Wall Street Gains At Harvard B-School

Harvard Business School's Class of 2014

Harvard Business School’s Class of 2014

Harvard Business School today (Nov. 10) revealed that more of its graduating MBAs this year chose finance as their career and the swing toward Wall Street helped to increase median starting salaries by $5,000 to $125,000 for the class.

Roughly 33% of the Class of 2014 went into financial services, up from a low of 27% last year but still well below the 45% who ventured into finance in 2008 just before the Great Recession hit and caused massive disruption on Wall Street. The biggest shift occurred in highly lucrative private equity jobs which attracted 13% of this year’s MBAs, up from 9% a year ago.

Along with hedge funds, PE shops paid the highest median base salaries to start—$150,000, $25,000 more than the class median salary. Plus, more than a third of the MBAs going into PE pulled down $25,000 sign-on bonuses, while four in ten reported receiving a median other guaranteed year-end bonus of $80,000. For a graduating MBA who collected all three elements of compensation—salary, signing bonus, and year-end bonus—the total median first-year take would be $255,000. Interestingly, the year-end median guaranteed bonus in PE fell by $55,000 from a high of $135,000 last year.

PE: $170K at Stanford. $150K at Harvard. $140K at Wharton

As high as those numbers are, they are slightly below those reported this year by MBAs who went into private equity at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Some 12% of Stanford grads accepted PE jobs this year, pulling down median base starting salaries of $170,000—$20,000 higher than Harvard MBAs. At Wharton, where 8.5% of the MBAs went into PE this year, the median starting base was $140,000.

The compensation and career choices were disclosed on Harvard Business School’s website this morning. In most cases, they reflect conservative estimates of total compensation. None of the numbers, for example, include such things as a performance bonus, reimbursements, profit sharing, 401k match, stock and/or stock options. All of the salary information is self-reported to the school by students.

In addition to the $125K median base reported by the class, two of every three graduates reported a median signing bonus of $25,000, while one in five (20%) reported other year-end guaranteed bonus of $34,700, slightly higher than last year’s $30,000 median. The total median first-year take for an MBA pulling down all three: $184,700.


Unlike some other business schools, Harvard does not disclose the high and low compensation by industry so it’s not possible to identify the highest compensation package by a graduating student. Instead, it reports the 25th and 75th percentile numbers for salaries. The highest 75th percentile base salary reported in private equity was $175,000. Hedge fund median pay this year jumped $10,000 to match PE’s $150,000, up from $140,000 last year. About 5% of the class went into hedge funds, same as a year ago.

Venture capital—drawing just 2% of the class, up from 1% last year—paid median salaries of $135,000, down from $140,000 a year ago. That brought the standard VC salary levels down to consulting levels, though the potential upside through bonus money was higher.

After financial services, consulting drew the most interest on campus. HBS said that 23% of the class went to work for a consulting firm, roughly the same as last year’s 22%. The standard consulting pay package: $135,000 in median base, a $25,000 signing bonus (received by 89% of the MBAs), and a more elusive year-end other guaranteed bonus of $25,000 (received by only 12% of the consultants).


Technology was the third most sought after industry sector this year, though at 17% it failed to show any growth. Last year, in fact, 18% of the HBS class went into tech. The median base salary was $120,000, while the median sign-on bonus reported was $25,000, up $5,000 from last year. Some 78% of the MBAs who accepted jobs in technology received those bonuses. Other median guaranteed bonus of $20,000 in tech was landed by just 19% of the class.

Consumer products, health care, and manufacturing each landed 5% of the class. Manufacturing, with media starting salaries of $120,000, was down from 7%, while consumer products, which started MBAs at a median $106,000 base, was about the same, down from 6% in 2013. The health care industry, which offered base salaries of $117,500, attracted exactly the same 5% percentage of the class as it did last year.

The lowest median salaries—$90,000—went to MBAs who entered the non-profit and government sector. Some 3% of the class chose this career, down from 5% last year.

Harvard said about 8% of the class, or a total of 74 graduates, started new businesses out of the school this year, up from 7%, or 66 members of the class in 2013. About 8% of this year’s class was either sponsored by a company or already employed, a significant jump from the 2% a year ago.

(See following page for how HBS’ Class of 2014 Compares with Stanford, Wharton & Other Top Schools)

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