MIT’s Sloan School vs. Berkeley’s Haas School

Jobs and Pay:

The severe recession of 2009 hit Berkeley and MIT hard as it did all the best business schools. Nearly a third of Berkeley’s Class of 2009 didn’t have jobs when they graduated. At MIT, the number was 30%. Grads from both schools fared much better three months after commencement, but these numbers are rare lows for two of the best business schools in the world. The estimates of median pay 10 and 20 years after graduation as well as over a full career come from a study by PayScale done for BusinessWeek and do not include stock options or equity stakes by entrepreneurs. We suspect that if you included stock, Berkeley grads would do even better due to the liberal use of options in Silicon Valley where many Haas School MBAs end up.

Jobs & Pay Data MIT Berkeley
Starting salary & bonus $125,707 $121,124
MBAs employed at commencement 69.5% 65.3%
MBAs employed 3 months after commencement 83.4% 80.8%
Median pay & bonus 10 years after commencement $137,000 $134,000
Median pay & bonus 20 years after commencement $177,000 $185,000
Median pay & bonus over a full career $3,031,132 $2,960,527


Where MBAs Go:

With Wall Street in near total collapse during 2009, the big, global consulting firms stepped up to take a large percentage of the best graduates at the top business schools. This was especially true at both MIT and Berkeley which saw record numbers of MBAs go into prestige management consulting positions. At Berkeley, consulting saw an amazing 65% increase in the number of grads the industry took off the Haas campus. At MIT, nearly a third of all its graduates went into consulting.


Industry MIT Berkeley
Consulting 33% 26%
Technology 20% 26%
Hedge Funds, VC, PE 3% 5%
Consumer Products 2% 6%
Healthcare/Biotech 4% 10%
Investment Management 5% 1%
Investment Banking 11% 2%
Nonprofit 1% 5%
Cleantech NA 3%
Financial Services 3% 5%
Media/Entertainment -1% 2%
Real Estate NA 3%


Who Hires Who:

At MIT, the big, major consulting firms carted away the largest groups of students, making McKinsey, Bain, BCG, and Deloitte the top four employers of Class of 2009 Sloanies. Not surprisingly, technology companies love MIT as a primary hunting ground: Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, and United Technologies all hired five or more of Sloan’s MBAs; Amgen, Biogen, British Telecom, Genzyme, Google, Hubspot, IBM, Infosys, Intel, and Novell all hired three to four grads each. (MIT does not breakout specific numbers of hirers for companies that employ fewer than five of its graduates). McKinsey, meantime, had a field day at much smaller Berkeley, hiring 15 members of the Class of 2011, followed by Adobe Systems and Deloitte Consulting which each picked up 8 Haas grads.

Hiring Company Number of Hiresat MIT Number of Hiresat Berkeley
McKinsey & Co. 24 15
Bain & Co. 10 NA
Boston Consulting Group 8 4
Deloitte Consulting 7 8 6 3
Barclays Capital 6 NA
Apple 6 NA
Microsoft 6 NA
Cisco Systems 5 NA
Fidelity 5 NA
Goldman Sachs 5 NA
L.E.K. Consulting 5 NA
United Technologies 5 NA
Adobe Systems NA 8
A.T. Kearney NA 4
Genentech NA 3
Yahoo! NA 3
Symantec NA 3
McKesson NA 3


“The San Francisco Bay Area is an epicenter for innovation and entrepreneurship and a vanguard way of life,” says Rich Lyons, dean of the Haas School of Business. “If business schools didn’t exist, we happen to be in a place where a lot of people in the world would say that’s where I want the first business school to be.” Sure enough, Berkeley is located in one of the most livable and desirable places in the world: Northern California. The area’s diverse geography ranges from the sandy beaches of the Pacific coast to the rugged, snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains in the east, both a mecca for those who enjoy the outdoors, whether biking, kayaking, or skiing. Berkeley is a 15-minute BART ride to San Francisco or about half an hour by car. The Haas campus sits comfortably on the eastern edge of the university across the street from California Memorial Stadium. Berkeley is the funky and eclectic west coast equivalent of New York’s East Village, with used bookstores, record shops that still sell vinyl, lots of cafes, and limitless purveyors of beads and bumper stickers that carry protest messages. MIT also has the good fortune to be in Cambridge, right next to Boston, one of the world’s most dynamic and inviting cities. The greater Boston area is both an academic Disneyland and a city of working class folks. Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, is just minutes away from Harvard. So is world-class arts and culture of all kinds. The winter months can be tough, with lots of cold and snow. But there isn’t much fog which tends to stubbornly cling to the Bay Area for much of the year.

Size: Both Berkeley and MIT boast small, intimate and elite MBA programs. Total full-time MBA enrollment at Berkeley is just 494, compared to MIT’s 792.  Most MBAs graduate knowing virtually all their fellow students. As one second-year at Berkeley told us: “I know 230 of the 240 students here and can have a real conversation with them. We have a shared experience. We look out for each other. People will be practicing cases together for the same recruiter interviews. There is a realization that each of our success comes from the success of the entire class.”

Culture: It’s been more than 40 years since political activist Mario Savio passionately implored thousands of Berkeley students to “put your bodies upon the gears…of the machine” to halt racial discrimination in the U.S. Yet, that spirit to tackle injustice is still part of the DNA of the University of California at Berkeley–even at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business where one of the institution’s core cultural attributes is to “question the status quo.” Haas Dean Lyons is arguably the first B-school dean to clearly articulate his school’s culture and, more importantly, to consciously use it to shape the school’s MBA experience and its students. At Berkeley, it’s less a fundamental rewiring of the school than it is making the existing wiring more evident. As Dean Lyons puts it, “We wanted to find the heartbeat that has been here a long time. We went after culture because we felt we could write things down that other schools couldn’t.” As a result, he has “codified” the school’s four guiding principles:

  1. Question the status quo: “Being able to envison a different reality, to take intelligent risks, and to learn from failure, as well as having the courage to speak our minds.”
  2. Confidence without attitude: “Being able to make decisions based on facts and analysis, giving us the confidence to act without arroagance, leading through trust and collaboration.”
  3. Students always: “Having a mindset of curiosity and lifelong learning, seeking personal growth, and practicing behavior that tells others we can learn from them.”
  4. Beyond yourself: “Considering the long-term impact of our actions and the facility for putting larger interests above our own.”

If you’re tempted to think this is little more than a public relations exercise, Dean Lyons will tell you that he is making these cultural attributes a key part of the admissions process, of orientation, and of the ongoing MBA program. The upshot: the principles are reinforced at every stage, from the questions Berkeley asks of applicants on its required essays and in alumni interviews to the classroom discussions in core and elective courses. You’ll find several, if not all, of these principles in evidence at many of the best business schools, including MIT, but you will be less likely to find a better champion of them than Dean Lyons who is walking the talk. There’s also a California mellowness that pervades the cultures of each of these schools. They are small, tight-knit, and highly collaborative places. For institutions that attract smart, already accomplished, yet still highly ambitious people, the competition among students is kept to a minimum.

Even though MIT is on the other coast, 3,000 miles away, there’s a similar vibe.  “We’re a small school, and it’s all about the culture and the community here,” says Debbie Berechman, executive director of MBA programs at Sloan. “It’s an environment of ideas and innovation. The culture is collaborative, innovative, and energetic. Having a positive impact is one of our values. People are very much focused on the future and on opportunities. It’s very laidback and accessible, very ideas-based.”

Facilities: Even though the Haas School moved into an attractive new management complex back in 1995, the place still looks brand new. It consists of three buildings connected by bridges and surrounding a courtyard where students gather from Consumption Functions. If anything, the school has now outgrown its space because one of the most frequently heard complaints among students is the lack of rooms for study group and club meetings. There are no separate dorms for Haas MBA students who tend to live all over the Bay area. At MIT, five core buildings make up the Sloan School on the east campus of the institute. A new 250,000 square foot building, dubbed E-62 for its location on the east side of the campus, will officially open. It’s a world class, modern four-floor structure with new classrooms, study rooms, and a 200-seat dining hall.

Teaching Methods: Berkeley estimates that case studies make up half of the classroom instruction, while team projects take up 15% of the class work. Good old-fashioned lectures, experiential learning, and simulations make up the rest. The quality of teaching at both schools has been a long-time complaint of students, largely a result of the research focus of the faculties at Haas and Sloan. It’s one of the reasons why Haas has created a Center for Teaching Excellence that helps profs with one-on-one coaching to become better in the classroom. At MIT, there’s a bit of everything: lectures, simulations, action-learning projects, and case studies. “It’s an evenly distributed pie chart across all of them,” says Berechman. “The core to a large extent is lectures and cases and simulations. There is a team project in the organizational processes class, and there is a communications lab as part of communications.” There is no forced grading curve at MIT or at Berkeley. Faculty individually decide how to grade in each class and many feel that there is significant grade inflation. Oddly, MIT has a 5.0 grading scale (students need a 4.0 to graduate).

Program Focus: MIT has a one semester core with just five classes and the option of one elective. There are no waivers, regardless of your level of experience or your background in any of the core subjects. The incoming class at MIT is divided into six cohorts which are then carved into ten teams that are meant to be as diverse as possible. At Berkeley, the incoming class  of just 240 students is divided into for cohorts of 60 students each who go through the core classes together as well.

Sloan has 90 electives in its course catalog, offering its MBA candidates two formal, completely optional tracks: finance and entrepreneurship & innovation. Essentially, it means you can load up on electives in either one of these two areas, often taking the courses with students who are committed to one of these two fields. The 50 or so MBAs in the innovation track do a required trip to Silicon Valley with faculty; the 70-plus students in the finance track do a similar trip to Wall Street. There are also a fair number of track-related activities, including alumni events organized by the school.

Berkeley is only 30 miles away so its access to Silicon Valley, but Haas only has four electives in entrepreneurship: “Opportunity Recognition–Technology and Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley,” “Entrepreneurship Workshop for Startups,” “Business Model Innovation in New Ventures,” and “New Venture Finance.” At MIT, there are about 14 courses in entrepreneurship. About 10% of Sloan’s graduating class launch companies right out of school, twice the percentage as Berkeley grads (though you won’t be surprised that at the height of the dot-com boom in 2000, 14% of Haas grads started companies straight out of school). Surprisingly, the Sloan School discourages students who want to launch their own companies out of the gate. “The faculty advise them not to do it,” says Berechman. “They feel that students who go out and get some real world experience get a chance to build the skills base that they will need to be entrepreneurs later on. It’s really hard to launch right out of school.”

At Berkeley, students have the option of earning a certificate in one of five different areas of study: global management, real estate, health management, entrepreneurship, or technology. Indeed, many applicants to these two schools share a keen interest in technology, an area of specialty for both MIT and Berkeley. On the west coast, a “Management of Technology” (MOT) program is open to all grad students who can earn a certificate by completing a total of nine units of MOT courses. The co-director of this program is one of Haas star professors, Sara Beckman, long a favorite of Haas students. The focus of the program is multi-disciplinary team project classes and there are four in the course catalog, ranging from “Managing the New Product Development Process,” co-taught by Beckman, to “Marketing for High-Tech Entrepreneurs.”

Berkeley has also introduced a new curriculum designed to create innovative leaders. The school has identified ten core competencies that define an innovative leader and is systematically insuring that those capabilities are addressed in every aspect of the curriculum. The fundamentals of business, ranging from accounting and finance to marketing and strategy, continue to anchor the core courses. As part of what the school calls Berkeley Innovative Leader Development (BILD), however, each core course has been reviewed for elements that contribute to innovative leadership. New content has been added to some courses, and two existing core courses–”Leading People” and “Leadership Communications”–have been restructured to offer additional leadership skills, such as the ability to influence others. The revamped curriculum requires that all students take a series of courses, workshops and coaching exercises that develop innovative leadership skills, such as probleming finding and problem solving. Students also must take one of eight experiential courses in which they hone these skills in a real-life setting. Last year, Virgin America, Cisco, Disney, Panasonic, Visa and Wells Fargo were among the companies participating in the experiential courses.

In the 2010 survey of B-school deans and directors by U.S. News & World Report, Berkeley and MIT look fairly evenly matched. Out of the nine U.S. News specialty categories below, Berkeley edges out MIT in five areas: general management, marketing, social entrepreneurship (an area where MIT doesn’t even garner a mention by U.S. News), international business, and accounting. Meantime, MIT beats Berkeley in four specialities: finance, entrerpreneurship, manufacturing (where it has its biggest lead, a 14-places gap against Haas), and information systems (where it has a sizeable 11-place gap in the rankings. We don’t put too much credence in these specialty rankings, but they are a data point to consider. The sustainability rank comes from the Aspen Institute’s Beyond Grey Pinstripes project. Even though MIT has made sustainability a focus in recent years, the school is still well behind Berkeley in relevant courses, student exposure, and especially faculty research, according to the Aspen Institute.

Program Specialties MIT Rank Berkeley Rank
Management 13 9
Finance 6 7
Entrepreneurship 3 7
Marketing 14 9
Manufacturing 1 15
Social Entrepreneurship NR 2
International 22 9
Information Systems 1 12
Accounting 19 13
Sustainability 81 6

Source: U.S. News & World Report 2010 specialty rankings and the Aspen Institute’s Beyond Gray Pinstripes global ranking.

On-Campus Recruiting: Most national and multi-national recruiters come to the Bay Area and make two stops, Stanford and Berkeley, just as most big-time recruiters make two stops in the Boston area, at Harvard and MIT. So if you’re aiming for a top MBA job at McKinsey, Bain, BCG, or a position at Amazon, Google, or Yahoo, the Berkeley- or MIT-punched MBA will easily get you in the door.

Alumni Network: If you want to work on the West Coast or Silicon Valley, Berkeley has the edge. If you want to hang out on the East Coast, MIT has an advantage. Berkeley claims more than 32,000 alums, a number that includes part-timers, executives, and business undergraduates. Berkeley grads include Intel CEO Paul S. Otellini (’74), Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen (’93), Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez (’84), and Duckhorn Wine Co. founder and CEO David Duckhorn (’62). MIT boasts 25,000 Sloan alums, also an all-inclusive number, and 75 alumni association clubs around the world.

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