The Highest MBA Signing Bonuses


Two years ago, you stepped onto campus. You raced between classes, projects, clubs, and interviews. Even downtime like pub crawls and overseas travel meant careening from one point to another. After all this, you’re drained, physically and mentally – but financially, too.

And that’s why sign-on bonuses have such great appeal. Strapped for cash as you start your new job in your home? That check will sure come in handy (even with taxes clamping down on 40% of it). Need to get away from it all? Sign your contract and you’re off to Barcelona or Bora Bora for some well-earned R&R. Sure, you’re indentured for a year, but it’s easy money – a down payment on your time and talent, a goodwill gesture to seal the deal.

Which MBAs land the best bonuses with their job offers? That really depends on what you’re seeking. As a whole, MBA grads of Yale University’s School of Management earned the highest average sign-on bonuses. Among the 141 graduates who shared their starting pay with Yale, the 2015 Class averaged $31,155 in bonus alone. About 50 Yale grads also reported receiving “other guaranteed compensation” (i.e. year-end bonus, 401K bonus) worth an average of $24,395. Combined, the sign-on bonus and additional compensation amounted to an additional $34,616 for Yale MBAs, with graduates in the 75th percentile bagging $51,750. Overall, however, the outlook is less joyful as Yale grads ranked 14th in total pay at $139,310. What’s more, Yale finished 22nd among the 26 highest-ranked schools in terms of the percentage of students actually receiving a signing bonus (65%).


In the big picture, Wharton grads fared far better than Yale. Pulling down $100 less in bonus (on average), Wharton grads earned over $7,000 more in combined base and bonus than Yale (though an even smaller percentage of Wharton grads made bonus at 62.8%). Wharton’s 2015 grads also enjoyed several additional benefits outside their sign-on bonuses. according to the school’s annual report. Some 47% had employers cover their relocation expenses (median $10,000) and another 19% reported a guaranteed year-end bonus (median $10,000). Oh, and 20 students managed to get tuition reimbursement, too (Cha-ching: $60,000).

Rounding out the top three was New York University’s Stern School of Business at $30,410 – just $277 more than Columbia Business School. But Columbia grads are probably happy to concede this honor to their Stern island mates. In overall compensation, Columbia grads pulled down nearly $9,000 more in 2015 (with the highest-bonused Columbia grad making $15,000 more than his or her Stern counterpart).

The list includes some surprises. At Harvard, just 61.9% of graduates had a sign on bonus piled onto their compensation package. Still, Harvard grads pulled down the highest pay on average ($149,784) – and that doesn’t even count another median $26,000 in other guaranteed compensation that nearly 20% of the class collected. Stanford also scored low in terms of bonus ($26,823) and percentage receiving bonus (43.9%). Unlike many top programs, however, Stanford’s bonus deficit wasn’t made up by big base pay, as the school finished 7th in overall starting pay.

Wondering where you have the best chance of being offered a sign on bonus. That would be the University of Virginia (Darden), where nearly 89% of students reporting earnings nabbed a bonus check. And the percentage was 83%-84% at Dartmouth (Tuck), Duke (Fuqua), Carnegie Mellon (Tepper), and Vanderbilt (Owen). And what about those mythical six-figure bonuses that are part of MBA lore? These unicorn checks do exist! In fact, one MIT MBA broke the bank with a $625,000 check. A Yale grad made off with $400,000, with Wharton divulging that a grad came out with a hefty $300,000 sign-on bonus.

According to U.S. News & World Report, $25,381 was the average signing bonus among the 74 schools reporting this data. Among the top ten schools for sign-on bonus, the average was $29,899.

To see how your favorite school performed last year, check out the table below.


Source: U.S. News & World Report

  • M7 fan

    Azel Cornell is known by everyone in the world, let alone US. I choose Cornell Johnson over MIT half because of scholarship but also because of IVY network which is INVALUABLE for someone like me with mediocre work experience and low GMAT.

  • M7 fan

    Whoever you are you should worry about your own program. I dont go to yale, I go to Cornell Johnson school of management and support IVY above all costs. We are the only IVY league program in the world that doesn’t care about raw intelligence (thats why we have avg. GMAT below 700) at the expense of successful background and career potential.

    Cornell will be a top 5 program (on paper, already is in recruiter’s eyes)

  • M7 fan

    No one would care if you had a degree from Chicago or Kellogg. They are in the midwest and aren’t in the ivy league. Cornell Johnson has been more highly regarded than both of these schools purely bc of name status (which is really all that matters in MBA program)

  • M7 Fan

    Cornell Johnson is viewed by most as a top 10 program in the world. I’ve spoken with many people in this regard. Most Cornell students get placed MBB or go GS/MS if they want. Thats just a fact. Yale is a bad school in most peoples eyes and Cornell is winning the battle of duel-admits 9-1 according to my friend who is in ‘the know’.

    Cornell Johnson will be ranked#7 next year if we can finally get our average GMAT above 700

  • UsingFakeWords

    ever flow business class hahaha this kid can’t write. Prob. goes to Cornell.

  • UsingFakeWords

    ‘which just gives highest weightage in the ranking”…..

    hahahah wow you know this site is gaining popularity outside of the MBA community when you have nearly illiterate posts from trolls.

    weightage isn’t a word ivyied. Maybe you should go back to the third grade before you worry about the ranking of one of the most prestigious programs in the world.

  • obeniehimer

    no one knows the troll better than a real troll.

  • M7 fan

    artful comment — you managed to make this sound like a serious post, unfortunately “I spoke with a very senior person at McKinsey the other week and they said they believe Cornell will be a top 5 school in the next 2 years” exposes you as a troll

  • m7

    Cornell Johnson is a top 5 program in almost every recruiters eyes. Although our average GMAT is below 700, we still excel at many things and place very well at EY and other large accounting/consulting firms.

    I spoke with a very senior person at McKinsey the other week and they said they believe Cornell will be a top 5 school in the next 2 years. Honestly, I would rather go to an IVY like cornell than ross, darden, or kellogg because the name carries more weight.

  • M7orBust

    Cornell’s GMAT and total pay are higher than Duke’s. Stop trolling

  • purplemountain majesty

    With Cornell’s Total Pay per USN data from this article marginally HIGHER then Duke’s, those must be some cool back office jobs! I will take one! Silly trolls

  • Cornie

    right… considering Duke’s average GMAT is even lower than Cornell’s LOL

  • deferan

    Don’t worry son. I will talk to US NEWS in this ranking regards. What number do you want?

  • Dukie

    Cornell Johnson is a good program if you aren’t intelligent and want to work in back-office roles!

  • M7 fan

    Others have attacked Yale SOM’s rise in the rankings in other posts. I am simply defending SOM as the prestigious school that it is. It absolutely deserves its rise in the vaunted USNEWS rankings because of skyrocketing GMATs, GPAs, etc. Someone said in another post that applications are up again another 30% this year! In the marketplace high demand indicates a quality product, and clearly Yale is making its mark. I am not insulting other schools by pointing out Yale’s acceptance rate will soon be 3-5% and well positioned to be top 2-3 in USNEWS very very soon. I’m excited about Yale’s future!

  • John

    You are making too much sense for some people here. I have no idea why people care about average incoming stats when people consider an MBA because of the potential post-MBA salary. Post-MBA salary is way more important than avg GMAT or GPA. USNWR is discredited in my mind for weighing GMAT more than avg post-grad salary or employment rates.

  • enough-please

    Whoever you are? Whether real or unreal, as a current Yale MBA candidate, I ask you to stop this reckless posting. You are 100% harming the Yale brand and prospects and making fellow classmates uncomfortable. You have continually insulted many peer schools, where many of us have close friends, and showcased the school in a poor light. Make a positive decision and stop.

  • M7 fan

    Almost everyone that gets into Yale SOM chooses to go to SOM. I’ve met many people that have turned down Harvard/Stanford for Yale. Yale SOM is unquestionable global #1. IVY PRESTIGE, superior GMATs, superior GPAs, superior career outcomes with 65% MBB placement. Yale is unstoppable!

  • ferdinand

    few hours earlier you said 35% go to MBB, now it is 65%!! which one is the correct figure?

  • M7 fan

    Ask any SOMer, they all agree Yale MBA is #1 in the world by a mile. 65% go to MBB or BB firm with 170k starting salary.

  • Federac

    I think he is confused the prestige of the mother university and the SOM. There is big difference between the two, pretty much like the difference between JHU and its Carey school, or Oxford and its Said school, etc .. People who know, and people in business know the real MBA powerhouses in and outside US. in any case, this fan is amusing to read, and wonder if all Yale fans are like him/her.

  • Yuletide

    It seems that from reading all of your comments that you derive significant prestige/value from the ability to be associated with the Yale brand and being able to name drop at a party that you graduated from Yale. Which is great, but many do not derive prestige similarly. Prestige to many is measured by pay. Again, for you MBB and BB are associated with prestige, but they are not where people end up to really make their true wealth. They are very esteemed branded work places to start, like Yale. But other places pay the same or more and can create true wealth growth and opportunity.
    I think you just value prestige differently. USN and GMATs and MBB versus real pay results and wealth creation.

  • Azel

    OMG. You’re totally right. Although barely anyone outside US knows Yale had business school, but you do. That’s the essence of it.

  • M7 fan

    Mediocre? Yale is the best, more prestigious business school in the world. Current SOMers and SOM alumni would agree w/ this. High GMAT, High GPA, 30%+ going to MBB and prestige BB firms. Unquestionable #1 w/ Yale IVY brand.

  • M7 fan

    Glad we finally agree 🙂

  • GlobalMBA

    you know what, you are right, I have to agree with you.

  • M7 fan

    LOL. No one outside of the US has heard of Princeton. Go to Asia, the only three schools they know are Yale, Harvard & MIT. Chicago, Columbia & Kellogg are third tier schools, no one outside of the US has heard of these schools. INSEAD London and IMD are all 4th tier, super low GMAT averages. Yale SOM is a superstar and rising very quickly. In fact, they might even make #1 next year in US News.

  • GlobalMBA

    My friend, Yale itself would be ashamed to have fan like you. Calm down.. It is good university, but when it comes to brand in universities and academics, there is Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge and Princeton. In business, there is Harvard, Wharton, Chicago, Columbia, Kellogg, Stanford. In global scale, there is, INSEAD, London, and IMD. and stop here..these are the true brands..

  • M7 fan

    No one cares about financial times rankings only us news is the most trusted. Columbia is number ten and on the decline everyone knows that. Yale will be number one in two years.

  • ivied

    LOL… LOL ..nooone reads US news…. I recruit MBA’s.. not applying
    People only read financial times or WSJ or economist or forbes
    Ever flow business class or first class ? u will see financial times everywhere.. nowhere will see us news

  • M7 fan

    I guess you’re mad because you got rejected by Yale? Everyone knows Yale is destroying the rankings. Yale will be #2 or #3 in 3-5 years soon. I’ve seen recruiters pull out USNews rankings during interviews, USN rankings is EXTREMELY important.

  • ivied

    LOL yes because u say so.. dd u get rejected from CBS and Duke?
    Duke dominates the south
    CBS dominateS NYC- look at the number of start ups coming out CBS who have raised millions

  • M7 fan

    Yale beats out all the third tier schools like Duke, Darden, Ross, Cornell, UCLA, Tuck, Columbia. They are now M7. Yale is the most prestigious brand in the world. SOMers are geniuses.

  • ivyied

    Yale is vastly overrated.. Just fool the US news rankings by admitting higher GMAT scores.. and US news is the bigger fool which just gives highest weightage in the ranking to the GMAT ..

    ask the billionaires and millionaire Business men and CEO’s about sentence correction and GMAT scores LOL ( irrelevant in life and business )

  • Charles

    Yale is a mediocre school when it comes to the MBA industry. PERIOD.

  • Fosterite

    Why can’t I see UW(Foster) anywhere ?

  • MorningGlory

    As long as you are convinced that is all that matters. However, the clear opinion amongst employers and prospective students is obviously that H & S (and perhaps W) are first and second and that Yale does not figure into that equation at all. In fact, in total Pay Yale rates as #14. One can try and justify that by talking about non-profit careers influencing the numbers, but that is the reality at Yale and is not ignored by the marketplace. In fairness to your point, I do believe that over time this legacy image will likely recede, especially with talented grads continually entering the workforce and showcasing their abilities. However, that will likely take time. Again, Yale is outstanding but so are many other top 15 to 20 schools, and a number of these other schools outperform Yale in Total Pay.

  • M7 fan

    Yale gets hurt by nonprofit career track, hence AVERAGE. Yale SOM is the 2nd most prestigious business school in the world. Super high GMATs, GPAs, elite IVY brand. Every single SOMer I’ve met is a genius and will be multi-millionaire.

  • MorningGlory

    Appreciate the post – but my only point is that despite all the ranting, the difference in total pay amongst most of these top schools is marginal at best. They are all pretty amazing and That is despite of marginally higher or lower GMAT scores. Gimme a break folks total pay is what matters most, that is the metric that matters not GPAs or Test scores as USN suggests. Get into a top 15 to 20 school and work hard and you can succeed in your chosen career near equal to those in “higher ranked” schools. Cheers

  • ROIC

    Agreed. It’s not surprising that Yale SOM is towards the BOTTOM of the list in Total Pay. Darden, Cornell, and others are all better than Yale SOM.

  • MorningGlory

    Hey M7 fan, it seems that despite all of your ranting and raving about Yale being so much better then schools like Cornell, and Darden (and everywhere else), that in Total Pay (including Signing Bonuses), arguably among the most important of measures, that at your Yale SOM (which is no doubt a great school), Total Pay is $5,503 LESS then Cornell, and $6,826 LESS then Virginia! Oh what happened? Boy those 10 to 20 point higher GMAT scores really made all the difference. Try having some respect for great schools of all stripes. Lots of great business schools in the top 15 to 20 that ALL provide amazing opportunities regardless of what USN says. Cheers!