Stanford GSB Graduated The Highest-Paid MBAs Of All Time In 2021

Stanford has released its 2021 MBA employment report, the last top school to do so

As we’ve seen in the release of employment reports from top-25 programs throughout fall and winter, the pandemic whirlwind has failed to cause long-term damage to job prospects for MBAs from elite business schools. If you want further evidence, take it from the top program: Stanford Graduate School of Business.

In 2020, newly graduated Stanford MBAs landed the highest starting compensation for MBAs anywhere in the world, reporting new records in the averages of the three pay categories: starting base salary, sign-on bonus, and expected performance bonus. Today (January 19), Stanford released its MBA Class of 2021 employment report showing that after two cycles of coronavirus, the world’s top B-school has largely stayed the course, with base salaries and performance bonuses growing once again, even as signing bonuses slipped. Placement rates rebounded in a big way.

Though they were small gains, Stanford GSB again set school records for average starting base salary ($161,831, up from $159,544) and average expected performance bonus ($78,373, up slightly from $78,299); the former stat has grown to new heights each of the last seven years. With sign-on bonuses ($29,148, down from $32,551) reported by 52% of grads and performance bonuses by 70%, average total MBA compensation at Stanford grew to $231,849 — up just $112 from last year’s mark of $231,737, but a new record nonetheless (and for the eighth consecutive year). And consider: Stanford MBAs’ compensation has increased 7.3% since 2019 and nearly 11% in three years.


Jamie Schein

Jamie Schein, assistant dean and director of the GSB's Career Management Center

Stanford MBAs' median salary also climbed in 2021, to $158K from $156K; overall 2021 was the seventh straight year that Stanford set new school salary records and the eighth consecutive year of total compensation growth for the B-school that Poets&Quants has ranked No. 1 for three years running.

Using median numbers, Stanford MBAs eclipsed compensation of $200K this year with salaries of $158,400, signing bonuses of $30,000 (reported by 52% of grads), and performance bonuses of $37,750 (reported by 70% of grads), for a total of $200,425. That's up 3.1% from $194,365 in 2020.

Whether you use mean or median data, Stanford continues to outpace its peers among the elite MBA programs. Harvard's Class of 2021 reported a median total compensation package of $189,850; Chicago Booth, $178,450; and Northwestern Kellogg, $175,800. Wharton, which does not report "other" bonus information, reported a 2021 median salary of $155K.

“More than other classes, the Class of 2021 learned how to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty, and to be adaptable and resilient,” Dean Jonathan Levin says in a statement accompanying the release of the employment report. “We are thrilled to see how they are applying what they have learned, going on to incredible roles in numerous industries.”

On the whole, Stanford graduated the highest-paid MBAs of all time in 2021 — but one student, in particular, was even better remunerated than the rest. Someone in finance (but not PE or VC or hedge funds) reported an expected performance bonus of $1,000,000. See the story here.


The pandemic had a clear and measurable negative effect on Stanford in one key area: job placement rates, which dipped from 94% with job offers three months after graduation in 2019 to 91% in 2020, while acceptances dropped from 88% to 85%. But 2021 erased those losses as both stats jumped significantly: Within three months of graduation, 96% of Stanford's Class of 2021 had received a job offer, and 91% had accepted.

"I was really pleased that our numbers came out as they did," Jamie Schein, assistant dean and director of Stanford's Career Management Center, tells Poets&Quants. "We sort of had a hunch that it would look similar to 2019, and indeed it did. So for our students, the 2020 report really was where we felt the impact of the pandemic, and from a job opportunities perspective, it's nice to see that the Class of 2021 had opportunities that they could really make meaningful choices from, and they were able to land great jobs.

"So it's really a testament to them, their persistence, and to the fact that businesses have figured out how to work in a hybrid environment and onboard people in a way that they can feel like part of a team."

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