All-Time Record Pay For Stanford MBAs

MBA students graduating from Stanford University landed all-time record pay packages in 2016

MBA students graduating from Stanford University landed all-time record pay packages in 2016

For years, it has been generally known that MBAs of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business earn the highest starting salaries and bonuses awarded to business school graduates. But the school’s 2016 employment report, released today (Nov. 17), is almost too good to be true.

Hold your breath. Average total compensation for this year’s MBA crop at Stanford hit $179,346, up 4.2% from $172,196 in 2015. Average median compensation reached $163,827, up 2.2% from $160,287 a year earlier. Those are both all-time highs for the West Coast school, and the astonishing numbers, adjusted to account for the percentage of students receiving bonuses, do not even include tuition reimbursement, stock or stock options, profit sharing, relocation or auto allowances. Because a third of Stanford’s graduates enter tech, the percentage who receive uncounted equity awards is in all likelihood the highest of any business school.

Stanford MBAs this year topped their East Coast rivals at Harvard Business School by nearly $6,000 in total median compensation, $163,827 vs. $158,080. Not surprisingly, Stanford also beat the numbers at every other business school that has so far released its employment report for the year. Wharton MBA grads reported median packages of $154,701, followed by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business at $145,723, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business at $141,871, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business at $139,747 (excluding other guaranteed pay at Kellogg which does not disclose that number).


Though the booming tech industry claimed the largest percentage of Stanford MBAs again this year, it was the big money in finance, particularly private equity, venture capital, and hedge funds, that drove the pay levels into the stratosphere. The median pay for the 12% of the class that accepted jobs with PE firms was a class-high $177,500, well above the overall median of $136,000 for the Class of 2016. Median other guaranteed compensation for private equity-bound MBAs, moreover, was a remarkable $150,000. Venture capital firms, hiring 7% of this year’s Stanford crop, paid median starting salaries of $167,500. Hedge funds and investment management firms coughed up median salaries of $150,000.

MBA starting pay is often a function of brand, industry choice and geography. Stanford’s reputation, the career choices of its graduates, and the school’s location in the epicenter of the tech boom all line up in the school’s favor when it comes to compensation for its graduates. The school sends a higher percentage of its MBAs into higher paying PE and VC jobs than Wharton, Chicago Booth, Columbia, or Harvard.

The highest salary achieved by a Stanford MBA this year was $450,000 in an unlikely industry, healthcare. Schools do not identify graduates in disclosing the highs and lows in employment reports, but it’s likely the $450K-a-year student was a dual MBA/MD graduate. More typically, the highest paid MBAs are in the financial sector. MBAs in both PE and VC reported high salaries of $250,000, and a grad who accepted an e-commerce job landed a $225K salary to start. The lowest reported salary is as shocking as the highest number: $24,000 in a catchall category called “other” that includes non-profit sector jobs.


The highest signing bonus–$75,000–was paid to an MBA entering investment banking, followed by a $65K sign-on award to a Stanford grad who took a job with a software firm. In other guaranteed compensation, the highest number nearly matched the top salary: $400,000 for a graduate who went into private equity. But there also was a $209,000 other guaranteed in investment management and a $175,000 in hedge funds.

And then there is the lucky graduate who actually expects to make in bonus alone more than the highest salaried MBA this year. For the first time ever, Stanford also added introduced a new metric it calls “Expected Bonuses,” a a measure that includes both guaranteed and non-guaranteed compensation but is not required for reporting purposes by the Career Services & Employer Alliance (CSEA). The school said that 61% of its students reported an expected bonus of $38,750 (median) and $66,341 (mean) with a range of $5,000 to a high of $500,000.

For the entire class, mean and median base salaries both surpassed record highs. The $140,553 average and the $136,000 median both topped last year’s record by 5%. Median signing bonus remained unchanged from last year’s $25,000, while the mean dropped 12% from last year’s record-breaking $23,636. However, the percentage of students receiving signing bonuses increased by 11 points to 55%. Median other guaranteed compensation, reported by 35% of the class, dropped 22% to $40,750, and the average increased slightly to a record $74,655.

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