The Million Dollar MBA Of The 2012 Class

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

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.

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  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • solar

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

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