Stanford MBA Pay This Year In One Word: WOW!


The single biggest surprise this year was a significant decline in the percentage of Stanford MBAs going into the tech industry. While nearly every other highly selective business school saw record numbers of their graduates enter tech, Stanford MBAs headed into the industry fell by eight full percentage points to 25% this year from 33% in 2016 when it was the school’s number one employer.

After looking at tech employment from five and ten years ago, Richard concluded that the industry’s MBA hiring patterns tend to be “the most volatile” over the years. “I don’t think we have true data that is reliable enough to say with certainty what is going on,” she adds. Fewer students did their summer internships with tech firms and that may explain some of the drop. “It may not be that there is less interest in tech, but that other industries were more interesting and compelling for the students. We don’t see the shift as being that significant. Tech is still really important here and entrepreneurship is really important. Our studnets are very much interested in distruptive business models, opportunities to innovate and the chance to take on a lot of responsbility right away and tech offers all of that. Besides, tech is not only a vertical industry. It is increasingly a horizontal choice with fin tech, health tech, education tech, machine learning, and even a Tesla.”

One perhaps more obvious reason for the decline: Tech firms tend to pay MBAs significantly less than finance or consulting. The average base salary in tech at Stanford was $132,392, well below the $177,653 in venture capital, $175,690 in private equity, $159,000 in investment management or $144,750 in consulting. The same is true of average signing bonuses. In tech, sign-on money averages out to just $27,120, compared to $43,333 in investment management, $39,107 in PE shops, $36,250 in VC firms, and $28,092 in consulting. And then there is the other guaranteed and expected performance bonuses, both of which are relatively rare in tech.


That in a nutshell is, as it has often been in the past, the real story behind Stanford’s high compensation numbers. Reputation to the contrary, Stanford funnels more MBAs into the most lucrative fields in finance than peer schools known for their finance expertise, such as Wharton, Columbia, NYU Stern, and Chicago Booth. It’s not necessarily the percentage of MBAs going into finance from Stanford, which is 32% this year. It’s more about where in finance they go. The largest group of financial-bound MBAs go into private equity, which accounts for a full 15% of the class. Then, there is the 7% flowing into venture capital, and the 4% into hedge funds.

Those three sectors in finance, representing 26% of Stanford’s entire class, dangle the most lucrative compensation packages paid to freshly minted MBAs. At Wharton, those sectors represent less than half of Stanford’s totals, just 12.2% of this year’s Wharton grads. Harvard gets closer to Stanford, sending 24% of its MBAs in the Class of 2017 into those three fields.

While consulting was up just a tick to 20%, that number is considerably lower than most peer schools. At Chicago Booth, for example, consulting overtook finance for the first time ever this year, attracting 34.7% of Booth’s Class of 2017. At Wharton, consulting industry firms hired 28.3% of the class. At Harvard Business School, some 23% of the MBAs this year went into consulting.


After the big three industries–finance, tech and consulting–Stanford MBAs really spread their wings. Some 4% of the class went into healthcare, with another 4% taking jobs in consumer packaged goods (see table on following page). About 3% of the class each accepted offers to work in real estate, the non-profit space or transportation. Some 2% went into retail, while 1% took jobs in the energy sector. While the number of Stanford MBAs going into the nonprofit arena are relatively low, Richard points “student sentiment and interest is very high in terms of socially responsible careers. About 13% said they chose a socially responsible role in a private business.” Last year when the question was introduced, 8% answered yes.

The school reported that out 392 graduates, 266 were seeking employment this year. Some 16% of the class–63 of the 392 graduates–started a new business this year. The top five industry choices for these entrepreneurial graduates were software (15%), finance (11%), healthcare (9%), real estate (9%), and internet services (9%). This year’s entrepreneurs represent a one percentage point rise over last year. Twenty-two students were sponsored and returned to their employers, while another 18 students decided to continue their education.

In 2017, 62% of GSB graduates selected careers in the West region, representing a slight three percentage point decline compared to last year. Counter to assumptions, only 35% of these West region jobs relate to technology. Finance represented 26%, and consulting represented 15%. Outside of the West region, the Northeast was the next most popular location drawing 16% of the class, while international jobs attracted 11%.

One other trend was cited by Richard. The number of women going to private equity and venture capital has nearly doubled since 2014. “While we do not disclose fine-grain gender detail and the numbers are still small, we see a definite widening of the cracks in the glass ceiling,” she says.

Pay & Employment Remains Strong At A Wide Range Of MBA Programs

School Job Offers Total Median Pay Major Employers
Chicago (Booth) 97% $141,500 McKinsey, Amazon, BCG, Bain, Accenture, Morgan Stanley
UPenn (Wharton) 97% $149,300 McKinsey, BCG, Amazon, Bain, Goldman Sachs
Michigan (Ross) 97% $147,845* Amazon, McKinsey, Deloitte, BCG, Microsoft
Duke (Fuqua) 96% $145,500 Deloitte, McKinsey, Amazon, BCG, Accenture
Minnesota (Carlson) 96% $122,400 3M, Deloitte, Ecolab, Land O’Lakes, Microsoft
Harvard Business School 95% $154,750* NA
Dartmouth (Tuck) 95% $146,250 McKinsey, Bain, Amazon, BCG, Microsoft
Northwestern (Kellogg) 94% $140,350 McKinsey, BCG, Amazon, Bain, Microsoft
New York (Stern) 94% $154,147* Amazon, Deloitte, JP Morgan, McKinsey, Credit Suisse
Emory (Goizueta) 94% $144,580* E&Y, Amazon, PwC, Deloitte, Citigroup, Georgia Pacific
Columbia 93% $146,550* McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Amazon, Deloitte
Virginia (Darden) 93% $149,750 Microsoft, BCG, McKinsey, Accenture, Amazon
Vanderbilt (Owen) 93% $130,750 Amazon, Deloitte, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, North Highland
Stanford GSB 92% $165,250* NA
Indiana (Kelley) 92% $134,113* E&Y, Microsoft, P&G, Amazon, Deloitte
Cambridge (Judge) 92% $130,218 Amazon, McKinsey, Google, Uber, BCG

* Reflects starting salary, sign-on bonus and other guaranteed compensation, adjusted for the percentage of students receiving bonuses and other comp. The rest of the numbers include only salary and sign-on bonus because the school does not report other guaranteed compensation. Job offers data is for three months after graduation

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