Amazon is hiring the most MBAs in tech, and it’s not really close

Buying in bulk
Buying in bulk
Image: Reuters/Rick Wilking
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This post has been updated to include comments from Amazon.

Amazon is a voracious employer, but it has a particular appetite for MBAs.

The e-commerce giant is the biggest employer in the tech industry of graduates from elite business schools, hiring more than twice as many top MBAs last year as Microsoft, the next biggest tech employer, according to data from the schools in the top 20 of US News & World Report’s rankings that release company-level hiring statistics. And while consulting firms like McKinsey and Deloitte are usually still the single biggest employers—consulting is often the biggest hiring category—Amazon leads the list at some schools. At the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, for example, Amazon hired 34 MBAs in 2015, ahead of McKinsey (22). The Seattle company also led in summer internships at Michigan, which often turn into full-time jobs.

Number of MBAs hired in 2015 from elite US business schools

Among the business schools that don’t release employer-level data, like Harvard and NYU, most include Amazon on a list of the companies that hired their grads. The Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell says Amazon is the No. 2 employer, behind Deloitte, without specifying how many of its MBAs were hired.

No longer just a retailer, Amazon has expanded into cloud computing, Kindle and Fire mobile devices and is producing shows for streaming on video. With so many aggressive ambitions, Amazon has plenty of workforce needs. It has 230,800 full- and part-time employees, according to its annual report, and its website lists almost 17,000 open jobs among its corporate positions.

In a survey of the most desirable companies to work for conducted by consulting firm Universum, MBA students ranked Amazon fifth, behind Google, Apple, McKinsey, and Disney.

Amazon is a good fit for MBAs who are curious and eager to innovate, according to Miriam Park,  director of university and assessment programs, in a statement emailed to Quartz. Amazon managers often prefer to employ MBAs over someone from a traditional background “because they value the deep analytics and fresh perspective of an MBA hire,” she wrote. In addition:

Amazon is hiring future leaders for our company. As the scope of Amazon’s offerings to customers grows, so will the need for leaders that can invent on their behalf.  We hire MBAs for eight different roles ranging from rotations in the Amazon Fashion retail team, to product managers in Amazon Web Services (AWS), to fast tracked progressive leadership roles in our fulfillment network, to finance and HR roles. Amazon teams run like small start ups – you see that in the breadth of roles we regularly hire MBAs for. And what we hear time and again from these MBA hires is how much they love the amount of responsibility they get – making business decisions that often affect millions of customers.

Amazon’s popularity among top business students flies in the face of the popular narrative that millennials are seeking employers that offer a nurturing environment and value a work-life balance. Amazon is notorious for its hard-driving corporate culture that pushes its employees relentlessly. Some workers thrive in that environment, which rewards ambition and creativity, as Maria Renz, an Amazon vice president, wrote in Re/code last year:

At Amazon, opportunities to move, grow and take on new challenges are abundant. Our dynamic environment—where there is no shortage of interesting problems to solve or opportunities to build—is what has kept me here for so long. Amazon encourages employees to create their own career paths, and we have great flexibility to move between departments and roles.

Another reason for its appeal is the pay: while business schools don’t reveal salary details by company, they do by sector. Technology companies don’t pay as well as consulting and finance firms, but it’s still a healthy wage: At Michigan, the median tech salary was $117,000, with most new hires also getting a hefty signing bonus.