Record Breaking MBA Pay At Stanford GSB

Stanford University Graduate School of Business - Ethan Baron photo

Stanford University Graduate School of Business – Ethan Baron photo

Newly minted MBAs from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business landed record-breaking pay packages this year of $160,287. You read that sum correctly, but it is clearly worth repeating: $160,287.

The unprecedented pay day occurred as median base pay, which had been unchanged for four years, rose 4% to an all-time high of $130,000, while the median guaranteed annual bonus rose 67% to $52,500. Median sign-on bonuses for graduating MBAs of $25,000 remained unchanged. The school said that 44% of its graduates were given signing bonuses this year, while 37% reported other guaranteed compensation.

The median total compensation of $160,287 is 7.4% above last year’s already impressive $149,192 total and more than $9,000 ahead of this year’s bottom line comp number at Harvard of $151,211. The comp numbers are considerably higher than most other peer schools as well. At Wharton, the first-year total comp of $146,303 is nearly $14,000 lower. At Chicago Booth, where median total comp was $143,495, the first-year take is more than $16,500 lower.

Yet, these numbers are conservative estimates of the actual compensation many MBAs will ultimately receive. At Stanford, for example, the category “other guaranteed compensation” fails to include equity grants, stock options, tuition reimbursement, relocation expense reimbursement, auto allowance, profit sharing, or 401K match plans.


The big reported numbers came as a result of sizable increases in offers from the financial sector, especially in venture capital, private equity, and hedge funds. The median base pay for Stanford MBAs taking jobs in VC firms was a whopping $175,000, with another $67,500 in other guaranteed compensation. For MBAs going the private equity/leverage buyout route, the median starting salary was $152,500, with a $25,000 sign-on bonus, and other guaranteed comp of $140,000.

A hefty 13% of Stanford’s class accepted jobs with PE and LBO firms, the highest percentage of any of the leading business schools, including those known for their dominance in finance. At Wharton, long a financial powerhouse, for example, just 6.9% of this year’s graduating MBAs went into PE and buyout careers. At Chicago Booth, also known for its finance prowess, 5.6% of this year’s class accepted jobs in private equity and LBO.

Hedge fund players brought their MBA recruitment game at Stanford to new levels, but recruited a smaller percentage of Stanford’s class: 5%. Though median base salaries were just a tick lower at $150,000 and no sign-on bonuses were paid, median other guaranteed compensation hit an extraordinary $220,000. Not surprisingly, the highest reported base salary in the class–$267,000 a year to start–as well as the highest guaranteed annual bonus–$250,000–went to MBAs who joined unidentified hedge funds in the Northeast.

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