Median Pay For Harvard MBAs This Year: A Record $172,090 To Start

If you want to know why so many young professionals want to get an MBA at the Harvard Business School, look no further than the school’s 2019 employment report. This year’s Harvard MBA graduates secured a new breathtaking record for starting pay: The median compensation package for an HBS grad reached $172,090, up a healthy 7.4% over year-earlier totals.

That sum includes median base salaries of $148,750, up from $140,000 last year, signing bonuses of $30,000, up from $25,000 in 2018, and other guaranteed compensation of $52,000, a big jump over the $28,700 reported a year ago. The total median compensation of $172,090 has been adjusted to reflect the percentage of graduates receiving a signing bonus (57%) and other guaranteed pay (12%). In the past five years, HBS’ total median pay packages have jumped 22.5% from $148,690 in 2014 (see below chart).

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business has yet to release its latest employment report, which tends to put the GSB at the top of the annual pay sweepstakes, but Harvard’s unprecedented numbers are pretty much in line with rival schools that have reported record levels of pay in a hot job market for MBAs. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, for example, said its MBAs saw median salaries hit a record $150,000 this year, up more than 11% from $135,000 a year earlier (see Big Jump In Median Pay For Wharton Class of 2019 MBAs). At the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, total median compensation hit an estimated $168,060 this year, up substantially from $149,750 in 2018 (see War For Talent Between Consulting & Finance Leads To Soaring MBA Pay At Chicago Booth).


The most handsomely paid MBAs right out of school were the relatively small percentage of the class (4%) lucky enough to land a job with a hedge fund or investment management company. The total median pay for these HBSers hit $211,350, compared of median base salaries of $150,000, sign-on bonuses of $30,000, received by 67% of the grads, and a whopping $125,000 on the backend with other guaranteed comp reported by 31% of the students.

Even though the percentage of HBS grads gobbled up by the big consulting firms dropped by four percentage points to 21% this year, the payday for those who ventured into the likes of McKinsey, Bain and the Boston Consulting Group was huge. Total median comp in consulting this year was a mammoth $194,880, lifted by a big increase in base salaries to $165,000 from $150,000 a year earlier, and a $5,000 increase in sign-on bonuses to $30,000.

Not far behind the MBAs-turned-consultants in pay was the 20% of the class who accepted jobs with private equity firms, leveraged buyout outfits and venture capital players. Total median pay here was $194,000, composed of starting salaries of $160,000, sign-on bonuses of $25,000, received by 31% of the students, and other guaranteed comp of $125,000, reported by 21% of the grads.


Students who chose the PE, VC and LBO fields also reported the highest 75th percentile median salaries of the class: $200,000. Interestingly enough, the tiny 2% of MBAs who took jobs in the energy and extractive minerals indsutry were just behind the PE folks, with median salaries of $189,125 in the 75th percentile. HBS does not report the highest and lowest salaries by industry but rather the 25th and 75th percentiles.

The HBS numbers—reported as medians not averages–again prove the value of the MBA degree at a time when applications to full-time MBA programs at Harvard and other top schools continue to decline. All the numbers, moreover, tend to be conservative estimates of first-year compensation for MBAs because they fail to include reimbursement of tuition, stock options, other equity awards, and several other perks including performance bonuses, profit sharing, or 401K matching plans.

Overall, 29% of the Class of 2019 went into the financial sector, exactly the same as the year-earlier class. Consulting attracted 21% of this year’s Harvard MBAs, followed closely by the high tech industry which hired 20%, up a single percentage point from 2018. Those three industries alone hired seven of every ten HBS graduates this year.

About 7% of the class went into either healthcare or manufacturing, 5% into the nonprofit and government sectors. Some 3% of the graduates accepted offers in each of the following four industries: consumer products, media and entertainment, retail and trading, and services.

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