The Million Dollar MBA Of The 2012 Class

CORRECTION: Manchester apparently misreported the million-dollar salary to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. The mistake occurred as a result of a currency conversion. 

The unidentified MBA not only didn’t land his reported $1,088,638 base salary. In fact, the person’s starting salary was less than $90,000.

The salary error, first reported by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, did not impact the magazine’s recent rankings of business schools because starting salaries are not a factor in the BW rankings.

A spokesperson for the school apologized for the mistake. Before publication of our story, PoetsandQuants had called the school to ask for comment on the number, but the director of career services at Manchester had been on vacation.

“We have reviewed the data we received from our students for this year’s BusinessWeek ranking and it appears an error was made in the currency conversion of one individual’s salary, for which we are sorry,” said Clare Hudson, director of MBA careers at Manchester Business School.

“Although this hasn’t impacted our overall ranking position, we are working with the team at Bloomberg Business Week to ensure they have the correct data and we have already reviewed our processes to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.  Although a $1 million salary is remarkable for an MBA student, it isn’t unheard of as we have previously had a student achieve this salary graduating from our full-time MBA program.”

It was bound to happen someday. And for at least one MBA in the Class of 2012 it finally did. The graduating student landed a job with a starting base salary that broke the million-dollar barrier.

What is even more surprising is that it didn’t happen at a Harvard or Stanford or Wharton. Manchester Business School in Britain is reporting that one of its graduates from the Class of 2012  got a job in financial services for the largest reported starting salary in history for a freshly minted MBA: $1,088,638.

That’s more than nine times the $120,000 median starting salary of a Harvard MBA this year. And the million-dollar jackpot merely represents base salary, not a lot of the other goodies that are often dangled in front of the best and brightest MBAs: signing bonus, stock options, guaranteed year-end bonuses, or tuition reimbursements.


To give you a sense of just how extraordinary this number is, last year highest reported starting salary was for an MBA who graduated from London Business School. That graduate got a whopping $552,681-a-year job in the corporate sector in Australia.

In all probability, however, last year’s highest paid MBA hailed from Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. The graduate entered the private equity field with a total compensation package of a mind-boggling $863,000.

Jonathan Masland, director of career development at Tuck, then said the big number was a new record and captured by a Tuck grad who did an independent job search. “That is the largest number I’ve seen,” he said. “In private equity, there is a performance structure that can be a lot. A really top MBA based on professional background would participate in the carried interest which can be substantial. That is part of typical private equity compensation.”


As is always the case, these numbers are self-reported by recent graduates to their business schools. The schools typically double check numbers that are on the extreme. To protect the confidentiality of the MBAs, the schools only disclose the base details of both the compensation and the industry in which the graduate landed the job. Manchester’s career services Director Clare Hudson was on holiday and could not be reached for comment. But the MBA who hit the salary lottery didn’t go to one of the school’s top employers this year led by American Express, KPMG, McKinsey & Co., and Johnson & Johnson. The lucky grad, moreover, pushed the average starting salary for Manchester MBAs who went into financial services to $143,196, from a more typically figure in the mid-80s.

The full employment reports for most business schools will trickle out in December and January. However, a few of the early numbers were reported by some schools to Bloomberg BusinessWeekfor its recent rankings project. Fordham University told BusinessWeek, for example, that its highest paid MBA graduates from the Class of 2012 reported a $500,000 starting salary in real estate and a $300,000 salary in non-profit management.

Most schools try to downplay these numbers so as not to raise unrealistic expectations. Harvard Business School, for example, does not report the high and low salary ranges for its MBAs. Instead, the school reports the 25th percentile salary and the 75th percentile. This year, the highest 75th percentile salary Harvard is reporting is for $200,000 for a graduate in the private equity or leveraged buyout field.

  • solar

    wonder how did you get the salaries data if the class of 12 didn’t graduate yet?! this is very serious question sir!

  • llavelle

    You’ll have to ask MBS for a detailed explanation. What I was told was that the salary data is collected from students via an online survey, then the school does the currency conversions. But in the case of this one MBA the salary was converted using the incorrect currency rate. There was no way for the school to check because this student obtained the position on his/her own, so career services had no record of the compensation package to compare it to. Hope that clarifies things.

    Louis Lavelle
    Associate Editor
    Bloomberg Businessweek

  • llavelle

    Fair enough Josh. BW never actually published a story on this (at least not like the one John wrote focusing on this one salary) but we did publish the school’s profile, which contained the inaccurate info, and included the $1M number in a table that appeared in the magazine. So you’re right to be troubled by this, as am I. But as a reader I would be more worried about media outlets that never publish corrections. At least when we get it wrong, we say we got it wrong. Thanks Josh.

    Louis Lavelle
    Associate Editor
    Bloomberg Businesswee

  • InterestedParty

    In defense of BW – I posted the following on the P&Q BW rankings story…
    Flag as inappropriate
    I hear what you are saying – but BW reported the data as reported by the School. The school caught the mistake and corrected the error – I think this was unintentional. In any normal distribution of data, any number that is way above or below the mean should be questioned – this was no different, but it does not mean the ranking is flawed – far from it actually IMO.
    In fact, I believe the BW rankings are very likely the most useful rankings – becuase they better measure the things I am more concerned about – satisfaction and future prospects. I really do not care or believe that one school is better or worse than another school because its average GMAT is 10 points higher or lower. I think the better school is unequivally (100%), the one whose students/graduates reported the best outcome in placements (relative to my interests) and overall satisfaction of the experience. I already know which schools are regarded as prestigious – I do not need USN to tell me that. Just because MBS made an error in reporting a salary to BW, this does not call into question the many benefits of their ranking. HBS has had a few notable people recently charged with crimes – does this mean that HBS is now not worth attending? Far from it obviously. USN is fine and I respect it – but admission rates and GMAT scores are too simple to properly judge a business school IMO – that is the easy part – BW gets to the real deal far better than any other ranking IMO.

  • Josh

    I too applaud your openness. But the question remains — if BW did not dig deep enough to verify this million dollar story (one that seemed to defy logic but was still plausible), then it makes me question the rigorousness of your team and the attention to details. You are a very reputed journalist and work for a credible organization, and when you report a story — I tend to take it at face value. But when I see these types of mistakes — the million dollar story does not even pass the smell test and your organization should have done more to verify the authenticity of the story before publishing it in the international media. It makes me pause and wonder what other “oversights” are out there that could have ACTUALLY impacted the rankings. I don’t think I’m out of line by questioning the rest of the survey. I know you have been very spirited in your defense of the rankings and have often eviscerated your harshest critics. Perhaps, this is an opportunity to do some introspection and help yourself to some left over Thanksgiving “humble” pie.

  • moron honeypot

    Louis, I appreciate the update to set the air clear. I don’t see this as an attack on BW’s (or the other’s) “credibility” in the rankings, though I would be first to say that rankings in general are amorphous. But this really makes it easy to question the numbers reported by schools.

    First, how did this number get out of MBS? I think that (your paraphrasing of) their explanation is more than wanting – where was the fact checking? Fine the conversion error was made, but that should have been caught when the school followed up with the employer. I can understand not fact checking reported numbers that are 1 standard deviation away from the norm, but their average is $88k, and they accepted a $1MM number carte blanche? Either there is something amiss that hasn’t been reported yet, or quite honestly, theyve got a seriously broken system over there where something like this could get out without having been caught.

    Secondly, I don’t think there is an incentive at the top 12/15 major US business schools to fudge their application/hiring numbers, but right after those top 12/15, the academic reputation of the schools takes a huge tumble and MBA programs can be seen as cash cows that need to be protected. Yes, accounting is accounting, but a big part of what makes a great school is the caliber of the person sitting next to me. The introduction to accounting/finance classes at the bschool at U of Iowa (making that up) more are less are the same as at Stanford, but the students simply are not the same. There have been some recent scandals of false reporting by non-top 14 law schools of employment rates, application profiles, and attending student profiles. What can be done in the MBA field to get schools to get better numbers out?

  • Josh

    Thank you for taking the time to reply to my post. I have the highest regard for your work and have immensely benefited from P&Q; needless to say it’s a fantastic website. I understand the methodology and it was quite clear from the time this story was published that BW did not consider salary in its rankings. But that said, when someone like BW makes a mistake — a million dollar mistake nonetheless and publishes the story, which is picked up nationally and on reputed sites such as P&Q, one has to take a step back and question everything else. If we fail to do so and ignore it, then we are not thinking critically enough. Yes, it does not have a direct impact on the rankings itself, but it makes me question how many more mistakes could there be in the survey and its interpretation? This reflects the attention one pays to the details. Many on this comment stream have said that the Manchester number was wrong or did not even pass the smell test. I don’t think I’m out of line by questioning the rest of the survey. Thanks again for all your hard work and I appreciate the opportunity to have this conversation with you.

  • Moron Honeypot

    I’m a first year MBA at a US school thats in the the top 10 of USNews, Economist, and BB, and is ranked top 3 in one of them. Though I am already in a school, this site has interesting articles for more than just those looking to get in and so I check it out. Though I admit that I was a bit tough in my first response (it was late, I was tired, yada yada), it doesn’t change that my assessment was correct, and Arjun’s analysis that 1) applications would skyrocket, 2) rankings go up based on this (he makes the link, not I) and 3) that this would lead them to a top 10 global ranking, was pretty poor.

    The fact is that any year, there are hundred(s) of thousands of people applying to MBA programs. This includes normal folks, this includes slightly stupid folks (but who probably put in more effort than others to compensate), and truly smart folks.

    Arjun, Kip, you guys may just not know it, but there are millions of humans (out of the 6,000,000,000 in the world) out there who simply are just smarter than most and don’t make mistakes. Most people don’t get to know them because by their quickness, they enter work environments (and social environments) that reflect their capabilities.

    Arjun had a shot of making a reasonable comment, and he gave three foolish bullet points. The fact is, I can’t imagine any HBS student reading the above article and drawing all three conclusions. Nor would any of my fellow cohort members at XXXXX (ha, but no need to draw my school into the discussion)

    Of course, this is made all the sweeter by the announcement that MBS and/or their brilliant student made a “currency” conversion mistake. So yeah, maybe Arjun can apply there as his reach school, ‘cuz it seems that moronic comments are ok there (moronic yes. Where was the fact checking by the school of this incredible number? Just because theyve had it once before doesn’t mean it shouldnt be fact checked. Yeah, I’ll be watching the rankings for MBS’s meteoric rise. [Face palm]

  • llavelle

    Let me clarify. This was a number reported by the school that had NO IMPACT AT ALL on the rankings. Starting salaries are NOT a factor in the BW rankings. Also there was no translating/interpreting by BW–it was reported by the school, in writing, and validated by the school. Then, and only then, was it reported to our readers. You could argue that this damages BW’s credibility, but you could just as easily say that fessing up to the mistake in public enhances it. That’s a call readers will have to make for themselves.

    Louis Lavelle
    Associate Editor
    Bloomberg Businessweek

  • John A. Byrne


    As Lou has pointed out on this comment stream, compensation is not a metric measured by BusinessWeek in its ranking. So Manchester’s error on the starting pay of one of its grads has no impact whatsoever on its rank. BusinessWeek ranks schools on graduate satisfaction, corporate recruiter satisfaction, and the academic research published by faculty in key scholarly and practitioner journals–and NOT on salary, employment, GMAT, GPA, or any other metric published by a school.

  • Josh

    I have posted my comment in the original BW rankings story on P&Q as well.
    Huge hit to the credibility of the BW Rankings — they made a huge
    blunder in reporting (capturing / translating / interpreting) the highest salary paid to an MBA grad. It was a million dollar mistake. See the story on P&Q and Mr. Lavalle’s
    comments in the section below. They have issued a full retraction. This
    should give good support to the critics of this ranking, the methodology, the rigorousness — the underlying data are flawed and questionable. This is a huge “gotchya”
    moment. Critics 1 — BW 0.

  • sanders

    Kudos to you and your team for being upfront about this. Unfortunately, this will lead many, including myself, to question the validity of the other numbers as well and the rankings as a whole. As they old aphorism goes: A wise woman puts a grain of sugar into everything she says to a man, and takes a grain of salt with everything he says to her. We will all do better by keeping an eye out for the salt and the sugar in these rankings!

  • Pinto

    You’re the man Stan!

  • llavelle

    Folks, I just learned that this $1 million MBA doesn’t exist. Manchester Business School now says it misreported the figure it supplied to BW. The individual in question actually earned about $1 million less, or $88,832 to be precise. The highest-paid MBA at Manchester earned about twice that, $161,160. So Stanley, you were, regrettably, right. Apparently the issue was currency conversion. For what it’s worth, MBS says it didn’t question the figure because, while rare, MBAs with salaries in the stratosphere are not unheard of. They had one with a salary of $1m plus a few years ago. Please accept my apologies for passing along inaccurate information.

    Louis Lavelle
    Associate Editor
    Bloomberg Businessweek

  • Pairen

    INSEAD 2012 class includes those graduating in July 2012 and December 2012! So, It is impossible to provide employment statistics for classes that did’t graduated yet! Since, BW is a biannual ranking, I believe it makes sense to consider 2011 as the ranking’s references. ! just my thought, It is unfair to compare INSEAD against another schools based on survey while they publish a very comprehensive career statistics.

  • llavelle

    INSEAD did not supply information on high/low salaries for 2012 MBA graduates to BW; the $358,000 high salary in consulting is for 2011, not 2012.

    Louis Lavelle
    Associate Editor
    Bloomberg Businessweek

  • Pairen

    the list BW published about the high salaries of each sector! here is the link:

  • llavelle

    What list?

  • llavelle

    That’s your prerogative, but I’ll point out that the consultants’ opinions are based on a (relatively) small number of clients and, if they worked on an adcom before getting into consulting, the applications they read while there. The opinions of applicants are a measure of reputation; the opinions of the tens of thousands of students that we’ve been using for our rankings for a quarter century now are a measure of satisfaction. These are two different things. It’s like asking a car salesman what he/she thinks of a ranking based on surveys of car buyers–it’s kind of meaningless.

    Louis Lavelle
    Associate Editor
    Bloomberg Businessweek

  • Rama

    BW and FT are the most influential MBA ranking based on scientific methods and facts. us news tend to rank based on public image and perception. Yale at us news ranked as the 10th! by all measures and statistics, employment, recruiting, applications, quality, global outlook, Yale is not even close to say UCLA, let alone, duke, virginia, and others..Why, yale at 10th place with us news, because they rank based on reputation of the mother institution NOT the real facts. if us news rank the non-us schools, they will automatically put oxford, cambridge, toronto, fudan, ..and others as the top, then followed by insead, imd, london, ie and so on..If princeton start offering mba this year, they will put it top 10 next year regardless the true value. If you are a real business person and value thing based on facts not fiction, then you will realize that BW followed by FT are the most reliable rankings. if you want the butter of all ranking just wait for the latest P&Q ranking next week.

  • Schucheng Wang

    Many of the top MBA consultants I spoke to at MBAapply, Expartus and StacyBlackman to name a few don’t seem to think very highly of your MBA rankings. US News seems to be the gold standard. The MBA consultants know the industry and also have MBAs from top schools. Im inclined to believe them over you.

  • Pairen

    Dear llavelle,

    INSEAD reported a salary of 250000 euro (comparable to 358000 usd ) in consulting. Why it wasn’t included in the list? here is the link to the most detailed career statistics:

    Best regards..

  • llavelle

    Folks, since this number was first reported by Bloomberg Businessweek, let me clarify. First the number is correct. The school does not dispute it. Second, it did not in any way influence the school’s ranking. MBS is ranked No. 19, down from No. 17 in 2010, and salaries are not part of the BW methodology. The salary was reported for a grad taking a job in financial services. Schools report these numbers in keeping with MBA Career Services Council standards, which require them to identify the mean/median/high/low salary in each industry (among other things) but NOT which individual employers paid the high/low salaries. So unless the million dollar MBA comes forward voluntarily, I’m not sure we’re going to learn anything more. Also, not quite sure how or why BW got lumped in with the “haters” over this–we did after all rank MBS one of the best b-schools in the world–but for the record we’re big fans of ridiculously high salaries. “Enviers” would be a bit closer to the mark.

    Louis Lavelle
    Associate Editor
    Bloomberg Businessweek

  • Kip

    Why are you so mean spirited? With you arrogance and condescension…where do you think you are going?

  • Sundaravel

    Hats off to MBS graduates and alumni who proved their mettle and business acumen to the ever changing competitive world. Stay the flag flying high to prove the “Originl Thinking Applied” philosophy of fellow Mancjesterians.
    Thanks to MBA course directors who have stimulated the Manchester Method among the MBA students to give them th confidence and edge over top Tier-1 schools.

  • Moron Honeypot

    Yeah, let’s hope that their applications shoot up. So that they attract the retards that shouldn’t be applying to the other schools, thus cutting down on the work the poor adcoms have to do in having to read applications from fools who clearly are so clueless they can’t even recognize they don’t make the cut…like you Arjun! A more useful post would have been to point out (just as others did) how this means nothing. It could have been the son of the hedge fund’s (or whatever) founder, whom of course got a nice check. It He/she could have been there before, at $800k a year, but got a promotion/raise upon graduation. Not only that, but the article above implies that the average salary of a Manchester grad going into finance is only in the mid $80’s. Ha! Manchester’s rankings, if based on salary, ain’t going anywhere anytime soon. And with your analytical skills, neither are you Arjun .

  • Arjun

    Manchester’s applications are going to sky rocket! wow! And yes, their rankings are going to go up as well. I will not be surprised if they make the top 10 globally.

  • Roc

    I bet Bloomberg BusinessWeek and other haters will learn to give Manchester Business School (MBS) more props. MBS MBA is truly one of the best in the world in terms of quality of teaching, research, content and delivery. The MBA drives you to critically think about issues in entirely new ways. MBS alumni make most Ivy League alumni look like altar boys!

  • bsaunders

    Kind of useless without the background. What was the job?

  • bs-farm

    “these numbers are self-reported by recent graduates to their business schools.”

  • “Salary numbers are self-reported….” either total bs, or he/she brings major account or patent to the table. Definitely not the result of school, or grades.

  • Pete

    Now we know how schools manipulate rankings.

  • stanley

    standby for the correction…

  • Aravind Prasad Balaji

    Wow!!!! Mind blowing…awesome! Congratulations.