How Harvard MBAs Get Those Six-Figure Jobs

One of two buildings on the original Harvard Business School campus, Wilder House is home to one of the great job-generating teams in business

One of two buildings on the original Harvard Business School campus, Wilder House is home to one of the great job-generating teams in business

It’s not one of the truly iconic buildings on the Harvard Business School campus. But for a school where highly driven people are focused on landing a big and important job, Wilder House may well be the most important building. The Georgian-Revival style structure, one of the first two buildings on the original HBS campus, houses the school’s incredible job generating machine: The MBA Career & Personal Development team.

The newly renovated, three-story stucco and brick building, just across the lawn in front of Baker Library, is the place that helps to match HBS students with world class employers. It is a veritable talent magnet like no other in the world. In a typical year, more than 300 organizations come to the campus to woo MBA students in recruiting presentations, coffee chats and interviews. The companies that can’t make it usually send in job opportunities that most professionals could only dream about. In the 2014-15 recruiting year, more than 1,300 organizations posted over 2,500 full-time jobs and summer opportunities for HBS students.

The result of all that activity? The ‘show me the money’ ethos is strong. The median pay package for a Harvard MBA was $148,713, up 15.3% in the past five years. With the exception of Stanford, it is the highest starting compensation achieved by MBA graduates in the world. And yet, as remunerative as that number is, the biggest pay days went to the 15% of the class who landed jobs with private equity shops and venture capital firms. They earned a median $189,806 in starting salary, signing bonus and year-end guaranteed bonus. Still, all these numbers are conservative because they exclude such MBA-enticing bennies as equity stakes, stock options, performance bonuses, reimbursements, profit sharing, or 401K matching plans.


To handle the hundreds of recruiters and to guide some 1,800 MBA candidates through their journey from students to job-holding graduates, the school’s Career & Professional Development team in Wilder House boasts 26 full-time staffers and 55 coaches, in all probability the single largest group of employment hand holders ever gathered in one place. The team also works closely with 50 career-related clubs on campus, ranging from the entertainment club, which sponsors treks to New York and Los Angeles, to the marketing club, which visits companies based in New York and Chicago.

Despite that formidable support from the school, roughly a third of the graduating class tends to find their employment opportunities on their own. Last year, for example, just 66% of the graduates accepted jobs directly from “school-facilitated” leads.

Also, perhaps surprisingly, Harvard, along with its West Coast rival Stanford, tend to report employment numbers that trail many other top schools. Last year, for example, some 88% of Harvard MBAs seeking employment had job offers at graduation, below Dartmouth Tuck at 91% as well as the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and Emory’s Goizueta Business at 90%. HBS also lagged behind several other leading schools in graduates with job offers three months after commencement. Some 93% of Harvard’s MBAs reported offers then, compared to 98% at Wharton, Dartmouth, Chicago, and Emory.

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