Wharton | Mr. Sr. Systems Engineer
GRE 1280, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Navy Officer
GMAT 770, GPA 4.0
Chicago Booth | Mr. Semiconductor Guy
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB to PM
GRE 338, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. Sales To Consulting
GMAT 760, GPA 3.49
Harvard | Mr. Polyglot
GMAT 740, GPA 3.65
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Enlisted Undergrad
GRE 315, GPA 3.75
Kellogg | Mr. Danish Raised, US Based
GMAT 710, GPA 10.6 out of 12
Darden | Ms. Unicorn Healthcare Tech
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
Tuck | Mr. Consulting To Tech
GMAT 750, GPA 3.2
Stanford GSB | Mr. Rocket Scientist Lawyer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65 Cumulative
Darden | Mr. Stock Up
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Classic Candidate
GMAT 760, GPA 3.9
Cambridge Judge Business School | Mr. Social Scientist
GRE 330, GPA 3.5
Darden | Mr. Federal Consultant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.26
INSEAD | Mr. Consulting Fin
GMAT 730, GPA 4.0
INSEAD | Ms. Hope & Goodwill
GMAT 740, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Milk Before Cereals
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3 (16/20 Portuguese scale)
Chicago Booth | Mr. Guy From Taiwan
GRE 326, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Leading Petty Officer
GRE (MCAT) 501, GPA 4.0
Columbia | Mr. NYC Native
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Tepper | Mr. Leadership Developement
GMAT 740, GPA 3.77
Harvard | Ms. Athlete Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Education Consulting
GRE 326, GPA 3.58
Harvard | Ms. Ambitious Hippie
GRE 329, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Unrealistic Ambitions
GMAT 710, GPA 2.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Equal Opportunity
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0

The Jaw-Dropping MBA Pay of 2013

money, salary, payThe last thing we want to do is create unrealistic expectations about what you’ll make when you get an MBA from a highly selective, top-ranked school. But these numbers–the highest base salaries, signing bonuses and other compensation reported by the Class of 2013 are enough to drop your jaw.

The highest reported salary last year? At Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, one MBA landed a base salary of $375,000.

The highest signing bonus? At both Harvard Business School and Wharton, there were graduating MBAs who were handed $200,000 each just to sign an employment contract.

And the highest “other compensation”–that catchall phrase to describe a guaranteed year-end bonus? At Stanford, a Class of 2013 MBA nailed down $337,500.


At eight U.S. business schools, the highest paid MBAs of 2013 pulled down base salaries of a quarter of a million dollars or more–to start. Even at MBA programs that are generally not considered among the truly elite, there was eye-popping pay. At both Southern Methodist University’s Cox School and Notre Dame University’s Mendoza School, there were graduates last year who landed base salaries of $200,000 each. At Rice University’s Jones School, one MBA reported “other compensation” of $200,000. One employer paid a Penn State MBA $115,000 for a sign-on bonus alone.

We’re glad we didn’t run this story on April 1st because most people would have thought it was an April Fools joke. But of course these are all “special cases,” people who often went to business school when they actually didn’t need to do so. They already have the experience and track record to get an employer to make the offer you can’t refuse. In most cases, the highest pay was reported by MBAs who ventured into finance in the Northeast, mainly for jobs at hedge funds and private equity firms. But there also were a number of consultants, general management and marketing types, as well as operations experts who landed the big money.

We’ve run the highs and lows before for a much smaller set of elite business schools. This is the first time we are publishing this data for the larger universe of the top 50 U.S. schools and also including some MBA programs, including Harvard Business School and Yale University’s School of Management, that don’t publish this data in their official employment reports.


Overall, 2013, the fourth year in a row of an MBA jobs recovery from the economic implosion of 2008-2009, the big exceptional pay package didn’t seem all that rare. At Northwestern, for example, besides the $375K investment management job, presumably at a hedge fund, there was a $350,000 base salary hire by a private equity firm, a $225,000 base salary for an MBA who went into the energy industry, and a $206,000 base for an MBA who took a job in “transportation services.” Kellogg grads who went into venture capital and consulting also landed awfully rich pay packages with base salaries of $175,000 each. None of those sums include sign-on bonuses or other guaranteed compensation which would further enlarge all those high numbers.

Truth is, total compensation packages–including sign-on bonuses, guaranteed year-end bonuses, tuition reimbursements, and equity interests–are more elusive. Very few schools report total comp for the highest paid members of their graduating classes. But in some cases, guaranteed other compensation–which schools generally report out separately–can be as high or higher than base pay. At Wharton, for example, a 2013 graduating MBA got a guaranteed year-end bonus of $260,000. Another received tuition reimbursement of $150,000, while one Whartonite was handed $100,000 to sign an employment contract. The University of Virginia’s Darden School also reported that the highest sign-on and guaranteed year-end bonuses were in six-figures as well.

(See following pages for our tables of the highest paid MBAs of 2013 at the Top 50 last year)


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.