Columbia MBA Lands $300K Base Salary

A Columbia Business School grad landed a $300,000-a-year hedge fund job this year and possibly received a guaranteed bonus of $235,000, according to the school’s just released 2011 employment report.

As large as that potential windfall might be—a total of $535,000–it still wouldn’t allow that person to surpass this year’s graduating Stanford MBA who reported to his school that he received a guaranteed bonus alone of $500,000. That person’s likely total annual compensation: $675,000.

Of course, both these students are at the extreme high end of the salary and bonus ranges. Columbia reported, for example, that the median base salary for the roughly 5.5% of its graduating class went into the hedge fund, mutual fund, and fund of funds business was $125,000. The lowest reported base in this category didn’t even touch six figures: $95,000. The highest reported base was the $300,000. The median base salary for Columbia’s entire Class of 2011 was $110,000.

This category tied private equity/venture capital and management consulting for the highest paying median salaries of the year. All three fields paid Columbia MBAs starting salaries of $125,000. The 5.7% of the class that went into PE/VC jobs reported that the highest salary was $180,000 and the lowest was $90,000. Columbia’s median for private equity was below several other schools, including the University of Chicago’s Booth School which says its PE-bound MBAs landed $155,000 median salaries, above the $150,000 median reported by Stanford and the $120,000 for Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (see tables on next page).

Another Columbia MBA reported a starting base salary of $205,000 for a management consulting job. The highest guaranteed bonus paid to a Columbia MBA taking a management consulting position was $204,000—well above the $23,606 median.

It’s not possible to say with certainty if the MBA going into the $300,000-a-year hedge fund job also received the highest guaranteed bonus. But it’s highly likely that someone paid so generously on their base also would be given an appropriately-sized signing bonus and guaranteed year-end bonus. In common with most other business schools, Columbia reports the range of high and low salaries, and other guaranteed bonuses separately. So it’s not possible to determine the total compensation of any one graduate.

As previously reported, the very highest paid MBAs tend to be special cases. To these first MBA jobs, they bring extraordinary work experience and track records that convince firms who want to hire the absolute best and brightest that they are worth the money. In private equity that means hiring grads who already have been in the business–often as high-performing analysts for the same companies that hire them back.

Three of the highest paying industries for Columbia MBAs this year are in finance: hedge funds, private equity and venture capital, and commercial banking (see table below). The grads who went into management consulting, technology, and heavy industry (autos and aerospace) also did exceptionally well.

In contrast, at Chicago’s Booth School of Business, which like Columbia also boasts a reputation for finance, only one of the half dozen highest paying industries this year was in finance: private equity. The 17 Booth MBAs, representing 3.6% of the graduating class, who were lucky enough to land PE jobs reported median starting base salaries of $155,000, highest of the year at Booth and the highest PE median salaries of any top business school (see table on following page).

Columbia’s Six Highest Paying Industries for the Class of 2011

Management Consulting$125,000$79,000 – $205,000$23,606$7,000 – $204,000
Hedge Funds$125,000$95,000 – $300,000$95,000$20,000 – $235,000
Private Equity/Venture Capital$125,000$90,000 – $180,000$62,500$25,000 – $305,000
Commercial Banking$120,000$114,500 – $125,000$25,000$25,000
Technology*$118,691$70,000 – $150,000$24,896$5,000 – $45,000
Autos/Aerospace$114,500$95,000 – $119,000$25,000$15,000 – $25,000

Source: Columbia Business School 2011 Employment Report * Technology category covers software, services and telecom but not internet or e-commerce jobs. Salary, and guaranteed bonus numbers, which include signing bonus and year-end bonus, are reported as medians.

(For similar tables on Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, Harvard Business School, Stanford and Berkeley Haas, see next page)

  • Samuel

    Your so sensitive

  • Regular Dan

    Hi R.-

    I’d suggest you take a moment and think about it from a different perspective. 1) Using the words “shut up” is tacky, but a minor “offense” at best. 2) Saying “I made your life” is a little odd, but it’s nothing more than a poor choice of words to communicate the admission teams’ excitement about the school. And 3) why should business school care if they alienate Occupy Wallstreet sympathizers? They are looking for hard working, talented individuals. Not complainers who are bitter about what other people have.

  • randolph

    John, these are all great articles. However, it is somewhat frustrating (not your fault) that these schools can’t publish the employment stats prior to RD 1 deadline of the following year. What good is the data, if it is stale? The schools should just drop the “received offers 90 days post graduation” statistic, so this data set can actually be used by applicants for the following admissions cycle. Do you know what the reasons are for the delays across all schools in the release of the data?

  • I wouldn’t jump to conclusions, guys. I know there are good and bad at every school. The fact that R ran into a few of the not so good (or maybe they were just having an off day?) is no reason to write off a school. We’ve actually hosted a few student-led events on our website, and their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of their experience at CBS. Last time we had a chat, there was a question relating specifically to the competitiveness and support of the CBS community and students explained that it’s a really nice, supportive and tight knit group.

  • B

    Hi – I am also a second-year CBS student and agree with V. I met Mary Miller during my interview process and spoke with several amazing students along the way. CBS is a wonderful place and everyone I have met so far are VERY down-to-earth. I hope you reconsider.

  • V

    I am also a current student at CBS and I second the comments made by anonymous. Mary Miller does take her job very seriously, but if you take the time to speak with actual students, you’ll find that most of us are level-headed, down-to-earth people who don’t take ourselves quite so seriously.

  • Anonymous 3

    Hi R –

    I feel sorry for you to have such a bad event at Columbia. On the other hand, I would strongly suggest you to look at the other school in New York , NYU Stern school of business.

    I am a current first-year student at Stern, and the experience has been great. Since I was a prospective student, I have participated in numerous events in both Stern and Columbia and the differentiation just stands out between the two campuses. In Stern, admission staffs are very welcome, and they generally care about you as an young, ambitious individual. I was invited to its GMA conference, a marketing events with keynote speakers and panel discussions from industries, and the admission staff kindly prepared nametags and called my first name when I arrived to the event. Whereas when I did my interview with Columbia, the interviewer(alumni) seems to be very arrogant and keep on telling me that going to Columbia is ” a dream come true in a once-in-a-life time opportunity…”, which I don’t think it makes that much sense at all.

    Please take a look at the campus and feel free to reach out to me if and when you consider NYU Stern to be your target school. I am sure you will gain a very different perspective versus your experience at Columbia.

  • Skeptical this time

    R, wow. What a sickening event!

    Columbia will hold on to its traditional base at banks with some statistically reliable buyside recruiting, but overall, after inflating its prestige with the high app volume/low admit rate/high academic stats formula (which Yale SOM has been copying), people are clearly onto its act, and as someone else pointed out, it’s barely holding on to a Top 10 spot. Foul building, foul attitude, foul administration. Hubbard and Mishkin certainly didn’t help, this is true. That shiny new glass building up in Harlem can’t come soon enough for them!

  • Something to consider: The relationship between the students and the admissions staff at small and large schools is like night and day. At the smaller schools I visited the admissions staff were on a first name basis with the students, they knew that I had arranged to meet with other veteran students, introduced themselves to me, gave me their business card, etc etc.

    At a larger school, I told the person in admissions I was here to meet so and so, and the reply I got was “Oh, you can check into the CMC over there.” He thought the name I gave him was the name of a company.

    Not a deal breaker for some, but for me it’s important since if I’m fortunate enough to be admitted to a top school, I plan on being involved in helping prospective veteran students with the admissions process.

  • Anonymous,

    Thanks for reaching out and offering to be a resource. And much appreciation to everyone else for sharing your experiences and thoughts on Columbia.

  • Anonymous 2

    R., I went to Diversity Connect in October and had a similar experience. I won’t go into too much detail, but yeah when I left I was pretty “disgusted” as you said. I was very close to eliminating Columbia from my list of target schools. Anonymous has a point though – try not to let that one admissions event form your overall impression. For me, I came back to Columbia the next weekend to attend a non-admissions sponsored event – the Black Business Students Association has a conference every year where they basically get business leaders to speak on current events and other topics. I met and spoke with plenty of current students and alumni [side note: I don’t know how the Women’s Connect was run, but at Diversity Connect, there wasn’t really a lot of time for conversation – everything felt very rushed and not well put together]. Anyway, after the conference, my initial impression was completely reversed and the Columbia is now one of my top choices. I think the problem is really the admissions staff – they cause some people to completely write-off the school.

  • Hey R, sorry you had such a negative experience. I’m a current CBS student and can say it’s a large organization with a lot of students, faculty and staff. On any given day, you can encounter it at its best or, unfortunately, sometimes at a state far from that. For me, fortunately, it’s generally been the former.

    If you ever have a renewed interest in the school, I suggest the “contact a student” feature on the CBS web site. The students there are generally very responsive. And I think they can give you a good idea of what 2 years here means.

    I ended up doing most of my grad school research that way because I found the admissions events at most of the schools I visited largely useless. They generally repeated what I could already find online. And there always seemed to be one or two prospective students at the event that thought if they talked a lot and tried to sound smart an adcom would notice and give them an admit on the spot.

    But I digress..again sorry for the bad experience and good luck with your search!

  • jay

    R – I completely understand where you’re coming from. I lost all respect for CBS after I heard the adcom deferred a large amount of ED candidates last year (and strung them along for months) just because they wanted to see if something “better” would come along. I find it amazing that the adcom is so arrogant given that CBS is barely clinging to a top 10 spot in the BW and USNews rankings.

    In that regard, I really respect Dee Leopold. She’s always seemed humble and understanding. She even changed the HBS decision process (earlier “releases,” invites on specific days to relieve anxiety) in accordance with feedback from applicants. Somehow I don’t see CBS doing that….

  • I.

    Many thanks to R. – all these mistakes are VERY telling. Indeed, “I made your life” is so gross.

  • V.

    I can’t emphasize enough how much I respect and admire you, R.

    P.S. I decided not to apply to CBS after watching that stupid Hubbard on ‘The Inside Job’ …..It’s a shame that such a guy is the dean of a business school.

  • Nate

    I’m a Columbia Undergrad and unfortunately I got the same feeling after going to a Columbia B School event, however I believe it has to do, partly, with a self-fulfilling prophecy. I noticed that many of the people at the event (generalizing of course) were the kinds of people that WOULD cry or give their right arm to get into CBS because they believe the degree would make their life. The desperation in the air was palpable. CBS is not my top choice.

  • R.

    I have to write this just to get it off my chest and put it in some public forum, because it made me really mad.

    Today I went to the Columbia Women Connect event — an event where they gather together prospective women applicants. Many top schools have these events. However, at the Columbia one three things made me incredibly angry, and solidified the reasons why I will NEVER apply to this school.

    1. One of the admissions staff (Matt Moll) was trying to get everyone to return to their seats after the break. When the women wouldn’t immediately quiet down, he said “I thought that would get them to shut up”. !!! He probably didn’t realize that anyone heard; big mistake. The fact that he was a man saying this at a women’s prospective student event made it even worse.

    2. Mary Miller from admissions called out some of the women at the conference who had been admitted but did not yet know it. It was a great way to surprise some of the newly admitted applicants. One of the applicants said to her (for the entire room of ~200 of us to hear), “you made my Saturday!”. Mary Miller replied, “I made your LIFE!” Excuse me? Getting into Columbia Business school is not going to make anyone’s life. Most of these women will be successful whether or not they attend your program, because they have internal drive and ambition. How incredibly arrogant to think that your program will ‘make someone’s life.’ She also mentioned how it’s so cool that in her job she can “make grown men and women cry.” Talk about a God complex.

    3. One of the current students on the panel there mentioned how she was in the Follies group, which is the student club for improv. She also mentioned how one of their skits is making fun of Occupy Wall Street. Wow. Maybe this is why 99% of the US hates business students!!! You can’t publicly mock a group like that when there is such public outrage against bankers. This only makes the public hate you more and think that all business students are awful people.

    That’s about all I have to say. I was pretty disgusted after leaving this event, but I’m glad that now I can avoid wasting my time applying to Columbia.

  • Jay,

    Thanks for the catch. The median salary for PE at Kellogg is actually $120,000 and not $135,000 as you state. You can see how easy it is to get these jumbled. The story has been corrected. The reason for the discrepancy has to do with how the tables are created but frankly it’s working too late into the night during a 12-hour day. Because, in Kellogg’s case, the highest median is something of an anomaly, I included the face that only 1% of the class went into legal services in the footnote to the table. But I agree it would be helpful to add that detail to the tables. As I continue to build them out, and create a new story on these comps, I’ll do just that.

  • jay

    It would be helpful if you could indicate what percentage of students enter those six fields for each school. That way, someone looking at the table above and seeing that Law/Legal Services is the highest paying industry at Kellogg could also see that only 1% of the Kellogg class accepts offers in that industry.

    Also, in the Kellogg employment report at the link provided, PE mean and median salaries are listed as 120k and 135k, respectively. In the table above it says 150k. Is there a reason for the discrepancy?

  • Ranjit,

    That was a surprise to me as well. But again, all of these very high numbers are special cases with special stories behind them.

  • Ranjit

    This sentence really surprised me: ‘The highest guaranteed bonus paid to a Columbia MBA taking a management consulting position was $204,000—well above the $23,606 median.’

    I guess I’m used to hearing big figures about those going into PE or finance. This is the first time I’m hearing someone in management consulting being paid this high!

  • Z,

    In all likelihood, this is a person with considerable work experience and a proven track record in the field in which he was hired. It’s even possible that the MBA had worked in the same firm and was already making a boatload of cash, went for his MBA, and got even more.

  • Z

    What’s the reasoning behind employer’s decisions for paying such a high starting salary?