Wharton Median Pay Packages Rise To $149K

The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School - Ethan Baron photo

The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School – Ethan Baron photo

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School said its MBA graduates landed total median starting pay packages this year of $148,892, up slightly from $146,303 a year earlier. In a preliminary employment report on the Class of 2016, the school reported that 98.3% of its class had job offers three months after graduation, roughly the same as the 98.4% last year, and that 95.5% of the graduates had accepted their offers.

So far, Wharton’s $148,892 median package tops all the business schools that have released employment data for the Class of 2016. Wharton’s total is just above Chicago Booth with $145,723, followed by Duke at $141,871, Emory at $133,187, and then Vanderbilt at $132,040. Wharton also reported that 67.5% of its MBA grads this year received relocation reimbursement from companies at a median of $8,600. If that benefit were added to the total pay package, it would boost the median to $154,701.

Other than the slight increase in median total compensation, adjusted for the percentage of graduates receiving sign-on and other guaranteed compensation, things look pretty much as they did for the Class of 2015. Median base salaries of $125,000 and median sign-on bonuses, received by 74.5% of the graduates, of $25,000 were exactly the same as last year. It was the fourth consecutive year that the median base has been $125,000. Other median guaranteed compensation, collected by 21.1% of MBAs, fell by $5,000 to $25,000.


Wharton said the highest reported base salary for a graduate this year was $250,000, $50K less than the high number last year. But the highest sign-on bonus for any MBA was a whopping $175,000, while the highest other guaranteed compensation in the first year also was $175,000. The lowest salary: $27,600, presumably for a social impact job. It’s not clear what industries those MBAs joined from the early employment report.

Yet, there was one other number that really stuck out. Wharton said that one of its MBAs this year reported that the median year end bonus for the 12 graduates entering the food, beverage and tobacco industries was a whopping $375,000. That is the highest median year-end bonus for any industry, even topping the $125,000 median for hedge funds and the $100,000 median for private equity and buyout firms. The highest median sign-on bonuses went to MBAs who entered investment banking at $50,000, double the median for consulting.

As expected, financial services was the industry of choice at Wharton, attracting 35.1% of the class, down slightly from 36.9% a year earlier (see table on industry choices). Most of them headed into investment banking and brokerage jobs, which took 16.1% of the class. MBAs landing jobs with private equity and buyout firms–which generally offer the highest total compensation packages–was 7.0%, down from 8.5% two years ago and the smallest percentage in five years. Wharton said median base salaries in PE and buyouts was $150,000.


Consulting firms employed 26.6% of this year’s crop of Wharton MBAs, in line with last year’s 26.3%. The second highest median starting salaries–$145,000–were paid by consulting firms. Median consulting salaries, which tend to be standard across leading business schools, rose a healthy $10,000 this year and have risen by $20,000 in the past five years from $125,000 in 2011 (see table on following page for a look at median salaries over six years).

The technology industry claimed 12.6% of the class, up from 11.3% a year earlier but below the 2014 peak of 13.7%. Some 7.2% ventured into the consumer products business, 5.2% to healthcare, 3.4 to real estate, 2.8% in manufacturing, 2.3% in social impact, and 2.0%  in media and entertainment.

The numbers were disclosed by Wharton on its website, though the school’s full 2016 employment report is not yet public. The school said that 92.5% of the students seeking jobs reported pay data for the preliminary report. Some 50 students out of a total class size of 850 either started their own companies or reported being self-employed. Wharton does not average compensation numbers nor does it list the major employers of its class like many other business schools.


Wharton did, however, disclose the median pay of graduates who landed jobs outside the U.S. and they are impressive numbers. Even the median starting salary in India was $115,000. The highest salaries–$130,000–went to Wharton MBAs who took jobs in Hong Kong and the Middle East. The lowest? Latin America where median base salaries totaled $94,403 (see table on compensation by location).

One of the more surprising stats in the latest report is that the percentage of students accepting jobs internationally fell to only 13.1% of the class, down from 15.5% last year and 22.4% in 2011. So Wharton international MBAs appear to be having less trouble gaining visas to land U.S. jobs.

Of course, the vast majority of students–86.1%–stayed in the U.S. with the largest single chunk remaining in the northeast, some 49.8% of the class. A record 24.5% accepted jobs in the West, up from 22.3% last year. But New York City alone claimed 37.8% of Wharton’s graduates this year, up from only 28.7% in 2011.