High & Low MBA Salaries And Bonuses At The Top B-Schools

If you love to hear about the big salary numbers — the kind that turns your eyes into dollar signs — the MBA class of 2021 did not disappoint.

According to data released with the latest ranking from U.S. News, four schools had 2021 graduates who secured jobs with astronomical pay. One MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, a U.S. citizen who landed a finance job in the Northeast, earned a base salary of $375,000, tops among all the hundreds of newly minted MBAs across 27 schools in the Class of 2021. Two U.S. grads from Stanford Graduate School of Business — one in the Midwest and the other in the West; one in finance and the other in general management — earned salaries of $300,000, while another pair of Harvard Business School grads — one in finance, the other in tech, both U.S. citizens and both in the Northeast — also scored $300K paydays.

The riches weren’t exclusively won by U.S. grads. One international Columbia Business School graduate also reported a base salary of $300,000, for a financial services job in an unreported location.

BONUSES & TOTAL PAY: MORE BIG NUMBERS AT THE TOP SCHOOLS

The gaudy numbers are not exclusive to salaries. One HBS grad, a U.S. citizen, reported a sign-on bonus of $308,000, more than double the next closest bonuses for U.S. MBAs at the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia ($150,000 each). Meanwhile, foreign graduates reported a $250K bonus at UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business and $150K at Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

The highest average salary was, again this year, reported at Stanford GSB: $161,831, with both Wharton and Harvard next at over $153K each. Chicago Booth reported the highest average sign-on bonus: $40,544, with six schools at $35K or more.

We calculate total pay by taking the average salary and multiplying it by 100, adding that to the average sign-on bonus multiplied by the percentage of students reporting that they received it, then dividing the whole thing by 100. Once again in 2021, the B-school with the highest overall pay was outside the top 10: New York University Stern School of Business, where graduates earned an average of $178,182. That’s up 1.7% from Stern’s 2020 MBA class. Six schools had total pay over $170K in 2021; two others of these were, like Stern, outside the top 10: Virginia Darden School of Business and Duke Fuqua School of Business.

Notably, Michigan Ross (7.1%), No. 26 Emory Goizueta Business School (7.0%), Virginia Darden (5.5%), Chicago Booth (4.4%), and Duke Fuqua (4.1%) had high year-to-year rates of increase in overall pay. Conversely, two schools — UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and USC Marshall School of Business — have seen their overall pay decline for two years in a row.

THE OTHER END OF THE SCALE

Indiana University Kelley School of Business reported the lowest average starting salary among 27 leading B-schools: $121,999. Lowest in the top 10 was No. 10 Yale School of Management's $138,676. The lowest average bonus: No. 27 Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business' $25,066, followed by No. 25 Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management: $27,651. Lowest bonus in the top 10 was Stanford's $29,148.

Lowest overall pay was Indiana's $140,876; in the top 10, it was Yale SOM, at just over $162K. See page 2 for pay data on all the top U.S. B-schools.

Looking at high and low salaries as reported to U.S. News, which separates data according to U.S. and foreign graduates, we find more interesting tidbits:

  • The lowest salary for a U.S. MBA was shared by Harvard and UNC Kenan-Flagler: $31,200; the HBS grad took a general management job in the West, while the UNC grad took a marketing/sales job in healthcare in the Northeast.
  • The lowest salary for a foreign student was reported by UCLA Anderson School of Management: $31,650 for an international job in marketing/sales in media/entertainment.
  • The lowest bonus was $500 for a foreign Stanford GSB grad, as well as $1,000 for a foreign UNC MBA and $1K for a U.S. MBA from Vanderbilt Owen.
  • Only one school, MIT Sloan School of Management, didn’t provide U.S. News with a breakdown by U.S. versus foreign graduate.

See the next page for pay breakdowns by U.S. versus foreign students and more on the top 10 schools.

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