The Graduating
Class of


by the numbers

Post-Harvard Plans

By Cordelia F. Mendez

Harvard graduates are instructed to “depart to serve better thy country and thy kind.” Next year, the Class of 2016 will serve country and kind through a wide range of jobs and activities all around the world. While respondents will disperse across 30 different states and several foreign countries, more than half of seniors surveyed will live in New York, Massachusetts, or California.

Although reporting a diversity of plans, a majority of graduating seniors will enter the workforce next year, and of that subset, 53 percent will pursue consulting, finance, or technology. And, in line with previous years, Harvard seniors report annual salaries significantly higher than the average college graduate.


  • A plurality of respondents—24 percent—will relocate to New York next year. Massachusetts and California are the second and third most popular destinations, respectively, with 20 and 15 percent planning to live there next year.
  • Twelve percent of the class will leave the country next year. Of surveyed seniors who hail from outside the country, 23 percent report that they will leave the United States after graduation.


The majority of the Class of 2016 will take a break from their studies in favor of employment next year, according to survey results. Much like in previous years, consulting, finance, and technology are the most popular destinations, attracting 21, 18, and 14 percent of surveyed working seniors, respectively.

  • Roughly 66 percent of seniors surveyed will enter the workforce next year. About 14 percent plan to continue their education in graduate or professional school, while 7 percent will pursue fellowships. Two percent of the class will pack their bags for travel, and 10 percent have yet to decide.
  • Of the surveyed seniors who will be employed next year, a majority—53 percent—report that they will work in consulting, finance, or technology. This represents a gradual growth in these fields over the past few years after a sharp decline in the aftermath of the 2008 recession.
  • Just 3 percent of employed seniors surveyed said they will work in government or politics, and 4 percent will work in public service or for nonprofits. Four percent will return to the classroom in a different sense, working in education.
  • While consulting attracts roughly similar proportions of male and female senior respondents, a gender gap persists in several other fields. Twenty-four percent of male respondents who will be employed will work in finance, compared to 13 percent of employed women surveyed. Nineteen percent of employed men will work in technology, in comparison to 9 percent of women. Academia and research, however, will attract 11 percent of employed women surveyed and just 3 percent of men.
  • Discrepancies exist based on extracurricular and social affiliations while at Harvard. Forty-three percent of respondents in a male final club, for example, will pursue finance for work, compared to 16 percent of the employed population not in some sort of off-campus social organization. Respondents who have competed in varsity athletics are more likely to work in finance (26 percent to 16 percent), while those who have not are more likely to work in consulting (22 percent to 15 percent).
  • Looking ahead 10 years, nearly 15 percent of surveyed members of the Class of 2016 would like to work in health, followed by 12 percent in academia or research, and 11 percent in arts or entertainment.
  • Of those working in finance and consulting next year (40 percent of employed seniors surveyed), 22 percent envision themselves still working in those fields in a decade.

Salaries and Bonuses

Expectations and demographics for compensation fall roughly in line with the greater trends in employment. Women surveyed, on average, will make somewhat less money than their male counterparts. Following the usual trends, respondents working in consulting, finance, and technology have the highest expectations for annual salaries and bonuses.

  • Among those employed, seniors reported a median starting salary of $70,000 to $89,000. Roughly 53 percent of respondents in the workforce anticipate earning a salary of at least $70,000 annually, a significant increase from respondents of last year’s senior survey who said the same (41 percent). According to an annual survey conducted by National Association of Colleges and Employers, last year’s average college graduate, from the Class of 2015, will make $50,651.
  • Most surveyed members of the class in the workforce—63 percent—said they expect to receive a bonus, though 39 percent of working respondents anticipate that it will total less than $19,999.
  • Sixty-six percent of surveyed seniors working in finance anticipate receiving a bonus of more than $20,000. None of the respondents working in the fields of education, health, public service or nonprofit, arts or entertainment, or government and politics, meanwhile, anticipate receiving a bonus of more than $20,000.

Parental Support/Student Loans

  • A plurality of respondents—44 percent—do not anticipate receiving any financial support from their parents next year. Another 40 percent report anticipating minor support, such as travel expenses or cell phone bills, and 17 percent expect to receive substantial financial assistance from their parents.
  • Fifty-one percent of surveyed seniors entering the workforce said they do not expect to receive financial support from their parents, while 77 percent of those heading to graduate or professional school said the plan to take aid in some way from their parents.
  • Twenty-one percent of seniors report that they will graduate from Harvard with student loans.
  • About 31 percent of respondents who receive full or partial financial aid from Harvard will graduate with loans, while just 8 percent of those who are not on financial aid will do so.
  • Of surveyed seniors graduating with loans, 39 percent said those loans have affected their post-graduation plans. About 53 percent of respondents who plan to enter the technology field and will graduate with debt reported that their post-graduation plans were influenced by their loans.