This Year’s ‘Crazy Rich’ Stanford MBAs

Stanford Graduate School of Business MBAs at graduation have plenty to be happy about

One of the breakout movies hits of 2018 has been the laugh-out-loud romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians about the lifestyles of the super wealthy in Singapore. Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business today (Dec. 12) published a reality show version of the movie with the long-awaited release of its 2018 employment report.

Yet again, it not only shows that Stanford MBAs land the highest starting pay packages of any business school graduates in the world. It also shows that from the start, they qualify as crazy rich. A conservative estimate of a Stanford MBA’s first-year average compensation this year comes to a whopping $209,150.

That sum includes base salary of $145,559, a signing bonus of $31,146, received by 55% of the graduates, and an expected first-year performance bonus of an eye-popping $64,529, expected by 72% of the Class of 2018. The total of $209,150 is adjusted to reflect the percentage of MBAs reporting sign-on and performance bonuses.


Even more surprising, perhaps, is that the total does not include the value of stock grants or options, reported by 39% of this year’s graduating class, or reimbursement for tuition or relocation expenses, or a portfolio of benefits and perks that range from auto allowances to 401K match plans. In fact, it also doesn’t include another element of starting pay, ‘other guaranteed compensation,’ that for the first time Stanford decided not to report. Last year, the business school noted that other guaranteed comp average out to a fairly consequential $83,065, received by one in four students.

It just goes to show that you don’t have to be Asian in Singapore to be crazy rich. You just have to be a Stanford MBA. The Class of 2018 at the GSB broke records for salaries for the fourth consecutive year, edging past last year’s all-time high average salaries by $1,000 and average sign-on bonuses by $1,600. On a median basis, the numbers were lower, with median base at $142,000, up $2K, and median sign-on unchanged at $25,000.

In comparison, the median base at Harvard Business School was $2,000 lower this year at $140,000 and that was after a $5K jump from $135,000 in 2017.


Yossi Feinberg oversees the MBA program at Stanford

The school almost seemed embarrassed by the largess, trying to spin a more altruistic story from the big numbers put up by its MBAs. “Our graduates pursued roles where they can make a difference in the world and have positive impact on the greater economy, regardless of salary,” said Yossi Feinberg, senior associate dean for academic affairs, in a statement. “That said, we’ve had another year of a strong employment market for our MBAs. Not only did our graduates break previous years’ records for compensation, but also we had a record 421 organizations hire our students for summer internships and full-time positions, a signal of the broad diversity of career paths our students followed” (see How Stanford GSB Reports Its Own 2018 Employment Report).

In every class, of course, the actual numbers can vary greatly by student. The highest salaries went to grads who landed jobs in investment management, where the starting average was $186,364, hedge funds ($185,000), and private equity ($164,516). There’s little wonder why nearly just as many Stanford MBAs go into finance, a field that again swallowed 31% of this year’s grads, as technology at 33%, even though the school is at the epicenter of the world’s most dynamic tech economy.

In fact, Stanford’s 2018 MBA employment report shows that 13% of this year’ Stanford class went into private equity, more than graduates of Wharton, Columbia, or NYU Stern, the business schools known for their finance expertise. At Columbia Business School, for example, just 4.9% of the MBAs went into PE this year.


The lowest salaries went to MBAs who accepted jobs in the non-profit sector, which still paid Stanford grads in six-figures to start with average salaries of $111,214, real estate ($118,333), and media and entertainment ($124,500). Not surprisingly, those fields attracted just 4%, 1% and 3% of the graduating class, respectively.

Then, there are the crazy, crazy rich few. The highest reported salary–$300,000–went to a Stanford MBA who took a job with a hedge fund. The highest reported sign-on bonus–$145,000–was pocketed by a graduate who signed up to work for a private equity firm. And the highest expected performance bonus–$400,000–was reported by a graduate who was hired in PE as well, though MBAs who accepted offers in hedge funds and investment management expected first-year bonuses of $300,000 and $250,000, respectively.

As anti-immigration rhetoric and worry over work visas have diminished applications from international applicants, the school brought attention to a $12,000 median salary gap between U.S. work-authorized graduates and non-U.S. work-authorized MBAs who are on student visas and annual work permits. “However, when controlled for industry and job location, the salary gap diminishes and in some cases disappears,” added Feinberg in his statement. “We saw the percentage of non-U.S. work-authorized students in the job-seeking pool who accepted jobs in the U.S. stay flat at 74% compared to last year. Behind that number, we recognize that global trends presented extra challenges to students seeking to change locations.”


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.