The Graduating
Class of


by the numbers

After Harvard

By Kristine E. Guillaume and Jamie D. Halper

Harvard’s Class of 2020 is graduating into an unprecedented job market — while many are sticking to similar career choices as previous classes, measurably higher numbers are graduating with uncertainty. Like previous graduating classes, most seniors plan to live on the coasts and many will hold jobs in the consulting, finance, and technology industries.

A majority of students — 61 percent — will enter the workforce in their first year after graduation. This is a slight drop from last year, when 64 percent of students took jobs after graduation. Fourteen percent will attend graduate or professional school and 7 percent will pursue fellowships. In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, an unusually high 18 percent of students are undecided, and fewer than 1 percent of seniors will travel after graduation.

From Coast to Coast

A clear majority of graduates will live on the East and West Coasts after graduation, in line with previous years.

  • Roughly 25 percent of respondents will live in New York after graduation, commensurate with other graduating classes. Massachusetts and California also drew sizable numbers, with 19 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
  • Eight percent of students plan to live outside of the United States after graduation. Of those, 72 percent will move to Europe.
  • While more students are uncertain about their jobs than in recent years, this does not appear to have significantly changed how many students are undecided about where they will be living — 12 percent haven’t yet chosen their post-graduation home, roughly the same as last year.

On That 9-to-5 Grind

Three industries reigned supreme among Harvard seniors’ post-graduate plans. Of respondents planning to enter the workforce, a majority — 63 percent — indicated they would go into consulting, finance, or technology. Consulting and finance each drew 22 percent and 23 percent of students entering the workforce, respectively, while 18 percent indicated they would be entering technology sector jobs.

  • Of those seniors entering the workforce, 7 percent will pursue careers in academia or research. Four percent plan to go into the health industry, 4 percent into public service or non-profits, and 3 percent into government or politics.
  • While gender gaps in consulting have narrowed entirely among respondents — this year women narrowly outnumbered men entering the field — they persist in finance and technology. The technology industry represents the widest male-to-female gap among major industries, with 64 percent of respondents entering technology identifying as male. The gender gap in finance shrank slightly from last year, with 53 percent of respondents going into finance identifying as male.
  • A large majority of respondents who indicated they plan to go into health — 71 percent — are female; as are 76 percent of those who plan to pursue careers in academia and research and 63 percent who plan to go into education.
  • As in previous years, a plurality of respondents — 15 percent — indicated they wanted to end up in the health field in ten years. Arts and entertainment, and academia and research were the next most popular fields, each with 11 percent of graduating seniors saying they hoped to end up in those industries. Seven percent said they wanted to end up in finance and less than 1 percent indicated they intended to end up in consulting.

Working Hard for the Money

A healthy majority of graduating seniors — 67 percent — who are taking jobs will be making more than $70,000 dollars during their first year out of college, well above the national average for starting salaries for college degree-holders, which hovers around $50,000. There are still significant gender disparities, however, between higher and lower paying positions.

  • Nineteen percent of people in the Class of 2020 who have post-graduate jobs will be making more than $110,000 during their first year out of college, not including bonuses.
  • Roughly 5 percent of graduates will be taking jobs where they make less than $30,000 and about 1 percent will have unpaid positions.
  • Of those making more than $110,000 dollars in their first year after graduation, 63 percent identify as male. Of those making less than $30,000, 64 percent identify as female.
  • More than 70 percent of respondents who are taking jobs expect to earn a bonus during their first year, including 30 percent who expect a bonus greater than $20,000.
  • Nearly every graduate entering consulting, finance, and technology expects to earn a bonus, with the greatest percentage — 66 percent — of people in finance anticipating a bonus over $20,000 in their first year.
  • Virtually no one entering academia and research expects to earn a bonus, followed closely by people entering the arts and entertainment industry. Eighty-eight percent of people entering education or publishing and media also did not anticipate receiving bonuses.

More than $110,000

$90,000 or more

$70,000 or more

$50,000 or more

Less than $50,000

Help From Families

  • Sixty-one percent of seniors are expecting to receive support from their parents during their first year after graduation. Out of the class as a whole, 18 percent said they expect “substantial” support, which can include rent.
  • Similar to last year, 19 percent of respondents will graduate with student loans. Of those students, 35 percent say those loans have impacted their plans for after graduation.
  • Sixty-eight percent of respondents said their family’s socioeconomic status informed their plans for after college, with 21 percent saying it “greatly” informed their plans and 47 percent saying it “somewhat” did.

Graduating During a Pandemic

Among Harvard undergraduates, the Class of 2020 faces the unique circumstance of graduating into a pandemic and developing recession. More than half of survey respondents indicated their postgraduate plans had changed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, while 19 percent said they had not finalized plans prior to March 2020.

Yes, I had to delay my plans

Yes, I had to cancel my plans

No, I did not have to change my plans

I had not yet made plans prior to March 2020

  • Among graduating seniors, 13 percent said they lost a job or postgraduate offer because of the COVID-19 outbreak and 32 percent said they had to cancel their plans in some form as a result of the pandemic.
  • Nearly a quarter of respondents entering the workforce indicated their start dates were postponed due to COVID-19.
  • Among surveyed respondents entering the workforce, the majority — 64 percent — remain unsure whether they will begin work in-person or remotely. Twenty-one percent of respondents said they will begin work remotely.
  • Among those who indicated they plan to pursue a fellowship, nearly half said that their start dates were postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.