Where Six-Figure MBA Pay Is A Done Deal

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

moneytreeFor the MBA Class of 2008, the year started out like a song. By the time New York investment bank Bear Stearns collapsed in March, most MBAs already had their job offers in hand. And when all hell broke loose in mid-September, with Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy, the Class of 2008 was already settled into their jobs.

So when you look back four years ago at MBA pay in 2008, it looked pretty good. Harvard Business School MBAs landed average salary and bonus that year of $144,261, the highest of any U.S. school. Stanford Graduate School of Business MBAs were not far behind, averaging $140,771.

The global financial crisis, however, soon wrecked complete havoc with both the job market and starting pay. A new analysis by Poets&Quants shows that for a few schools at least, a full recovery has yet to occur. Harvard MBAs who graduated last year, for example, made less than their counterparts four years ago in 2008–$142,501 in 2012 versus the $144,261 for the Class of 2008.

Yet, there are other top schools where MBAs have seen average starting salaries and bonuses not only recover from the financial implosion but have also grown. That has been especially true at Emory University’s Goizueta School, the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. From 2008 to 2012, average starting salary and bonus have increased by 14.8%, 13.6% and 11.2%, respectively.


Emory’s Class of 2012 averaged $124,066, up from $108,107 four years earlier. Carlson’s MBA graduates last year averaged $118,986 in salary and bonus, up from $104,745. And Fuqua’s Class of 2012 averaged $136,461 in starting pay, up from $122,742. These sums do not include other pay including tuition reimbursement, travel expenses, stock grants, or guaranteed year-end bonuses.

The analysis is based on newly published data provided by the business schools to U.S. News & World Report for its recently published annual ranking of the best full-time MBA programs in the U.S. One major benefit of the U.S. News data is that it is a true average of starting salaries and bonuses for MBA grads. Almost all the schools report these numbers separately and fail to take account of the fact that all grads do not receiving signing bonuses. U.S. News includes the MBAs in a class who failed to get a signing bonus so that the number is the real average.


The results are fairly revealing for a number of reasons. All together, there are 39 business schools in the U.S. alone whose graduates make six-figure salaries and bonuses right out of the gate. And when you look back at the trend line from 2008, only MBAs at five of the 39 schools are making the same or less last year than the graduating class four years earlier.

And who would have thought that Dartmouth Tuck’s MBAs are being paid better by the market than those from Wharton, Chicago Booth, Columbia or Northwestern? And guess whose MBAs are highest paid immediately after No. 1 Harvard and No. 2 Stanford? It’s the graduates of MIT Sloan who landed average salary and bonus last year of $139,035.

One obvious caveat: These are unadjusted numbers. They don’t account for geography or industry choice. So schools in urban metro areas, such as New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago, are likely to send more graduates into jobs that are higher paying than schools in Austin, Texas, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Bloomington, Indiana. The same is true for schools that funnel large numbers of graduates into high-paying consulting and financial jobs.

(See the following page for our table of the schools where MBAs graduate with six-figure salaries and bonuses)

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  • Guest

    Wow, it seems that the 3 schools that really outdid their rank were Ross, Fuqua, and Tuck. Each of these schools’ salary ranking exceeded their USNews rank by at least 4 spots. Very impressed by the performance of these 3.

  • John Q

    Errrr…MIT Sloan is M7 and hardly “regional”. MIT is incredibly well known internationally…no disrespect but its international rep exceeds any of the school you’ve listed, with the possible exception of H/S.

  • John Q

    It’s funny how obvious bias are in commentary. The “solid” Kellogg 4th place is glaring.

  • avivalasvegas

    Really? Would you place them as 5th then? I’d agree with that. But they’re a top 5 school no matter how you spin it..which is something you just can’t say about Duke/ Darden et all

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