Stanford MBA Pay This Year In One Word: WOW!

stanford gsb commencement 2017

Students ready to receive their diplomas at the Stanford Graduate School of Business 2017 Commencement. Photo by Nathan Allen

The students who graduated from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business this year can rightly boast of being among the most highly compensation MBAs in history. The average total compensation for a Class of 2017 graduate at Stanford was an unprecedented $180,284, up slightly from $179,346 a year ago. But that total barely tells the story this year.

Median base salaries rose to $140,000 from $136,00, the third consecutive year in which base pay increased. Median sign-on bonuses, received by 51% of the class, remained stable at $25,000. But median other guaranteed compensation, reported by 25% of the graduates, jumped to $50,000 from $40,750. And for the first time, Stanford reported a new category of compensation called median “expected performance bonus,” reported by 65%, of $35,000. The latter category includes bonuses that are commonly mentioned in offer letters but not explicitly guaranteed.

While the median numbers were impressive enough, the truly “wow” occurred in the reported averages. Average base salary rose to $144,455, from $140,553 a year earlier, while signing bonuses also advanced to $29,534, versus $23,636 last year. Average other guaranteed comp increased to $83,065, from $74,665. Average expected performance bonus, not reported last year, came to a whopping $71,946. Add it all together and the average first-year compensation for a Stanford MBA this year is a rather remarkable $227,768, a pretty big bump on the $180,282, without the anticipated performance awards.


That is the highest first-year total for any MBAs ever! Of course, it does include bonuses that might disappear in a recession, but with no downturn in sight, that is an unlikely prospect. And yet even that very hefty sum does not include tuition reimbursement, auto allowances, profit sharing, 401K match plans, the reimbursement of relocation expenses, or, for that matter, stock options and restricted stock grants, even though 32% of Stanford’s graduating class reported getting stock compensation in their offer letters.

In contrast to several peer schools, Stanford is the only school to report expected bonuses. But the school still comes out on top compared to Harvard Business School which reported median total pay of $174,600 for its MBA grads this year, nearly $6,000 less than Stanford’s $180,284 without the extra expected bonus bump (see following page for our table of pay at the top schools so far). The highest paid members of Stanford’s Class of 2017 grabbed truly sensational pay packages. The highest base salary–$285,000–went to a student landing a job with a venture capital firm. The highest sign-on bonus–$77,000–was given to a grad who went to work for a hedge fund. The top other guaranteed compensation–a whopping $450,000–also went to a hedge fund-bound MBA. And the highest expected performance bonus–also $450,000–was reported by a student employed by a hedge fund.

Maeve Richard, assistant dean and director of Stanford’s Career Management Center, says she decided to include the new category of bonus because she is less than satisfied with other guaranteed compensation, which will no longer be reported by most schools next year. “I felt there were issues with other guaranteed compensation. It was an opportunity to misunderstand the data and end up under reporting what the bonus opportunities were for our students. So we gathered data around expected bonus which often appears in offer letters. That is the one place where we are stepping out from what we typically report.”


Maeve Richard, director of the Career Management Center at Stanford GSB

Overall, she seemed nearly giddy with delight over the school’s 2017 employment report published today (Dec. 13). “The reason why I am pretty pumped up is that when we took a look across the report it is very balanced and even,” says Richard. “And the good news is it is all positive. Students have had a lot of choice and it just continues to improve along with compensation. Last year, 383 companies came to recruit on campus. This year it was 411 companies. And for quite a long while, our trend was about 350 to 355. The increase speaks to the strength of the market but also student desires to really go out for what they are looking for. The good news is that they are finding what they were looking for.”

As is often the case with Stanford, job offers and acceptances at graduation and three months later often trail other schools. That is typically a function of MBAs being more choosy about landing the perfect offer, but it is also due to the fact that more Stanford MBAs prefer to spend their summer internships at Silicon Valley startups and early stage firms and then seek full-time offers with more established companies. At most other schools, internships are converted into early full-time job offers that lead to better placement numbers. Richard says Stanford students show a “strong interest in summer startup opportunities. Students will experiment but the actual choice they make at graduation is often different.”

Just 73% of Stanford MBAs had job offers at graduation, up a single percentage point from a year earlier, with 92% three months after commencement. Acceptances at graduation trailed offers by 10 percentage points at 64%, also up a percentage point, while acceptances three months later hit 88%, up six percentage points from the 82% accept rate of last year. Those comparatively lower numbers, versus Wharton where 97.1% had offers three months after graduation and 92.6% accepted, tend to hurt the GSB in U.S. News‘ rankings.

“Many students have a couple of opportunities to choose from and they want to take their time to make sure they accept what they really want,” explains Richard. “We are providing more guidance as a school in terms of encouraging students to choose a little sooner. Fundamentally, the school’s position is that these are adults, and we emphasize making high quality decisions so we leave the decision for them and don’t put pressure on them.”

  • MBA alum

    No matter how each of the M7 recruit their respective classes, this level of compensation for the first jobs post MBA graduation is truly remarkable. To achieve a starting compensation over $225K speaks volumes to the value of the MBA at one of the top programs.
    To put this in perspective, this starting pay is in line with national averages for the c-suite. Grant Thornton’s most recent national compensation survey for public and private companies determined $304K for average salary for public company CFO and $218K for average salary for private company CFO. No wonder the size of the applicant pool for the M7 continues to climb every year. For many prospective MBAs, this appears to be a Golden ticket (at least for one’s entry level job).

  • Bill

    First, you don’t choose Stanford- they choose you. For those who get in and want to pursue PE/VC, you have a good chance at landing a role at a buyside shop and you’ll be rewarded. At W and H, you won’t get lost in the shuffle, as they have PE/VC clubs where students can form bonds and learn from one another.

    I think your chances at securing a solid role are similar across the three programs, but Stanford has more umph because it’s a rarer bird. It’s all about brand in PE/VC/HF.

  • Bill

    I’d say that PE/VC community is more or less the same from beginning to end of a two year student class. Most students have a good idea of whether or not they’re going to recruit for PE/VC/HF. And Firms want representation from a variety of the top schools, so they go get them. There are more Wharton alumni in these fields than Harvard, and in recent years Harvard has been surging – but not to the degree that I’d consider H the clear favorite in the grand scheme of things. This may materialize over time, though.

    GSB is clearly in third of the three, solely due to its smaller class size, but that’s also why they are paid more from the start. Of course, there aren’t as many competitors in finance in the West Coast, which also drives salaries higher. Supply and demand.

  • John Smith

    Anyone want to sell me a copy of the Allcock report? Contact me privately at

  • AverageJoe

    Haters going to hate, sorry you got rejected by the GSB

  • Princeton 2012

    They’re probably lying about this too.

  • Thought for Bill

    Bill: Thanks for the thoughtful analysis. The other interesting question here is what is the denominator, meaning to get those 69 jobs at the GSB, 95 at Wharton, and 198 at HBS, how many students had to apply? My guess is there are many more students at HBS/Wharton (proportionately) competing for these jobs than at Stanford, where PE/VC/HF/IM is not the sexy thing to do (it is at H and W). If 198 kids at HBS got jobs, but 300 wanted them, that’s not great for incoming students. I think it’s believable to think that 1/3 of the class at HBS would want PE/VC/IM/HF. My guess is at S that pretty much everyone who wants a job gets one.

  • frank

    interesting point.

  • Como

    Stanford GSB, the West Coast’s Wharton. A powerhouse for finance.

  • Malvern

    It was an ironic statement. GSB’s FinAid policy confirms the wisdom that “sometimes your actions speak louder than your words”. GSB’s “Change the World” is just hot air. I actually have more respect for Columbia as you know clearly where you stand (Wall Street focus).

  • Bob

    alternative facts

  • eric

    Stanford is so full of crap. What a joke that these people are so delusional and full of themselves that they spread such manure about changing the world.

  • HarvardWinsAgain

    Most would choose GSB over HBS since GSB gives full ride merit awards to bankers and HBS only does need-based aid. The gap between HBS and GSB is not that big to justify letting go of a full ride. (Heck, a full ride merit aid at Booth or Wharton would justify turning down HBS full pay.)

  • Here is the truth…

    Bill, you’re totally right — I missed that nuance.

    So, if you were an incoming MBA looking to get the best/highest paying buyside job you could get, which school would you choose?

    H and W send more students on an absolute basis into these fields due to larger class sizes (and therefore have a larger network in the industry), but S sends a higher percentage of unsponsored students into these fields with a higher salary. It seems as though if your goal was to max out on best job/highest pay you would probably pick S, correct? Fewer students means you get to be choosier. Of course, your network is smaller once you get there, but there are probably still enough S people (and since you’re fewer in numbers those bonds might be tighter). I hope to be able to make this choice so am interested in any opinions. Thanks.

  • Bill

    Wrong. These % figures are not apples to apples. Entering students include the FULL class, outgoing % figures include ONLY the 266 kids looking. Skewed. Redo the math.

  • Bill

    Interesting play on comparing numbers across schools. 26% in PE/VC/HF of 266 seeking employment comes to 69 kids for GSB. Compare this to Wharton’s 95 kids (even at 12.2% of ~775 seeking employment). What’s shocking, though, are the 198 kids from Harvard (24% of ~825) who pour into these lucrative and competitive industries.

    You’ll see more H and W kids in these fields than GSB – especially dominant in the Northeast. But this was a strongly turnout and GSB kids, who are fewer in numbers, can be more selective and get rewarded with more pay.


  • gem

    So, the avg salary for consulting is 144k while it is 147k in most M7 schools, except HBS with 150k. Is it safe to assume that Stanford MBA is not for consulting career..

  • allergictostupid

    The point would remain for NYC and other cities as well. COL is extraordinarily high in SF/NYC. If you compare Stanford’s figures to programs programs in the south such as Duke, Emory, UNC, the figures look impressive. The figures would look far less impressive when you adjust for COL in a city like Charlotte or any major metro in Texas.

    All I’m saying is to take these results with a grain of salt. 180k in SF does not go nearly as far as 140k does in Dallas.

  • FBFinance

    Please don’t spread misinformation. $180k is not commonplace for blue collar workers. That’s higher than what most software engineers even make out here. The only places with comp packages averaging that high are the Big N tech firms and Unicorns and even then the RSUs at the Unicorns are not very liquid so they don’t see it in cash.

  • Hello

    There are uniform standards for employment reports at business schools that all the top schools follow. These reports do not include sponsorored students — this is true of both Harvard and Stanford.

  • Student

    True, always keep a steady eye on the employment reports. Schools like Stanford, INSEAD and Columbia include sponsored students in their employment reports. So yes, Stanford and INSEAD accept higher number of candidates from prestigious MBB and PE firms to send them back. HBS does not include the sponsored students in the report, but still end up sending the PE/VC guys back to PE/VC.

    Some other M7 schools do a great job to pivot you into these positions (especially MBB): Wharton, MIT Sloan, etc.

  • halo

    His/her point still remains the same. $180k is nothing in the bay area. A blue collar worker makes that much money there. Construction/Welding/Plumbing. DC and Boston are often half the cost of Manhattan/Bay. Still expensive by the country standards, but nonetheless peanuts compare to the other two.

  • Huh

    Does anyone think that an incoming MBA student with a private equity background making $300k+ a year is going to choose GSB over HBS if GSB gives them an extra $10-20k in financial aid? Decisions aren’t made that way. If the student preferred HBS, they would still go there…

  • Here is the truth…

    John, would you say that Stanford seems to have the edge now on elite buyside recruiting over HBS? It would seem to be the case if you look at the last five years of data. A higher percentage of students at the GSB are getting into elite buyside positions than at HBS with higher total median salaries (substantially so when you factor in other guaranteed comp), and generally the GSB has a lower percentage of students coming in with elite buyside experience than HBS.

  • Malvern

    Oh my, I thought GSB teaches “Business as a force for good & Change the World”. Non profit jobs don’t pay $$$ salaries.

  • Really good point. As you probably know, the best way to enter PE or VC is to have PE or VC experience already on your pre-MBA resume. There is also the brand prestige factor. Many PE, VC and hedge funds only hire at H and S.

  • Here is the truth…

    HBS Class of 2017 – 17% incoming students in Private Equity / Venture Capital
    Stanford GSB Class of 2017 – 16% incoming students in Private Equity / Venture Capital

    HBS Class of 2017 – 18% outgoing students in Private Equity / Venture Capital
    Stanford GSB Class of 2017 – 22% outgoing students in Private Equity / Venture Capital

    Those numbers alone say a lot, and are especially impressive when you consider that incoming buyside students at Stanford GSB are more likely to become entrepreneurs and exit finance altogether. There are obviously a lot of students at GSB getting jobs in PE/VC that weren’t in the industry before, which is very tough to do from any other school (including HBS)…and when they get those jobs, they get paid more than students at any other school.

  • Reality

    Not so, so different than NYC, DC, or Boston where a lot of the grads from top East Coast schools end up.

  • allergictostupid

    Why is it that we don’t adjust these salary figures for cost of living? 180k is impressive, but less so when you adjust for SF col.

  • hmm

    Nope. They hire them from the buyside and send them back. Read their class profile. Its a parallel to INSEAD accepting from M/B/B so that they can send them all back.

    If you are a true career switcher, you may want to look at the other M7 schools where you actually have a fighting chance to learn something to land that new job. Your odds are better there.

  • hmm

    If you look at their class profile they take in more from Financial Services (includes Banks, PE/VC/IB/IM) than any other M7 school. It’s Stanford’s dirty little secret. Their high salaries are not from entrepreneurs or startups or tech or whatever angle their marketing brochures say about their claim to fame.

    It is nothing but a “finishing school” for bankers.

  • HarvardWinsAgain

    This explains why Stanford gives full-ride merit scholarship preference to bankers…. they soup up salary metrics. Stanford is truly a school for bankers and not change-the-world do gooders.

    (At least Harvard, Wharton or Booth never pretended to be that way)

  • Finance

    Seems pretty clear based on this data that Stanford is the best MBA for buyside investing jobs (private and public). Larger percentage of the class entering than any other school with substantially higher starting salaries. Looking at historical reports it has been that way for at least 5+ years.