MBA students thirst for tech, consulting positions in 2006

Tuesday April 18, 11:01 am ET
By Rob Kelley, CNNMoney.com staff writer

With demand for MBAs rebounding, this year's graduating class of B-school students is more likely to get the job offers they desire. And in many cases, that means a job at Google.
Asked to name the five firms where they'd most like to work after graduation, 12.55% of MBA candidates named Google, according to the results of an annual survey of MBA candidates by research firm Universum Communications in an exclusive Fortune.com list. That made for a remarkable debut at No. 2 on the 100 Top MBA Employers list for the search-engine giant. Google wasn't included on Universum's 2005 survey form, but so many students wrote it in that it would have ranked 129th last year.
Apple Computer also enjoyed a strong rise in the rankings. The maker of computers, software and iPods popular among the student set cracked the top 10 this year, appearing at No. 7, and was cited by 9% of students surveyed. It was 15th last year.

Consulting heavyweight McKinsey & Co. maintained its No. 1 slot, appearing on 18.27% of MBA candidates' wishlists. Other companies in the top 10 most popular are Goldman Sachs (No. 3), Bain & Co. (No. 4), the Boston Consulting Group (No. 5), Citigroup (No. 6), General Electric (No. 8), Johnson & Johnson (No. 9) and Morgan Stanley (No. 10). Many of the companies are repeat winners - eight of them were in the top 10 last year.

"What's interesting is that we're seeing a top 20 very similar to the 2001 survey, with dot-coms and consumer goods placing very well," said Claudia Tattanelli, CEO of Universum. "Companies that used to be regarded as dot-coms -- and were very volatile on the list -- are now established as major recruiters."

"There has always been 20 percent to 30 percent of people coming to the MBA program with the hopes of changing their careers, sometimes moving out of more traditional firms towards industries with a better work/life balance," she said. "Because students are looking for innovative companies with that balance, there's been a big trend toward these less traditional employers.

Consulting, finance and other Fortune 500 names dominated the top 100 list.

The survey also broke down most desirable companies by gender. For women, Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and Walt Disney were unique to their top 10 list. For men, it was Morgan Stanley, General Electric and Lehman Brothers.

McKinsey was the big winner among men, with 24 percent including it in their top five. Among women, McKinsey was also first, but only 13 percent included it in their top 5.

Men also put consulting at the top of their industry list, with 28 percent looking to work in that field upon graduation. Financial services was next with 23 percent, and investment banking third with 15 percent.

For women, consumer goods was first with 25 percent, management consulting second at 22 percent, and financial services third at 19 percent.

"Women have always been strong with consumer brands, and in industries where there are marketing openings. They look for industries that offer a better work/life balance without crazy hours," Tattanelli said.

Asked what career goals they hoped for within three years, MBA men and women selected "balance personal life and career" and "build a sound financial base" as their top priorities. Working internationally was selected by 21 percent of respondents, down from 31 percent the prior year.

For men, the work/life balance option was up from last year, when "influence corporate strategies" was the No. 1 selection.

Women ranked "contribute to society" slightly higher than men, with 18 percent choosing that compared to 14 percent of men.

Pay expectations are high: Candidates expect to take home average salaries of $88,087 in their first year after graduation, up from $81,658 the previous year -- and a hefty $167,052 five years down the road.

There was a nearly $8,000 gap in expected salaries between men and women, with men expecting $94,710 and women expecting $86,805.

"This is an almost self-inflicted salary gap, because it's what they're expecting to get," said Tattanelli. "It has increased from last year. Part of it is because women gravitate to the consumer goods industries that don't always have top salaries."

"Students expect competitive salaries out of business school," she added. "And companies are giving them that."

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