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MBA Hiring Bounces Back After 2020 Slump

MBA Hiring Bounces Back After 2020 Slump main image

In 2019, research by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) found that MBAs were on track to become some of the most desirable – and high-paid – candidates in the job market.

Over a year later, the business world looks a lot different. After the coronavirus pandemic reached the Western hemisphere in March, setting back local and global economies, a sense of insecurity began to spread among business school students and graduates alike. Suddenly, GMAC found itself unable to reassure recruiters and applicants on the future or validity of MBA recruitment and the value of postgraduate education during a global recession.

Nevertheless, the most recent data by the institution – released last week – shows promising signs of recovery.

The figures – which were gathered over the summer in addition to the March 2020 report in what GMAC defines “Wave II” – give an accurate representation of recruiters’ expectations for 2021. And the results are positive: while at the start of the pandemic only 77 percent of employers planned to hire MBAs, in the past four months the number has jumped to nearly 90 percent.

2021: a silver lining for MBAs

2021 looks like it’s all set to be a rebound year for graduate hiring.

Despite GMAC figures from early 2020 showing that a number of recruiters were insecure about economic prospects for MBAs, 89 percent of employers in Wave II data reported planning to hire b-school graduates in 2021. This optimism signals hope across industries, from banks to insurance and consulting firms, and reaffirms the importance of good leadership in moments of uncertainty.

The positivity is echoed in internship recruitment too, with 89 percent of companies planning to obtain business school interns in the final months of 2020 and into 2021.

Of those, 52 percent plan to begin internships virtually – a trend that will no doubt continue through the decade following successes during the pandemic –; 32 percent have shortened or delayed the experience; and 16 percent are proceeding as originally planned.

Skills can take you far

Despite recruiters’ perceptions of 2020’s economic outlook worsening over the past few months, their trust in business school graduates has remained high.

According to GMAC, 87 percent of recruiters are highly confident or confident in business schools’ ability to prepare students to be successful in their organization – a trend particularly present among Fortune 100 and larger (10,000+ employees) companies.

The top three skills employers consider to be the most important in post-COVID times are strategic thinking (over 65 percent), strong communication (65 percent), versatility (65 percent), and the ability to navigate technological disruption (45 percent).

Sangeet Chowfla, president and chief executive of GMAC, said: “When thinking about the skills and experience required to help organizations and industries rebuild after an event like COVID-19, it makes sense that employers are expressing a desire to hire more MBA and business master’s graduates. The world was changing rapidly even before the current pandemic and while COVID-19 has brought with it perhaps unprecedented challenges across every sector, business school classrooms have long been preparing MBA students for a dynamic and often uncertain environment. Employers place a premium on that kind of talent and perspective.”

A softer – but still high – salary streak

Return on investment (ROI) is often cited as one of the main reasons for pursuing an MBA, and while the median base salary for the class of 2020 has softened somewhat since the start of the pandemic, it’s still projected to surpass six figures (US$105,000) in 2021.

According to the GMAC report, a vast majority (86 percent) of recruiters are not reducing salaries, benefits or bonuses for the class of 2020.

This is more positive news for MBA students. While it’s unclear what the business world will look like in the upcoming years, one thing is for certain: the MBA continues to be a valuable and resilient career choice, even in times of crisis.

Written by Linda Mohamed

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 

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