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MBA Students Prefer “Career Advancement” at Large Companies Over Dot-Coms, Survey Finds

May 04, 2003

DURHAM, NC-- MBA students from 10 of the nation’s top-tier business schools will be turning their backs on dot-coms and Internet companies after graduation, preferring “career advancement” and personal fulfillment at major companies, according to a nationwide survey of more than 800 students.

Regardless of where they end up working, the survey shows, the size of their paychecks is not the most important criterion.

In addition, the survey results indicate that Warren Buffett has replaced Bill Gates as the most admired business leader.

Results of this year’s “The Fuqua Report,” a survey conducted periodically since 1988 by the Center of Decision Studies at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, indicate that 6 percent of MBAs were actively pursuing employment with dot-com and Internet companies, versus 24 percent in 2000. In addition, only 1 percent had accepted positions with those companies, down from 14 percent in 2000.

Fuqua queries MBAs from 10 of the leading business schools to gauge their attitudes and career plans. The survey was conducted in March.

“The burst of a dot-com bubble has been reflected in MBA graduating students’ preference for pursuing a career with more traditional companies,” said Dan Nagy, Fuqua’s associate dean for recruiting, admissions and business development. “The 2000 survey conducted during the height of the Internet start-up explosion revealed that although the majority of MBAs preferred more traditional jobs, there was more willingness to pursue dot-com job opportunities.”

Other survey results show:

  • Advancing or switching careers rather than receiving a larger paycheck was the driving reason for MBA students to attend business school. In addition, 80 percent of survey participants felt that the MBA experience had fulfilled their expectations (42 percent completely; 38 percent to a large extent.)

    “Students treat their MBA degree as a major step in a long-term career advancement plan,” Nagy noted. In spite of a down economy, he said, the base salaries for graduates of MBA programs have remained steady over the last couple years.

    “On average, MBAs will earn 56 percent more in their first year following graduation than they did before attending business school -- on average, from $71,000 to $111,000 in total compensation,” Nagy said.

  • MBA degrees continue to narrow the salary gap based on gender. According to the survey, male MBA students make 4 percent more than their female counterparts. This gap was 9 percent prior to obtaining an MBA degree.

    “We believe the MBA compensation differential is more a reflection of their career choices than a gender bias,” Nagy noted. While both male and female MBAs indicate marketing and management as their top career field (second in 2000), a greater percentage of men than women chose investment banking.

  • General Electric was the most admired company, replacing Cisco, which did not crack the Top 20 list this year. Microsoft came in second place, followed by Johnson & Johnson. The U.S. Military was among the Top 10 most admired organizations for the first time in the survey’s 15-year history.

  • Continuing previous trends, MBA students listed their fathers as the individual they most admire. Warren Buffett, who did not make the Top 10 most admired list in 2000, came in second place. Bill Gates (2000’s number three) slipped to fifth.

  • Far more MBA students are willing to work for tobacco and alcohol manufacturers than in previous years, according to the survey. In 2000, only 6 percent of surveyed students expressed willingness to work at a tobacco company, while in 2003 the number jumped to 42 percent. This year only 15 percent said that political, social or ethical concerns would prevent them from accepting a job with an alcohol manufacturer, compared to 26 percent in 2000.

    Two new sectors were added to the list in 2003. Four percent of respondents said they would not work for government, while 3 percent said the same about accounting.

  • San Francisco remained the most desirable city to work and live; Chicago came in second.

Nagy said he found it interesting that when looking at survey results from 1994, MBA graduates predicted that IBM, Dell, Apple, US Air and General Motors would not be in business today. “The fact that these companies are still household names indicates how organizations can rebound from poor performances and prosper over time,” Nagy noted. “It also shows a dynamic and unpredictable nature of today’s business.”

About the Survey

The survey has been conducted periodically since 1988, and its goal is to determine career plans, values and attitudes of graduating MBA students. It was sent electronically in March 2003 to 3,700 second-year MBA students who will graduate in mid-May. The response rate was 23 percent. The average age of respondents was 29. Seventy one percent were male, and 39 percent were single. The business schools whose students participated in this survey were: Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business; Dartmouth College’s Amos Tuck School of Business; Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business; Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management; UCLA’s The Anderson School; UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business; University of Chicago Graduate School of Business; University of Michigan Business School; University of Texas at Austin Graduate School of Business; and University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business.

To view the complete survey results, visit http://www.fuqua.duke.edu/admin/extaff/news/report2003.