What Columbia MBAs Made This Year

One of many photos posted to Instagram last week by celebrating Columbia Business School MBA students

In 2017, employers have been kind to MBA graduates– particularly at M7 programs. Stanford MBAs broke the $180K average pay mark, while Harvard starting pay has climbed by nearly $10K since 2015. Pay inched up at Wharton Chicago Booth, and Northwestern Kellogg too. However, one top program has been immune to this growth trend in recent years. It’s Columbia Business School.

That’s one theme that emerges from CBS’s 2017 Employment Report. Over the past three graduating classes, as the percentage of graduates going into high-paying jobs in finance decline, the class compensation averages have seemingly flatlined. Columbia still posts impressive numbers, though they fail to take the proverbial next step after an earlier  post-recession jump. Think of CBS as a fund, one that outperforms its indices on the surface yet leaves the impression that it could be so much more.


Looking at the Class of 2017, it is hard to determine whether the glass is half full or half empty. On one hand, the class pulled down total median pay of $146,550. In context, that is seventh-best among MBA programs that have reported graduating class data. What’s more, it tops such peer programs as Chicago Booth and Northwestern Kellogg by $5K or more. However, such news is undercut by one statistic: 2017 CBS grads earned $7,500 less than their NYU Stern counterparts.

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.

Indeed, CBS is seemingly at a salary standstill. For the third consecutive year, graduates earned median base salary of $125,000. For the sixth time in eight years, median signing bonuses hovered around $25,000 – with the outlying years coming in 2012 and 2013 to the tune of $30,000. The percentage of 2017 CBS graduates landing a bonus – 65.7% – was also the third-lowest over those same eight years. In addition, just 21.5% of the class earned other guaranteed compensation. Not surprisingly, this compensation totaled a median $25,000 – the same figure for the last three years.

A comparison with Stern illustrates that CBS’ impasse is hardly cyclical. In 2014, Stern MBAs snagged median compensation packages of $137,582 – $2,100 less than Columbia. That starting pay has since jumped to $154,147 over the past four classes – a $16,500 increase. However, Columbia grads experienced just a $6,900 bump during that same period – despite sharing the same market. This is particularly noticeable over the past three graduating classes, where CBS graduate pay slogged along to the pace of $145,500, $147,000, and $146,550.


These are enviable pay numbers, no doubt, but also numbers that reflect attainable room for improvement. That said, Columbia is hardly alone in hitting the pay wall. From 2013-2015, for example, total median compensation at Wharton see-sawed from $145,475-$146,450 – and has since risen $6,500 over the past two classes. Harvard, too, suffered a two year spell where total median pay languished…only to enjoy a $13,500 resurgence over the next three graduating classes.

The 2017 Class also didn’t fare as well on the high and low ends of compensation. The lowest reported base stood at $40,000, which was $20,000 than the lowest base from the previous graduating class. This year’s highest reported base came in at $250,000 and stemmed from private equity. It was, however, a noticeable drop-off from last year’s $325,000 high base. In better news, one spring graduate reeled in a $165,000 bonus – more than double the $75,000 high from the 2016 class. In addition, a 2017 grad managed to negotiate a $250,000 package of “Other Compensation” goodies.

Despite sluggish returns compared to previous years, the Class of 2017 was pretty happy with their employment results. The school reports that 94% gave their job satisfaction either a 4 or a 5 on a 5-point scale (where zero was the lowest mark). Overall, 73% of employed graduates found jobs through “school-facilitated opportunities,” with over half deriving from on-campus interviews and internships. In addition, 93.2% of the Class received job offers within three months of graduation, with another 89.3% accepting their offers. Not to mention, 28 students had started their own companies by graduation.

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