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Even MBAs Prefer Google to Goldman

The Great Recession and the credit crisis that helped cause it haven't done any favors for the reputations of investment bankers, but you'd expect that at least aspiring titans of the universe at American MBA programs would still admire the likes of Goldman Sachs.

But according to a new survey of most desired employers among MBA students from Universum, the reputation of banks is tarnished even among these future business leaders. Each year Universum conducts a popularity contest of sorts for employers, asking thousands of MBA students to choose five firms they'd like to work for and then compiling a list of which companies appeared most often as a top choice.

This year the survey saw tech firms climb in the rankings with Google beating Goldman Sachs for the top slot and Apple, Facebook and Amazon also putting in good showings. Still, banks weren't exactly shunned either taking several places in the top ten:

  1. Google
  2. McKinsey & Company
  3. Apple
  4. Goldman Sachs Group
  5. The Boston Consulting Group
  6. Bain & Company
  7. Facebook
  9. J.P. Morgan
  10. Nike
The rise in tech firms may have something to do with MBAs' changing desires for their careers. This year being competitively or intellectually challenged was the number one career goal among new MBAs, according to Karl-Johan Hasselström, Universum's regional manager. With their reputation for being on the cutting edge of commerce and fiercely competitive, tech companies are probably seen as a good bet for providing an intellectual challenge.

But with the economy still rocky, job security is also important, which may bolster firms like Goldman that are seen as providing good career progression. Still, despite the obvious career benefits, the reputations of financial institutions have taken a battering. "A vast majority of these firms have decreased in attractiveness," says Hasselström. Plenty of MBAs are still happy to sign up for the fat paychecks at investment banks, of course. For instance, the WSJ reports that at Harvard Business School, "the percentage of the class of 2011 taking finance roles increased about five percentage points to 39 percent."

So what's the bottom line? These lists are certainly fun, but as BNET's own Laura Vanderkam has pointed out they should be taken with a grain of salt as they reflect the popularity of brands rather than the actual experience of working at a company. And desire to work at a organization doesn't mean it actually hires a great number of MBAs. In 2010, 38 MBAs at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business listed Google as a top-five most desired employer, for example, but fewer than four actually got a job there.

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(Image courtesy of Flickr user TwisterMc, CC 2.0)