Kellogg Posts Record MBA Pay With Jump In PE Jobs

Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management Global Hub

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management Global Hub Photo by
Jonathan Gibby

This year’s MBAs at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management graduated into one of the hottest MBA job markets ever this year, posting record starting pay and bonuses, according to a preliminary 2019 MBA employment report out today (Oct. 3).

Graduating MBAs racked up median starting salary and sign-on bonuses of $165,080, adjusted for the percentage of students reporting signing bonuses. That’s up 13.8% from last year’s $145,000, one of the largest year-over-year increases in MBA pay in many years. Median salaries rose to $140,000 from $130,000 in 2018, while median signing bonuses, received by 83.6% of the grads, jumped to $30,000 from $25,000 last year when only 60% of the graduates reported getting a sign-on bonus. Only four years ago, median MBA pay at Kellogg totaled just $139,750.

But there are two other notable surprises in today’s preliminary report: The percentage of Kellogg MBAs who landed jobs in one of the most lucrative sectors, private equity, more than doubled to 7.4% from 3.6% last year. That is an extraordinary outcome for a school that has sent a steadily shrinking percentage of MBAs into finance. Yet another surprise was the number of Kellogg MBAs scooped up by the Boston Consulting Group which hired 52 members of the Class of 2019, a 64% jump from the 33 graduates BCG employed last year. Not surprisingly, BCG was the single larger employer of Kellogg MBAs this year.

Besides the big MBA haul by BCG, McKinsey & Co. employed 28 members of the Class of 2019, while Bain hired 21 grads. The tech firms continue to play a big role in hiring Kellogg MBAs, with Google leading the tech parade with 13 hires, Amazon with 12, and Apple with 10. J.P. Morgan employed nine Kellogg MBAs, followed in the financial services sector by Goldman Sach, with four hires, and Alpine Investors with three. In consumer products, five Kellogg MBAs went to PepsiCo, four to Kraft Heinz, and four to Nike.


Liza Kirkpatrick, director of Kellogg’s career management center

Liza Kirkpatrick, director of Kellogg’s career management center for full-time MBAs

Kellogg is the third prominent U.S. business school to report a record year for its MBA graduates. At the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, the 2019 preliminary employment report showed that median pay–salary and sign-on bonus–rose 12.5% to $163,900. At the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, median MBA pay increased 6.6% to $162,000 in its 2019 preliminary report. The year-over-year increases have occurred as the financial services industry has fought harder against both consulting and tech firms for MBA talent in what remains a hot U.S. job market for MBA graduates.

What’s more, Kellogg reported that 98% of its Class of 2019 had job offers three months after graduation, three points higher than the 95% with offers last year. Some 95% of the class accepted their offers, also up three points from the 92% who said ‘yes’ in 2018.

“It was an incredibly positive year,” says Liza Kirkpatrick, director of Kellogg’s career management center for full-time MBAs. “We saw the demand in the marketplace expand. The number of companies hiring our graduates rose to 254 companies this year from 228 the previous year.  We are seeing a lot of demand for MBAs. The compensation is in line with the marketplace and what the marketplace is paying MBAs. It keeps chugging along and is reflective of the jobs our students are going into.”


Kellogg’s comp numbers rose over its nearby rival Booth largely due to the increase in grads going into PE firms, a result of years earlier curriculum changes that have made the school’s graduates more attractive to private equity. “The finance numbers speak out to me,” adds Kirkpatrick in an interview with Poets&Quants.  The percentage of Kellogg MBAs going into finance rose four percentage points to 18% of the class this year. “PE is the big story.”

Kellogg did not disclose detailed salary and bonus information by industry in its preliminary report. Those details will come when the school releases its final employment report later this year. “We had a big increase in year-over-year growth, particularly in PE jobs. This year we had 7.4% going into PE from 3.6% last year. That is significant for us and it’s a concerted effort of academic programming and our alumni coming together to help make that happen.”

Four years ago, Kellogg launched major changes in its MBA offerings with a series of new courses on growth and scaling businesses (see Could Growth Become A New Business School Discipline?). The initiative had a special appeal to the private equity crowd. Kellogg also has seen growing interest in its Private Equity Lab, launched in 2008, to bring MBA students together with PE firms. More than 70 firms have worked with the 65 students who participate in the lab yearly.

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