MBA Pay At Leading B-Schools

Poets&Quants recently took an in-depth look at salary and bonus data at the top business schools. But as anyone who has earned an MBA and entered (or re-entered) the job market knows, many factors impact how much you’ll be making once you finally have your degree in hand. And many B-schools track that data, too: “other” compensation, such as guaranteed year-end bonuses and some other bennies, which most schools carefully document and report because they can exponentially inflate a graduate’s paycheck — and, therefore, the hard numbers that the schools brag about.

If it was little surprise to see the M7 and peer schools atop the salary rankings, it will be small wonder to see the same schools in much the same order when other compensation is added to the mix. Leading the way: Stanford Graduate School of Business, which reported an astounding average total compensation of $257,054, including the top reported average salary of $144,455. Stanford was followed by Columbia Business School ($221,036), Harvard Business School ($220,188), The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania ($209,501), and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business ($200,415). These five schools were also the only five to break the $200K barrier.

Stanford’s supremacy is a bit of an illusion. While only 51 MBAs from the school reported other compensation, that works out to be about a quarter (25.1%) of all Stanford grads who reported starting salaries — a higher proportion than at Harvard, Wharton, Chicago Booth, or MIT Sloan School of Management. But the illusion comes from the fact that one lucky grad reported an astonishing other comp total of $450,000, pushing the school’s average up to $83,065 — more than $25,000 higher than the next closest school, Columbia ($57,460). Most of the other top schools were in the $150K-$250K range for high other compensation; Harvard had a person who received $350,000.


Last year, a trade group launched an effort to stop the reporting of other compensation, calling the data “unreliable” as an indicator of MBA programs’ strength. But numbers that enlarge a school’s reputation are attractive to schools for obvious reasons. Average other compensation — including such enticements as tuition reimbursement and non-guaranteed performance bonuses — in many cases actually outweighs average bonus, especially at the top schools. For the top 10 schools, the average bonus is $30,089; for other comp, it’s $39,245, even though fewer grads tend to get it.

Flip the bonus-other dynamic on its head the further down the rankings you go. Altogether in the top 50, 25 schools report an average signing bonus of greater than $25,000, while only 13 report average other comp of more than $25,000. Nine schools don’t report other compensation at all, whereas all the schools report bonuses.

Largely thanks to huge bonuses and other compensation, five schools report total pay of more than $200,000 and 15 others report total pay of greater than $130,000. No schools in the U.S. News top 50 report total pay below $100,000. Looking at each category by itself, 14 schools have an average base salary over $120,000, and 13 have an average salary below $100,000. In the top 10, the average total compensation is $200,415, and the average base salary is $131,075.


There is more data relevant to the question of how much MBAs are making out of B-school. A high proportion of MBAs reporting signing bonuses, for example, tends to reflect well on a school — and kudos on that front to Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, which had the highest top-10 percentage of job seekers reporting a bonus, at 82.2% (the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business was close behind at 82.1%). Stanford had the lowest among top schools and among the lowest of any school, at just 50.7%, though in the lower tier some schools — like UC-Davis and the University of Utah Eccles School of Business — dropped well below the water line because of a very small volume of student reporting. Overall, the highest bonus percentages came from the University of Florida Hough Graduate School of Business (95.0%) and the University of Virginia Darden School of Business (90.4%).

It’s also instructive to look at the percentage of students who get offers straight out of school and how many had to wait a little longer. In this regard, Michigan Ross takes top honors with 89.7% employed at graduation, while the University of Washington Foster School of Business is best three months after graduation at a whopping 98.1% of grads employed. Notably low on the scale: Stanford’s 63.9% employed at graduation (a reflection, no doubt, of the school’s position in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Northern California), and the University of Texas-Dallas’ Jindal School of Management’s 41.9% at the same point. (In Texas-Dallas’ defense, that number shoots up to 90.3% after three months.) Only one school in the top 50, the University of Maryland Smith School of Business, had less than 80% (79.5%) of its 2017 grads employed three months after earning their MBA.

Finally, there’s the question of how much students paid up front to get their money-making degree. Not taking into account the various variables like cost of living (huge) and course materials (big but not as big), P&Q took a look at two years of tuition at the top schools. A snapshot: The top five in terms of cost are Harvard ($144,000), Columbia ($143,088), MIT Sloan ($142,000), Wharton ($140,400), and Chicago Booth ($138,400). Down the list at ninth, costing $137,736, is Stanford — which, as we’ve seen, boasts the top paychecks for its grads.

(See the next pages for a complete breakdown of the total compensation data from the U.S. News top 50 schools.)

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