Where Top MBAs Work In Private Equity

Private EquityYear after year, the highest compensation packages dangled in front of the best MBA graduates come from either private equity firms or hedge funds. These MBA jobs are few and far between, and the people who get them are more often than not the most accomplished graduates of their classes.

This past year, business school employment reports were filled with freshly minted grads making a mint by working in private equity. A graduating MBA student in Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business this year nailed down a private equity job in the north east with a total compensation package north of half a million dollars. And this past year, the highest paid MBA at Columbia Business School landed a $310,000 base salary at a private equity firm, while a PE firm also paid the highest bonus to a Columbia graduate: a hefty $300,000.

As tantalizing as some business school employment reports are, however, they only give you a small glimpse of this world. Often times, schools report the percentage of grads who enter the PE field with other categories, such as venture capital. They sometimes do the same with hedge funds, which are often lumped into the category of “investment management.”

Wharton, for example, reported that 10.6% of its Class of 2013 went into a category it calls “private equity/buyouts/other.” What you need to know is that the median base salary for those MBAs was a whopping $150,000, a full $25,000 more than the median for the entire graduating class. Of the 37.9% of Columbia’s Class of 2013 that ventured into finance, only 3.2% of the class was lucky enough to land a PE job. At Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, just 2% of last year’s grads went into private equity, where the median starting salary also was $150,000, higher than any other financial category.


That’s one of the reasons we analyzed the member profiles on LinkedIn to come up with a list of MBAs from the top 10 U.S. business schools who are employed by nine of the world’s leading private equity players. They include such giants as TPG Capital, Carlyle Group, The Blackstone Group, KKR, Warburg Pincus, and Bain Capital.

The results of our analysis won’t surprise anyone who wants into this lucrative field and understands the high hurdle rate to get an offer from these top private equity firms. Harvard Business School has the most MBAs employed at the nine PE shops we studied, with 269 grads, including some pretty heavy honchos.  At Blackstone, for example, co-founder Stephen Schwarzman, chairman and chief executive, earned his from HBS as well as his key lieutenant, Hamilton “Tony” James, who serves as president of the firm. Wharton comes next with 242 grads in place, while Columbia Business School is third with 133 MBAs.

That doesn’t mean you would be locked out of PE if you went elsewhere, but the path from these three schools in particular is well worn when your destination is one of the largest private equity players in the business. Indeed, when it comes to PE, many of the world-class schools hardly play in the field. A good example is the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, renown for its finance faculty. Yet, in this small cul-de-sac of the financial world, Booth has just a dozen MBAs at these nine highly prominent PE shops. The upshot: Wharton has 27 times the number of MBAs at these top nine firms than Booth, at least according to LinkedIn member profiles. Still, Booth can boast that Carlyle co-founder William Conway is a proud alum of the school.


Though hardly definitive, searches of LinkedIn’s database provide a fascinating and fairly accurate glimpse at what you could call the “market penetration” of a school’s MBAs in any one firm. Sure, not everyone has a profile on LinkedIn, though people who fail to list with the world’s number one professional network are certainly in the minority at this point. It’s also possible that LinkedIn’s search algorithm could be slightly askew and count undergraduate business majors from schools such as the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School which boasts a large undergrad program. In any case, we think the results are worth a look–and we think you’ll find them quite compelling.

For the purposes of this analysis, we substituted New York University’s Stern School for UC-Berkeley Haas, which is ranked tenth by Poets&Quants. Haas had 18 MBAs in the nine leading PR firms, including seven at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. But compared to New York University’s Stern School, which is ranked 15th by Poets&Quants, that’s a drop in the PE bucket. Based on LinkedIn data, there are 45 Stern grads at The Blackstone Group alone. The takeaway: When you’re focused on a specific industry and/or company, rankings matter less than MBA placements.

  • diablo2man

    All AM firms except AQR and most HF you mentioned above also recruit in CBS. AQR only hire Booth PhD instead of MBA.

    Also this year no Booth students gets PIMCO internship after interview (from my source so maybe inaccurate) but a couple CBS students get PIMCO internship.

    16% of CBS alumni work in investment management industry so I’d really really surprise that “Among the professionals at top buyside firms, Booth is far more respected than Columbia.”

  • diablo2man

    you are hurting your credential here.

    1. Wellington definitely recruits in CBS. It only hires two interns for this year with return offer and one is CBS student (not sure if the other is Booth or other school)

    2. AQR doesn’t recruit Booth MBA. It only recruit Booth PhD student (or MBA with PhD level academic background)

    3. Not sure about Citadel.

    AQR/Citadel or big name quant shops are not typical MBA recruiters. Most MBA want to go to fundamental L/S hedge fund or asset management. Most those funds are not in midwest but in northeast. I’d be very surprised if you know any big fundamental buyside players in northeast only hire Booth MBA but not CBS MBA. They are pretty much equal from this perspective.

    However, CBS leads Booth a thousand years in terms of small/medium HF/Asset management recruiting mainly due to its value investing program and NYC location (you need to network into those firm). Although it has rigid analytical finance course, Booth (or another other top schools) doesn’t have any deep fundamental investing courses. If you are from a non-finance/buyside background and want to do secondary market investing, I don’t see any reasons you would choose Booth or even Wharton over CBS (only H/S have big enough prestige factor that outweigh the value investing network/course of CBS)

  • Mike

    I think this analysis could be very misleading – I sanity checked a couple firms through LInkedIn’s advanced search and it appears Wharton’s undergrads are counted with the MBAs. Someone correct me if I’m missing the methodology but just checking using LInkedIn’s search, I’m able to recreate the analysis above with at least some directional accuracy (e.g., TPG – 11 HBS, 12 Wharton, 8 Stanford, KKR – 17 HBS, 23 Wharton, 7 Stanford; BainCap – 46 HBS, 27 Wharton, 12 Stanford). In checking the full member profiles: TPG – only 3 of the 12 Wharton folks did the MBA program (most of the rest had were there for undergrad), with KKR only 6 Wharton MBAs, and with BainCap only 10.

    If this is the case, I imagine this and similar analyses using LinkedIn would grossly overstate the grads from Wharton / Ross / other schools whose MBA program shares the name of the undergrad degree.

  • Ferdenand


  • Rob

    the only thing i can conclude from all these comments is that there are either some really insecure or really dumb people at these elite bschools.

  • corpfin

    I chose stern over booth, very happy with the decision

  • DJW

    yes this is tough. I graduated in 2001 with the Top MBA and still haven’t found a job! I have four graduate degrees and 20 certifications and no job….I don’t know how they get these jobs!

  • Bob Marley

    I’ll even take the time to argue your points one by one:
    1. A great deal of people care about professors, especially if those professors are conducting cutting-edge research, which is the case at Chicago.
    2. Endowment may be equal when looking at the whole number but not when you compare them on a per student basis, in which case Booth’s endowment per student is almost twice that of Wharton’s!
    3. ROI should mean EVERYTHING as an MBA is a big investment.
    In general, the University of Chicago is a finer institution than Penn, and Wharton is fine as a vocational-cant-get-more-students-to-apply-on-a-YoY-basis-because-it’s-filled-with-undergrads Top 5 school. Current and recent MBA students at Wharton need to stop pretending they got into anything more than that.

  • Renault

    1. Nobody cares about professors,

    2. Endowment is equal between the two schools if I remember correctly, and

    3. ROI means nothing when considering top-tier schools, since so many enter business school making well over $100k/year.

    Booth is fine as a better-than-Columbia-but-not-HSW M7 school. People need to stop pretending it’s more than that, though.

  • Jim

    In my experience, most kids who graduated from wharton are also dbags who say things like “elite finance jobs” so I guess this chart uh makes sense.

  • SanityCheck

    This. Also, you’re doing a broad LinkedIn company search, which means the results above aren’t filtering solely for the large-cap PE employees (lots of the megafunds are pretty diversified today with credit/real estate/VC/public equity/etc funds or even some sell-side stuff in the case of Blackstone) or even for front office employees generally. If someone in HR happened to get an MBA you’re picking it up.

    Honestly, using Linkedin for something like this just seems lazy, since the big funds do pretty much all have info for all post-MBA investment professionals online. You’d definitely get to a better answer just going through that…

  • seamlessftw

    Fascinating. Thanks for the great analysis. The ratio of HBS/GSB vs Wharton MBAs seems to be very correlated with firm culture.

  • Mark

    The table talks about MBAs and not undergrad. I do not see Booth on the table unfortunately. Too bad….

  • Rufus

    Amen. Booth’s rise is no hype; it’s backed up by actual empirical results and facts. Columbia has been in steady decline for quite some time. Booth beats Columbia easily in cross-admits.

  • Paul84

    powerful statement

  • PimpHerder

    I definitely don’t hold it against Wharton or any school for that matter. When a business school has high PE placement, it simply means the school accepted a lot of students who were already in private equity. Some applicants, not knowing this, delude themselves, thinking certain b-schools will allow them to break into PE when it’s simply not the case.

    If you weren’t in private equity before the MBA, you probably won’t be in private equity after the MBA, even if you go to Wharton.

  • Bob Marley

    What’s the hype? That Chicago has one of the best groups, if not the best, of professors of any business school; that its endowment is now $300M greater than before, affording better career services and other important resources for students; or that the ROI for students is second behind only Stanford’s?
    Don’t get me wrong, Wharton is a great school … just loosing some steam relative to the competition.

  • Rufus

    Bill, feel free to keep saying that, but I mentioned specific firms while you are just spouting vague statements.

  • Rufus

    NYU Stern is even more overrated than Columbia. The MBA program has virtually no presence on the buyside and gets its lunch eaten by Booth (and of course no one takes Stern over Booth, even if offered a full-scholarship). The vast majority of Stern buysiders did undergrad there and then went onto top banking gigs afterwards.

  • Bill

    Agreed – but if we accept the premise that a) people in PE pre-MBA are very strong candidates and will likely have successful and lucrative careers in the future, and b) a lot of the value in an MBA program is your fellow students and also the long-term network, then I don’t see how you can hold this against Wharton. It admits more highly qualified applicants, who then go on to enrich the school’s network.

  • Bill

    It’s not my fault that this site has for the past year or so essentially been an outsourced marketing department for Booth. Someone has to argue the other side, lest impressionable applicants be fooled by the hype.

  • Bill

    10.6% of Wharton graduates in 2013 went into PE. About another 2% went into VC. About 4.4% went into HF and another 5-6% went into investment management. So it’s far from 2%. This is a significant percentage of the students that are getting top jobs on the buyside. This is a serious advantage Wharton has in that its network is full of these people.

  • Bill

    My comment related to your claim of Booth as an equal to Wharton. Although, I also don’t accept that it is better than Columbia for investment management either.

  • ramses

    Agree NYU Stern is taking the lead by far

  • WiseMAN

    FYI, failure stories do not show up on the web! but you can easily see it through the huge number of MBA graduates the top schools pump out every year..Humans love hearing sweet stories..but wise people realize the truth..always remember this..success is exceptional..do not build your career plans on exceptional events..

  • PimpHerder

    This article is misleading, as are most articles regarding B-schools and PE.

    The truth is, most MBA grads with PE offers BEGAN B-school working at PE firms. An MBA from a top 3 school simply bolsters their credentials.

  • Bob Marley

    This unscientific (albeit probably indicative) survey using incomplete LinkedIn data is not an actual ranking. The reality is that Wharton is not ranked first ANYWHERE, but it should … if someone ever comes out with a global ranking of the most insecure alumni and students. Wharton used to be at the bottom of this ‘ranking’; not any more, which is a tell-tale sign of something deep and structurally wrong.

  • bwanamia

    You’re counting Wharton undergrads as Wharton MBAs. It’s possible you’re counting graduates of Harvard College and Harvard Law School as Harvard MBAs, but your numbers for Harvard look approximately correct to me, but it might not be entirely incorrect to put graduates of all Wharton or Penn programs up against graduates of all Harvard programs.

    Most of this information for current employees is on the websites of the PE firms. Why don’t you check there?

  • Takeitandrun

    PE make up about 2% of all job placements in b-school. Funny how Wharton claims to be the better school because of this small stat that 98% of MBAs don’t care about.

  • Rufus

    More reality check here. There are multiple buyside firms that recruit at Booth but NOT Columbia. AQR, Wellington, and Citadel come to mind.

  • kkralum

    Not so insightful. PE requires personal network more than anything else.
    Whether you are at HBS or Tuck won’t help, having personal connections is key.
    So what this table tells us is that there are more well connected people who manage to go to HBS and Wharton than other schools. Something everybody knows.

  • Rufus

    Are you a troll? ALL the major investment management firms such as PIMCO, Fidelity, T Rowe Price, Wellington, Capital Group, State Street, AQR, etc., recruit actively at Booth. This past year, 9 booth students got full-time offers from PIMCO, which is more than Columbia. I’m also not including hedge funds such as Citadel, Appaloosa, QVT, Carlson, etc. that recruit at Booth. Among the professionals at top buyside firms, Booth is far more respected than Columbia.

  • Bill

    Incorrect. For hedge funds and investment management generally in anywhere but Chicago, Columbia is better. Try again.

  • Bill

    Sorry, but that is patently false. Please provide the statistics to back up your investment management (particularly hedge fund) claim. Booth is not close in any facet or buyside recruiting or network, with the exception of the relatively small market of Chicago.

    Booth is and will remain a marginal top 5 player.

  • Rufus

    The Ivy League brand is so overrated. Columbia is an old tired b-school on the decline. It is a one-trick pony that is only good at NYC finance jobs. With the sector and city in secular decline, Columbia’s apps are plummeting while Booth’s is rising. NO one thinks Columbia is a better b-school than Booth.

  • Rufus

    I admit that Booth does poorly in private equity. However, it is stronger than Columbia in trading and investment management and equal to Wharton.

    Booth’s rise is no accident. David Booth’s $300 million donation was a game changer that has allowed the school to revamp career services, expand programs in tech, marketing, and entrepreneurship, and attract top notch students with generous merit scholarships. It has already tied Wharton and in 5 years or so, it will be the 3rd best b-school in the world, behind only HBS and Stanford.

  • RealityChecker

    You are partly correct in your analysis. But by looking at Booth placement…it would have to surpass both Stanford, NYU Stern and CBS before the school can even get close to Wharton. So maybe in 100 years that might be different if trends continue. But by then none of us would be around to even witness or even care about it.

  • Anon

    “Wharton has 27 times the number of MBAs at these top nine firms than Booth”

    Someone didn’t study hard enough for their GMAT.

  • BB

    Also Wharton, HBS, and Stanford have enjoyed the economic growth of the coasts while a lot of Booth grads stay in Chicago for a number of reasons. And unfortunately the Chicagoland area has not enjoyed the economic growth that say NYC has enjoyed. Since a number of Wharton grads go to NYC, then their “boats” have risen as the overall NYC “tide” has grown. Bloomberg did a great job with NYC and Wharton grads have reaped the benefits since they have more grads there then Chicago. Booth has a number of grads in NYC too but again a majority of them stay in Chicago.

  • Boothinator.

    Booth has a lot of placement in middle-market PE firms and probably very few in VCs. Our faculty is pretty well known in PE but for some reason our grads don’t place that well in the larger PE firms. Wharton has us on that, I agree. Although I don’t know if that means Booth is not as good as Wharton.

    Although a little history about Booth. For the longest time they kept to themselves and decided merit through research alone was sufficient for acclaim (similar to how UChicago thought as a whole). So anyone in academic or economic circles knew about Booth, or Chicago GSB, as it was known, but not the general public as compared to say Wharton. They didn’t really care if the general public knew about them because that is not what they aimed for. They also knew that applicants were self-selecting, which is part of the reason why their admissions rates were and are so high. That changed recently and now Booth is putting in more of an effort to be known by the general public. If you compare Wharton to Booth, historically Wharton has produced some very wealthy alum, but Booth’s program as a whole has been “quietly” better overall and produced more notable alum and professors who do more than just accumulate money. Booth’s dean Schultz was former Secretary of State. Austan Goolsbee was the head of the CEA, Axel Weber, former head of the German central bank was an adjunct for a while. Randy Kroszner, a former Fed Governor is a professor. Alum include Pete Peterson, founder of Blackstone, who also was Secretary of Commerce, William Conway Jr, cofounder Carlyle, Joseph Mansueto founder of Morningstar. A Booth alum is going to go work to oversee the healthcare marketplace. I am not sure why the big PE firms do not pick up more Booth grads, maybe because Booth is home to efficient markets and PE is inefficient so grads are turned off by that (or they don’t understand how to work that angle). Or because Wharton or HBS grads are good fits for PE because currently HBS grads and probably Wharton grads to a lesser extent go onto become CEOs, especially Harvard. PE firms need that network/connection to CEOs to survive. Booth alum tend to lead smaller businesses or private businesses that aren’t in the radar of the big PE firms. That is changing as well but that is what it was in the past. Wharton is still ahead in the prestige factor for now but in 10 years that might be different if the trends continue.

  • newyork29

    CBS class size is smaller than HBS and wharton ( 20% smaller) ,.. so actually CBS does really well
    Ivies still rule !

  • tom

    I think people need to take all these tables as what they are. Indicators of a final result that tell us very little about the process behind them. For example, these tables don’t tell us how many people want to get into PE from all these school. And with regards to Booth Vs Wharton as Bschools, finance isn’t the be all end all of the bschool process.

    PS. I’m a former Sloanie, so I have no dog in the booth v wharton fight.

  • Bill

    This is the most damning indictment of Chicago Booth (compared to Wharton) I have seen from this site. Wharton absolutely dominates them in elite finance jobs, despite Booth also being known as a finance school. Hopefully this will help to cool some of the ridiculous Booth hype.