(Poets&Quants) -- At a recent open house for parents of incoming freshmen business students at Bentley University, Career Services Director Len Morrison had an encouraging message to share. Recent graduates have been landing jobs with ease, and companies have been flocking to campus, many making multiple hires, Morrison said.
"I told them that I don't think there is a better time to be graduating as a business student," he said. "The economy is back and looks like it is moving ahead full steam."
Career services officers at undergraduate business programs have yet to release their official placement reports, but all signs are indicating that 2014 is shaping up to be yet another solid hiring season for recent Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) graduates. Job placement appears to be on par with last year, if not slightly better, and salaries are holding firm, with a premium going towards those with strong quantitative skills, according to interviews with career services directors at some of the top 20 business schools. Hiring in finance and consulting, the mainstays of the job market for recent business graduates, remains strong, with many companies snatching up students for their leadership development programs.
At Emory University's Goizueta Business School, about 77% of students from the class of 2014 had secured a job when they graduated, a figure similar to last year, said Pamela Brown, senior director of the BBA Career Management Center at Goizueta.
Goizueta's three biggest employers—Ernst & Young, PwC, and Deloitte—are sweeping up students, and there are about 35 companies that have hired at least two or more students this year. Median salaries are hovering around $60,000, a trend consistent with the last few years, Brown said.
"Steady is the word," Brown said. "We're right on par with where we'd like to be. Even in finance and consulting, the numbers are exactly the same as last year."
That year-over-year consistency is mirrored in the job market at large for college graduates, according to the 2014 Student Survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Nearly one-third of the class of 2014, or 30.1%, had secured a job by graduation, up just slightly from 29.8% last year, the survey showed. The average salary for a business major is $53,901, flat compared to last year, according to NACE’s 2014 April Salary Survey report.
At undergraduate business programs, placement rates for business students tend to be much higher than they are for their liberal arts counterparts. For example, at Bentley—one of the largest undergraduate business programs in the Northeast, with about 1,000 students— roughly 70% of the 2014 class was either employed or planning to attend graduate school at graduation, a figure up several percentage points from last year, Morrison said. “Some companies have been here literally 20 times per semester for recruiting,” he said.
It’s a similar picture at Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School, said Brad McLeod, senior associate dean of career advising. The percentage of students who secured a job at graduation is up about by about 4-5% over last year. That's especially encouraging given that the 2014 BBA class is about 5% larger than last year's, he said. Salaries are trending slightly higher than last year, but only “by a tick,” he said.
"There has been a lot of negative press on the market for business students in the last few years, and I think we're finally seeing a strong recovery," McLeod said.
Mercy Eyadiel, the executive director for Market Readiness and Employment at Wake Forest University School of Business, said she has witnessed a strong turnaround in the undergraduate job market for business students since she started at the school three years ago. Back then, she and her staff were trying to rebuild interest among employers in the financial services sector. Many had forgone traditional fall recruiting, instead doing spring or just-in time hiring.
Fast forward to today and those same employers are no longer as hesitant about hiring, she said. Many are eager to secure a spot in the school’s fall recruitment calendar, and even companies that traditionally don’t recruit on campus have become more aggressive about securing talent, Eyadiel said.
For example, Oracle (orcl), the world’s largest maker of database software, came to campus to recruit for the first time this year, making 34 job offers to students, 25 of which were accepted. That has helped contribute to Wake Forest’s strong placement rate at graduation; 84% of business students had secured job offers or planned to go to graduate school, up two percentage points from last year, Eyadiel noted.
“Typically the largest number of offers we might have from a company is 10 to 15, and that is on the high side because most of our employers hire two or three students at a time,” Eyadiel said. “When you get a company like Oracle making 34 offers, that’s a pretty significant increase for us.”
The internship season appears to be off to a strong start as well, though it is still too early to tell how many students have landed full-time offers through their summer jobs, career services officers said. At Wake Forest, 100% of students in the business and management program had secured an internship by graduation, Eyadiel said, with other majors not trailing far behind.
At Olin, the internship season has been “very strong,” statistically tracking with the last few years, McLeod said. In a shift from previous years, a growing number of students are branching out from the typical finance and consulting internships, pursuing opportunities at venture capital firms and startups, McLeod noted.
“I’d be very surprised and awfully disappointed if we weren’t close to 100% internship placement,” McLeod said. “The internship market is pretty strong and I think that is reflective of the marketplace. Employers are being opportunistic and want a jump start on young business school talent.”