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  A newly released survey of more than 4,000 MBAs and 14,000 undergraduates reveals US '04 graduates to be a careful group of job-hunters.
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“The employment market is improving but the class of 2004 still approached their job search with the understanding that they have to work hard and prepare well,” says Claudia Tattanelli, CEO of Universum Communications, a Philadelphia-based global research firm that conducted the survey.

So, what do this year's class value in their career prospects? More than 40 percent of the students said that jobs where they received increasingly challenging assignments were ideal. Many expressed interest in employers with businesses in multiple industries, which suggests they hoped for the opportunity to grow and perhaps change industries within the comfort of one stable organization.

The MBAs' most preferred employer was consulting firm McKinsey & Co. Finance giants Citigroup and Goldman Sachs finished second and third choices, respectively. IBM and pharmaceutical conglomerate Johnson & Johnson pushed consulting firms Bain & Co. and Boston Consulting Group out of the top five by snatching the fourth and fifth spots.

Microsoft was the first choice employer among 2004 undergrads. The software giant beat out BMW and entertainment colossal Walt Disney for the first place, the survey reveals. Boeing was the most popular employer among participating engineering and science students, ahead of BMW and Lockheed Martin. The accounting industry also made a comeback. Universum's survey reports that business students' interest in the trade had increased. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG are all climbing in the rankings.

Salary expectations are up slightly among both undergraduate and MBA students. Undergrads expect to earn 45,636 on average while MBAs hopes for $82,000 per year.

In 2004, female MBAs expect to get paid about $7,000 per year less than their male counterparts, according to the survey. Men expect an average salary of $87,000 in their first year after graduation, while women only expect to get paid $80,000 yearly.
 
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