Columbia MBA Lands $300K Base Salary

A Columbia Business School grad landed a $300,000-a-year hedge fund job this year and possibly received a guaranteed bonus of $235,000, according to the school’s just released 2011 employment report.

As large as that potential windfall might be—a total of $535,000–it still wouldn’t allow that person to surpass this year’s graduating Stanford MBA who reported to his school that he received a guaranteed bonus alone of $500,000. That person’s likely total annual compensation: $675,000.

Of course, both these students are at the extreme high end of the salary and bonus ranges. Columbia reported, for example, that the median base salary for the roughly 5.5% of its graduating class went into the hedge fund, mutual fund, and fund of funds business was $125,000. The lowest reported base in this category didn’t even touch six figures: $95,000. The highest reported base was the $300,000. The median base salary for Columbia’s entire Class of 2011 was $110,000.

This category tied private equity/venture capital and management consulting for the highest paying median salaries of the year. All three fields paid Columbia MBAs starting salaries of $125,000. The 5.7% of the class that went into PE/VC jobs reported that the highest salary was $180,000 and the lowest was $90,000. Columbia’s median for private equity was below several other schools, including the University of Chicago’s Booth School which says its PE-bound MBAs landed $155,000 median salaries, above the $150,000 median reported by Stanford and the $120,000 for Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (see tables on next page).

Another Columbia MBA reported a starting base salary of $205,000 for a management consulting job. The highest guaranteed bonus paid to a Columbia MBA taking a management consulting position was $204,000—well above the $23,606 median.

It’s not possible to say with certainty if the MBA going into the $300,000-a-year hedge fund job also received the highest guaranteed bonus. But it’s highly likely that someone paid so generously on their base also would be given an appropriately-sized signing bonus and guaranteed year-end bonus. In common with most other business schools, Columbia reports the range of high and low salaries, and other guaranteed bonuses separately. So it’s not possible to determine the total compensation of any one graduate.

As previously reported, the very highest paid MBAs tend to be special cases. To these first MBA jobs, they bring extraordinary work experience and track records that convince firms who want to hire the absolute best and brightest that they are worth the money. In private equity that means hiring grads who already have been in the business–often as high-performing analysts for the same companies that hire them back.

Three of the highest paying industries for Columbia MBAs this year are in finance: hedge funds, private equity and venture capital, and commercial banking (see table below). The grads who went into management consulting, technology, and heavy industry (autos and aerospace) also did exceptionally well.

In contrast, at Chicago’s Booth School of Business, which like Columbia also boasts a reputation for finance, only one of the half dozen highest paying industries this year was in finance: private equity. The 17 Booth MBAs, representing 3.6% of the graduating class, who were lucky enough to land PE jobs reported median starting base salaries of $155,000, highest of the year at Booth and the highest PE median salaries of any top business school (see table on following page).

Columbia’s Six Highest Paying Industries for the Class of 2011

Industry Salary Range Bonus Range
Management Consulting $125,000 $79,000 – $205,000 $23,606 $7,000 – $204,000
Hedge Funds $125,000 $95,000 – $300,000 $95,000 $20,000 – $235,000
Private Equity/Venture Capital $125,000 $90,000 – $180,000 $62,500 $25,000 – $305,000
Commercial Banking $120,000 $114,500 – $125,000 $25,000 $25,000
Technology* $118,691 $70,000 – $150,000 $24,896 $5,000 – $45,000
Autos/Aerospace $114,500 $95,000 – $119,000 $25,000 $15,000 – $25,000

Source: Columbia Business School 2011 Employment Report * Technology category covers software, services and telecom but not internet or e-commerce jobs. Salary, and guaranteed bonus numbers, which include signing bonus and year-end bonus, are reported as medians.

(For similar tables on Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, Harvard Business School, Stanford and Berkeley Haas, see next page)

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