Commencement season is underway, and many top business schools have held in-person graduation ceremonies for MBA students for the first time since the pandemic struck. But what’s also worth celebrating is the great return on investment that these new grads are already seeing.
The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, which Fortune ranks as having the No. 14 full-time MBA program in the U.S., announced in May that its class of 2022 MBA graduates saw a 21% jump in their starting median base salaries compared with the 2021 class. Darden MBA graduates this year will earn a median base salary of $175,000—and 92% of those in the class of 2022 seeking jobs have already received at least one offer.
“Our graduates bring tremendous value to the firms that hire them, and this value is directly correlated to the salary increase,” Jeff McNish, assistant dean of Darden’s Career Center, tells Fortune.
According to the preliminary career statistics for Darden’s class of 2022, the top industries for grads include consulting, finance, and technology—the trifecta at most prestigious business schools. Three of the top recruiters were from Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Co., and McKinsey & Co., which are commonly considered the best consulting firms in the country.
While detailed salary data isn’t yet available for Darden’s most-recent graduating class, starting pay packages for MBA consulting hires can reach at least $200,000. And that’s an all-time high for new MBA hires in this industry, Sarah Rumbaugh, CEO of Relish Careers, a job-search platform for MBA and other master’s students, previously told Fortune.
While Darden hasn’t yet released detailed data for its class of 2022, last year’s employment report shows that nearly one-third of MBA grads went into consulting.
“[Consulting] employers who hire Darden students treasure their confidence and resiliency,” McNish says. “The 21-month MBA experience—including the case method, collaborative culture, and rigorous curriculum—prepares our recent alumni to jump right in and solve challenges facing organizations today.”
The case interview method, in which applicants are asked to solve a business problem, is common in the consulting recruitment process.
Other top employers of Darden graduates this year include Microsoft, Dell, JPMorgan Chase, Deloitte, Amazon, Bank of America, and Credit Suisse. More detailed salary and employment data will be available from Darden in October when the school releases its final report. In 2021, the school reported an average base salary for all graduates of nearly $145,000, with a signing bonus of more than $35,000.
Fortune also ranks Darden as having the No. 12 executive MBA program in the country—and that program’s preliminary statistics also didn’t disappoint. More than 80% of this year’s class was promoted or landed a new job. Plus, the class of 2022 reported a 20% base salary increase during the course of the program, bringing that average to more than $180,500 by graduation, according to Darden.
Executive MBA grads also raked in major bonuses. Among those students who shared their base salaries, 76% reported extra compensation—with nearly half of those reporting an expected bonus of more than $50,000.
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