Following the Money: Why are so many Georgetown graduates taking jobs in banking and consulting?

February 13, 2014

Christina Libre and Noah Buyon

Right around 4:30 a.m., after another late night of running numbers, Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union CEO Chris Kelly (COL ’14) hits the lights and locks up the back office of the student-run credit union. Kelly regularly spends over 30 hours per week in the Credit Union office, on top of finishing his last year as an undergraduate student at Georgetown.

Kelly originally came to Georgetown without a clear idea of what career he wanted to do. He started to work on a double major in math and economics because he was good at those subjects, but the more he worked at GUASFCU, which he joined freshman year, the more he realized he wanted a job in the financial services. The work was not easy, but Kelly’s time in GUASFCU earned him a job at private equity behemoth Blackstone, which he will start after graduation.

Kelly’s hard work may have earned him one of the most prestigious entry-level positions available in the country, but his story is not unique at Georgetown. In fact, every year, hundreds of Georgetown graduates go on to work at top firms in financial services, including investment banking, private equity, and consulting.

According to surveys carried out by the Cawley Career Education Center, since 2005, financial services and consulting have been the top two industries in which Georgetown students decide to work for after graduation. The percentage of students going into these industries has been steadily increasing, with only a slight drop during the 2008 financial crisis.

The 2012 Senior Survey Report gathered 1,006 responses, representing 55 percent of the total class. Out of the 727 graduates who reported finding full-time employment after graduation, 163 were in financial services and 133 were in consulting. This accounted for nearly 41 percent of the entire employed portion of the class of 2012.

High salaries and generous compensation packages play a large part in attracting students to these industries, especially for those who have to pay off student loans. In addition, a culture that holds financial services and consulting jobs as prestigious pushes students of all fields to enter into this career path, which can seem contradictory for a University that prides itself on Jesuit values.

*   *   *

To many students and faculty, the high salaries that these industries tend to offer relative to other types of industries is one of the main influences that push Georgetown students to pursue careers in finance, banking, and consulting.

According to Glassdoor, a database of over six million company reviews, the national average salary for investment banking analysts is $70,000, not including bonuses, which can add tens of thousands of dollars to that figure, depending on employee performance. Glassdoor also reports that the median national consultant salary is $78,000. On the other hand, salaries for Teach for America recruits, the University’s largest employer of graduating students, range from $25,500 to $51,100.

“For students who are paying back loans, these jobs offer a high salary starting out,” said Kate Anthony (SFS ’14), who was offered a job to work at Bain and Company as a consultant. “I know a few students who have gone into it for the financial security reason.” Anthony also explains that many fields that her friends are interested in do not realistically have entry-level positions available that do not require a few years of business experience. For these people, consulting offers a way to gain a foothold in the business world before branching off to a different career path.

Professor Lynn Doran of the McDonough School of Business argues that another reason for the high numbers of students going into these industries is the overarching culture of consulting and financial services reinforced by the students themselves.

“Part of it is just convenience,” Doran said. “Students just see that that’s an easy way to get an internship or job. The junior and senior students pass along the information to the freshmen, so each group coming up knows what to do to prepare themselves for those types of jobs.”

Andrew Glass (COL ’13), who worked at the Corporate Executive Board Company agrees. “I think we live in a society that, when you’re coming from a very good university, puts you down certain tracks, and people can become very one-track-minded,” Glass said.

*   *   *

The arduous job application processes for getting into financial services and consulting exemplify what students are willing to go through in order to secure a job in these industries. The actual process itself takes all of January, but most students begin networking and preparing to apply during the previous fall. To some students, the intensity of the process is too much to take.

Kelly remembers his recruiting season as the toughest part of his Georgetown career and feels sorry for his junior friends going through the same thing right now.

“People in this process, and I know I was the same way last year, they think that their job is their life,” Declan Cummings (COL ’13) said. “People think, ‘Oh my God, if I don’t get the job I want, then my life is ruined after graduation.’” Cummings works for federal consulting firm Deloitte and is happy to look back now and realize that he and his friends are doing just fine, regardless of which firms they went to.

“Georgetown students work hard and they probably work too hard,” said Fr. Matthew Carnes, S.J., a professor in the School of Foreign Service. “Georgetown students can do a million things and do them quickly and well. … But I sometimes worry that we lose a little bit of the depth. … I often think that, if we [teachers] could just slow students down a tiny bit, things would be better.”

*   *   *

There are several ways the University as an institution also promotes a business-oriented culture, especially with regards to resources and events put together for job-seekers.

Georgetown’s career education center, for instance, prides itself on preparing students for these careers and, in particular, engages finance and consulting firm recruiters to help Georgetown applicants receive job offers.

“The Career Center works closely with our recruiters to coordinate information sessions, market job and internship opportunities to students, and manage the interview process in our suite of interview rooms,” Executive Director of the Career Center Mike Schaub wrote in an email to the Voice. “Our staff also prepares students for their interviews by teaching them about the finance and consulting industries, providing information about specific companies, reviewing resumes and cover letters, and enhancing interview skills.”

In addition, the Financial Management Association, whose faculty advisor is Professor Doran, organizes recruiting events on campus and hosts presentations such as  “Careers in Capital Markets” and “Women on Wall Street.” FMA travels to New York every other spring to visit the New York Stock Exchange and three other banks on Wall Street. According to Doran, the group has over 300 student participants.

Other programs are also incorporated into students’ curricula. The International Business Diplomacy certificate program is one of Georgetown’s oldest certificate programs. According to its mission statement, the IBD program was created “to train students for work at the intersection of international public and private sector activities.” A plurality of the program’s graduates move on to financial services or consulting work.

“It’s an applied program, meaning that the primary courses that our faculty teach have direct application to the next thing, to whatever the student decides is going to be the next path,” IBD Associate Director Rosaelena O’Neil (SFS ’83) said. “The other thing that we do, in addition to the curriculum, is we align career coaching as part of the experience.”

O’Neil explained that the IBD program has a tight-knit alumni network that stays connected and remarked that not a day goes by that she does not contact an alum.

Aaron Neus (SFS ’03) graduated from the IBD program and went on to work at Citibank. He is now a director at Macquarie Capital. In a phone interview with the Voice, Neus said that he goes out of his way to hire Georgetown graduates, especially from the SFS.

“I think Georgetown students, compared to anyone else, have an absolutely unique global perspective,” Neus said. “I think they are far better versed in the global geo-political environment and also, by definition, the global business environment.”

Neus has such confidence in Georgetown’s ability to prepare students for the business world that he believes Georgetown should focus on improving and adding only to its pre-professional programs to outcompete other colleges.

“Going to college is an enormous investment,” Neus said. “It is unprecedentedly expensive and to the point of almost being unaffordable to most people … Georgetown excels in the areas where you actually not only can pay back those loans but you actually get a return on your investment.”

In spite of the clear overarching concern for students to maximize returns to their monetary investment in college tuition, Provost Robert Groves emphasizes the dangers of focusing solely on the monetary value of an education. “Several have noted that the greatest proportional return on tuition investment is probably a certificate program at a trade school or community college, say, in heating and air conditioning services,” Groves wrote on his blog on Feb. 5. “For every dollar invested in training costs, the value in income is maximized far beyond a college degree. Why is that of little interest to many college-age students?”

Groves believes that the liberal arts aspects of Georgetown make up for the increased cost of its education. He argues that self-discovery is worth the cost of student debt and not simply maximizing the return on educational investment.

*   *   *

To some faculty, it is surprising that an institution founded on Jesuit values like “men and women for others” sends the largest group of its students to banking and consulting jobs.

“Through the years, I’ve had a number of students go into consulting, and I think … I was a tiny bit skeptical,” Carnes said. “I was a little bit like, ‘Gee, what does this mean that they’re going into consulting? Does it touch on Jesuit values?’”

At the same time, Carnes said he does not see banking and consulting careers as incompatible with Jesuit values: “I’ve had many students go on to [financial services] careers and do marvelous service and keep a sense of social justice a central part of their lives.”

In order to live up to Georgetown’s mission, however, some professors strive to include Jesuit values in courses meant for many of the students who will go on to business professions.

“My courses, first and foremost, are political science classes, so it’s not every day that I come out with some moral or some lesson,” Carnes said. “But what I hope people see over the course of a semester is that what we see in the world, especially when we have our eyes open to questions of inequality and poverty and political exclusion, makes demands on us.”

Others, however, believe that Jesuit values played a minor or nonexistent role in their Georgetown education.

“In IBD, no. In economics, no. In the general SFS core classes … for example, the one that Fr. Schall used to teach, absolutely,” Neus said when asked if he felt that his courses incorporated Jesuit values. Neus added that he does not think that including Jesuit values in economics courses would have been appropriate.

*   *   *

Ultimately, many faculty and students at Georgetown find the University’s mission and goals as a Jesuit educational institution influencing their final career choices. O’Neil left a career in finance specifically to return to Georgetown and aid more students for years to come.

“My students are people of service, and I see my job as coming back to that root of service,” O’Neil said. “I could have stayed in the private sector and made buckets of money, but the outcome of the work [now] is the students that go out and help each other.”

Glass, for his part, quit his job at CEB and now works for Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies. “It was really important for me to work for a place where I agreed with the mission,” Glass said. “At the end of the day, [CEB’s] mission as a for-profit company is to help other businesses operate more efficiently. It can definitely be an area of interest for someone or someone’s passion to do that. … Everyone has something that drives them, and, for me, it was working for some place that practices the Jesuit ideals.”

Similar to Glass, Anthony turned down her offer from Bain to pursue her passion for teaching. Anthony’s decision came not from any problem with the kind of work being done at Bain but, rather, from her belief in the Jesuit ideal that everyone should pursue their deepest passion.

“The Jesuits talk about our profession as the place where our deepest desires meet the world’s deepest needs, and I think, for me, the problem with Bain was that it wasn’t meeting my desire,” Anthony said. In teaching, she hopes to find her true calling.

“When I called Bain to tell them, I couldn’t even get the words out that I was going to turn down this offer because I was afraid and they said, ‘Look, we understand what you’re doing and we value that,’” Anthony said. “I ran into a couple of them the other day and they said how excited they are for what I am doing.”

While Anthony and Glass may have found meaningful work outside of consulting, the fact still remains that many Georgetown students see their best option in the business world.

“These jobs are prestigious,” Anthony said. “Everyone wants them. I definitely got sucked into that, in part. It’s easy. … In terms of finding out what’s out there, it’s kind of at your doorstep.”

Editor’s Note: A paragraph has been added after the second time Fr. Matthew Carnes, SJ, was quoted clarifying his position on the subject.

Read More

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Go Greene
Kim Jong Il