Highest Paid Stanford MBA: $522K

moneytreeA graduating MBA student in Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business this year nailed down a private equity job in the north east with a total compensation package north of half a million dollars.

This year’s highest paid Stanford MBA, who had a business undergraduate degree and three to five years of work experience before getting a graduate degree, reported receiving a guaranteed annual bonus of $337,500–a sum that does not even include potential tuition reimbursement, relocation expenses, auto allowances, profit sharing, stock or stock options. If that student received the median base salary in private equity of $150,000 along with the median signing bonus of $35,000, the person’s total first-year compensation would be a minimum of $522,500.

The numbers are disclosed in Stanford’s recently published employment report for the Class of 2013. All told, Stanford MBAs reported median base salaries of $125,000–exactly the same as last year. But median signing bonuses of $25,000 and median guaranteed bonuses of $30,000 were both up by $5,000 each over last year.


A record 18% of the class became entrepreneurs, up from 13% of the Class of 2012, (and their pay is not included among the medians or means). The previous all-time high for MBA startups at Stanford was 16% for the Class of 2011.

This year’s percentage of MBA students who shunned traditional MBA jobs in favor of the start-up world reflects more than a three-fold increase from only 5% in the early 1990s and is 50% higher than the 12% peak during the dot-com bubble.

Yet, for the vast majority of Stanford MBAs who focused on mainstream jobs, it was a very good year, thank you. Some 77% of the class had job offers by graduation, roughly the same as last year’s 78%, while 94% reported having job offers three months after commencement, also roughly equal to the 93% a year earlier.


Graduates earning the highest average base pay ventured into private equity ($157,696), hedge funds  ($151,111), venture capital ($147,500), and management consulting ($132,855). Predictably, the lowest average base pay went to MBAs who took non-profit jobs ($85,050), real estate positions ($108,750), and retail roles ($110,294).

At the very top of the scale, a few MBAs really grabbed the golden ring. Stanford MBAs capturing the very highest base pay this year reported a $225,000 analyst position in private equity, a $225,000 doing strategy work in media/entertainment, and a $200,000 job in portfolio management at a hedge fund, One student reported getting a $100,000 bonus for signing on with a private equity firm. It was the highest sign-on bonus reported this year.

Not everyone was so lucky, of course. There were some shockingly low base salaries taken by members of Stanford’s Class of 2013. One MBA reported taking a $40,000-a-year job in consumer products and services, the lowest base of any graduate this year. Another accepted a starting salary offer of just $54,000 for a media/entertainment company in tech. Presumably, that person got a piece of equity in exchange for the low salary. A couple of students took jobs paying $70,000 a year in base pay–in tech retail and in tech software (see table on the high and low base salaries by industry).


The largest single chunk, nearly one of three Stanford grads, or 32% of the entire class, went into technology, where the average base pay was $117,408. That was a signifiant change from the previous year when the tech industry absorbed 24% of the Class of 2012. Some 8% of this year’s MBA output at Stanford landed jobs in retail, 4% in internet service companies and another 4% in consumer electronics.

Finance claimed the second biggest group, with 26% of the Class of 2013 taking jobs with financial outfits, a drop of six percentage points from the 32% last year. Some 11% of this year’s MBAs went to private equity and leveraged buyout firms, with 4% each to hedge funds and venture capital firms, 3% with investment banking or brokerage houses, and another 3% in investment management.

Some 19% of the class, meantime, landed consulting gigs, slightly down from 20% a year earlier.

(See following page for detailed industry-by-industry breakouts)

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