This School’s Grads Now Make The Most Of Any Elite MBAs

Columbia Business School 2019 graduation

Columbia Business School 2019 graduation

Move over Harvard — there’s a new king of MBA salaries.

Columbia Business School released its 2019 employment report Wednesday (November 13) and it’s a whopper: CBS reports that its grads have secured the highest-ever median base salary, $150,000, and the highest total median compensation in school history — $177,970, which also happens to be the highest median compensation reported by any class of MBAs from any elite business school this year (though Stanford GSB has yet to report). It’s more than $5,000 higher than the total comp reported by Class of 2019 Harvard Business School MBAs earlier this month — and it’s a huge jump from last year’s CBS class when the school notched a total compensation figure of $155,248.

How did Columbia MBAs in the Class of 2019 earn 14.6% more than those in the Class of 2018? Most of the improvement came in median base salary, which jumped 15.4% from last year’s $130,000, and median “other” compensation, which ballooned to $50,000 from $28,500 in 2018. Median signing bonuses stayed flat at $30,000 (still a school high-water mark). Much of that improvement can be credited to some hefty finance pay packages; more on that below. Bottom line: Even after adjusting to account for the fact that only 15.2% of Columbia’s 753 grads reported getting other guaranteed compensation — things like stock options, for example — and 67.9% reported receiving signing bonuses, the total pay number still represents a massive leap in pay for Columbia MBAs.


“Columbia Business School students experience unparalleled access to dynamic companies and leaders in New York and around the world,” reads the new jobs report, “joining an entrepreneurial community that fosters innovation and creates everyday impact in the global marketplace.”


Last year’s big news from Columbia’s jobs report was that it was the first year consulting overtook finance as the top destination for newly minted MBAs. This year the long-time pipeline to Wall Street amped production back up a bit, so to speak, as finance rebounded, becoming the home of 34.3% of grads, up from 32.2%, to consulting’s 32.6%, down from 33.6%. Both industries have been neck-and-neck in the 30s for at least the last six years. Tech, meanwhile, continued to muddle along in the teens, and no other field made it to double digits.

Despite the banking rebound, the top five employers of CBS grads were all consulting firms, led by McKinsey and Company, which hired 45 CBS MBAs, down from 55 last year; Bain & Company, with 29; and Boston Consulting Group, with 28. They were followed by Deloitte (21 hires) and PwC Strategy& (17). Goldman Sachs scooped up 15 CBS MBAs, Amazon hired 14, and JPMorgan Chase hired a dozen. See page 3 for a breakdown of top CBS employers over the years.

Regardless of a specific employer, most CBS grads had jobs by three months after graduation: 93.9% had received offers by late August, down slightly from 94.1% last year, and 90.4% had accepted, up a bit from 90.1%. Another 34 students — roughly 4.5% — of the class started their own businesses in such areas as software, fin-tech, retail and e-commerce, and digital health. In 2018 Columbia’s entrepreneurs constituted a little over 5% of the class.


Delving a little more deeply into the salary numbers in CBS’s new report, we see that median salary plus signing bonus this year is $170,370, up an impressive 13.7% over last year’s $149,890, which itself was up an enviable 5.7% from $141,754 in 2017. Last year, the highest reported MBA starting salary was $308,000 landed by a graduate in private equity, followed by a classmate who was given a starting salary of $233,500 in consulting and another MBA who got a $200,000 salary in tech at an Internet services or e-commerce firm. In 2019, the distinction for highest starting salary goes to another private equity person who pulled in a cool $375,000, followed by someone who made $263,000 in consumer products and a tech MBA who was paid $260,000 in Internet services/e-commerce.

A couple of years ago the guidelines for reporting compensation changed, and some schools began refraining from offering details on “other” compensation. Schools like Columbia with a heavy finance focus, however, tend to do well in the “other” comp category, because in finance other guaranteed pay is a more prominent feature of a first-year starting package. Last year, more than half of Columbia MBAs going into finance reported these extras, while 84.5% of CBS students going into investment banking and brokerage did so. This year looks much the same, with more than half of finance MBAs saying they got “other” comp packages — and a whopping 88.4% of investment bankers getting it, at a median, like last year, of $50,000. Some gaudy numbers jump out in this section of the report: Someone in hedge funds made $260,000 in other comp, while another MBA in private equity made $225,000; yet even these pale in comparison to the MBA in “other investment management” who raked in $350,000 in other comp.

Consider: last year the top other guaranteed compensation for a Columbia MBA was $240,624, paid to an MBA in management consulting.

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