A boom in the national economy may be fueling better job offers and higher starting base salaries for master's of business administration graduates, business school officials say.
Take the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business as an example. Officials there reported the largest one-year increase in the median starting base salaries offered to its MBA graduates last year. The salaries soared from $47,700 to $55,601, a 17.4 percent increase.
"Not bad for a bunch of 28-year-olds," says William Woolery Jr., Terry College's director of MBA placement.
Not bad, indeed.
Nationally, colleges and universities are reporting a good job market for both graduate and undergrad students. Unemployment is shrinking and many companies are hiring.
As a result, corporate recruiters are hitting up MBA candidates earlier for commitments and offering big sign-on bonuses. The dog days of job hunting and downsizing have dwindled.
Other schools, including Augusta State University and the University of South Carolina in Aiken, report things are good for business grads there, too.
At Augusta State University, the median starting base salary for MBA grads in 1997 was about $50,000 -- that excludes students seeking advanced degrees or who were in the military.
Salary figures were not available for 1996.
But Richard Bramblett, associate dean and director of graduate studies for Augusta State's College of Business Administration, said the salaries seem to be increasing.
A good economy allows companies to hire new employees and competition for workers pushes wages up. Educated employees with desirable skills are in demand.
"The economy is strong. Companies are strong," Dr. Bramblett says.
Augusta State has about 100 students in its master's of business administration program, Dr. Bramblett said. About 85 to 90 percent of them are working students who take classes at night.
Because they are already working, many of Augusta State's MBA students are seeing their payoff in terms of raises and promotions after they graduate, not necessarily in big starting salaries and sign-on bonuses.
"Our graduates seem to be doing well in that regard," Dr. Bramblett reports.
One working MBA candidate told him that he'll be getting a 50 percent raise after he graduates from the program.
"That's pretty strong," Dr. Bramblett said.
Dr. Bramblett expects the trend to continue as long as the economy is good.
At the University of South Carolina, which is on spring break this week, MBA students at both the Aiken and Columbia campuses are getting warm receptions from company recruiters.
There are about 25 students enrolled in the MBA program at Aiken.
USC-Columbia offers several graduate business degree programs. About 900 to 1,000 students are enrolled in them, about 170 of them are in the full-time MBA programs.
The median base salary figures for MBA graduates in 1997 at USC-Columbia was $50,550. Figures for USC-Aiken were not available Thursday.
Recruiters already are booking interviews for the fall at the Columbia campus, school officials at USC-Columbia said. There, students may get four or five on-campus interviews plus what they arrange on their own.
"Two, three, four years ago, things were not looking bright for MBA graduates," said Paul Yazel, managing director of MBA programs in Columbia.
But now, things are different.
"The companies are almost lining up now," Mr. Yazel said.