Harvard MBAs Ignoring Wall Street, But Who’s At Fault?

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The cream of the crop appears a bit leery of taking a job on Wall Street. Or maybe their shiny Harvard MBA degrees are failing to impress investment banks, private equity firms and hedge funds like they once did.

Roughly 27% of Harvard Business School’s Class of 2013 has been hired by financial services companies, down from 35% in 2012 and 48% in 2008, according to a new survey. The numbers are preliminary – not all graduates have found work – but you can safely assume the trend is legitimate.

The biggest falloffs are occurring in the areas that you’d likely imagine. Firms that specialize in investment banking, sales and trading, and investment management hired fewer Harvard MBAs in 2013 than they did the year before.

Consulting firms are enjoying the benefits of the shift, where roughly one-quarter of Harvard MBAs have found work. Others are moving into technology and healthcare.

On the surface, the reason for the exodus seems obvious. There are fewer, great-paying jobs on Wall Street and the industry’s reputation has taken a hit. But digging deeper, as Poets and Quants did, Harvard’s admissions staff may have something to do with it as well.

The school admitted a significantly fewer number of candidates with backgrounds in private equity, investment banking and venture capital. The end result was a seven percentage point decline in the admission of students with financial backgrounds year-over-year.

Harvard is now paying the price. Graduates moving away from financial services have negatively altered an important number for the institution. The average graduate makes $5,000 less than they did a year ago. Say what you want, but healthcare still doesn’t pay what Wall Street does.

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