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Master’s of business administration graduates can celebrate the fact that hiring is up. Yet signing bonuses are down and salaries remain flat.

According to a recent Bloomberg Businessweek study, the number of students receiving job offers within the first three months of graduation increased in all but three of Businessweek’s top 30 ranked MBA programs of 2008.

Still, starting salaries for MBA graduates are not showing any significant improvement, and MBA signing bonuses are down in 23 of the 30 top schools. Some schools reported as much as a 20 percent decline in signing bonuses.

The Wharton School’s class of 2010 reflected these statistics.

The number of job-seeking students reporting job offers within four months of graduation was up 4.9 percent — to 88 percent.

In contrast, the number of students receiving signing bonuses was down this year by 5.9 percent, from 73.8 percent in 2009 to 67.9 percent in 2010.

The median salary remained at $110,000 from 2009 to 2010.

In the same Businessweek article, Paul Oyer, an economics professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, described the slump in signing bonuses as being “the new norm.”

Jennifer Savoie, senior associate director of Penn’s MBA career management office, disagrees with this assessment.

“We have seen some changes in the numbers, but we have no indications in our records that [signing bonuses] are going away,” she said.

Despite the sinking statistics on students receiving signing bonuses, Savoie believes Wharton is faring well under the economic circumstances.

“Our median base salary has remained the same, where other schools also saw that go down,” she said. “So there are things that have remained very steady.”

Wharton management professor Matthew Bidwell, who studies hiring and promotion, was not surprised by Businessweek’s report.

“It’s just a sign of the economy generally,” he said. “If you go back four or five years, the kinds of firms that were hiring our graduates were booming so there was tense competition among them to hire the best people at our school and they ended up paying a lot of money to do that.”

Given the economic crisis, he explained, there is less of that competition, and thus students are not being offered the same bonuses they were in years past.

“People still want to hire the best graduates, but they are not so desperate to get their hands on anybody,” he said. “There’s just been a straight shift of power towards the employers.”

Yet Bidwell is not concerned about students “going into investment banking” being taken advantage of. He advises students instead to be wary of unpaid internships in terms of exploitation.

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