Demand for MBAs this year is set to return to levels not seen since the bursting of the dotcom bubble at the beginning of the millennium.
Research across 500 key recruiters around the world has found an overall rise in demand for MBAs of 20 per cent, with the consulting sector reporting a 35 per cent increase, financial services 20 per cent, general industry 17 per cent and the technology sector 18 per cent.
The annual TopMBA.com International Recruiter Survey also found that salaries for new MBAs are also on the rise.
In the USA or Europe the average base salary for a new graduate of a top MBA programme is now US $84,500, up from US $82,000 last year.
The highest reported bases salaries are in the consulting sector, with an average of US $94,000, although one North American firm was expecting to offer new graduates as much as US $117,500 this year.
Regionally the biggest increase in MBA salaries was in Latin America where pay was up by almost 20 per cent to US $57,000.
However as the Association of MBAs' (AMBA) Career Survey found earlier this year, at the peak of the dot-com boom in 2002, MBAs could expect a 39 per cent increase in salary after graduation, more than double the premium expected today.
One reason for this is that more employers are now paying for their employees' MBA studies and do not need to offer as large a 'reward' on graduation to hold onto them.
But the TopMBA research suggests that employers are also putting more emphasis on bonuses and other variable cash earnings rather than higher base salaries.
The average reported bonus for an MBA in their first year after graduation is now just under US $27,000, up from US $19,000 in 2004.
While bases salaries at financial services firms are still lagging behind those on offer in consultancy at US $87,000, the sector is predicting average bonuses of US $40,500 this year and investment banks are talking of pay-outs as high as US $100,000.
"The renewed demand from employers is yet to be reflected in a similar rise in applications to business school, where there has been a decline of 20 per cent since 2003 due to stagnant economic conditions," says the report's author, Nunzio Quacquarelli.
"The result for potential MBAs is less competition for places at the best schools and a virtual guarantee that those taking up places over the next twelve months will find themselves graduating into a very 'hot' job market."