Saying that 2015 was a really good year for MBA graduates is an understatement. For young professionals coming out of business school, the year was one for the record books, with record levels of employment and starting pay at many of the world’s highly selective MBA programs. In fact, since the onset of the recovery, most schools are reporting double-digit increases in MBA compensation for the first time in many years.
After a long slog of stagnant pay–the result of the Great Recession–the financial sector significantly raised the ante in attracting MBAs from highly selective business schools. The median base salary in investment banking jumped by $25,000 last year to $125,000, with median signing bonuses that reached $47,500 at Harvard Business School and $40,000 at Chicago Booth. Median base for investment management jobs at Harvard rose to $150,000 from $125,000 two years ago, with $30,000 sign-on bonuses, and median other guaranteed compensation of $120,060, up from $72,500 in 2013.
It was heightened competition for MBA talent from the big guns in finance that also caused the MBA-hungry consulting industry to increase their base salary offers to $140,000 last year, a $5,000 increase from the standard $135,000 offers to top-tier MBA graduates in recent years. And tech firms, which have been hiring an increasing number of MBAs, pushed up their offers as well. At HBS, for example, median base pay rose to $125,000, up from $115,000 two years earlier, while sign-on bonuses jumped to $25,000, from $20,000.
THE HIGH WATER MARK FOR MBA TOTAL PAY: $160K AT STANFORD
The upshot: One school after another ended up reporting record pay for their graduates in 2015, often building on several years of improved salary and bonus numbers. At Chicago Booth, for example, 2015 was the second year in a row in which median salaries rose by $5,000. Two years ago, median salary for graduating Boothies was $115,000. In 2009, median salaries at the school were just $100,000. It is now $125,000. At Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, median salaries rose 8% last year to $120,000, up from $111,000.
When it comes to total pay numbers, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business is nearly in a class by itself. The median total pay package–including base, signing bonus and guaranteed year-end bonus–came to a record total of $160,287. That sum comes from a median starting salary of $130,000, a $25,000 sign-on bonus, received by 44% of the class, and a median year-end bonus of $52,500, handed to 37% of the class. Not surprisingly, Harvard Business School MBAs were second, with median total pay of $151,211.
Yet, the $160K mark at Stanford is highly conservative because it does not include stock grants or options, tuition reimbursement, relocation expense reimbursement, auto allowance, profit sharing, 401K match, or other perks and benefits. Though Stanford did not disclose what percentage of its graduates received stock, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business revealed that 36% of its MBA graduates last year got either stock or stock options with their job offers, up from 31% a year earlier. At UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, 34.1% of last year’s MBAs received equity as part of their compensation, up from 27.9% a year earlier.