MBAs Prefer Google, Consulting Work, Then Wall Street

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Goldman Sachs held its spot as the favorite financial-sector employer among MBA candidates in Fortune Magazine's 2007 rankings.

About 5,000 MBA candidates who took part in this year's survey ranked Goldman third among all employers, the same as in 2006. Meanwhile, Google jumped into first place, just a year after popping up on the list for the first time. (Google had ranked second in 2006.)

Consulting firms again grabbed the lion's share of top places, with McKinsey & Co. - the perennial top finisher until dethroned by Google this year - coming in second while Bain & Co. and Boston Consulting Group rounded out the top five.

After Goldman, the next most popular financial services firm was Bank of America at 10th (up from 18th in 2006). Citigroup dropped into the 11th slot, after placing sixth last year and second in 2005. Other Wall Street names in this year's top 25 were Morgan Stanley at 12, Lehman at 15, Merrill Lynch at 19 and JP Morgan at 21.

Breaking down the results by gender, women MBA candidates ranked Wall Street employers somewhat less highly than men. Females surveyed placed only three financial services firms among their 15 top choices (Goldman, American Express and Citigroup). For men, Wall Street accounted for five of the top 15 places.

A more conspicuous gender difference showed up in pay expectations. Female participants said they expected a base salary of $89,599 one year after graduation, rising to $169,849 after five years. Males expected $97,599 after one year and $204,372 after five years.

The annual survey is conducted for Fortune by Universum, a Philadelphia firm that specializes in employer branding.

The survey is constructed in a way that may limit its value as a gauge of candidate preferences. For one thing, private equity firms apparently weren't included among the 179 choices shown to MBA students taking part in the poll. Universum has said it compiles each year's list of possible choices by combining the prior year's top 100 with the top write-in vote-getters. Google was added in 2006 after drawing a huge write-in vote in 2005. But it looks like leading private-equity firms like Blackstone Group and Texas Pacific aren't garnering enough write-ins to earn themselves a place.

Nevertheless, private equity - more specifically, "venture capital" - did show up as the sector where MBA candidates expected to receive the highest starting base salary - $107,919. Metals ranked second at $102,000, followed by management consulting ($101,400), investment management ($100,986) and investment banking ($98,877). Here, too, the survey's emphasis on base pay rather than total compensation might limit its value for financial-sector comparisons.

Auditing, accounting and taxation (listed as a single category) showed the lowest expected starting salary among all sectors listed, at $63,694. The next-lowest sector, academic research, was way ahead at $77,859.

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