The Most Lucrative Seven-Figure MBA Degrees

Harvard Business School MBAs earn the most over a 20-year career

Harvard Business School MBAs earn the most over a 20-year career

What’s an MBA degree really worth? And how much more money does an MBA from Harvard, Stanford or Wharton get you over a career than one from Texas A&M, Ohio State, or the University of Iowa?

Those are questions that perplex and confound many who are deciding whether to get the degree and, if so, where to get it from. Not everyone can get into the most highly selective business schools. So many candidates have to face the question over whether it’s worth getting the MBA from a second- or even third-tier school.

A new analysis done exclusively for Poets&Quants by PayScale, which collects salary data from individuals through online pay comparison tools, shows that the MBA–even from schools that lack global or national caché–delivers hefty seven-figure income over a 20-year period. PayScale used its database of MBA graduates at the top 50 U.S. schools to calculate an estimate of median pay and bonus over the entire 20-year span.

The numbers are conservative. They do not include stock-based compensation of any kind, the cash value of retirements benefits, or other non-cash benefits, such as health care. The estimates are for base salary, cash bonuses and profit sharing in today’s dollars over a 20-year period from from 1994 to 2014. They are not a projection of future earnings. But the estimates show that the MBA degree–despite all the second-guessing over its value since the Great Recession–is one of the surest paths to a lucrative career.


For the most part, the results are exactly what you would expect: The highly ranked, big brand schools tend to deliver the highest earnings over a 20-year period. Harvard Business School’s MBAs come out on top, with median income of $3.233,000. Stanford MBA holders are next with $3,011,000, and Wharton comes in third with $2,989,000. Harvard MBAs, in fact, earned nearly twice as much as MBAs from Texas A&M’s Mays Business School who pull in $1,781,820 over 20 years.

“It is not surprising that where you get your MBA has a strong association with your income potential,” says Robert Bruner, dean of the University of Virginia’s Darden School. “There is a winners-take-all self-reinforcing cycle in higher education: certain schools attract excellent student talent, which in turn attracts intense recruiter activity and high-salary offers. The employment results make it easier for those schools to attract excellent student talent…and the cycle continues.”

Still, the analysis yielded several surprises, including schools that clearly punched above their weight class, or ranking. MBAs from Boston University, for example, earned enough money–$2,329,000–to put them 19th on the list, even though BU’s full-time MBA program is ranked 40th by Poets&Quants.


Even more surprising, perhaps, MBAs from UC-Irvine’s Merage Business School are estimated to rack up $2,319,932 over the 20 years, a sum that puts Merage alums at 21st, though the school’s MBA program is ranked 47th. Other schools with better-than-expected numbers include UC-Berkeley’s Haas School and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. Haas alums were fourth on the list, with median 20-year pay of $2,858,000, while Darden MBAs came in at $2,705,000, placing the school’s alumni seventh.

Of course, one of the long-standing selling points of leading business schools is the unrivaled access they provide to lucrative, highly selective careers. Students have long gone to business school to gain entry to high-paying jobs in consulting, investment banking, private equity, venture capital, and hedge funds. So it is hardly surprising that the MBA has been the ticket to some of the best money-making careers in business.

“The return on investment for the best full-time programs is very high and I predict that trend continuing for the foreseeable future,” says Paul Danos, dean of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. “Often when people talk about the value of the MBA they fail to recognize that there are many different types of MBA programs. While two-year full-time programs such as Tuck, Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, etc., require a significant investment in time and money, that investment pays off in both career options and compensation. The top programs are able to recruit the best qualified students, provide a truly excellent educational experience, and therefore attract top recruiters who recognize the value of that experience.”



DegreeEstimate of 20-year median cash compensation
All Bachelor’s Degrees$1,301,000
All MBA Degrees$1,771,000
Top 50 MBA Degrees$2,266,000
Top 10 MBA Degrees$2,759,500
Top 3 MBA Degrees$3,011,000

Source: PayScale for Poets&Quants

  • MBA Aspirant

    Hello Prof.,

    I have been admitted to Rotman and Georgetown McDonough. I am torn between the pros and cons of both programs. Are they around the same in terms of rankings? How would you rate the international reputation of both programs, and post-MBA career opportunities within their respective countries for management consulting?

    I would really appreciate your feedback. Thank you!

  • C. Taylor

    Wow. I actually found it for the class of 1996.

    forbes (dot) com/forbes/2001/1015/090s01tab.html
    forbes (dot) com/forbes/2001/1015/090s02tab.html

    Forbes also surveyed the class of 1994 . . .

  • C. Taylor

    Roughly, yes (on a broad scale). But results will likely be too fuzzy for your liking. Also, lots of data on career trajectories would be needed.

    And it is only good as a snapshot of a given class (these vary in composition). A lot can change in ten years. Look at CEIBS.

    Failing that, the best predictor is a look at median compensation, say five to seven years out of an MBA program across multiple surveys. Though imperfect, this allows for relative median compensation trajectories.

    If interested in a prediction, rather than relativity; you could, for example, build a training set on fifth year compensation vs. 20 year earnings (finding fifth year compensation from 15 years ago might be difficult). If you could get your hands on original survey data, you could refine this a little by career type.

    Even that can run into problems if the training set–say of a single program–is not predictive for all programs. And sometimes general predictions don’t hold for specific populations or across economies. Stat biasing, population selection, et cetera . . .

  • JohnAByrne

    Very true! By the way, your comment helped to trigger an interesting idea: is it possible to estimate the lifetime earnings of an MBA in the future? I’m talking with an economist friend about this on Monday.

  • Confused

    Thanks John, that clears things up. An interesting follow-up comparison would be to compare how the average expected non-MBA 20 year salary has increased since then and compare it to the the increase in average expected MBA 20-year salary as well as to how much MBA fees have increased in that time.

    I would expect the non-MBA salary to have increased at the rate of inflation but clearly MBA costs have sky-rocketed since then – this may go some way to answering the question whether MBA education has become a bubble.

  • Guest

    Key word here is “average”. The HBS grad who works for General Mills in marketing is going to have a much lower lifetime salary someone who goes to MBB and makes partner.

  • JohnAByrne

    These are historical numbers. So the MBAs in this survey started out 20 years ago earning much less than business school graduates today. The average starting base pay 20 years ago at Harvard was just under $85,000. This year, the median (average isn’t available on the HBS report) was $130,000. For any MBA going into either consulting or finance, the median was $140,000. And these numbers don’t include signing bonuses ($25,000) or other annual guaranteed bonuses. Today, a higher percentage of MBA grads get signing bonuses and other guaranteed compensation than did 20 years ago and a higher percentage also get stock-based compensation.

    Another example: At Dartmouth Tuck, the average starting base 20 years ago was $74,260. This year, the average was $123,900, a 67% increase. At Chicago Booth, the average had been $68,600 some 20 years ago. This year, the median is $125,000.

    These 20-year estimates, moreover, are very conservative. They do not include stock-based compensation of any kind, the cash value of retirements benefits, or other non-cash benefits, such as health care. If one were to include these other benefits, the numbers would be substantially higher.

  • Confused

    Please humor me here, I’m probably missing something. Let’s take HBS as the example. If new MBA grads earn $138k and over a 20 year period earn $3.2mil then dividing that number by 20 gives an average 20 year salary of $160k. That’s not much of a career progression following the MBA and does not quite seem to be worth the investment. And that’s the top MBA in the world…

  • Mark Taranto

    I have no idea what you mean by M7. INSEAD or LBS would be good choices. I have no doubt that Oxford and Cambridge will be great some day. As for now, they aren’t yet there

  • Investigating

    I’m currently investigating several programs and I would agree to the above go to M7 or INSEAD or LBS – Oxbridge are just a different chapter – at least in the moment. Going to the US or staying in the US means stick with the M7 and increasingly INSEAD especially for east and west coast jobs. Rest serves well, but may cause difficulties.

  • veteran222

    You said Trump. Yuuuuuge.

  • Mark Taranto

    We do love Duke. One reason is that Fuqua fosters cooperation, while many other schools foster competition. There is a certain logic to what you say. For that reason, NYU and Columbia attract qualified adjuncts. However, the logic doesn’t apply to full time faculty. Many want to avoid NYC. NYU does have great faculty, but the research reputation at Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Chigago and Wharton is greater. None is in NY. Both Duke and NYU have great MBA programs. Personally, I give the edge to Duke, but as you said, I may be biased. But the existence of NYU’s large evening program waters down their reputation. I might admit that their daytime program is comparable to Fuqua’s, their part time program is nowhere near as good. Since I teach at a school with a ranked MBA program but also has an evening program, I see the difference clearly. I see your point about Stern and UCLA. Some polls rank UCLA above Stern. Similarly, some polls rank Berkeley’s MBA program above Duke’s. Having seen them both, I can’t agree. Both are good schools. I think Berkeley’s PhD program is better (another bias, but I could have gone to either school). But I think Fuqua,s MBA program is better.

  • Anon

    It seems like Duke alumni and people with Duke affiliation have a great love for their school. At the same time NYU Stern is one of the best schools in the world for business and especially Finance, probably more so than Duke. As NYU is in Manhattan the best employers and teachers from around the world live and work in Manhattan. They will either teach at Columbia or NYU, so students are exposed to the best business minds in the whole world. While I recognize that their is excessive Duke pride (as seen by their basketball loyalty) and Duke is an amazing school, I would personally disagree that it is better than NYU Stern. I would think Duke is much better than the Anderson School at UCLA. I have attended classes at both. This is just my opinion, but I would not discount NYU Stern’s world class education, and would even think one would be not familiar with it or naive to question education by world class professors living and working in Manhattan. When these CEO’s and professors have time off living in Manhattan they will teach at NYU or Columbia.

  • Mark Taranto

    What is hard to understand? You called me a liar. This is rude and unacceptable behavior, No attempt at explaining your behavior as logical makes it right. I am done with you. I am not being aggressive, I am just telling you that you are rude, and will have nothing more to do with you.

  • To Mark

    I do not understand your aggressive behavior. I am using fact based approach in conversation with you.

    – you asked me about confirmations, I gave links to you.
    – you asked whether you said Bloomberg is better. I quoted your own words. There were no good or bad. You asked me about ‘better’.
    – based on the facts on my hands, I told you that you were lying, that what I really thought at the time. That what Bloomberg page told me. That what is called ‘telling the truth’ or ‘calling things by their proper name’. There is nothing rude.

    Only after that I found out exonerating facts in your support. All this due to way BW ranks schools. I was also right in that BW ranks Berkeley 19th in the World.
    When I found out my mistake, I asked you for an apology. What else do you expect me to do?

    I am tired of your aggressive behavior and factless accusations, so I would not mind you not responding to me. You are probably some 20-30 years older than me, and only that precluded me from using some hard words in your address.

  • Mark Taranto

    1. Perhaps you don’t understand the nature of personal attack. You called me a liar.

    3. To say that one is better does not imply that one is good in my opinion, BW is bad. FT is particularly bad.

    4. If you are calling me a liar, then you obviously are not be g respectful.

    5. There are lots of rude people in the U.S. The implication is that you are obviously rude and not American.

    6. Getting a letter from a U.S. School asking you to apply means nearly nothing. You might not have got in. Perhaps you would have got into some, but you clearly do not belong at a top school.

    7. I am a mirror. I treat others the way I see them treat people. If you read my responses, you will find most are respectful. If you think mine are rude, then stop being rude to others.

    8. You are a troll, so I will not respond to you again.

    9. Do not call me Mark. To you. I am Professor Taranto or Dr. Taranto.

  • To Mark

    Well, I a little bit surprised by your reaction. Let me respond to your points.

    1 & 2 There were no personal attacks. Confucius once said, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name”. I just googled BW MBA ranking

    You can find there “FT MBA”, which gives you global MBA ranking, and “International”, which gives you non-US b-schools ranking. No separate ranking for US. So I said that you are lying – nothing more. I was mistaken. Please accept my apologies.
    After your words, I dived into research and managed to find separate ranking for US. It appears that they simply put more
    than one school in each rank for Global ranking. That is why Berkeley appears 19th in both US and Global ranking. Anyway, BW global ranking invalidates your argument i.e. your reference to BW to build an argument about top 20 in the World.

    3. Yes, you did. You were referring in conversation to BW and then you explicitly said, quote – “I think that FT is worse than the others”. By any logic that means that you believe BW and others are better than FT.

    4. Well, that is your opinion. There is nothing to discuss. Even though I disagree with your opinion, I do respect your point of view.

    5. Sure.

    6. Hmm are you implying that there are no rude people in the US? Only this website proves you wrong.
    And it is very rude of you to make speculations about rudeness of my culture.

    7. That is another rudeness from you. In fact, after I passed my GMAT and filled my profile in, many US schools sent me an invitation to apply to their programs. Some waived application fee some said that they can consider me for a full scholarship. One email was from Wharton, inviting me to explore their MBA.

    Even though some people on this website try to overrate US programs in comparison to non-US ones, which is wrong, I believe there are many excellent MBA programs in the US and US b-schools are definitely in the scope of my interest.

    You said that rudeness is unacceptable in this discussion. So, please, refrain from derogatory comments yourself.

  • Mark Taranto

    Good luck. Their health care program is first rate. Their finance and marketing groups are also pretty good. Plus, you can get great Carolina BBQ.

  • Mark FTW

    Get em’ Dr. Taranto!

    You alone have convinced me that Fuqua produces quality people in addition to quality talent. I was already leaning toward Fuqua because of their strength in Healthcare and their 6 week terms (allowing students to take more electives). But after reading you school these trolls, I am becoming an even bigger fan of your alma mater.

    Please don’t be deterred and keep on posting! Thanks.

  • Mark Taranto

    I have several comments for you:

    1. You call me a liar. That is false. It is also rude, unacceptable for this discussion and a stupid argument. I have been asked, here, for my opinion. I have given it. You may disagree with it, but personal attacks have no place here. You owe me an apology.

    2 The BW ranking to which I referred is only for American Business Schools, so I have no idea what you are looking at.

    3. Did I say that Bloomberg is a better ranking than FT? The fact is that I do not believe that either is good. In fact I don’t think that any official ranking is that good.

    4. I understand that you don’t agree with my assessment that UNC is a better B-school than anything outside the USA other than LSB or INSEAD. I stand by that belief. You propose Oxford and Cambridge as better schools. They are not. Both programs are fairly new. While they may become great programs, they are not there yet. Those two schools pay about half what faculty get at American schools. There has been an incredible brain drain there, with many of their good faculty moving to the states. Perhaps you are being blinded by the Halo Effect. Princeton generally does well in surveys on Business Schools or Law Schools. The problem is that it has neither of those schools. At Maryland, we frequently lose foreign students to John’s Hopkins, despite the fact that JH relies on adjuncts to teach and that their Business School is not accredited. Why? Because it is a great undergraduate school and Medical School.

    5. I have looked through GMACs web site, and do not see your evidence. Perhaps you can provide a link.

    6. The fact that you are not American or European is no surprise. Perhaps being so rude is acceptable in your culture.

    7. You are welcome to get an MBA outside of America. Given your behavior here, I doubt that you could get into a top tier American school.

  • Mark Taranto

    I guess you will have to settle for just being a jerk. Perhaps taking blowhard lessons will help. I have worked outside of the ivory tower. I spent a number of years as a manager at Dow Jones and was a Vice President at Lehman Brothers and Kidder Peabody. Feel free to disagree with me, but if you venture to make it personal, at least get your facts right.

  • To Mark


    I understand that you graduated from US universities (Berkeley, Duke) and can be naturally biased towards US b-schools. The interest in US b-schools has been declining in later years. The GMAC gives a factual evidence about it in their report. Many Americans and US educated folks feel insecure and behave aggressively towards non-US schools. But you have to realize that you will not promote US schools by bashing non-US schools.
    In your case, bias is simply extreme. You went so far as to start lying.

    Firstly, Bloomberg (BW) ranks UC Berkeley as the 19th best MBA program in the World, not in the US. So ranking that you referred as more credible (than FT) puts more than 10 non-US
    b-schools ahead of Berkeley.

    Secondly, with all due respect to your alma-mater, saying that there are no better b-school than Berkeley outside US and only LBS and INSEAD (outside US) are better than North Carolina is simply wrong. I would be surprised to know that someone chose Haas over LBS, or North Carolina over Oxbridge or IESE. *looking back at the rankings* I believe that major international rankings (including BW) will share my feeling 🙂

    P.S. I would second UmNoJustNo opinion that FT ranking is more credible that of BW.

    I am neither American nor European, and I believe that FT is the best global ranking. It is more objective and does not have US centric bias.

  • karel paragh

    It absolutely is! Karel Paragh

  • Sean

    Berkeley shouldn’t be surprising. Salaries in the Bay Area are among the highest in the country and tech firms are climbing over each other for strong recruits. And let’s not forget those wonderful stock options in the startup capital of the world. Sure I am biased but I would put total income potential from Stanford and Berkeley higher than any of the East Coast schools. Plus we’re creating things instead of manipulating other people’s money 🙂

  • Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier

    Thats completely true! Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier Paragh

  • Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier

    After doing some research! Its all true, the Duke MBAs who go to NYC make a lot more than those who go to Charlotte or Atlanta. Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier Paragh

  • Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier

    Yes, professor, complete agreed also from my side. Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier Paragh

  • Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier

    I agree with that! Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier Paragh

  • Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier

    I guess that NYE absolutely belongs in the same category as Duke! Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier Paragh

  • Karel Paragh

    Thats also true. The living expenses in nyc is higher than Charlotte and Atlanta. Regards, Karel Paragh

  • Cortez Charles

    University of Chicago didn’t make the cut hmmm interesting

  • Mark Taranto

    That is exactly why I gave a breakdown of the data set.

  • Mark Taranto

    Yuu mean besides spelling my name correctly?

  • Mark Taranto

    There is no need for name calling. Since I taught at Wharton and MIT and turned does an Ivy League MBA for Fuqua, I don’t understand your comment that I couldn’t make it at an Ivy. I don’t care if you think I am a douche, since I don’t value your opinion.

  • Tyler C.

    Well I surely wouldn’t be typing ab app on a phone. There’s no need to be pedantic on a forum. But I am 27 and work in material management with the railroad and go to school so I already have ample work experience if the lack of said experience is what you were referring to. Plus, it’s always good to have a 5 year plan, is it not? Come on, bro.

  • you’ve been served

    my perspective is that the profs who got mba’s from top tier programs and then went on to get PhDs were quite douchy. They had no chance of making it on a legit elite-ivy MBA level…
    (not saying they didn’t get top tier mba’s, but they couldn’t hang past 3 years post mba)

  • bo knows

    if you went to a top tier program you would know better. you wouldn’t try get away with saying “don’t take concepts that you don’t truly understand”. if you truly understand the value and experience of going to a top program, you would know that these topics are irrelevant.

  • Come on Bro

    This whole conversation is wanking, b/c the “mean” means nothing here guys. Complete BS. A tier 1/2 school will send people to Amex/Amazon/buy side. A marketing babe at AmEx pulls in ~100 base, while a multi billion $ HF or PE pays 200-300K base to MBA’s. Stakes are HUGE, yes. But this salary data has nothing to do with it. It just reflects the mix of marketing babes/ techies/ bankers/ consultants/ buysiders.
    The reality is that someone who shows up at HBS with same background as someone who shows up at CBS/MIT/GSB/ABC will end up on the same path, same comp, and the same life. You have pretty solid certainty showing up which category you belong to, and that drives your comp. The only real question is if you go to GS/MS/CS/MC/BX or GOOG/AAPL/FB/AMZN/MSFT.
    People end up thinking the school dictates the life, but Bschool won’t be your panacea. They top tier guys all do the same things, with a few exceptions for truly exceptional people.
    You go to the best school because you wouldn’t fit in at UC Irvine if you had spent the past 2 years at KKR/Bain/Goldman TMT…
    You swing what you swing, and you get what you deserve. To see people obsessing over pecking order is absurd.

  • come on bro

    If you currently go to IU then you shouldn’t be thinking about this yet. Also, be sure to get the spelling right when you apply.

  • come one bro

    then what are you doing on this comment thread?

  • Karel Paragh

    Thats absolutely true. Its also something i have seen at NYC. Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier Paragh

  • Karel Paragh

    I read the discussion. And you are right, the data are biased

  • chendaddy

    True, but overall income is something to take into consideration. Asian MBA programs never do well on these lists. Yes, the cost of living is lower here, but at the same time it is good to be aware that we are on average saving and investing less total income than our counterparts in the states and Europe are.

  • Mohit Paudel

    Is just getting an MBA after bachelors enough??considering doing the MBA program from a top Business school in the USA ??

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  • Mark Taranto

    Both are good. But they are very different programs. At Columbia, it is part of an MBA or a PhD. At Princeton is is a very quantitative MFin, which is through the Economics Department. They are completely different.

  • zeromein

    For finance, Columbia would trump Princeton.

  • zeromein

    Yale doesn’t belong in the 4th tier – it should be lower than that. In your 4th tier, you have NYU. UCLA and Yale do not belong among the others in that set; they should be in tier 5

    The Yale MBA program is pretty weak, but the name of the university is what carries them, in the MBA game.

  • Jay Holsapple

    We all agree that the rankings are flawed by their nature of distilling the value of a school to a single, expected value. So there is plenty of room for qualifying attributes of these different schools for persons who wish to assign their own weights. Prof. Mark Taranto has kindly offered his anactdotal observations for such persons. But your comments, sir, add no value this analysis.

  • JohnAByrne

    Again, these are historical numbers. So they start 20 years back.

  • Ranjit Parekh

    Maybe I’m missing something, but these numbers seem ridiculously low to me. If you take the average starting salary of an MBA grad today ($150k) and multiply it by 20 years, that’s already $3 mil. In the consulting firm where I work, the average progression from MBA grad to partner takes about 10 years. Partners pull in about $1 mil per year. That’s already $10+ million in total.

  • JohnAByrne

    20 years

  • alam

    in above article shows that seven figure salary,although it is one year salary or whole 20 year salary .

  • Chris Sinkey

    “The numbers are conservative. They do not include stock-based compensation of any kind” makes this entire article pretty much worthless. If you don’t include equity in calculation, how could you ever compare what people earn in a 20 year period. Include equity and Stanford, Berkeley, tech heavy schools jump off the charts.

  • Coffeee is not helping

    This is really an interesting thread. Thanks for your comments. I have a query slightly off topic from the comparison of MBA. It is rather about comparison of top non-MBA master’s and MBA. What are the odds that someone with top non-MBA master’s in business/management from a well-known school (say MiM at HEC Paris, MPhil at Cambridge or MSc at Oxford/LSE) would be able to catch up with the MBA level salary provided he/she works hard and has the drives? For many students especially from developing countries, footing the bill for a top MBA is beyond thinkable; but a cheaper MSc/MiM is doable. Any insight on this would be appreciated. Regards.

  • The return on investment for the best full-time programs is very helpful for students

  • Well the title says – The Most Lucrative Seven Figure MBA Degrees On Earth.? The title does not indicate that the seven figures are accumulated over a 20 year period. I could go on about why I feel it is sensational journalism, however I am reminded of a quote : “For those who understand, no explanation is necessary; for those who don’t understand, no explanation will suffice”.

    This article has all the components of sensationalism whether you intended for it or not is a different discussion.

  • JohnAByrne

    How is it sensational to point out the gap in admission requirements between full- and part-time programs and give would-be applicants hope that they can still get a degree from a great school if they don’t meet the full-time requirements? This is what we call “service journalism,” helping people make an informed career decision by providing solid information about these MBA programs so people have more options and greater choice. It’s hardly “sensational journalism.”

  • Ryan Ling

    I am an Australian MBA graduate. How credible is Australian MBA degree in United States?

  • Thanks for putting up these numbers. Some good cunching. P&Q seems to have started to go the sensational journalism way to drive page-views. For the really sound aspirants, these numbers are actually demotivating.

    20 years worth of slogging in a job to make just 2-3 million by the age of 50 is not “glamorous”

  • Not Mark

    I wish I could be a blowhard pedant like Mr. Taranto, but alas, I can’t, as I’ve lived and worked outside of the ivory tower. I would be wary of any grown-up who espouses school rankings, and then touts the school they went to. High School prom king mentality will only get you so far. Feeling insecure? Follow Mr. Taranto’s “advice”, drop a few hundred thousand, and then you too can puff out your chest and name drop your school’s rankings. People you work with and who report to you will love that. Let me know how that works out for you. You’ll be disappointed. An alternative? Look at any fortune 500’s executive committe. Take a look at their pedigress. Did they all go to schools Mr. Taranto is espousing? Hardly any of them. Get an MBA, fine, but most importantly, figure out how to communicate, inspire, and motivate people. And work really, really hard. Having a pedigree diploma is nice, but it isn’t worth a damn if you are a blowhard rankings fool and don’t have influencing skills and a work-ethic to match…

  • midwestern

    I heard Columbia really needs money… they’re taking quite a lot of students in for the tuition.. plus the CVN online degrees from them, lol.

  • midwestern

    I think the argument is now all about numbers….I dont think AdComs care much about exit stats when they send admit letters.

    Numbers are just a point estimate….. If you’re exceptional then you dont need an average number–you just need strong cohorts at a strong school. every school will have a mixed bag of location advantage & academic reputation. nuff said.

  • marcus

    the biggest flaw with this ranking system is the salary and bonus metric. Most of the out-sized wealth is accumulated via equity ie shares in startups that go public. and under those circumstances I bet you’ll find a much different outcome in the rankings. what ultimately matters is net wealth – not salary as long as we’re playing this game.

  • Mark Taranto

    For the Duke a Fuqua class of 2014, 86% stayed in North America. The breakdown for that group is:

    24% took jobs in the Northeast.
    20% took jobs in the South.
    20% took jobs in the West.
    16% took jobs in the Midwest.
    12% took jobs in the Mid-Atlantic
    7% took jobs in the Southwest
    1% took jobs in Mexico.

    The average salary for those going into Asset Management at Duke is $128,333. By contrast, the average starting salary for full time NYU Stern students going into Asset a Management was less, set at $121,429. I couldn’t find information on where Stern students take jobs. However, I did find that 86% of NYU students stay in the New York area.

    I’m not sure why you thought I was ranting about something without knowledge of the topic, but you are wrong. Your personal attack is unseemly and inappropriate.

    Most of the top business schools publish these statistics. Having attended Duke’s Fuqua school I was already familiar with their numbers. Most of my classmates who stayed in the South did so by choice, with many not even looking elsewhere.

  • KK

    So lame, I have had it with this Mark guy – preaching nonsense, misguiding students with his opinions. He just hijacked this post and confused everyone

  • KK

    If Mr. Taranto wants to state facts I welcome that, asserting random BS is just misleading.

    What is the % of Duke students confine employment to Southern united states? Were they offered positions elsewhere for a higher salary, chose to decline the offers and stay back in the south?What is the % of Duke students in the east earn more than their peers from schools in the east?
    I am certain you will not be able to produce credible statistics for any of these questions. A random rant with no emperical evidence and your view asserted as a fact is just childish for a professional academician.

  • KK

    Rakesh, just because Mr. Taranto has a strong opinion, nothing he says is really true. Let me reassure you that Stern is a solid Tier 1 school! If Mr. Taranto wants to state facts I welcome that, asserting random BS is just misleading.

    If he can state % of graduated students who confine employment to Southern united states where the per capita earnings are sub-par, if he can state % of Duke students in the east who earn more than their peers from schools in the east, and argue based on facts there would be some credibility. This random rant of “Rochester, Carnegie Mellon, and Washington University above Harvard, Duke better than Stern”, and all this self-proclaimed BS, asserted as facts is just childish for a professional academician.

  • midwestern

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. I completely agree with your view on online MBAs. I don’t intend to do MBA online, but UMD UNC IU CMU do have them.

    I actually intend to do a Statistics/Computer Science/Analytics type of program online… they’re the program I looked for in Villanova/IU/Alabama. I have nearly a major in Math but our math department is small…. UMD’s Finance dept probably triples my Fin dept in headcount…so having just the 6 course undergrad major in Finance feels thin in a way.

    I’ll be heading into fixed income trading later this year. I think part-time MSF Wustl/Olin is a top choice; but are those lesser schools’ STEM degree okay as backups if I can’t enter Olin?

    Or, should I just wait and enter booth/kellogg/olin/ross for the MBA, since my school has a decent reputation in the midwest? Thanks again for your expertise!

  • Mark Taranto

    I’m not a big fan of online MBAs and don’t really follow them. Just remember that on your resume, you are going to put that you have an MBA from that school and will probably not point out that it was online. Therefore, picking the best school that you can is the smart move. Getting a degree from a ranked school will help. Neither Alabama nor Villanova strike me as great schools for an MBA. Villanova’s undergraduate business program is highly regarded, but it’s MBA isn’t well known. As a point of disclosure, I should point out that my undergraduate degree is from Villanova. If you have to do an online MBA, get it from a school whose full time program is ranked. Perhaps you should look at University of North Carolina or University of Maryland. Another point of disclosure, I have a good friend at UNC and I am at Maryland. Neither of us teach in the online program.

  • midwestern

    Dear Dr. Taranto, thanks for your comments! I’m currently considering distance programs such as IU bloomington (not kelley online), Univ. of Alabama, Villanova. My job location allows part-time at WUSTL/Olin, and some online Northwestern/Berkeley online programs open up the alumni networks, but are too expensive without much content….

    Would you consider any of these programs to be possibly “lesser”? Thanks again for your tremendous help!

  • Mark Taranto

    I just saw this, so sorry for not responding earlier. Looking at the students admitted to top programs I saw lots of students who were lacking in one area, but few who were lacking in two. There were not a lot of students who went to lower ranked undergraduate schools (with the exception of those who went to Historicall Black Schools). For example, my first year at Duke, there were 20 students in the two full time classes who had gone to a University of California school, but only one who had gone to a Cal State school. Those who did go to “lesser” schools were outstanding in all of their other qualifications.

    So if you went to a lower ranked school, it might be hard to get into a top MBA program. A master’s degree from a top state school or highly regarded program may help you get into a good MBA program. As for full or part time, you have to make that decision based on what is best for you.

    Good luck.

  • midwestern

    agreed. the loan itself hurts much more than tax deduction on student loans

  • midwestern

    Hello Dr. Taranto, I went ahead and read through all of your posts and your page at UMD. I see that your expertise is amazing. My background is in finance and math/statistics, but my school is not as well-known as some schools nearby (think Olin). I’m considering to apply for top 20 MBA (either deferred now or a few years later), but I was wondering if I should obtain another degree. Assuming that I can enter a STEM degree program (at least top 100 USnews or top 100 P&Q), would it the best if I do it full-time, or part-time with a Finance-related job, or don’t do a master at all before MBA? Thanks for your help!

  • Mark Taranto

    Billy Bob, you directed this to me. I said just the opposite. I suspect that you wanted to direct this to Tristan.

  • Billy Bob Cooter

    Are you seriously advocating that one should seriously consider attending Liberty over Harvard?

  • Billy Bob Cooter

    I’m surprised that MBAs don’t experience much pay inflation over the course of their career. Considering that HSW grads start at $135k, it’s surprising to know that their average salary will increase by only about 10%.

  • Billy Bob Cooter

    Irvine is only a winner cause the west coast doesn’t have nearly as many prestigious schools as does the northern and eastern quarter of the USA per capita.

    West coast people need places to go to school so those that choose to stay local must go to branch campuses of UCalifornia, which therefore raises the ranking of these schools. I doubt that many outside of CA would choose to go to Irvine over an equally reputable school on the East coast.

  • Billy Bob Cooter

    You clearly aren’t MBA material if you can’t figure out this easy question.

    Clearly no school has alumni averaging $3M incomes per year. This would mean on average every alumni is a C-level executive at a fortune 500 company.

    MBA grads on average typically make around $150k/year, and tends to be more for certain industries.

  • Billy Bob Cooter

    Ok NYU fan boy. I’m not saying the rankings are 100% accurate, but your claims about NYU are wishful at best. Stern’s only strength is finance; outside of finance (and outside of NYC), Stern alumni are like fish on dry land. Stern’s reputation as an overall reputable business school was severely damaged during the financial crisis due to its heavy weight in finance. If NYU is a top 10 school (which is a very wishful belief) it is hanging on to that 10th position for dear life.

    I’m not an MIT alum but your criticism of MIT is unwarranted. As someone arguing in favor of NYU over MIT in finance, you clearly must have not spent much time paying attention in your finance classes since almost all modern finance theories have been created by someone affiliated with one of two schools (one school being MIT, the other UChicago).

    Also anyone truly interested in studying finance in NYC would choose the Ivy Colombia over NYU 9 days out of 10. Colombia is still a joke and is far behind both Wharton and Booth in finance, but it’s still much more prestigious than NYU. I also would choose to attend Harvard/Stanford for finance over Stern. I also think Haas’s MFE program is better for people who want to work in finance than Stern’s MBA program. Also, there are numerous finance schools in the UK that are way ahead of Stern (i.e. LSE, LBS, Cambridge, Oxford, etc.). So not sure how you can justify Stern as a top 3 finance school.

    Finally, NYU’s average salary is low compared to other top 10 MBA programs, and considering that most NYU alumni work in the NYC area one would expect a premium be added to the starting salaries of NYU Stern alumni, which is not apparent by the Stern MBA employment report. Personally, I would prefer to go to Kellogg to study finance and live in Chicago, which has a significantly lower cost of living than NYC, while making more than Stern alumni (i.e. higher income with lower living expenses = higher standard of living).

  • Mark Taranto

    If you can get into all three, then I would rule out Notre Dame. Indiana is a better B-School, and would be way cheaper if you are an Indiana resident. Indiana falls between 15-25 on most US Rankings, while Notre Dame falls between 20-35.

    The real question is Indiana or Booth. My usual advice is to go to the best school you get into, and that is Booth. There is a big difference in the kinds of jobs you can get coming out of a top five school than a school ranked closer to 20. If you want a finance job, there is no way you should turn down Chicago. Along with MIT, it has the best finance department in the world. But if you want to do general business and want to stay in Indiana, you will get an excellent education at IU, and will still get a decent job.

    There is one other thing to consider. The dirty little secret at the better B-Schools that also have undergraduate classes is that the same classes are taught to the MBAs and the UGs. Since you are already at IU, staying might just be for the degree, and you may not learn much new.

    All of this is with the caveat that you get into all three. The truth is that Booth will probably not accept you until you work for three or four years. IU might let you in right away.

    Good luck.

  • Tyler C.

    I currently go to IU and am considering going to IU’s Kelley, Note Dame Mendoza, or Booth. IU and ND have a great ROI but I was wondering how large the gap is between these schools and Booth?

  • morning_in_america

    Haas and Columbia? the most overrated league?

  • Junaid Subzwari


    I appreciate all of your dialogue and attention to the comments here. It’s been really helpful as I’m exploring the value of the MBA and my career goals. It would be great to see rankings based on specific concentrations. Much of the dialogue below is applicable to finance. But would the rankings stay the same if someone was interested in Technology/Innovation or Social Entrepreneurship? As an example, my goal for an MBA is to start a social business that uses technology to help raise the standard of living for those afflicted with poverty. How would you advise for some one to choose a program best fitted for their end goal vs. looking at the generic rankings?

  • Mark Taranto

    The reason for the discrepancy between NYU and the other schools may have to do with their evening program. Their numbers may effect salaries of graduates from both programs, and I suspect that the evening students bring down the numbers. The other schools you mention do not have evening programs.

  • pipo

    why is the 2013 starting pay lower at NYU than Chicago, Duke and Kellogg then? do you then have to adjust your theory to affirm that Duke students accept better paying jobs -presumably in cities with higher cost of living-, and then move south? what is the percentage of Fuqua students that is not from the south that decides to move there permanently, including internationals?
    don’t think I agree with your conclusions based on the data, but do agree that a PPP based approach may be a better indicator …

  • James Liu

    Thank god you don’t do the official rankings because your personal vendetta/bias against NYU is almost palpable. NYU Stern has been consistently ranked in the top 10 for decades and #1 for several of those years. And there is universal agreement among reputable lists and rankings that for finance and i-banking, Wharton, Booth, and Stern are consistently the top 3. You lost me when you listed MIT Sloan as a good B-School for Finance where in reality they have never been known for finance but much more for their entrepreneurial programs. I know this not only by virtually every ranking and article ever written about this topic but also having several friends who are in the in the MBA program at Sloan. And going by the gold standard of School and MBA rankings, US News and World Report, NYU Stern is consistently ranked several spots above your beloved Duke. I am going with years of numbers and stats here and not on emotion as you clearly are. Great to have school spirit but to say some of the things you have said on here with nothing but personal bias to back it up doesn’t bode well for your reputation as an educator. If that is of concern to you of course. Also, let’s not forget the number of billionaires each of these top schools produce but that’s whole other discussion.

  • Mark Taranto

    Did you miss the part where I said that all the rankings are biased? Even as a Fuqua grad, I agree that Fuqua should not be number one, but at least they belong in the top ten. But FT ranks Brandeis as the best Master of Finance program in the US, when it is probably not even in the top fifty. So yes, FT is one of the worst.

    As for Harvard, I would not put them in the top five. It may be the top program for management, but is pretty far down the list in other fields. I wouldn’t put them in the top 15 for finance, for example. Harvard has a terrible reputation in terms of developing team players. Duke has the best, which is why they did well under BW’s ranking, since that is one of their biases.

    I was just joking about the climate change and evolution denials. Sorry if you took offense.

    And, no — I did not get a lot of dings when I applied to MBA programs. Given how much you are arguing about rankings, I’m amused by your comment about my motivation, and how wrong you are about that, too. Congratulations on getting into Stanford. It is a great program. I didn’t apply there for my MBA, because I wanted an East Coast school. A few people I studied with at Berkeley moved to Stanford, and are excellent educators.

    I’d put them slightly behind Chicago and Wharton, about equal with MIT and a little ahead of Duke, Harvard and Northwestern. And I put them way ahead of anything outside the U.S. But I’m sure you would not agree

  • UmNoJustNo

    FT is the worst? BW just put Duke on top! Harvard isn’t even in the top 5! If you want to pick on the FT then let’s not use rankings like BW as the standard.

    Climate change and evolution deniers? I’m flattered. Well you remind me of someone incapable of moving on from when they went to b-school. Did you get a lot of dings or something when you applied? It takes a lot for someone to complete their degree then come back and continue to argue about rankings. I’m about to start mine at Stanford (yeah, I’m bragging just like you) and I’m already over how my school ranks. I’m going to matriculate, graduate, get recruited, and move on with my life. You should too.

  • Mark Taranto

    You keep saing that most everyone believes as you do, but I don’t see any evidence of that. All rankings are biased. I think that FT is worse than the others. Check out their rankings of MS in Finance. They rank 22 programs ahead of the first US school. Then the first US school they rank is Brandeis. While Brandeis is a fine undergraduate school, putting them as the best graduate program in Finance in the US is laughable. Ranking any non US school above MIT, Princeton or Berkeley is beyond laughable.

    Presenting one’s opinion without referencing facts or reasons (as you do) and then denigrating another’s opinion as biased because he has actual knowledge and expertise in the subject is a much weaker argument. You are beginning to remind me of climate change deniers and evolution deniers. Perhaps you should read up on logical fallacies before commenting again.

  • UmNoJustNo

    I think most everyone would agree that FT rankings are way more credible than BW’s (which you referenced). And US News doesn’t exactly have the most robust international research capability. We’ll just agree to disagree.

    But you should know that you don’t need to keep pushing your credentials. We get it – you’ve decided to be a b-school lifer. However, someone who feels it’s necessary to keep bring up their credentials is more likely NOT to have an unbiased opinion. Just saying…

  • Mark Taranto

    And as long as you understand that:

    1. Your view is your opinion

    2. That having attended two top ten B-Schools, having taught at three of them, knowing many faculty at top schools (in the US and in Europe) and being familiar with the research that comes out of these schools that my opinion is a well informed opinion, and not something I am guessing at or making up.

    Yup. All set.

  • UmNoJustNo

    As long as you know that’s your opinion then I think we should be all set here.

  • Mark Taranto

    I am not including either Oxford or Cambridge. Both are young programs. I specifically said that they are NOT there yet, but may get there some day.

    FT does put eight non US schools in the top 20. They have Tuck at number 20. I don’t agree that any of those eight schools are better than Tuck. But FT has very odd weightings that determine their rankings. 40% have to do with improvement in salaries between preMBA and postMBA. This is not a valid comparison between the top U.S. schools (which require more work experience) and European schools. More tellingly, the FT does not even consider the quality of instruction, and adds very little for the quality of faculty research. In addition, the give 5% based on the number of PhD students that graduate each year. Most top US schools accept very few PhD students on purpose. For example, Berkeley, where I got my PhD, gets over 400 applications per year to the finance PhD program, and usually accepts about four.

    I stand by my opinion that 18 of the top 20 MBA programs are in the U.S.

  • UmNoJustNo

    So you’re using BW and US News but not the FT? Oxford and Cambridge aren’t even the 3rd and 4th spot for non-US schools. You’re only including them because of their name and not the quality of their MBAs

  • naan mumukshu

    this article makes me want to PUKE. When will we realize that it’s these very actions that create the Enrons of our world? When the income-value parity is off by an order of magnitude we have real issues to address

  • John Meyer

    I have a quick question. Is the 20 year median income for the MBA graduates from top schools the sum of twenty years earnings or current annual earnings. Example: The top MBA schools enjoy a median income of $3,011,000. Is this per year or the sum of twenty years income averaging $150,550 per year.

  • Mark Taranto

    Questionable? Yes. Highly questionable? No.

    BusinessWeek ranks UC Berkeley as the 19th best MBA program in the U.S. the number of B-Schools outside the U.S. that are better than Berkeley is Zero.

    US News rank North Carolina as the 19th best B-School in the U.S. the number that are better is two, LBS and INSEAD.

    There are probably 40 schools that one could argue belong in the top 40. There are a few in Europe and Asia that we could argue about. Oxford and Cambridge may get there. But my opinion is that only LBS and INSEAD belong there now.

  • AC AC

    Not anymore.

  • tristan the great

    I see sir. Thank you

  • Mark Taranto

    My comment on the Liberty MBA is based on the reputation of the university. Few of their programs are accredited. The MBA is one of the few that is. However, with the changes in the accreditation methodology, I am not sure that they will be able to keep their accreditation. I don’t personally believe that any MBA from a non-ranked program is worth the cost. Surveys have shown that they add little to earning potential over a bachelor’s degree. Liberty is not considered even close to being ranked, and it is doubtful that they ever will.

    Many believe that Liberty was created to further a religious and political agenda rather than to promote learning. Anyone who believes this will be more likely to laugh at a résumé that includes a Liberty degree than to consider it seriously.

  • Mark Taranto

    I’ve not given much thought to that. I would not describe Rice as a regional program, but as a national one.

  • tristan the great

    How would a Liberty degree hurt the degree holders prospects? Based upon what?

  • jimismash

    Just out of curiosity, have you given any thought to low cost of living, super strong economy areas? I’m specifically thinking of Houston with its energy industry (assuming oil prices rebound at some point).

    Do you think that regional programs, like Rice and SMU over perform on these income analyses?

  • Mark Taranto

    Be careful about that kind of assessment. A Harvard MBA could make a lot more money in Tampa than a Liberty MBA. Most choose not to. My point is that a Duke MBA and a Harvard MBA are of similar quality. Duke MBAs are more likely to stay in the South. Those who go to NYC make the same money as Harvard and Columbia grads. Those who stay in the South make less, but would still make much more than a typical Liberty MBA.

    I believe than an MBA from an unranked school does very little in the way of improving earnings potential the ability to get good jobs. As for Liberty, I’d go so far as to guess that it may actually hurt the degree holder’s prospects.

  • tristan the great

    Are you an Emirati? I just wrote a global cultural business assesment on the UAE. Facinating place.

  • tristan the great

    That is an excellent point. A harvad grad may make $150k but will have to live in NYC. A Liberty grad may make half that but can work in Tampa FL and have half to a third less in living expenses, no state taxe and a far less expensive home.

    Thanks for the post

  • Rajiv

    Professor , i am interested in pursuing Online Executive MBA Program from a renowned school, which can offer me good growth potential .

    I have done an MBA in India , from a lesser known school which is quite good academically , but not so famous , and I got the MBA in 1993 .

    I have got over 20 Years of professional experience .
    The key parameters are – Low in cost , short duration , high in reputation /rankings etc. .

    Hope , with all your knowledge and experience , you people are better equipped to guide me .

    Thanking you in advance .

  • Rakesh

    Completly agreed, Professor.
    Booth, Wharton and Kellogg are definitely tier one. How is MIT Sloan one year MBA program?
    Also, where would NYU Stern feature (Tier two, three) ?
    Really appreciate your time in responding.
    Best Regards,

  • Saleem

    Thank you so much. 🙂

  • Mark Taranto

    Good luck. An EMBA from Chicago will do more for your career than a full time MBA at many schools. About the only problem with them is that you don’t have as many choices in your electives.

  • Saleem

    Sir, your detailed analysis and thoughts have made my decision very easy now. I am in final stage of admission in Chicago Booth for Executive MBA. I couldnt do MBA because of financial reasons but I saved money and now want to fulfill my dreams. It is debateable that EMBA can’t be compared with MBA but I feel one must go with what we dream in life. I liked your comments because Booth is always my first choice…I am Finance professional with 13 years of experience. Thanks a lot.

  • hernan cortez

    For what its worth, the average salary of a harvard class from 20 years ago is $350,000, around 95% of alumni from that year participated. So the numbers are about double. The payscale numbers are not fuly accurate.

  • Mark Taranto

    In terms of career prospects, a one year degree from INSEAD would be better than a two year degree from an U ranked school. Going to a top ten school would give you even better prospects. That would mean a two year program, and probably mean studying in the US. The two year degree allows students to go into more depth and specialize.

  • Mike Radov

    Thanks , my dad went to INSEAD so I have also heard good things about them, I know that rotman is 2 year and INSEAD is one year, does this make a huge difference for career prospects in the long run, and what is your personal opinion on 1 year vs 2 year programs.

  • Mark Taranto

    Mike, Rotman is an excellent school. The have a particularly good Finance department. Financial Times ranks them as the top Canadian school, and puts them near the top 50 in the world. American schools that FT ranks close to Rotman include UNC and Maryland. This would mean that it would probably rank between 18-30 if it were a US school. This is about where I would put them, too.

    There are a few European schools that rank higher. This list would include LBS, INSEAD, Cambridge and Oxford.

  • Mike Radov

    How about Rotman at UofT? If it was a choice between and American and a Canadian school for an MBA how would the Canadian ones stack up against them, meaning how far down would the Canadian ones (Namely Ivey and Rotman) rank in the top 25 if they were in the top 25 at all. Would any American or European school be better than a Canadian one?

  • Lala

    That’s 150k average which means at year 30 it’s still 150k when the money is worth less. Obviously it’s more complicated than that but the time value argument makes the picture worse. Please don’t just take concepts that you don’t truly understand and apply it everywhere.

  • JohnAByrne

    Sorry. The explanation should be in the article or footnotes to the table. In fact, it’s in the comments section.

  • TuBob Shakur

    Ahhh, got it. You wrote “again.” Is there an article in which you explained this before? I’m only seeing a chart.

  • JohnAByrne

    Again, the starting pay cited is for the latest year available. The estimates of 20-year earnings are historical. So the actual starting point for the 20-year income numbers is significantly lower–by 20 years–than the starting pay numbers today.

  • TuBob Shakur

    I agree. It would be interesting to include a third column that adjusts the earnings to reflect cost of living and tax burdens. An MBA grad who works in NYC with a starting salary of $130,000 will have far less disposable income than an MBA grad who works in Seattle with a starting salary of $120,000. That’s important for applicants and students to know, particularly if they’re incurring student loan debt.

  • TuBob Shakur

    These numbers are iffy to me. If you compare the schools’ respective starting salaries with the schools’ respective 20-year earnings estimates, the numbers suggest that annual earnings will remain steady or even decline over 20 years. (I.e., if you multiply some schools’ starting salaries by 20, that figure is less than the school’s 20-year estimate.) That strikes me as being pretty implausible.

  • Mark Taranto

    To be honest, I don’t know much about Ivey. They have the reputation of being the best MBA in Canada. I know they have a few good Finance people, but know little about their other departments. While they are ranked higher than U of Toronto and UBC, the latter two have particularly good finance departments, which are probably better than Ivey’s.

  • Mail Reader

    Thank you, Mark, for your insight into the Oxford and Cambridge programs.
    What is your opinion on the Ivey Business School MBA program (Western University, London, ON, Canada)? Despite being a one-year program, they claim to have retained its leadership position for top salary in Canada for 15 consecutive years with a significant (8-9%) gap between them and next closest Canadian school.
    Your views, rating and acceptance (mainly outside Canada) will be highly appreciated.

  • Carey

    John, when BW will release the MBA ranking?

  • JohnAByrne

    Exactly right.

  • JohnAByrne

    The current salary and bonus numbers are in the table to give readers an idea of how much graduating MBAs are now making. The 20-year median income numbers reflect what a person with an MBA has made in the past 20 years. So they really are apples and oranges.

  • abblie

    kind of like the former student who donated $300 million to name it Booth, or the ones running all the funds at pimco, citadel, founding blackstone, etc etc etc. “jet setters”? you can make that call. applicants want to go to the best ranked, best regarded schools – it doesn’t matter whether the schools are in new york city, or philadelphia (hardly sexy), or palo alto (suburbia), or chicago. the best applicants want to go to the best schools, period, and are pretty efficient at finding out which schools are the best. just as the hedge funds, pe firms, i-banks, etc that continue rating Booth way above nyu or cbs are…

  • Dern

    LOL. CBS will “keep moving up”? er, it’s been moving, down, steadily for 5+ yrs now. MIT has been ok I guess, treading water. And Chicago has moved up dramatically and is as strong now as it ever was. If it’s over-rated, well it’s kind of amazing literally every rankings publication, with all their completely different approaches and methodologies, arrive at the same “overrating” of Chicago. amazing coincidence there.

  • avivalasvegas

    This a heavily location skewed earnings report. Look at how well the West Coast/ NY schools perform on this chart vs. the Chicago schools despite being significantly lower ranked (exception here being Stanford). The sad news is that the Darden and UCLA kids are going to get even more annoying with their bragging

  • Andy

    this is a historical look at earnings, not future. Starting salary in 1994 was not $141K

  • Torvald

    I believe that’s because they’re basing it on people who obtained their MBA 20 years ago when starting salaries weren’t as high. That would probably make more sense…

  • Mark Taranto

    I completely agree. But let’s face it, no one in his right mind would make fun of someone for choosing Carnegie Mellon.

  • goodathiding

    I believe it also depends on when people attended and received their MBA and what skills they were after. Years ago, I ultimately turned down HBS, Stern and Tuck in order to go to Tepper for my MBA. This was based on having prior work in Treasury and M&A and understanding what I was looking for in acquiring new skills. Having worked all over and with people from all top 20 MBA schools, I still often find myself underwhelmed at the knowledge of those that went to “higher” ranked schools. Choosing a school based on rankings or possible salary figures alone is rarely useful. Those that are going to succeed will do so no matter which school they go to.

  • JonQ

    You don’t quite understand time value of money do you…

  • dd

    Biggest winner: Irvine, Georgia, BU
    Biggest Losers: Ohio State, A&M

  • DdDdD


  • bingo

    This is a very simple question. If the median salary for H/S/W current grads is about $135,000 – plus sign-on bonuses and the like – at least as to median salary 135k x 20 yrs = $2,700,000 in 2014 dollars. Thus the difference between $2,7mln and $3.0mln is minimal. Is the premium in stock options? Is the premium in bonuses? Without those components the numbers are not meaningful other than as a comparison (and even the comparison between the top three and the top ten is not material).

  • Ahmed

    Thank you very much Prof for your comment. Although the top 10 or so american schools are famous internationally, there is also some schools outside the top 10 are pretty known internationally for their specialty and for the strength of the mother university, for example, Carnegie Mellon, University of Maryland, UIUC, Penn State for technical and engineering, Georgetown for global politics and international relation, Vanderbilt for medicine and science, such fame lead many students to choose one of those schools over better MBAs but less known university outside US, such as Virginia Darden, Dartmouth, Emory, etc.. I know personally two of high profile executives who manage billions of $ did their MBAs at Maryland and USC despite being accepted at Tuck and Virginia!! So, university of Maryland is highly regarded here in Middle East for its strength in Engineering and people apply such strength to all the university department including the MBA. again, thank you very much and I wish more high profile professors and business educators come down from their “ivory” towers and interact with people and prospective students just like what you are doing here! .. best wishes..

  • Mark Taranto

    Good luck with your MBA. Thanks for your comments.

    I haven’t said anything about Smith because this discussion has mainly been about schools that are in or near the top ten. But Smith is a great school. It’s rankings range from low 20s to low 40s in most lists of US schools. I teach a couple of advanced undergraduate classes. There is a lot of self selection in these classes, so the students I see are almost as good as those I taught at MIT and Wharton. I also teach some MBA classes, but most of my teaching is in the Master of Finance program. Since most of the top MBA schools don’t offer a Master of Finance, I believe that ours is among the best. There is a large international population, but the students are incredibly bright.

  • Mark Taranto

    I’ve been thinking about this some more, and have realized something about my reluctance to admit that NYU belongs in the same category as Duke. The first is that NYU has actually surged in the rankings in the last few years, ten or fifteen years ago, they were in the 15-20 range, while now they are I none 8-12 range. But the main reason is that I spent ten years in Manhattan before going back to school. The rankings, as well as the acceptance rates, are based on full time students. But Stern has a large part time program. That program is much less selective. Living in NYC, I met many more of these students than the ones who went in the daytime.

  • Ahmed

    Prof, aside from rankings and all these naive stuff, I would like to highly appreciate your contribution here. It definitely reflects how humble you are. I like very much your “elegant” bias to Duke :). Plus, your attitude and respectable interaction with readers here somehow tells the attitude of R. Smith school of business!

    Greeting from future MBA from Dubai, UAE.

  • JohnAByrne


    Thanks for weighing in on this and other issues. Really appreciate your thoughtful responses.


  • Mark Taranto

    Ross is better for undergrads than NYU. Duke does not have undergraduate business. Their MBA program is quite good, but not in the same class as Duke or NYU — at least in my opinion. It is probably the third best public school MBA, after Berkeley and UCLA. I definitely put them above Virginia.

  • Mark Taranto

    You are probably right that A higher percentage of Duke grads who go to NYC get finance jobs than the percentage of NYU Grads who stay in NYC. However your logic that this fact implies a higher average salary for NYU grads is flawed. Finance MBA grads tend to make more, not less than the average.

    You are also right that Duke’s acceptance rate is a little lower. But is that important? It certainly doesn’t imply that those accepted at NYU are better than those accepted at Duke. The profiles of students at the two schools is almost identical. Also, I was working from memory. Duke recently expanded the size of their classes, so they now have room for more students. There are lots of factors that affect admissions rate. NYU gets lots of unqualified applicants who apply there as their reach school. Duke gets fewer. State schools get even more. Berkeley, for example, gets lots of unqualified California residents who apply, pushing down the admissions rate.

    I don’t know what you mean by jet setters at Columbia and Wharton. I’ve met a lot of people with MBAs from all of the schools you mention. I’ve been much more impressed with Chicago grads than I have been with grads from NYU or Columbia. In fact, I will go so far as to say I’ve not been impressed with Columbia students at all. I have worked with several, and I decided against attending Columbia after visiting there and talking with the students. I have to say that I have been really impressed with the MBA students whom I’ve taught at MIT and Wharton. However, I’ve been more impressed with the undergrads whom I’ve taught at those schools.

  • ivyist

    You are looking at everything from a finance angle- the Duke grads who goto NYC go for for IB jbs but many stay back in charlotte atlanta for mid level corp jobs
    On the other hand NYU sends people to IB jobs but also many other high profile
    more NYU grads than duke at hot NYC start ups, high end luxury, more enterprenurs, more global firms which all pay more
    Thus NYU average is higher

    Fact check- NYU and CBS admit rates are much lower than Duke

    Booth may have a good finance dept but we are talking students here students and professors are different. Way more jet setters at CBS and wharton than booth

  • Mark Taranto

    It isn’t like I’m discussing porn, politics or illegal activities.

  • biased?

    Not even close!

  • anon

    Kudos to you for posting with your real name!

  • Mason

    As a university definitely, but Stern is a great B-school. I’d still pick Fuqua though.

  • devils0508

    Something to keep in mind: Quite a lot of women will “lean out,” even at top business schools. which will bring the median down a bit. I’d be more interesting in a break out by sub categories (e.g. males who went into consulting). The figures, as they are now, are fairly useless as they reward finance schools in high COL areas that historically let in less internationals and women.

  • Mark Taranto

    James, no one will ever make fun of someone for going to Oxford or Cambridge (unless he went to the other school). Both schools have made recent changes. Cambridge started off as a three year program, which is crazy. Both now offer a one year MBA, which doesn’t impress me.

    I would probably put them as the best European programs after LBS and INSEAD, but others may put them lower. I’m not sure if they have made any changes, but about ten years ago, I interviewed with Said. They were having trouble attracting the top faculty, because they were paying about half what American schools were paying (even second tier American schols).

    What you say about the mother school is somewhat true, but not completely. Johns Hopkins in the US is a top undergraduate school and has one of the best medical schools in the world. But their MBA program is not even accredited. Still, some go there for the name.

  • MidWes

    I’d argue that Michigan’s Ross is better than the two, both prestige wise and professionally..

  • Drew

    I think this is skewed by cost of living. UC Irvine in (Orange County, CA), is the 2nd-3rd highest cost of housing. So you have to pay your employees higher. Also true about any jobs in NYC (where a lot of H/S/W/Haas/Columbia grads probably end up).

  • James

    very interesting view! since you have such tremendous experience in business education, I’d love to have your thought on the business schools at Oxford and cambridge Universities in England? They are both new to the MBA industry, but people argue that the excellent level of the mother university will (by default) bring the business school to that level. In fact, the mother university will not allow any education offering unless it is in the same level and follow its standards! What you think of those schools?

  • MBAholder

    I wonder how relevant is a 20-year median in today’s environment. For a US$3,011, one can get that easily with an MBA anywhere without paying a hefty tuition fees at the top schools. Need a measure that is more contemporary.

  • Matt

    I think the more telling numbers are starting pay for each program. We all seek different paths from an MBA so whether someone starts out at MBB/IB and moves to F500 strategy or non-profit makes a big difference in long-term pay. This is insinuating that a top tier MBA will provide you a bigger pay jump over a T10-20 grad or open up that C-suite door if you come from a T5 program. I don’t think these numbers tell the whole story.

  • Guest1234

    The 20-year earnings can’t be right, they are far too low. If you look at Wharton’s starting salary of $141k, then to reach the 20-year earnings of nearly $3M, it assumes that salary increases only a mere 0.6%/year. Even a low 3% annual raise yields a 20-year total earnings of $3.8M.

  • Mark Taranto

    Sure. But if we are only looking at perception, then Booth, Wharton and Kellogg are definitely tier one.

    Despite The whole Stanford/Berkeley rivalry, I have to agree that Stanford stands apart. While at Duke, I knew people who turned down Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, Chicago, etc to come to Fuqua. I didn’t know anyone who turned down Stanford for Duke. Of course, some might have turned down Wharton and Harvard because there is a world class golf course across from the B-School.

    I personally chose Fuqua over Columbia and Cornell. I would have chosen Wharton had I got in. The irony here is that they wouldn’t let me study there, but they would let me teach.

    And yes, respectfully.

  • ArgumentforTiers

    Totally appreciate your thinking here, but let’s agree to disagree on this, respectfully of course!
    I fully believe that the PERCEPTION, which is 9/10s reality to many, is that by and large most view the 4th Tier the way I have portrayed it. However, as I said in my original post, that tiers 2,3, and 4 are far closer to each other than most wish to believe for a variety of reasons. Obviously people will wish to move a few around depending on personal preferences/beliefs, but by and large this is the PERCEPTION in the marketplace. And the perception is not as technical as your analysis. Most non-MBA people, many of whom hire MBAs, do not distinguish a big difference between Duke and NYU and Darden and UCLA. Most will view them all as excellent and the fact is that they are all excellent. Harvard and Stanford shine just a bit brighter to many people, but again, we are talking about outstanding schools, each and every one discussed here. Anyone of these schools could launch or help create an outstanding career trajectory…

  • LarsD

    Mark Taranto, your argument is important and needs to go a lot further. Some schools like Yale SOM are strong in non-profit, where salaries are lower. As a result, these calculations need to control for work sector (consulting, finance, non-profit etc.) before they become comparable. Such controls would be also important for international comparisons: Alums of UK schools such as Oxford Said and Cambridge Judge seem to make significantly less than the Top-10 US alumni schools. However, these programs are probably the most international in the world (far more international than their US counterparts), with more than half the student body coming from non-Western countries. To make the numbers more comparable, calculations would need to control for country and region. I believe it is quite possible that American Oxford/Cambridge graduates make wages comparable to their Top-10 US counterparts once they return to the US.

  • Mark Taranto

    Well, they are all great schools, but I don’t agree on your ranking. Duke and UCLA are, to me, clearly ahead of the ones you put in the fourth tier. Having received my MBA at Fuqua and my PhD at Haas, I am of the opinion that Fuqua has a much better MBA program than Haas, though Haas does have the edge in PhD programs.

    While Harvard is tier one for management, I would put it in tier four for Finance. Having taught at MIT and Wharton, I would argue that both are better than Harvard overall, at least in terms of the education. I’ll agree that Harvard grads make lots of money.

    For Finance, I would give your list the following rankings:

    Booth, Sloan, Stanford, Wharton, Haas, UCLA, Fuqua, Stern, Columbia, Yale, Kellogg, Tuck, Ross, Harvard, Cornell and Darden. Actually, for Finance, I would also put schools like Rochester, Carnegie Mellon, and Washington University above Harvard. Harvard Econ is a different story.

    I’d also put Princeton over Harvard for Finance, and they don’t even have a business school (though they do offer a MFin).

  • ArgumentforTiers

    IMHO from a perception standpoint Duke and NYU are viewed by most as peer schools within the same tier. And there are many schools that fall into such peer tiers. In the top 25 I see 4 tiers. All are excellent and with the exception of Tier 1, all are closer than most care to believe in terms of real perception in the world. Wharton is one that some will obviously (and with some justification) claim should be in tier 1. I just personally see a superior distinction in terms of H/S but it is debatable. I also know that some believe Booth is equal to or superior to Wharton. I just personally see Wharton as still having edge but it has narrowed…
    Tier 1 – Harvard/Stanford
    Tier 2 – Wharton/Columbia/Booth/MIT
    Tier 3 – Tuck/Haas/Kellogg
    Tier 4 – Duke/NYU/Cornell/Darden/UCLA/Ross/Yale

  • cCcCcC


  • HBS2010

    They are indeed!

  • Mark Taranto

    Actually, you are missing the point. My claim is that Duke graduates who go to NYC make as much or more as NYU graduates who stay in NYC. And many go to NYC. The only reason why their average salary is lower is that they also have many students who choose to accept a lower salary and live in a place with a lower cost of living.

    Also, I would quibble with you on your other comments. Duke’s acceptance rate is about the same as the schools you mention. Its students are as driven. Booth may be overrated in general, but it still has the best Finance department in the world.

    Full disclosure here, I have an MBA from Duke, a PhD in Finance from Berkeley Haas, and have taught finance at MIT, Wharton and Maryland.

  • gGgGgG


  • ivyist

    I think you are missing the point. Looking at cost of living is not the greatest measure. New York , London etc.. attract a different breed – the global jetsetting crowd — top hedge funds, enterprenuers, luxury groups etc…Charlotte and Atlanta is not on any global jetsetters list. Having met and known several people across all top B schools

    Irrepective of rankings – NYU, Columbia- the NYC schools attract very ambitious and driven global types – thats why these schools have very low admit rates . New York is expensive because everyone wants to be in New York.
    also confirms what everyone knows- Chicago Booth and Kellogg are massively overrated and MIT, CBS with all the startups in New York and Boston will keep moving up

  • jason

    Could you share a a bit about career prospect of IESE? Are those companies you mentioned located in Spain ? How about compensation out of school? IESE is obviously great but I just think it might be more lucrative to work in the US than in Spain

  • SMT100

    Agreed. H/S/W/Haas/Columbia are in a league of their own.

  • Ferna

    FT ranking is AUDITED by a professional auditing firm, What are you looking for better than that!

  • Farhad Liman

    anyone with a working brain agrees that Duke is better than NYU! no question about it.

  • Mark Taranto

    Yes, that was exactly my point. These data are biased.

  • yilda

    They have to. Living expenses in nyc is higher than Charlotte and Atlanta…

  • Mark Taranto

    I’ve actually seen the numbers and know that Duke MBAs who go to NYC make a lot more than those who go to Charlotte or Atlanta.

  • moogrogue

    Shouldn’t we looking at present values? There are many different ways to earn income over 20 years and a dollar twenty years henceforth is worth a small fraction of a dollar today.

  • bwanamia

    I can’t think of a survey methodology that could produce results valid enough to publish. This list is a complete fiction.

  • HonestlyNow

    Or maybe you just prefer Duke to NYU…

  • Mark Taranto

    This is not the whole story. For example, why is NYU ahead of Duke, when Duke is the better MBA program. The answer is that a lot of Duke grads stay in the South where salaries are a little lower, but the cost of living is way lower. A lot of NYU grads stay in New York, where the cost of living is higher. I suspect that Duke grads in NYC make more than NYU grads in NYC.

    One alternative is to divide these values by the average cost of living of the school’s grads.

  • Mark Taranto

    18 of the top 20 MBA programs are in the US

  • Thanks @Isaac, you elaborated on my point exactly.

    I’m an American – a born and bred New Yorker – so I don’t have any bias whatsoever against the US, but it’s clear to see there’s a bit of an insular mentality about American schools.

    I am at IESE Business School, and many of my peers are going to McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Google, Amazon, Facebook, ABInbev, etc… not to mention the bulge bracket investment banks, most of which recruit from IESE. I’m sure many of the schools outside of top 15/16 can’t speak to the same breadth of options.

  • la

    thats about 150k per year which isnt that much if you think about it…

  • Isaac

    Not true. This is a top 50 list from US schools only. It includes programs such as Kranert, Babcock, and Weatherhead, none of which are even in the same league as schools like LBS, IMD, or even HEC in regards to career options, network groups, academics, or selectivity.

  • Casey B

    Because America

  • Min

    Because they are the best programs on earth and the most lucrative, with best career options, network groups, academics. They are also the most selective programs. Yes, they all are from US.

  • onjusy1965

    My Uncle Oliver just got gold Dodge Challenger SRT8 Core by W­0RKing parttime online from home. navigate to this websie >>>>>->

  • How can this be “The Most Lucrative Seven-Figure MBA Degrees On Earth” when only US MBA programs are considered?

  • LawerTTX

    the picture attached to this article is an advertisement for tobacco ! there might be a legal consequences..

  • JonQ

    This is the definitive list