and tried to respond accordingly. Large banks from Goldman Sachs to Bank of America to Citigroup have recently set policies forbidding interns and recent from working all weekends.
“I think they have to keep modifying that piece of work-life balance,” Arney says.
Still, it’s tough to see big banks continue to compete with tech upstarts. Banks are already competing for — and often losing — top talent to the Googles and Facebooks of the world. And as more hot tech companies grow and develop needs for business roles, Georgetown’s Cassidy believes top business majors will fill those roles.
“As the firms mature, they have to realize they need the business help,” Cassidy believes. “I think the smaller firms need more help in positioning themselves and more help on the sales side. The interest on the students’ part is definitely there.”
(See the next pages for a full list of the industries and companies where recent college grads work most.)