Highest & Lowest Paid MBAs of 2014

moneytreeWhat’s the upper limit on MBA pay, the biggest number an MBA from a top business school could command in today’s marketplace?

The high end for base salary alone can be nearly three times the median at some schools, according to a new analysis of employment reports from the top business schools. But if you take into account sign-on bonuses and other year-end guaranteed compensation, the highest total compensation packages can easily reach half a million dollars.

For the Class of 2014, the highest pay appears to have gone to a Wharton MBA who received $350,000 in “other guaranteed compensation”–a number that exceeded every reported base salary for the year. If the graduate also bagged the median salary and signing bonus for the class, the MBA would have signed up for first-year total pay of $500,000. In all probability, the big prize went to one of five Wharton MBAs who gained jobs in the hedge fund field where the median–yes median–other guaranteed compensation was $150,000 in 2014, greater than the median base salary for the entire class of $125,000.

MBAS AT THREE SCHOOLS–STANFORD, HARVARD & WHARTON–HAD GRADS LANDING $300K SALARIES

The highest reported base salaries for 2014, meantime, were $300,000. At least two graduating MBAs from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business landed $300K starting paychecks, one in private equity and venture capital and the other in investment banking in Asia. At least one Wharton MBA also reported a $300K base, while at least a pair of Harvard Business School grads landed salaries in private equity and venture capital at the $300,000 mark. At Stanford, there were plenty of other big pay days for Stanford this past year: A pair of MBAs each landed $240,000 in “other compensation” in hedge fund and media/entertainment jobs, while yet another Stanford grad expected to pocket $200,000 in other year-end comp in investment management.

And the lowest salaries? Graduating MBAs at three prominent business schools–Columbia, Michigan, and Carnegie Mellon–all reported students accepting jobs for just $24,000 a year to start. Two of them were predictably in the non-profit arena, while a third was in consulting, probably in either India or Africa where the currency translation into U.S. dollars makes the compensation seem puny by comparison. Indeed, the lowest reported salary of all was $23,000 for a financial services job in an emerging economy in Asia for an MBA from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. More often than not, the lowest salaries were paid to MBAs who went into the social sector or government work. But in some cases the lowest sums were reported by grads who went into retail, media and entertainment, healthcare and technology.

The highs and lows, of course, are all extremes. Typically, MBAs who nail down the biggest pay packages of their class have highly desired skills, proven work experience, and successful pre-MBA track records that make a company pay up big time. “On the high salaries, it’s usually a very unique and specific match between a company’s needs and a student’s relevant skills and experiences,” says Sheryle Dirks, associate dean for career management at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

BRINGING A ‘LOT TO THE TABLE ON YOUR START DATE’

A good example occurred at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management last year. One MBA grad had worked for Starwood Hotels & Resorts where she helped to build a successful customer reward program. The graduate was able to take that experience, along with her newly minted MBA, to a well-known fashion brand where she will build a similar program. “She has leverage and they don’t have the skills or experience to do what she can do,” says Mark Gasche, managing director of Kellogg’s Career Management Center. “She can bring a lot more to the table on her start date. That’s the kind of person who would get high pay. They bring a deeper, often specialized background to leverage in a negotiation.” Her job offer fell outside the reporting three-month-post-graduation reporting period so her compensation wasn’t included in Kellogg’s overall numbers.

It’s no accident that one of the two highest paid MBAs at MIT Sloan last year, both landing $180,000-a-year salaries, had more than five years of work experience. The other had three to five years of work history. “Students who command high salaries can show deep functional experience,” says Regina Resnick, associate dean and managing director of Columbia Business School’s Career Management Center. “You might already be a proven and successor investor, gone through our value investing program, and then be attractive to a hedge fund. Whatever the case, MBAs are well compensated and they are incredibly privileged. The degree really pays off.”

At Columbia last year, the top end was achieved by someone who didn’t even enter finance, the industry that typically pays the highest first-year compensation and a strength at Columbia. something of a shock. The highest reported base salary–$275,000–was scored by an MBA who took a business development job at a manufacturing company.

Many schools conceal the highest total compensation packages to protect the privacy of their graduates and to prevent applicants from having unrealistic expectations of what they can expect out of the MBA degree. So in virtually all cases, the numbers provided here are conservative. It is not known, therefore, if the MBA at Columbia Business School who landed a $275,000 starting salary also received a sign-on bonus as well as other year-end compensation. For that matter, it also does not include reimbursement of tuition, relocation offsets, carry, or non-guaranteed performance bonuses or the value of stock options.

WHO GETS THE BENNIES DEPENDS ON WHICH INDUSTRY EMPLOYS YOU

Generally, only a minority of students receive these other benefits. Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School said, for example, that slightly over 22% of its graduates last year were given stock options. Wharton revealed that half of its MBAs received relocation money in 2014, but only 5% accepted jobs with reimbursed tuition. Sign-on bonuses obviously are more common than “other guaranteed compensation.” At Wharton, 65% pulled down signing bonuses, but only 15% got a back-end compensation deal. It generally depends on the industry in which an MBA accepts a job.

If the big winner at Columbia merely received the median in “other compensation,” as 75% of the students in the MBA’s industry category did, it would have pushed the graduate’s starting comp package up by $50,000 to $325,000, though the highest “other compensation” in that job category pulled down an extra $150,000, three times the median.

Columbia, by the way, had at least have a dozen graduates last year with starting base salaries of $200,000 or more, including a $270,000 base for an MBA who went into investment management, a $200,000 base for a graduate who entered the private equity field, and another $200,000 base for an MBA who landed a position in the entertainment industry. All those numbers are a far cry from the lowest reported salary—just $24,000 for a person who accepted a job in the education, government or non-profit sector.

(See following page for our table of the highest paid MBAs of 2014)

  • Racki Itwasthecat Jennings

    Whenever I wonder if I’m happy enough in life, I just read the thread on a random P&Q article. So many people doing so well in life financially and yet they still have to pull out….a measuring stick. #sad. #MBSGA

  • Follow path of thousands who are earning cash each month by freelancing online… Ge@ t informed more on my page———>disqus page

  • MBA2015

    John,
    You missed the $210,500 from Carlson.

  • MBA2015

    You missed the $210,500 from Carlson School of Management (Minnesota)

  • JohnAByrne

    I don’t believe so. And as you know, many schools decline to report total comp.

  • El Greco

    Are rent and perdiems (fixed living allowences) , when paid by the hiring company, included in the total comp package?

  • remond

    It’s a major setback for IMD MBA despite that the program targets different kind of students.

  • redundantmuch?

    2cents, you seem to repeat a lot of the same stuff in your posts.

    No matter how you slice it, either the undergrad or the MBA alumni taken separately are extremely impressive – much more so than the alumni of any other business school. Also, the research and historical contributions of faculty is what makes Wharton so impressive and central to the history of business education.

  • 2cents

    This is correct to an extent, but it is somewhat disingenuous still to intertwine the success of the bachelors degree with the masters degree. Certainly no one would argue about the strength of Darden based on the commerce program at UVA. And while the Wharton brand is closer nit and significantly older than UVA’s, aligning the two as a single entity is misleading to applicants (and fairly obvious in the professional realm post MBA).

    The MBA evolved somewhat simultaneously at Wharton, HBS, Tuck and a handful of other programs and built on itself, as it still does today. As for the brand – it’s the unique prowess the school once had is misleading in today’s finance realm, which is why the school is trying hard to demonstrate its success in other fields.

  • bwanamia

    Care to clarify?

  • FishNChipsNBeer

    being from the UK (currently a student at LSE), this is right – ihatehistory I assume you are not American?
    Just as most Americans have never heard of LLB’s, most people in England don’t know what a JD is – we just assume it’s for people who didn’t want to study law at first, but changed their mind later on. Same with business – LSE is one of the top schools for economics and finance, but all at undergrad level. The MBA wave is pretty new and LBS is leading the charge here

  • ihatehistory

    MBA degrees didn’t “come into vogue” until half a century later after its introduction. Most schools had MBA programs by then.
    Even today, most business education outside the US is taught at the bachelor’s level. Bachelor of Commerce, BBA, etc.

    Similar to law degrees. In the UK, there is still no Juris Doctor. It’s merely LLB – Bachelor of Laws. So if you study at Oxbridge, you will be a lawyer with a bachelor’s degree in law. This is why MBA is still not that widespread around the world, and why some of the world’s oldest institutions are just getting around to establishing “business schools.”

  • ihatehistory

    Also, when HBS first started MBA – it was meant to be a public administration focused degree. It wasn’t taken seriously until the other schools actually developed the curriculum.

    In fact, HBS was extremely late to the business school innovation in general, and was based off the humanities department at first. This was all decades after Wharton had firmly established itself as the “Wharton School of Finance and Economy” and awarded the first University level degrees in a business field – “Bachelor of Finance”

  • ihatehistory

    MBA degrees didn’t “come into vogue” until half a century later after its introduction. Most schools had MBA programs by then.
    Even today, most business education outside the US is taught at the bachelor’s level. Bachelor of Commerce, BBA, etc.

    Similar to law degrees. In the UK, there is still no Juris Doctor. It’s merely LLB – Bachelor of Laws. So if you study at Oxbridge, you will be a lawyer with a bachelor’s degree in law.

  • bwanamia

    Wrong. HBS churned out an enormous number of MBA grads before the degree came into vogue. Even those words “master of business administration” were an HBS innovation. It’s surprising that HBS never sought a copyright. Wharton’s flagship was their undergrad degree until they saw an opportunity to participate in the expanding MBA market.

  • ihatehistory

    The only reason there’s so many famous Wharton alumni is because there was no dispute as to its premier position in the B-School space until just a couple of decades ago. No other school was really considered to be at the same level.

    There are now many more extremely well-developed institutions in this space, making it more saturated. It’ll be much harder for any one school to have such a monopolistic position in the future.

  • MBA_watch

    john, what you think of possible impact on the IMD MBA program after today’s change in the swiss franc value? with the new evaluation, the one year MBA of IMD costs nearly as many of the two year MBA programs in US. Do you think this change in franc will ad difficulties to the already troubling program of IMD? best regards,

  • 2cents

    I can’t take my own advice and ignore it… damn. You’re counting non-MBAs to a liberal degree. not that there isn’t crossover, but HBS would love to claim the HLS CEOs for their lists too. As would GSB for the undergraduate engineering… the list goes on.

    There is still an impressive list for sure even from the MBA side, but many of these at the CEO level were inherited or catered towards a more executive MBA type. I don’t know enough about the UCLA/USC realm to make an educated comment, but the backyard free-riding sure made Haas relevant over the last five years.

  • avivalasvegas

    Thanks Stanfordian, but after reading all this sheer Wharton awesomeness, I’m going to go and tear up my other top tier MBA degree and apply for another MBA at Wharton. I mean if a Wharton MBA can help me write Forest Gump….shoot…I could be famous…even with my single digit IQ

  • Stanfordian

    Yes, he posted without thinking – but such a remark on someone’s IQ is uncalled for.

  • Stanfordian

    Only because it’s the medium through which the majority of the world’s goods/services are exchanged. But like anything else, there is diminishing marginal utility.
    After a certain point, making more money loses any discernible impact on the quality of life. Moreover, the pursuit of money can detract from other enjoyable experiences that life has to offer.

  • Stanfordian

    The 9.5k figure is, in all likelihood, associated with either a part-time or non-profit role. I understand you’re likely joking, but people work hard to get into any business school. Darden at UVA is known for its high quality staff and teaching, even if it may lack the luster of some of the top tier schools.
    They’ve done nothing to offend you, and a bit of common courtesy would go a long way in this day and age.

  • Stanfordian

    Aviva stop, you are actually helping their case

  • URaTOOL

    simply ignore what he says – aviva clearly has a 2 digit IQ (and probably thinks this is a high index threshold)

  • URaTOOL

    lol, aviva you’re not accomplishing anything here

  • YoureFULLofIT

    Wharton alumni founded Comcast (world’s largest media company) – both co-founders were Wharton alumni
    Wharton alumni founded CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System)
    Whartonites own US News & World Report, New York Daily News, formerly The Atlantic, Fast Company
    Whartonite founded QS, including the QS World University Rankings

    Other companies founded by Whartonites: TV Guide, Triangle Publications, Philadelphia Inquirer, MLB Media, the largest radio network in Mexico/Brazil/Spain/Portugal, The Princeton Review, Di Bonaventura Pictures (largest movie producer after Spielberg), Vox Media, Grupo Abril/Veja (largest Brazilian media conglomerate), and many more.

    CEO/Presidents of media companies: Time, BBC, National Public Radio (NPR), Univision Networks, President of 20th Century Fox, President of Worldwide Production at Warner Bros, Fairfax Media (largest media holding company in the Asia Pacific), Central European Media Enterprises, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, GMA Network, Fairchild Publications, National Review, Washington Post, etc.

    Whartonite media personalities include Dr. Oz (Dr. Oz Show, Oprah Winfrey Show, 6 emmies), Karen Finerman, Kate Bohner, Donny Deutsch and other correspondents/hosts.

    Whartonites wrote/directed a number of movies worth noting, including Forrest Gump which won an Oscar.

    There are many more – all readily available information on Wharton alumni.

  • justignore

    Just ignore everything aviva says – it’s obvious he’s lying. Lol he did his research. hahaha

  • YoureFULLofIT

    nice rebuttal.

  • YoureFULLofIT

    Uhhhh… more facts? empirical evidence? You’re embarrassing yourself.

    Wharton alumni founded Comcast (world’s largest media company) – both co-founders were Wharton alumni
    Wharton alumni founded CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System)
    Whartonites own US News & World Report, New York Daily News, formerly The Atlantic, Fast Company
    Whartonite founded QS, including the QS World Uni Rankings

    Other companies founded by Whartonites: TV Guide, Triangle Publications, Philadelphia Inquirer, MLB Media, the largest radio network in Mexico/Brazil/Spain/Portugal, The Princeton Review.

    CEO/Presidents of media companies: BBC, Univision Networks, President of 20th Century Fox, President of Worldwide Production at Warner Bros, Fairfax Media (largest media holding company in the Asia Pacific), Central European Media Enterprises, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, etc.

    There are also many more – all readily available information on Wharton alumni.

    Your empty claims regarding H/S/UCLA/USC are hilarious.
    You have no credibility. Period.

  • avivalasvegas

    I have done my research – you’re wrong. If there was a B school that dominates Media, its Harvard followed by Stanford (given the West Coast edge). Heck, even the LA schools (UCLA and USC) do a better job in Media than Wharton, Booth and Kellogg.

  • avivalasvegas

    Totally man! Wharton all the way!!! Woohoo!! yeah Crush it Wharton!

  • Media Mogul

    Wharton alumni dominate the media industry. Do your own research on this and render your own conclusion.

    You will see.

  • not just finance

    also, Wharton Entrepreneurship is the first and largest research center devoted to entrepreneurship – it was the first fully integrated entrepreneurship curriculum both at Undergrad and MBA levels

  • not just finance

    Wasn’t Wharton central to the development of marketing?
    Wroe Alderson? he basically wrote the textbook on marketing.
    Paul Green – conjoint analysis in marketing – this provided the “backbone” to marketing

    also Wharton was the first to have MBA in healthcare management and policy

  • no way i hate the bridge

    <—— THIS

    is a non-M7 troll

  • go back under your bridge

    <——THIS

    is a wharton troll

  • avivalasvegas

    All this Wharton love is making me love Wharton too. And I didnt even get my top tier MBA from Wharton. Woohoo! Go Wharton! Who needs other professions like Strategy, Marketing, Healthcare, Education, Media and Consulting? We can solve all the world’s problems with Finance…but not Booth Finance…Wharton Finance! Yeah!! Crush it!

  • JohnAByrne

    Actually, Georgetown is on the list. Several schools were latter entries because they did not publish highs and lows and had to be contacted for that information.

  • PacMan

    Interesting to see that Georgetown is not on this list at all. McDough talks about its grads’ excellent employment stats but falls short with its peers. How complete are the figures with regard to completion rates of responders?

  • teachingMGMT?

    everything else comes from industry experience, including the soft skills and other factors —– not from sitting in a class

  • fefee

    Wow as someone who has attended business school you learned nothing if you think that. Numbers only tell part of the story you let people run a company purely by numbers and you will loose everything quickly

  • treesRUs

    leave Stanford out of the crosshairs. We’re not arguing with anyone. We just want to enjoy our experience and graduate with a good education.

  • Lazard1MM

    <— 100% right.
    Wharton has the best legitimate claim to being THE PREMIER #1 global business school.
    HBS' history is non-existent and its management focus is a joke.
    Stanford is a tiny blip on the radar with its tiny alumni network and no research.

    "Chicago Booth"? what is this… I've never heard of it.

  • this is right

    that’s why medical schools, for example have 2 rankings —- research rankings, and primary care/teaching rankings. People only care about the research rankings, while the primary care/teaching rankings are full of “non-prestigious” schools at the top.

  • ikillufoo

    Finance is like the ring in LOTR. Whoever controls the finance title controls them all.
    And Wharton controls that ring.
    Case in point. Don’t mess around with Wharton.

    Or i kill u foo.

  • Devils0508

    Can you please fix or atleast explain the Kellogg other bonus figures. It’s not zero, they just don’t report it (if you email them I’m sure they’ll provide you the data too). Right now it misleads readers into thinking Kellogg students are paid less.

  • Stanfordian

    Stanford cares more about teaching than research thats all

  • Lazard1MM

    in many circles research is what determines prestige, esp at the international level and within academic communities

  • don’t lie

    dude no they don’t. And anyways, Wharton is #1 in people who care about other things, so just stop.

  • I’m convinced

    na, not possible. This guy makes some great points about numbers, history, and the business practices of the central bank of Bangladesh. clearly legit.

  • dardentrash

    business is about numbers, not intuition and useless diagrams

  • WHATSHAPPENING

    Lol

  • WHATSHAPPENING

    Lol why do you hate darden so much

  • dardentrash

    darden almost has as same# faculty as stanford

  • dardentrash

    just don’t go to darden unless u want 9.5k salary

  • dardentrash

    don’t go to Darden itll take u 2 decades to pay off ur degree!!

  • dardentrash

    LOL 9.5K AFTER A MBA PROGRAM
    Darden hahahahahahahaha

  • AMEXmarketing

    everyone at W may want to study finance, but that is far from the demographics at other schools I assure you

  • MONEY

    MONEY IS POWER

  • Wharthog

    I went to Wharton, so maybe I’m biased — but everyone does want to study finance there, and my (now) colleagues who went to some other schools admit their finance education was a total joke

  • BudweiSER

    Stanford is almost non-existent in the research area

  • AMEXmarketing

    Some people care more about other things than just money.

  • AMEXmarketing

    Not everyone wants to study finance. That’s ridiculous

  • BudweiSER

    That is their weakness, especially in a degree that depends so much on alumni network. They’re guaranteeing a tiny network

  • sdfghjkl

    I mean who doesn’t want to make money
    finance makes the most money and having good core background is necessary for understanding modeling theory/practice

  • sdfghjkl

    but everyone WANTS to study finance. well most people anyway

  • 2cents

    For sure? I don’t. But given the frequency (how quickly these posts arise and peak during short periods) and that this happens every year, it seems to be the case. It’s not always Wharton either, last year it was Booth and I can’t remember who it was before that.

  • iamrich

    wharton rocks
    stanford is irrelevant with its tiny faculty

  • Ben Franklin

    How do you know?

  • 2cents

    every year there’s one guy who makes multiple accounts and does something like this. just ignore it.

  • Ben Franklin

    Is it possible that these W fanatics are imposters?

  • lol

    What does the — for Kellogg’s other bonus mean? No bonus or don’t have info?

  • Whartonrite

    Wharton is easily the best. We make more money, and that’s the only quantifiable, objective metric. “Fit” — lol.

  • mba2

    Not sure – McDonough school at Georgetown University?

  • mba1

    whats gtown?

  • academia

    Calm down – no one is arguing with you about finance. However, this has benefits and drawbacks.

    Wharton is so strongly associated with finance around the world that the school seems to be trying hard to diversify in recent years.

  • academia

    this is a good point

    Also, there are some studies that suggest that research output is directly proportionate to the quality of teaching.
    However, there are also studies that suggest the opposite – that research output is inversely related to teaching quality.

    Like everything in direct comparison of b-schools, it depends on how people interpret all the factors. It doesn’t make sense to argue about it

  • thereisNObest

    There’s many moving parts and things to take into consideration when picking schools, but this is prob. the closest to putting it in a “nutshell.”

    The “best” school is simply impossible to determine. It depends entirely on 1) where you want to work in the future (i.e. geographical location), and 2) the industry you want to enter.

    You answers to these two questions will determine which school is the “best” for you.

  • arithmetics555

    I believe outside the United States, the abbreviated form of “mathematics” is “maths”, rather than “math.”

    I also found this to be a bit strange when I did an exchange in London.

  • goldCFTC

    This sums it up nicely.
    Also, there are 2 aspects of every business school.

    1. Research – this turns on intellectual rigor, number of publications/citations, etc.
    2. Teaching – this depends on the amount of attention paid to the students.

    Each school devotes a different proportion of its resources to these two constituencies. Schools like Wharton seem to emphasize the first constituency, and schools like Stanford seem to emphasize the second.

    This is why the world “leaders” and “politicians” many Wharton kids boast about go to Wharton in the first place. It’s seen as a more intellectually focused school.

    These people have no interest in entering the industry or working at a service firm. They only want to show everyone that they have good training in finance and economics so they have credibility when leading the Central Banks, etc.

  • Fullback77

    Let’s keep things civil.
    It really depends on the field you want to enter.
    Some people love finance, while others love case studies. Some people make fun of case studies, and others shudder at the thought of being drowned in numbers.

    If you want to work in the US, the top 3 (Wharton, HBS, Stanford) are similar – perhaps only on Wall Street or global financial centers Wharton is the clear winner.

    If you want to work in the international financial markets, Wharton also has the most recognition. If you want to go into management, marketing or some other field, the top three again are pretty much on the same level.

    Perceptions of prestige is always changing. It doesn’t matter. What I will say about Wharton’s alumni network, however, is that it seems to be the most international – this is likely due to the alumni forums that they hold everywhere.

    In terms of rankings, again – finance is Wharton, others seem to be up for grabs between Wharton, HBS, Stanford. In international rankings, Wharton has the most success – this is only because international rankings weigh HEAVILY on finance. This has balanced out in recent years due to the financial crisis.

    Moving forward, things can change. We do not know. As perceptions shift, applications statistics also shift. Let’s stop arguing and wait it out. The upcoming years may have a few surprises in the way of rankings.

  • please

    All the violently positive Wharton praise over the past few days has certainly been entertaining to read and mildly amusing, but it has also crossed the obnoxious line imo. Wharton is great, no dispute, but I will call it the way I see it: If I had the choice of Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, or Booth, than Harvard and Stanford would be my two undisputed choices. After that the choice is not clear. And I don’t give a rat’s a@@ about all the #1 in finance, or maths (plural??), and bitcoins. Oh and I also love case studies so use your “maths” on that.

  • the Truth

    WHARTON is the TOP FINANCE school in the world, and it’s NOT EVEN CLOSE!!

    The facts don’t lie:
    Finance – Wharton
    Numbers – Wharton
    Maths – Wharton
    Calculators – don’t need em
    Currency symbols – Wharton copyrighted
    Bitcoins – invented at Wharton
    Sacajawea gold dollars – Sacajawea went to WHARTON bitche$$

    When you walk into the central bank of Bangladesh, if you mention HBS or Stanford you will get LAUGHED OUT OF THE SHANTY! Mention any other “school” and they will unleash their pack of feral dogs on your uneducated azz… Do a case study on that one dummies!