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MBA Jobs Up By 13% Globally—MBA Salaries Are Also On The Rise

MBA hiring is on the up, salaries too, but recruiters still want more MBAs with soft skills

For over 25 years, QS has researched global and regional trends in MBA hiring and salary levels. The annual QS TopMBA.com Jobs & Salary Trends Report is based on a survey of actively hiring MBA employers around the world.

It’s is one of the largest of its kind, with findings for the 2018 report (which looks at the 2016-17 hiring period) based on the responses of around 3,500 employers from every corner of the globe.

So, what have they been telling us this year?

Growth in hiring is higher than expected

Hiring increased 13% globally over the period analyzed for the 2018 report—a figure in line with healthy periods of MBA hiring. This is nearly double the level of growth employers predicted in the last edition of the research.

This is most pronounced in the two most-mature MBA hiring regions: Western Europe and the US & Canada. In both regions, we’ve seen 10% growth in hiring levels—considerably greater than the 2 and 3% predicted respectively.

In the case of the US & Canada, this comes on the back of strong growth reported last year; while growth is more modest this year, consecutive strong years of hiring are certainly positive.

In Western Europe, on the other hand, this is particularly heartening, given sluggish recovery over the last decade. This is a reflection of strong GDP growth in the Eurozone.  In both regions, we also see 7% growth predicted next year.

The strongest growth globally, however, comes from the Asia-Pacific region (including Australia and New Zealand), where we see amazing 18% growth. Asia-Pacific, driven by China and India, along with the fast-growing ASEAN region and traditional strongholds like Japan and Australia, has been the big story for a few years now, and remains so this year.

Predictions for next year are at a more modest level. Given the increases we’ve seen for the past few years, however, we shouldn’t rule out predictions being on the conservative side.

MBA salaries recover after slight dip

The last edition of the QS TopMBA.com Jobs & Salary Trends Report saw reported MBA salary levels slightly lower than the record highs reported to us two years ago. This year, we’ve largely seen a recovery, albeit not quite to those record high levels.

North America leads the way, with employers in the US & Canada reporting base salary levels of US$98,900. If we take bonus figures into consideration, this increases to US$116,300—a tiny bit down on last year’s figure, though this was a consequence of extremely high bonus levels more than anything.   

Western Europe has also seen an increase, with base salaries up to US$85,500 and total compensation creeping into six-figure territory at US$101,300. The highest MBA salaries in the world are offered by employers in Switzerland – US$123,500, with France (US$98,500) and the UK (US$92,400) also posting high figures—in the latter we also see bonus figures of US$30,500 taking total compensation to a very competitive US$122,900. Bonus figures, however, are prone to volatility year-on-year.

In Asia-Pacific, Australia posts the highest salary figures (US$98,400), followed by Japan (US$80,000).

MBAs still falling short of expectations in some areas

As well as hiring and salary levels, we also ask employers a handful of questions around what they’re looking for in their MBA hires. Over the years one theme has emerged—that employers expect a lot from their MBA hires, and are not quite satisfied that they are getting it.

This is most evident in certain soft skill areas, notably communication skills and interpersonal skills. We also see a disconnect between expectations and satisfaction in leadership and strategic thinking.

Employers are looking for visionaries in their MBA hires, who work well with the people they manage. It is not just enough to be strong in functional areas

They are by no means dissatisfied with their MBA hires, but are just expecting a little bit more. This is certainly something for schools and for MBA students to think about…or might we be seeing slightly unrealistic expectations from employers (that again is a question for schools, however)?

For further insight, including functional roles into which employers hire MBAs, preferred levels of work experience and MBA specializations, and salary and hiring growth by industry, see the full QS TopMBA.com Jobs & Salary Trends Report 2018