Amidst the flurry of data released this week by Bloomberg Businessweek with the publication of its 2014 rankings is this intriguing tidbit: The highest paid MBA of the Class of 2014 is an MIT Sloan MBA who reported a total first-year compensation package of $1,825,000.
Yes, you read that correctly. It’s not a typo. It’s $1,825,000, about 11 times the highest reported $165,000 base salary at Sloan last year.
And it’s not even at a hedge fund or private equity firm, these days the organizations that offer the most lucrative MBA jobs in the market. It is for an unnamed real estate company. If the self-reported number is true, it would in all likelihood be the highest first-year comp for an MBA graduate ever. The number was supplied by a graduating MBA who completed the magazine’s ranking survey.
That’s not all. A Columbia Business School MBA is claiming a $1 million signing-bonus for landing a job with a consulting firm. That would easily be the single biggest bonus reported by a graduating MBA, though it pales next to the $1.8 million number.
Asked to confirm the comp total for the MIT graduate, a Sloan spokesperson said “from the data we have there’s a chance that it’s accurate for one student, but it can’t be verified. I wish I had more to tell you.”
THE REALLY BIG COMP PACKAGES ONLY GO TO GRADS WHO ALREADY HAVE LOTS OF EXPERIENCE
If true, of course, the big pay day would have gone to someone with considerable experience in the real estate industry, a proven performer who just happened to want an MBA degree. The student was probably earning far above the class average upon entering MIT Sloan–and also in all likelihood returning to a previous employer who highly values the candidate’s connections and expertise. Though the MBA’s estimate cannot be verified, the person would have nothing to gain by exaggerating his take. Businessweek does not use pay estimates in its ranking and reported the figure in an infographic.
Regardless, that’s one big pocket of change.
It’s pretty much unheard of for a newly minted MBA to make even half a million. The highest on record actually occurred back in 2004 when the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business reported that one of its MBAs landed a private equity job with a $680,000 total compensation package. Most schools don’t report total comp packages, so it’s hard to know for sure whether that $680K deal has been eclipsed since then. Instead, the schools often publish high and low numbers for unidentified graduates in the three basic categories of compensation: base salary, sign-on bonus, and other year-end guaranteed bonus.
LAST YEAR’S HIGHEST REPORTED MBA SALARY: $375K FROM KELLOGG
Last year, a thirty-something MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management landed the highest reported salary: a $375,000-a-year gig for an investment management job. The eye-popping base was more than three times the $110,000 median for other classmates going into the same industry. After Kellogg, the highest reported base salaries for MBAs last year were $350,000 at Wharton, $310,000 at Columbia, $260,000 at Duke University’s Fuqua School, and $250,000 at Chicago Booth. Wharton’s record, by the way, is a $420,00 starting salary snagged by a 2009 MBA.
More often than not, of course, the monster compensation packages don’t break the bank on base salary, but load up the cash in year-end guaranteed bonuses. Last year, for example, a Stanford MBA who took a job in private equity reported a guaranteed annual bonus of $337,500–a sum that does not even include potential tuition reimbursement, relocation expenses, auto allowances, profit sharing, stock or stock options. That bonus alone was more than the base salary of any Stanford Class of 2013 grad. If that lucky student received the median base salary in private equity of $150,000 along with the median signing bonus of $35,000, a likely possibility, the person’s total first-year compensation would have been a minimum of $522,500.
And for MIT Sloan, this year’s big number is a world apart from what is customary at the school. Last year, the top dog base was $165,000, the highest sign-on bonus was $57,000 in investment banking, and the highest other guaranteed bonus was just $130,000. While real estate typically attracts between 2% and 4% of a business school’s grads, it’s so small at MIT that the school didn’t even cite it as an industry category for the Class of 2013.
A HELLUVA START ON WHAT PROMISES TO BE A VERY LUCRATIVE CAREER
Many of the leading business schools–including MIT, Columbia, Booth, and Kellogg–have yet to report their 2014 employment numbers. This year, the highest reported starting salary at Wharton was $300,000–$50,000 shy of last year’s high–but the high end for other guaranteed year-end compensation for at least one lucky Whartonite hit $350,000, well ahead of the $260,000 high for 2013. Over at Stanford, this year’s high is nothing to sneeze at. The highest reported salary for the year—$300,000—went to a Stanford MBA who took a job in investment banking in Asia. The highest other guaranteed bonus at Stanford this year also was for $300,000 to an MBA who landed a position with a private equity firm on the West Coast.
Those are awfully big numbers, of course, but rather puny compared to the $1.8 million plus reported by the MIT Sloan MBA. Let’s put all that comp into some kind of perspective. The typical Sloan MBA in the past 20 years made a cumulative average of $2,723,000, according to a recent analysis of pay records commissioned by Poets&Quants from PayScale.
This MBA already has a big start on earning that total.