Every year about this time, I enjoy sharing our annual employment report, because it generates interesting discussions about where and how our graduates are making an impact.  While I look forward to conversations about our 2020 stats, what’s most important are the individuals whose career journeys comprise these numbers. More on that later. In the meantime, here are five headlines from our 2019 – 2020 report. 

1. Our graduates enjoyed strong employment rates despite difficult conditions.

The percentage of students receiving full-time offers by graduation was up six points from last year, at 90 percent. Because recruiting slowed dramatically in the spring and summer, the final rate of 93 percent with offers by the three-month, post-graduation mark is down from 2019. These outcomes are remarkable in the context of global hiring freezes and layoffs prompted by the pandemic. 

2. Compensation was up slightly over last year.

Average first-year compensation reached an all-time high at $171,000. This figure represents a 3 percent increase from 2019, with a slight rise in mean salary to $136,000 and a 7.5 percent jump in signing bonus to $35,000.

3. Despite visa uncertainty, international students landed U.S. jobs.

From 2015 – 2019, the percentage of graduates accepting jobs in the United States ranged from 89 percent – 92 percent. For the Class of 2020, that number was even higher at 94 percent.

Navigating employer visa sponsorship and cultural differences always adds complexity for international students seeking post-graduation jobs in the United States. This year brought new complications– visa delays caused by pandemic shutdowns, job market disruption, and rumored and actual changes to U.S. immigration policy. Success in the face of these challenges is even more impressive.

4. Our graduates accepted jobs in a wide array of functions, industries, and geographies.

Consulting continues to be our most popular destination by job function (33 percent) and industry (31 percent). Marketing and technology were our biggest movers, both up by four percentage points from last year. 

Employers also hire our graduates for finance (22 percent), general management (18 percent), and other important functions such as human resources and operations. While consulting and technology accounted for 58 percent of the class by industry, this year’s employers represent financial services (18 percent), health (8 percent), consumer goods (5 percent) and many other industries.

Within the U.S., our students accepted positions across the country. Top destinations for graduates to begin their new roles included New York, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco, among others.

5. More graduates accepted jobs found through Fuqua this year.

In a year when all campus activity, including recruiting, came to an abrupt halt mid-year, one might think students were on their own finding a job. To the contrary, Fuqua served as the employment source for 80 percent of accepted full-time jobs among 2020 graduates, up from 73 percent for the Class of 2019, with a higher rate of 84 percent for 2021 interns.

As the world changed around us, our career team quickly found new ways to provide and deliver career support and helped our students find and go to work during a global pandemic. What didn’t change, though, was the philosophy that every student deserves meaningful work and the commitment we share with students to reaching their goals.

Two common threads are woven through the many success stories in the Class of 2020. First, our students had an unrelenting focus and commitment to land in a particular type of role, company, or location. This approach may have seemed counter-intuitive amid news of hiring freezes and massive layoffs. Conventional wisdom might have sounded something like “take any job you can get.”  Yet, our career coaches were extremely impressed that our students continued to focus on the fit best for them.

Second, so many of our graduates made significant career transitions, whether by function, industry, geography – or sometimes all three – despite difficult market conditions. From grant writer to tech product manager. From economic development in another country to the music industry in the U.S. From professional lacrosse to private equity. From special events at the White House to impact consulting at a certified B Corp. From lawyer to McKinsey consultant. From a mid-Atlantic university to a California consumer foods company. From piloting Apache helicopters for the U.S. Army to strategizing M&A transaction execution for EY-Parthenon. 

It’s successes like these, especially in a year as turbulent as 2020, that bring the numbers in our employment report to life. We believe when students find work they define as meaningful, it not only makes their lives better, it makes companies better. More than ever, the world needs the types of graduates we produce at Fuqua – leaders who know how to embrace differences to work toward a common goal.

I look forward to learning how each graduate in the Class of 2020 will impact their companies, communities, and even the world.  To me, that is always the most important story the numbers alone can’t tell.