You don’t often think of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management as a producer of big time money managers or bulge bracket bankers. But this year a thirty-something male professional in the Class of 2013 landed a $375,000-a-year starting salary for an investment management gig. The eye-popping salary was more than three times the $110,000 median for other classmates going into the same industry.
Even more surprising, though, is the fact that the big pay day in finance came at Kellogg where only 3% of this year’s graduates went into Investment management and just 19% of the entire class went into financial jobs at all. Whoever brought home the bacon at Kellogg outdid every other prominent business school’s reported high in base salary for the year: the $350,000 at Wharton, $310,000 at Columbia, $250,000 at Chicago Booth, the $237,000 at NYU Stern, $225,000 at Stanford, and $177,500 at Harvard Business School (though HBS only reported the 75th percentile number).
In fact, Kellogg had at least a half dozen bust-the-bank pay deals for its MBAs this year. Besides the $375K investment management job, presumably at a hedge fund, there was a $350,000 base salary hire by a private equity firm, a $225,000 base salary for an MBA who went into the energy industry, and a $206,000 base for an MBA who took a job in “transportation services.” Kellogg grads who went into venture capital and consulting also landed awfully rich pay packages with base salaries of $175,000 each. None of those sums include sign-on bonuses or other guaranteed compensation which would further enlarge all those high numbers.
ONLY TWO OTHER SCHOOLS HAVE HIGHER MEDIAN BASE PAY NUMBERS THIS YEAR
All in all, it made for one of the best placement and pay years in recent memory for Kellogg, which released its 2013 employment report on Friday (Dec. 6). Overall, the school’s grads nailed down median base salaries of $120,000—equal to those at Harvard, MIT Sloan, and UC-Berkeley and $5,000 ahead of local rival Chicago Booth. Only two other business schools in the U.S. reported a higher median: Stanford and Wharton, both at $125,000. Kellogg said the median sign-on bonus for the Class of 2013 was $25,000, ranging from a low of $2,000 in technology to $60,000 in investment banking. The school said that 84% of its graduates had job offers at graduation and 94.7% had offers three months later.
Of course, the $375K winner had six to nine years of work experience, presumably in the investment field (schools do not identify graduates in their employment report but a careful reading of the reports allow one to often glean a sparse details about the MBAs who land the highest pay packages). He also went to work in New York City, though the $350K MBA headed to Boston for his job in private equity.
“There is a mystery about those super winners,” says Sandy Kreisberg, a leading MBA admissions consultant and founder of HBSGuru.com. “My guess is they are one-off kids who got that money because they could bring in family business or knew the Snapchat kids.”
THE HIGHEST MEDIAN SALARIES AT KELLOGG WENT TO GRADS IN LAW AND LEGAL SERVICES
Kellogg’s numbers also go to show, however, that pre-MBA experience may well trump business school choice in the landing of a highly lucrative job at graduation. The conventional advice that is given to applicants to go to the best school they can get into, with strong consideration to their desired career path and preferred job location, may not always hold true. Simply getting an MBA from one of the very top schools–regardless of its specific core strengths–may well give a professional the sought-after career boost.
“Most top schools can do more than one thing well,” says Betsy Massar, an HBS grad and founder of Master Admissions, an MBA admissions firm. “Never assume that only one school can help you meet your goals. I think it is great that Kellogg is finally making headlines for something other than marketing. In fact, because of my own finance background, I have had the chance to work with some great Kellogg MBA candidates who come from the investment world and want to stay there. And they felt the right fit at Kellogg. Conversely, I have worked with some cool Wharton types who had no interest in finance, but had a great experience at that school.”
Besides, finance is often one of the most heavily invested core disciplines at every business school-regardless of its rank or standing–and Kellogg’s finance group is often an underrated part of the school. As Elizabeth Ziegler, associate dean of the school’s MBA programs, explains: “We have an amazing, highly regarded finance department that works with our students in understanding the fundamentals but also in delivering a set of very specific advanced courses, including an Asset Management Practicum, for those that are passionate about pursuing a finance career path. Our Career Management Center has excellent relationships with the leading financial institutions – across the sector – to support these students. I am very proud and not surprised to hear how well our Kellogg graduates are doing in the field of finance.”
(See following page for average, median, low & high salaries by industry at Kellogg)