Wharton MBA Salaries Jump As Finance Recovers

The Wharton School is placing a big bet on business analytics

A year after the percentage of Wharton MBAs pursuing careers in finance dropped to  record low of 32.7% in 2017, financial services made something of a recovery at Wharton this year, luring away more MBA graduates from consulting and technology. The uptick to 36.9%–more than four percentage points–helped to boost starting MBA median salaries to a record $135,000, up $5,000 from last year and up $10,000 from two years ago. At $135K, Wharton equalled Harvard Business School’s median over the two previous years.

Wharton’s new 2018 employment report, however, fails to detail such commonly disclosed stats as median signing bonus or the percentage of graduates who received that bonus or, for that matter, the job offer and job placement rates of international graduates. Last year, the median sign-on bonus at Wharton was $25,000, received by 77.2% of the class.

(Editor’s Note: After the publication of this story, Wharton would later disclose that median sign-on bonus remained the same at $25,000, though the percentage of students receiving signing bonuses declined to 74.4%. The school also disclosed that other guaranteed bonus was a median $30,000 but failed to reveal what percentage of the class reported on this metric of pay).

If those numbers held steady, the “median” starting pay package for this year’s graduating MBAs came to $154,300. That total compares to median salary and signing bonus of $152,900 at UVA’s Darden School of Business (see Internationals Having More Trouble Landing U.S. Jobs). Wharton declined to report average compensation numbers this year.


Wharton disclosed that 98.4% of its graduating class had job offers three months after graduation, up from 97.1% las year. The school said that 94.6% of MBAs accepted those offers, up from 92.6% a year earlier. Some 95.1% of the 813 graduates seeking jobs reported their jobs data to Wharton for the 2018 employment report. Some 26 members of the 866-strong class either started their own companies while in school or were self-employed.

The five largest employers of Wharton’s Class of 2018 were, in order, McKinsey & Co., Bain & Co., Amazon, Boston Consulting Group, and Goldman Sachs. Wharton identified 66 separate companies that hired two or more MBA graduates from Wharton this year, ranging from Accenture Strategy and Adobe Systems to Wayfair and William Blair & Co.

The big news, however, was the reversal of years of decline for the financial sector at Wharton, long known as the finance school. Most of the increase could be attributed to a big boost in the number of MBAs who entered private equity and buyout firms, a more than three-percentage point rise to a record 11.4% of the class, up from 8.2%. More Wharton MBAs also signed on with investment management firms, 6.7% this year versus 5.3% in 2017.

Ever since the Great Recession of 2007-2008, the leading schools that funnel MBAs into Wall Street—Wharton, Columbia, Booth and NYU Stern—have seen fewer and fewer of their graduates headed into the core finance jobs in investment banking, investment managment, private equity, venture capital and hedge funds. When the recession hit in 2008, 47.8% of Wharton’s graduating class went into the financial services sector. Last year’s low at Wharton occurred in a year in which consulting toppled finance as the top industry destination for MBAs at the University’s of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.


Though well below the nearly 48% level just before the recession, financial services this year gained at Wharton at the expense of both consulting and tech jobs. MBAs headed into consulting at Wharton totaled 25% of the class, down from 28.3% a year earlier, while those who took jobs in the tech industry came to 14.9% of the class, a decrease from 16.0%. Roughly 6.2% of the class accepted jobs in the consumer products and retail sector, while 5.8% of the class took positions in the healthcare industry. Real estate, always a relatively strong industry for Wharton, attracted 4.2% of the Class of 2018, up from 3% a year ago.

The highest median salaries went to JD-MBAs in “professional services” who reported median base salaries of $180,000. The small 1.7% of the class who landed jobs in venture capital reported median salaries of $175,000, up from $125,000 last year. Students who accepted jobs with hedge funds had median salaries of $162,00, up from $150,000 in 2017. MBAs who joined the consulting industry and PE and buyout field reported  median salaries of $150,000.


A Wharton spokesperson said the school will provided some updated information, including sign-on bonuses and the percentage of MBA grads who received signing incentives, in mid-November on its website, adding that 11.5% of the class reported median guaranteed bonus of $30,000.

Some 88.3% of the students who accepted their offers gained jobs in the U.S., with the remaining 11.7% going overseas for their jobs (see below). One of the biggest surprises in the report is the median salaries paid to Wharton MBAs who got hired for jobs in the midwest and the south. They reported median salaries of $150,000, $10K more than those in the Northeast. That’s likely the result of the very few numbers of Wharton grads who gain employment in those regions of the U.S.

The lowest median salaries went to MBAs who took jobs outside the U.S. In Latin America, for example, the median pay was just $92,000, while in Europe it was $119,000 and in Asia, $126,000, well below the overall $135,000 median for the entire class.

Wharton 2018 employment report


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