Companies & Industries Where College Grads Are Most Satisfied

Don’t look now, big traditional organizations, but the millennials are coming. And they want a seat at the table. That’s the message from never-before-seen data released exclusively to Poets&Quants from career platform, Transparent Career.

In self-reported data from more than 13,000 recently graduated college students, such industries as technology, biotechnology, consulting, and arts, media, and entertainment top a list of “job satisfaction” ratings. Meantime, such industries as accounting, banking, financial services, and investment management were bottom dwellers.

“It’s not surprising,” says Velma Arney, the director of undergraduate career services at the University of Texas-Austin’s McCombs School of Business. “With this generation,” Arney continues on a phone call with Poets&Quants, “they are not saying they need to be the next CEO, they just want to be able to make an impact and to contribute and feel like their voice is being heard. That doesn’t mean they want to be at the highest level, they just want to be at the table.”

And that, Arney says, is what separates employers from performing well — or not — in job satisfaction ratings among recent grads. According to this data, no other industry scored a higher job satisfaction rating than “arts, media, sports, & entertainment,” which notched an average score of 6.47 on a one-to-ten scale with ten being most satisfied. Up next was consulting with a score of 6.39. Rounding out the top five were “pharma, medical devices, & biotech,” “technology, internet, & e-commerce,” and “government, military, & politics,” with averages of 6.36, 6.34, and 6.32, respectively. At the bottom were accounting and audit (4.86), telecommunications (5.11), and investment banking (5.25).


The completed surveys come from graduates of large public universities and private colleges from all corners of the country. According to Kevin Marvinac, co-founder and chief operating officer of Transparent Career (formally TransparentMBA), the data is “reflective of all majors.” But with the platform’s roots in graduate business education, the data likely skews towards business majors. To access the entire dataset for different companies and industries, users must input their own career data, which is how Transparent Career is able to aggregate and pull specifics. The most represented schools in this dataset include the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Texas-Austin, and Brigham Young University. However, private schools such as New York University, Stanford, Northwestern, and Cornell were also well-represented.

In addition to industry-specific data, Transparent Career pulled job satisfaction data for organizations with enough data points to reflect a valid representation of the company. Surprisingly, no other organization scored higher for job satisfaction than the Peace Corps at 9.33 (again on a one-to-ten scale with ten being the highest level of satisfaction). Up next was DreamWorks Animation and the private equity firm, The Halifax Group, each with an average of 9.00. Next was Austin, Texas-based investment firm, Dimensional Fund Advisors (8.67), followed by Adobe Systems with 8.50.

At the bottom was telecommunications giant Ericsson (5.00), KPMG (5.13), and William Blair (6.43). Bank of America, General Motors, and General Electric all didn’t perform much better with scores of 6.43, 6.80, and 6.86, respectively. Major hiring firms such as Bain & Company, Boston Consulting Group, and Pepsico faired somewhat better, scoring 7.96, 7.68, and 7.50, respectively. Notably missing from the list were ultra-popular employers like Google, Goldman Sachs, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook, among others.


But the gravitation towards established tech firms and away from traditional banking and accounting firms is something Marvinac says the data reflects. “Overall, people don’t seem happy with the big players,” Marvinac adds. Long working hours don’t help. Marvinac says when he puts Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers together, the overall job satisfaction average is just 4.8.

“They want to work for the Facebooks. They want to work for Google. They want to work for firms in Silicon Valley,” Rebecca Cassidy, the associate dean of the undergraduate office of professional development at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business says of the students she currently works with. “That’s our next step — to start building pathways into those tech firms and Silicon Valley as well as New York,” Cassidy continues, noting about 75% of McDonough’s students currently take jobs in banking or consulting.

“Right nowa lot of the students are wanting to focus on entrepreneurship, technology, or being involved in the emerging new fields where they feel they are contributing,” Arney concurs.


At least two major trends are driving a shift in where recent graduates want to work. First, it’s being able to contribute and make an impact early on. Second, it is maintaining a better work-life balance. Regardless, Arney says major traditional employers she meets with have taken notice of waning interest from current students.

“The employers are saying they don’t get the same numbers they used to,” she says about companies she met with in “larger cities” near the University of Texas campus and a “roundtable session” she hosted earlier this month. “This has been emerging — this sort of ‘we’re not seeing the results,’ basically is what they are saying.”

Arney says she tells those companies they are now competing with technology firms and startups and graduates going into those roles are able to make important decisions very early on. “They get to be part of the problem solving team,” she explains. “Everyone is asking for their input and their opinion. And they are feeling they are truly heard and can be part of the solution. So, what can you do, large employer, to try to change how you are operating to incorporate that sort of environment.”

Marvinac says their data confirms what the career services offices are hearing from students and recent grads. “Our data shows a strong positive correlation to ‘impact of work’ and overall satisfaction,” Marvinac says. However, when looking deeper into the satisfaction numbers, Marvinac adds there is a “huge” variance with small firms and satisfaction numbers. That volatility doesn’t show up as much in the larger firms, he says. “Broadly, this says that candidates kind of know what they’re getting into with the larger employers,” Marvinac explains. “They may not have quite as high satisfaction on average, but going to a small startup or boutique firm is a much more risky proposition from a satisfaction standpoint. You may land a job at a small company where you’re doing really impactful work and feeling great, or it may be a bad experience for various reasons.”


Work-life balance is the other make-or-break factor for job satisfaction ratings. “They want a work-life balance,” Arney says, noting that doesn’t necessarily mean the ability to balance family time anymore. “For them, they want the time to do something for themselves. And that’s what the tech firms can offer.”

Arney says time to volunteer and travel, in particular, are draws for current students.

Poor work-life balance is what Cassidy says leads to a high “two-year attrition rate” for many investment and commercial banks. “I think the challenge is more on the banks’ part to keep that talent after the two-year mark,” she says. “A lot of students say, ‘I’ll do this for two years and it will open up a lot of doors for me.'” Cassidy calls it “punting” the life and career decision “down the field” for a while. “It’s the path of least resistance,” Cassidy continues. “The companies come here. They are almost in the dorms. The banks make it very convenient.”

According to Arney, that doesn’t happen with many of the tech firms. “The students don’t say, ‘I’m just going to work in tech for two to three years’ the way they say it about accounting and investment banking,” she says.


Marvinac, who is working on his MBA at Chicago’s Booth School of Business, says the continued draw to investment banking is a “long-term play.” Investment banking, he says, still has a “really strong” level of prestige, despite the fallout from the Great Recession. “There’s a significant trend in both investment banking and consulting to stay for two or three years, then pivot to something else. 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.”

Plus, Marvinac explains, bankers make good money, which is attractive to students graduating with “unprecedented” debt. “What’s the harm in slogging through two years of banking if you can eradicate your debt extremely quickly,” Marvinac reasons.

Consulting firms, on the other had, seem to score well with their job satisfaction ratings, despite demanding long hours. According to both Marvinac and Cassidy, that likely has to do with office culture. Cassidy says there is often a “pecking order” within banks and those at the bottom end up pulling workhorse hours.

“Consulting firms do a great job developing their people, first of all,” Marvinac says. “I mean, their product is people, so essentially they have to. Our evidence points to consultants as highly valuing training and development as well as the quality of co-workers, and since these firms typically excel on these two metrics, it’s no wonder the overall satisfaction scores are high.”

While traditional industries such as investment banking might be hurting in recruiting business school talent compared to previous years, Cassidy says don’t expect them to hurt too much.

“I think there is always going to be a certain segment of the population that is willing and interested in putting in those long hours,” she says. “There is sort of a badge of honor that goes along with that — for a small percentage.”

See the following pages for company and industry job satisfaction ratings.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.