MBA Class Of 2021 Jobs: Harvard Placement Rebounds, But Pay Slips

Harvard Business School. Photo by Gren Hren for Harvard Business School

The coronavirus pandemic is not over, and anyone who suggests it is should see Harvard Business School’s new MBA employment report, released today (November 22), as a caution against sanguine forecasting. HBS reports that overall median salary was up only slightly for this year’s graduates, while total median compensation slipped to $189,850 from $193,200, a decline of about 1.2%. This comes a year after HBS reported a median pay package increase of about 1.5% last fall; Harvard’s 2021 total pay still lags 2019 by about a third of a percent.

Clearly, when it comes to MBA job prospects, the crisis is ongoing. Placement rates rebounded in 2021, however, with 96% of Harvard MBAs who were seeking work receiving an offer three months after graduation and 92% accepting, up from 90% and 83%, respectively, in the depths of a health crisis that upended hiring and internships alike.

“The HBS Class of 2021 weathered quite a few setbacks with the rapid changes to their internships in the summer of 2020, some of which were pulled entirely, others that were quickly transitioned to all remote,” notes Kristin Fitzpatrick, managing director of MBA Career & Professional Development for HBS. Harvard MBAs shook off the challenges of hybrid learning “and a world forever changed,” she says, “to secure fabulous opportunities at 335 organizations all over the world.”


Harvard MBAs’ overall median base salary increased only slightly in 2021 to $150,500 from $150,000, while signing bonuses were flat at $30,000 and performance bonuses up only slightly, to $37,000 from $35,000. Fewer HBS grads reported receiving either type of bonus, accounting for the drop in overall compensation. Total median pay includes base salary, sign-on bonus, and other guaranteed compensation, adjusted for the percentages of graduates receiving a signing bonus and other guaranteed pay. This year the former was 51% and the latter 65%, down from 60% and 72%, respectively, in 2020.

Consulting once again paced all other industries, with total median pay for Harvard graduates hired on by the MBB firms and other consultancies up to $211,800, an 8.4% increase from last year’s mark of $195,336. In 2019, the consulting crowd reported $194,880 in total pay. Accepted offers in 2021 were composed of a starting salary median of $165K, a $30K signing bonus given to 95% of those going into the field, and other guaranteed comp of $30K, reported by 92% of the students.

At the top end of the pay scale once again was the 8% of the latest class to head into hedge funds and investment management jobs, for whom the median total compensation totaled a gobsmacking $279,900, up from $203,307, with median salaries of $165,000, up from $152,682, sign-on bonuses of $50,000 (from $27,500), reported by 50% of the students, and a gargantuan $145,000 in other guaranteed comp landed by 62% of the grads, up from $132,500 last year. That latter is the main cause of the 38% jump in total comp for the hedge fund crowd.

Of course, not all HBS grads chase (and capture) the money. Some are interested less in salary and more in making a positive mark in the world, though of course the two goals are not always exclusive.

“We did see a strong group of students commit to positions in social enterprise with fourteen of our graduates joining the 20th class of Leadership Fellows, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a select group of graduating students to experience high-impact management positions in nonprofit and public sector organizations for one year at a competitive salary.” Fitzpatrick says. “We look forward to seeing how the Class of 2021 will make the world a better place!”


How does Harvard's employment report measure up against the other M7 schools that have so far issued jobs numbers? Not so well. At Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, 97.1% of two-year MBA graduates in 2021 received offers by three months after graduation, up from 95% last year, and 96.1% accepted, up from 93%. Pay also climbed, with median starting salaries up to $150,000 from $144,000, leading to a 2.1% uptick in total compensation, to $175,800 from $172,200. Bonuses, which 86% of grads reported receiving, were the same at a median of $30,000.

At MIT Sloan School of Management, though median salaries and bonuses were flat this year at $150,000 and $30,000, other compensation, reported by more than 70% of the class, skyrocketed from a median of $11,000 to $34,000, powering an 8.5% jump in total compensation to $195,600 from $180,223 — a much healthier rate of pay increase than last year’s 3.8% and even better than the strong 7.6% that the Class of 2019 enjoyed.

The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School reports a 99% offer rate after three months, a new school record that closed the books on the 2020 mark of 93.5% offers after 90 days. Wharton's median salary was up $5,000 this year after remaining flat in 2020, to $155,000, powered by gains in tech, fintech, and social impact, among others. Median salaries for consultants ($165,000) and bankers ($150,000) were unchanged for the third straight year.

And at Chicago Booth School of Business, median salary grew $5,000, to $155,000, with consulting — the top industry for Booth grads for the third straight year — up to $165,000 from $160K, and finance — once again the runner-up — growing even more, to $160,000 from $150K. Median bonuses grew to $35,000, led by $50K for finance grads and $40K for tech grads, powering an overall compensation total of $178,450, up 4.9% from a year ago. In terms of finding work, 92.9% of Boothies had job offers at graduation, basically the same as 2020, and 97.7% had offers at three months, a modest increase. The big jump occurred in acceptances, which grew to 96.4% this year, up from 91.4%

Columbia Business School's report is due in the coming weeks; Stanford Graduate School of Business will release its report in January.

See the next pages for more salary and trend breakdowns from Harvard's MBA Class of 2021 employment report. 






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