A Breathtaking Pay Day For HBS Grads

Students at the 2016 graduation at Harvard Business School

Students at the 2016 graduation at Harvard Business School

This year’s graduating MBAs from the Harvard Business School found themselves in  a very good place. Total median pay for a Harvard MBA reached a record $158,080, up 4.5% from $151,211 a year earlier. The increase was driven by higher base salaries and other guaranteed bonuses.

HBS said median salaries rose to $135,000, up from $130,000 last year. It was the third year in a row that starting salaries jumped by $5,000. Median other guaranteed compensation, reported by 19% of the class, rose to $32,000 from $26,000 a year earlier. Median sign-on bonuses, given to 68% of the grads, remained static at $25,000. The numbers were released today (Nov. 2) with the publication of Harvard Business School’s 2016 employment report.

The total median pay packages, adjusted to account for the percentage of students receiving bonuses, puts Harvard grads at the very top of the MBA pay pool this year. Wharton MBA grads are not far behind with median packages of $154,701, followed by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business at $145,723 and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business at $141,871. Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business isn’t expected to release its 2016 employment report until month’s end.


At Harvard, MBAs landing the largest comp packages were the 9% of the class that went into investment management and hedge funds jobs. Those grads landed total median comp packages of $199,630, including base salaries of $150,000, sign-on bonuses of $35,000, and other guaranteed first-year compensation of $125,000. Harvard said 52% of these grads were given signing bonuses, while 23% reported other guaranteed comp.

All the numbers, moreover, tend to be conservative estimates of first year compensation for MBAs because they fail to include reimbursement of tuition, stock options and other equity awards, and several other perks. The school said that 94% of its graduates had job offers three months after graduation, while 91% of the class accepted those offers.

Despite the breathtaking numbers, an HBS official described this year’s results as “boring.” ’It’s just more of the same,” explains Kristen Fitzpatrick, managing director of alumni an MBA career and professional development. “Even when we were doing our highlights for the dean, we were trying to come up with a story.”


Kristen Fitzpatrick, managing director of alumni and MBA career and professional development at HBS

Kristen Fitzpatrick, managing director of alumni and MBA career and professional development at HBS

Of course, that assessment has less to do with the actual pay numbers and more to do with changes in the career choices being made by Harvard MBAs. This year those changes were fairly slight, with the exception of financial services which fell to 28%, from 31% last year. “Generally, things have moved just one or two percentage points,” says Fitzpatrick. “Almost nothing moved. It’s boring.”

The largest single group of MBAs—28%—went into financial services this year, narrowly edging out the consulting industry which employed 25% of Harvard’s class. Five years ago, financial services claimed 35% of HBS graduates. This year, 13% of the class found jobs in venture capital, private equity and leveraged buyout firms which, along with investment management firms and hedge funds, paid the highest median base salaries of $150,000. “There was a tiny dip in PE, a percentage point,” says Fitzpatrick, “but that was more about opportunity than desire.” Just 5% of the class took jobs in investment banking which paid the highest median signing bonuses of $45,000 this year.

Consulting saw its share of the latest HBS class move up just a single percentage point from the 24% last year. Median base salaries in consulting rose to $145,000, up $5,000 from $140,000 a year earlier. Some 97% of the MBAs accepting their consulting offers were paid sign-on bonuses of $25,000, while 8% reported other guaranteed compensation of $20,000.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.