Harvard Class of ’14: The Interesting, the Disappointing, the Disturbing

Published: May 28, 2014

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Each year, the Harvard Crimson surveys Harvard seniors, asking them a variety of questions about their future plans of employment and their time at the revered institution of so-called higher learning. This year, the survey produced several interesting results, in addition to some disappointing results, as well as some disturbing results.

In any case, first let’s talk about the interesting results. As you can see, in the bar graph below, consulting and finance are still big draws for Harvard graduates (more than 10 percent of which will be earning $90K or more next year, compared to the national average of $45K/year). Nearly 17.5 percent say they're going into finance this year ("now" in the graph), and nearly 15 percent say they're going into consulting.

5 vs 10

However, what’s interesting, and should have recruiters at consulting and finance firms concerned, is that Harvard graduates don’t expect to stay in these industries for long. As you can see, there’s a huge disparity between the two bars next to “consulting” and also a considerable disparity between the two bars next to “finance.” That is, only about 6 percent say they'll be working in finance in 10 years, while about 1 percent say they'll be in consulting in a decade.

In other words, graduates are saying that consulting and finance jobs are fine for now (likely because where else are they going to be making more than $90K a year?) but they’re no dream careers or anything. Though, what do seem to be dream careers, as you can see in the graph, are entrepreneurship, health care, and academia/research. The health field is the most desirable at 10 years out, with about 16 percent of grads saying that's where they plan to be once they reach their 30s.

Of course, once Harvard graduates are out of school for several years, making a few hundred grand a year at their consulting or finance gigs, and then face the decision of staying put while continuing to make big bank or taking a huge pay cut to switch to their careers of choice, those bars might look a lot different. Still, for the time being, it does seem as though finance and consulting are not considered to be long-term career options for graduates but mere stepping stones to perhaps more meaningful, if less lucrative careers.

That said, consulting and finance firm recruiters might feel warm and fuzzy by the below chart, which shows that the big nosedive that these two industries experienced during the financial crisis a couple years ago has now leveled off and graduates are giving consulting and finance the old college try once again. In fact, this year, like last year, about 31 percent of Harvard grads entered finance and consulting. This is quite a rise from 2009 when just 20 percent entered consulting and finance. As for the second most popular choice among grads this year, it was technology, as 15 percent say they’re entering the tech field this year.


As for the disappointing, if not all that surprising results, female grads are still paid a significant amount less than their male counterparts. According to the survey, “Across all industries, 19 percent of employed men said they will make a starting salary of $90,000 or more, compared to 4 percent of employed women.” Perhaps even more disappointing and disconcerting is this stat: “None of the women going into finance said they would earn $90,000 or more, compared to 29 percent of men in finance.”

Now for the disturbing. In the wake of arguably the biggest cheating scandal in the history of Harvard, this year nearly one in five graduates (17 percent) say they cheated during their time at the university. That’s an extremely high percent, and yet even more—some 53 percent—suspect their classmates of cheating at least once during their college years. Although time will tell if Harvard’s new honor code (which goes into effect next year) will minimize the cheating, if this year’s survey is any indication, it won’t do much, as 12 percent of cheaters say an honor code would have done nothing to change their cheating ways. Which leads me to wonder what percent of cheaters joined consulting and finance vs. other industries. And what percent of male cheaters joined consulting and finance vs. male cheaters joining other industries. And what percent of male cheaters who come from households with incomes greater than $1 million a year joined consulting and finance ...

In any case, lastly, the following stats are also quite disturbing, especially in the wake of the shootings near UCSB last week: 12 percent of graduating Harvard women say they were sexually assaulted during their college years; meanwhile, only 16 percent of assaults went reported. And, according to survey administrators, “by way of comparison, a 2007 study found that 19 percent of college women at large four-year universities experienced an attempted or completed sexual assault during their undergraduate careers. Some researchers estimate that 95 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses may go unreported.”

A previous version of this post inaccurately identified Harvard University as the entity that administers an annual survey to Harvard seniors. In fact, it is the Harvard Crimson.

Follow me @VaultFinance.

Read More:
The Class of 2014 By the Numbers (The Harvard Crimson)
The Power of #YesAllWomen (The New Yorker)
Dear Class of 2014 (Vault)
History of the Male-Female Salary Gap: A 95-Year-Old Problem (Vault)