Hiring Trends for Business School Graduates: 2021 Corporate Recruiters Survey

Nine in ten corporate recruiters expect the demand for business school graduates to increase or remain stable in the next five years, according to the 2021 Corporate Recruiters Survey. This annual GMAC survey provides vital data for employers and business schools in understanding trends and insights about hiring, salaries, and skills for MBA and business master’s graduates. The survey report focuses on the demand for graduate management talent from the viewpoint of employers. It narrates the key takeaways and provides related data by regions, programs, and industries. Despite the continuing impact of the pandemic on hiring, the survey gathered 569 responses from corporate recruiters between February 25 and March 31, 2021.

Recruiters project a robust demand for business school graduates

In 2020, the global pandemic disrupted the growth trajectories of many organizations around the world. As organizations recover from the pandemic and rebuild their workforces, they need talent with relevant knowledge and skills. This demand for talent seems to be especially robust for business school graduates. Nine in ten corporate recruiters expect the demand for business school graduates to increase or remain stable in the next five years—an indication that graduate management talent is integral to organizational growth plans.

Overall, a higher proportion of recruiters in 2021 (37%) expect the demand to increase compared to the previous year (30%). In terms of regions, a higher proportion of European recruiters (54%) expect the demand to increase as compared to Asian (32%) and American (34%) recruiters.

GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey 2021-demand of MBA

MBA hiring projections indicate a rebound in 2021

Long-term expectations about the increase in demand for business school graduates also align with immediate hiring trends. Before the pandemic, 92 percent of recruiters indicated they were planning to hire MBA graduates in 2020. However, the disruptions caused by COVID-19 adversely affected those plans; hence, the actual hiring of MBA graduates (80%) was lower than the 2020 projections.

Looking ahead, hiring projections for MBA graduates show a recovery. The proportion of recruiters planning to hire MBAs in 2021 (91%) returned to the same level as pre-pandemic 2020 (92%). MBA hiring projections exhibit strength across key regions and industries. Specifically, 95 percent of consulting sector recruiters are planning to hire MBA graduates—a reversal from the 2020 actual hiring of 76 percent.

GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey 2021-hiring trends MBA

MBA salary premium holds at the pre-pandemic levels

One immediate outcome of the pandemic was cost reduction strategies as organizations focused on preserving resources1. This resulted in downward pressure on compensation in many organizations. MBA median salaries were not immune to these pressures. In 2020, the projected MBA median salary reached an all-time high of $115,000 pre-pandemic (Wave I) and declined to $105,000 three months into the pandemic (Wave II).

However, the median MBA salary for 2021 is projected to recover to its pre-pandemic 2020 levels. At $115,000, the median salary of MBA graduates is 77 percent more than those with a bachelor’s degree ($65,000) and 53 percent higher as compared to those hired directly from industry ($75,000). This salary premium shows that investing in an MBA credential pays off over time. This salary premium could help an MBA graduate earn US$3 million more than someone only holding a bachelor’s degree.

GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey 2021-salary ROI of MBA

Click here to access the full report with additional data related to hiring projections by select regions (Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the US), and programs (MBA, Master in Management, Master of Accounting, Master of Finance, and Master of Data Analytics).

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Dr. Rahul Choudaha is Director of Industry Insights & Research Communications at GMAC in the Washington DC area. As a subject-matter expert on mobility trends, student choices, and enrolment strategies, he evangelizes trends and insights related to global graduate management education and careers on the foundations of research and intelligence. He has presented more than 150 sessions at professional conferences and has been quoted over 300 times in global publications. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The survey is administered in partnership with the AMBA, EFMD, MBA CSEA, and career services offices at participating graduate business schools worldwide.