When The Sky Is Nearly the Limit: Highest Paid MBAs of 2010


Highest  2010 Salary School Industry Location
$250,000* Harvard Private Equity New England
$330,000 Stanford Private Equity Europe
$300,000 Chicago Private Equity Unknown
$350,000 Wharton Private Equity New York
$300,000 Columbia Investment Mgt. New York
$225,000* Dartmouth Private Equity Mid-Atlantic
$300,000 Kellogg Strategy Consulting Chicago
$180,000 MIT Finance Mid-West
$152,000 Duke Health Care South

SOURCE: Business school employment reports. * An estimate based on Harvard’s report that a $185,000 base salary for one of its Class of 2010 MBAs is at the 75th percentile of the range of offers for private grads going into private equity. An estimate based on Tuck’s report that a $201,000 base salary for one of its Class of 2010 MBAs is at the 90th percentile of the range of offers to the class.


Most business schools try to play these numbers down because they don’t want to raise unrealistic expectations among applicants and students. After all, the average starting pay for MBAs from most elite schools is a third or less of these outsized gains. The University of Virginia’s Darden School and the University of Michigan’s Ross School only report median and average compensation numbers so that applicants never know how much the lowest or highest-paid graduates pull down in base salary. Harvard Business School and Dartmouth’s Tuck School takes the focus off their highest paid grads by respectively reporting only the 75th percentile and 90th percentile numbers.

On the other extreme, Wharton reported that the lowest-paid MBA in the Class of 2010 received a base salary of juist $25,000 a year for a job in the “media and entertainment” industry in the midwest. At Stanford, the lowest paid MBA this year accepted a health care job paying $40,000–less than the lowest paid non-profit job which paid $50,000 in base salary.


Year Highest Salary Industry Highest Total Comp
2010 $350,000 PE/Investment Mgt. Unknown
2009 $420,000 Hedge Fund Unknown
2008 $300,000 Private Equity Unknown
2007 $392,000 Private Equity Unknown
2006 $300,000 Private Equity $425,000
2005 $330,000 Private Equity $465,000
2004 $180,000 Private Equity $680,000
2003 $225,000 Unknown $435,000
2001 $150,000 PE/Venture Capital Unknown
2000 $160,000 Investment Mgt. Unknown

SOURCE: Wharton Career Reports. Record in bold.

  • califmerchant

    thats nothing, i make $3M a year, without an MBA, beat that

  • Matt


    First, thanks for the work you do on this site. In regards to this story, I would love to hear what type of background these highest paid applicants had prior to entering b-school. Were they already highly paid prior to their education, or was this as high a markup in salary as it sounds?

    I know it may be very difficult to find this type of information, but it would be great to hear anything that may provide context.


    I recall a story from around 1998 revealing that top programs — HBS and Stanford, for example — were caught sharing information with one another as to which applicants they planned to accept. They did this to keep yield rates as high as possible. The programs claim to have fixed this “procedural error,” but I wonder if any recent admissions officers have updated news along these lines.

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  • Rutgersdude

    I graduated from Rutgers and made $900k in my first year. I didnt bother filling out the college comp survey, that why it doesnt appear here.

  • A good insight about the top paid MBA’s.It is compelling to say almost all top-paid MBA’s are related to finance and those who are already worked on big IB’s.

  • mainhoon

    I fail to understand the justification for such astronomical salaries. What is this one guy going to be able to do that say 3 guys I can hire for that 1 salary cannot? I think there is a bit of ego involved in these firms throwing our money like this…

  • Donald,

    Tuition reimbursement is not common, and getting a handle on this is hard because not all of the top schools report the percentage of grads who get this benefit. Dartmouth’s Tuck School says that 14% of its Class of 2010 received this perk. For Tuckies, the range of reimbursement was from a low of $14,000 to a high of $103,000. The mean was $46,000, while the median was $40,000. At Wharton, some 4.2% of the Class of 2010 reported receiving tuition reimbursement, ranging from a low of $7,000 to a high of $112,000. The median at Wharton was $85,000. One thing to keep in mind: many of the grads who get this benefit are returning to pre-MBA employers like McKinsey or Goldman Sachs. So it’s not something that is generally available to many people. Hope this helps, even though it’s not necessarily very good news.

  • Is tuition reimbursement a common component of post-MBA compensation packages or is it a rarity. If its common, what industries, or even better, what companies commonly offer tuition reimbursement. I want to do an MBA at a top 5 program but the100k tuition bill is a hard pill to swallow, especially when you already have loans to pay from a masters program. I’ve therefore been reconsidering holding off applying this year in hopes of getting an early start on applying for available fellowships and scholarships for next years application cycle. However if theres a good shot of obtaining a job offering tuition reimbursement I think that alters the equation a little for me.

  • Stanford_gal

    Given all these i have always wondered why Tuck is rated so high in top 5.
    And a smack down between Dartmouth with Stan/Harvard is not even relevant, they are not even on par schools! Only see P&Q inclined more towards Tuck.