Last Updated: May 29, 2008: 9:22 AM EDT
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MBA students go for Google

The search-engine giant is tops on new MBAs' wishlists, according to a new survey, though consulting and financial services firms remain popular.

By Catherine Clifford, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Where do MBA students most want to work when they get out of school? Investment banks and consulting firms are still popular choices, but for the second straight year, the most coveted employer is Google, a recent survey found.

Asked to name five employers they'd most like to join after graduating, 23.65% cited Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), according to the poll of 5,769 students at 52 business schools by research firm Universum Communications in an exclusive Fortune.com list.

Google has become "a worldwide name, it is global, and it recruits only the best," said Claudia Tattanelli, CEO of Universum North America. And with perks like free gourmet food, time to work on independent projects and talks with visiting authors, the search-engine giant "has revolutionized how employees are treated," she said. "They are famous for keeping employees happy."

Full list: 100 Most Desirable MBA Employers

Last year, Google hired hundreds of new MBAs, though thousands applied. MBAs are attracted to Google because they "really get a lot of responsibility right at the outset," said Yvonne Agyei, Google's director of global university programs. "MBAs are looking for the opportunity to make an impact."

In second and third places are management consultant McKinsey & Co., appearing on 15.84% of students' wish lists, and investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500), selected by 14.98%.

Job-market worries

Universum's survey measures where MBAs would like to work, not necessarily where jobs are available. The job market for MBAs feels tougher than last year, although students certainly continue to get offers. But b-school students are "casting a wider net," considering jobs they may not have considered in a stronger market, said Tattanelli.

In fact, according to a different survey that included students in college and other graduate programs as well as MBAs, 50% of respondents graduating this year say they have received one or more job offers and 37% have accepted, according to online career research firm Vault.com, which conducted the poll. Of those who don't yet have an offer, 44% are "very worried" and 42% "somewhat worried" about getting jobs. Of those with jobs lined up, 22% reported having to compromise on salary, title, benefits and perks.

Not surprisingly, apprehensive MBA students are working even harder at their summer internships, hoping to impress hiring managers there, recruiters and placement officers said. They're also asking probing questions of recruiters to make sure a job they're offered won't be eliminated and considering jobs at companies or cities they might not have considered in a stronger market.

"I think that now, a lot of grads have had to take a plan B approach," said Andy Chan, director of the career management center at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Meanwhile, the Bear Stearns (BSC, Fortune 500) mess hurt some MBA job opportunities. In fact, 40% of b-school students who were hired by the investment bank for summer internships or full-time positions this year had their offers rescinded after JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) agreed to buy the firm in March, said Brian Marchiony, a JPMorgan spokesman. Nevertheless, Bear Stearns managed to rank no. 76 on this year's list, down from no. 46 last year, due to a quirk in the survey timing -- students were asked to respond between January and March, and many results came in before Bear's woes were known.

Beyond big banks

Management consulting and financial services remain popular among MBAs, with 20% seeking work in consulting and 19% in financial services, Universum found.

At Stanford, many new grads hope to get jobs at hedge funds or private equity firms vs. larger investment banks so they can work in smaller teams. "You can work in smaller firms and have more impact," said Chan.

Meanwhile, smaller firms, companies with strong retail brands, and even some government agencies are moving up the rankings.

In a weaker economy, consumer goods retailers are considered more stable than financial firms, and become more appealing to MBA students, said Tattanelli. That search for stability has also helped make government opportunities more popular, Tattanelli said.

This year, the CIA ranks no. 37, up from no. 74 last year. Meanwhile, the FBI is in 47th place, up from 89 last year. And among women MBAs, the Department of Defense - Missiles and Weapons Division ranks No. 99.

Indeed, there are some big differences between the sexes when it comes to where MBAs want to work. Among women, companies with recognizable brand names like Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) (ranked no. 3 by women, vs. no. 6 by men), Disney (DIS, Fortune 500) (7 vs. 14), Nike (NKE, Fortune 500) (9 vs. 13), and Starbucks (SBUX, Fortune 500) (10 vs. 28) ranked higher. Among men, however, finance and consulting firms like JPMorgan (ranked no. 7 by men, vs. 13 by women) General Electric (GE, Fortune 500) (8 vs. 16) and Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500) (10 vs. 19) tended to be more popular.

As so-called millennials start to get their MBAs, more are saying they want to use their degree to contribute to society, Tattanelli said.

B-school students have been showing more interest in the 'cleantech' industry, sustainability technologies, and firms that make social responsibility a priority in their business strategies, Chan said. "This generation of students wants to make a difference in the world," he said.

Money matters

Nevertheless, MBAs clearly still care about the size of their paychecks.

Students expect to be making a base salary of $90,232 a year after graduation, up from expectations of $89,654 the previous year. Five years after graduation, they expect to be bringing in $180,031 annually vs. $169,849 the previous year. Male graduates expect to be raking in even more, $206,000 vs. women's expectations of $190,382 five years down the line.

Students who go into private equity after b-school have the highest salary expectations -- anticipating $111,296 one year after graduation and $280,441 five years after. MBAs planning to enter public accounting have the lowest 1-year salary expectations ($57,331) while those heading for education/teaching have the lowest five-year expectations ($113,449). To top of page

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