UPenn’s Wharton School vs. Columbia Business School


Columbia is one of the largest two-year, full-time MBA programs in the world, with a total enrollment of nearly 1,300 students–not including more than 200 additional Executive MBAs. Still, it’s smaller than Wharton’s1,674 full-time MBA students. In fact, only one other top school enrolls more full-time MBAs than Wharton: that’s Harvard Business School, with 1,837 students. Even accounting for Columbia’s location in New York, it’s surprising to see that Wharton enrolls a significantly higher percentage of international students (37% vs. Columbia’s 32%), more female students (40% versus Columbia’s 34%), and a far greater representation of minority students (29% vs. Columbia’s 18%). The numbers for women, international and minority students are for the Class of 2011.

Enrollment Stats Wharton Columbia
Total MBA Enrollment 1,674 1,293
Women 40% 34%
International 37% 32%
Minority 29% 18%



Surprisingly, the largest single chunk of MBAs at Wharton have undergraduate backgrounds in the humanities and social sciences. At first blush, you’d expect to see far more math and engineering folks here because of the school’s strength in finance. Instead, you get a sizable group of poets.

Undergrad Degrees Wharton Columbia
Humanities/Social Science 42% NA
Engineering/Math 30% NA
Business/Economics 28% NA



Jobs and Pay:

The financial meltdown of 2009 led to a disaster of an MBA recruiting season at Columbia’s Business School. Nearly four of every ten graduating students in the Class of 2009 was without a job at commencement. Columbia was more severely impacted than any other top ten school because it traditionally feeds Wall Street and the big banks which were largely on life support at the time. In fact, for the first time in recent history, three consulting firms–McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain–were at the top of the list of employers hiring Columbia MBAs rather than the financial services firms which tend to dominate. The same three consulting firms hired away the most Wharton grads as well. Wharton did slightly better, though nothing to brag about, because a third of its class didn’t have jobs when they graduated. Grads from both schools fared much better three months after commencement, yet roughly one in four MBAs were still looking even then. Starting pay for Wharton grads was just a little bit more than at Columbia by about $600 a year.

The estimates of median pay 10 years after graduation and over a full career come from a study by PayScale done for BusinessWeek and do not include stock options or equity stakes by entrepreneurs. Columbia grads did better after ten years than Wharton grads, but surprisingly, over an entire career, they trailed Wharton MBAs. The differences, however, are slight. In fact, Columbia MBAs were third in career pay behind only Harvard and Wharton.


Job & Pay Data Wharton Columbia
Starting salary & bonus $123,741 $123,150
MBAs employed at commencement 65.8% 61.1%
MBAs employed 3 months after commencement 74.6% 77.3%
Estimated median pay ten years after commencement $161,000 $165,000
Estimated median pay & bonus over a full career $3,491,372 $3,349,669

Who Hires Who:

Big prestigious companies come to both Wharton and Columbia to hire the best and brightest. The single biggest surprise is the emergence of consulting firms at both schools for the Class of 2009, a consequence of the near total collapse of finance due to the severe economic recession. For the first time in recent memory, consulting firms were the top three hirers at both schools known for finance. Even so, about 48% of Columbia’s Class of 2009 still went into financial services, vs. 43% at Wharton. Interestingly, Morgan Stanley hired only five Columbia MBAs vs. 18 Wharton grads. Microsoft hired eight Whartonites and Amazon snapped up seven from the Class of 2009. Typically, more Wharton grads go into health care, technology, and consumer products and retail companies than those at Columbia. NA does not necessarily mean that a company didn’t hire any graduates from the school, but rather that the number of grads it did hire did not qualify it for breakout treatment by the school. The cutoff number at Wharton was six hires; at Columbia, it was three hires. An asterisk in the Wharton column indicates that the company at least three MBAs or as many as five.

Hiring Company Number of Hires

at Wharton

Number of Hires

at Columbia

McKinsey & Co. 50 46
Boston Consulting Group 31 21
Bain & Co. 18 20
Morgan Stanley 13 5
Citigroup 12 11
JP Morgan Chase 12 15
Deloitte Consulting 10 12
Deutsche Bank 10 11
Goldman Sachs 9 8
Credit Suisse 8 11
Microsoft 8 NA
Pacific Investment Mgt. 8 NA
Amazon 7 NA
Booz & Co. 7 20
BofA/Merrill Lynch 7 9
Barclays Capital 6 10
Johnson & Johnson 6 NA
UBS 3* 9
American Express 3* 6
Unilever 3* 6
American Continental NA 4
Fidelity Investments 3* 4
General Electric NA 4
IBM 3* 3
PricewaterhouseCoopers NA 3
Blackstone Group 3* 3