For Columbia MBAs, 2023 Was A Historically Difficult Job Market

Columbia Business School has released its MBA Class of 2023 employment report, the last of the major programs to do so. Columbia photo

Columbia Business School and its M7 peer Harvard Business School had something in common in 2023, and neither was happy about it. In a rarity among elite programs, median pay for both schools’ graduating MBAs declined.

Harvard’s slide was worse — and, sadly for Harvard grads, less rare, happening in 2023 for the second time in three years. But a decline is a decline, and in its newly published employment data, CBS reports total median compensation of $201,780, down from $203,252 the previous year.

If that were the worst of it, Columbia could claim to have escaped largely unscathed in what was inarguably a challenging year for graduate business education outcomes. But CBS also took a big hit in placement rates: Just 84% of the school’s 829 graduates reported receiving an offer three months after graduation last spring, lowest among all M7 schools, and 81% accepted. Both metrics are down 11 percentage points from 2022.

Editor’s note: A table in this story that contained an inaccuracy in the percentage of Class of 2022 MBAs who entered the Nonprofit industry has been updated from “NA” to 1.4%. A table showing employers of Columbia MBAs over the years had inaccuracies for 2023 and has been updated to show only major employers of Columbia MBAs for the years 2014 to 2023. 

TOTAL MEDIAN COMPENSATION FOR COLUMBIA MBAs 2013-2023

Year Total Median Compensation Median Base Salary Median Signing Bonus % Getting Signing Bonus Median Other Guaranteed % Getting Other Guaranteed
2023 $201,780 $175,000 $30,000 71.7% $31,000 17.0%
2022 $203,252 $175,000 $30,000 82.6% $32,150 10.8%
2021 $178,380 $150,000 $30,000 73.8% $30,000 20.8%
2020 $174,313 $150,000 $30,300 67.7% $25,000 15.2%
2019 $177,970 $150,000 $30,000 67.9% $50,000 15.2%
2018 $155,248 $130,000 $30,000 66.3% $28,500 18.8%
2017 $149,890 $125,000 $25,500 65.7% $25,000 20.5%
2016 $147,000 $125,000 $25,000 66.3% $25,000 21.8%
2015 $145,500 $125,000 $25,000 62.4% $25,000 19.9%
2014 $139,602 $119,400 $25,000 62.3% $22,390 21.1%
2013 $134,800 $110,000 $30,000 67.6% $20,000 21.7%

Source: Columbia Business School employment reports

A 2023 COLUMBIA MBA IN PRIVATE EQUITY RECEIVED $715K IN ‘OTHER’ COMPENSATION

Median and average salaries at the leading U.S. B-schools were not all flat in 2023. Stanford Graduate School of Business, Michigan Ross School of Business, Duke Fuqua School of Business, UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business, and others reported notable increases last year in both starting salaries and total compensation.

Not so for Columbia, where the median starting salary remained $175K (after jumping 16.7% in 2022), median signing bonus flat at $30K for a third straight year, and median other compensation down slightly, from $32,250 to $31K. The latter stat, combined with the fact that significantly fewer 2023 grads reported receiving a signing bonus — 71.7%, down from 82.6% — dropped median total pay to just under $202K, down less than 1% from 2022. (Poets&Quants calculates total pay by adjusting data based on how many grads reported bonuses.)

For the first time since 2020, consulting overtook financial services as the top industry for Columbia MBAs, rising to 36.3% of the class from 33.6%. Finance dropped a bit to 35.7%, down from 36.9%; tech cratered to 10.8% from 16%, and has fallen 9 percentage points in four years. Consultants also had the highest median salary of the class, $190K, up from $175K. Investment banking (a subset of financial services, comprising 16.4% of the class) and private equity (comprising 5.6%) were next at $175K, the latter an increase from $162,500 in 2022.

High salaries for the 2023 class were $350K for someone in investment management and $309K for someone in  hardware/software/telecom; the two highest numbers in “other” compensation — which in Columbia’s report includes sign-on, year-end, and other guaranteed comp besides base salary — was $715K for someone in PE and $385,361 for a hardware/software/telecom grad.

DON'T WEEP FOR THE M7: FOR THE MOST PART, THE MONEY KEPT FLOWING IN 2023

In terms of MBA pay, Columbia had a down year — but so did many leading B-schools, including a couple of Columbia's peers in the M7. Harvard was the worst hit of that group of elite B-schools, with a 2023 class median salary that stayed flat at $175K, median signing bonus that was flat at $30K, and median performance bonus that stayed flat at $40K — and because fewer grads reported receiving the latter two, total compensation for HBS grads was down, to $220,100 from $223,100 in 2022. It was the second time in three years that total comp for Harvard MBAs declined year-over-year. At another M7 school, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, which publishes an annual report very light on details compared to its M7 peers, median salary for the 2023 MBA class was flat at $175K — but more concerning for Whartonites was that in finance, where more than a third of Wharton MBAs found work, median salary grew less than 1% to $175K.

But elsewhere among the top schools in 2023, the money kept flowing. At MIT Sloan School of Management, the MBA Class of 2023 achieved a total compensation median of $217,780, up from $204,700 in 2022; and the 2023 class’s mean salary grew significantly, too, by 5.5% to $168,095 from $159,391. At Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, MBA Class of 2023 employment data showed that median starting salary grew to $175K from $165K; with a median signing bonus stable at $30K, Kellogg’s median total pay grew to $200,500 — up nearly 5% from 2022. And at Chicago Booth School of Business, total median comp grew to $203,430, up 3.5% in one year and 14% in two. Median starting salary for Boothies grew to $180,000 from $175,000, higher than the median $175K at most of its M7 peers.

Then there's Stanford Graduate School of Business. There's no other way to say it: Except for placement rates, which declined along with every other B-school's, Stanford had a great 2023. Average total compensation for its grads reached more than $275K last year, up nearly $20K from 2022, as average base salary grew 3.7% to $189,010. Expected performance bonus grew nearly 9%, to an average of $99,347 — and most impressive of all, signing bonus grew an astounding 25% to an average of $42,249. A year after growing more than 11%, total average compensation for Stanford MBA graduates jumped another 7.7% in 2023, to a new school record $277,268.

COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL MBA JOBS BY INDUSTRY 2015-2023

Industry 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
Consulting 36.3% 33.6% 33.4% 34.0% 32.6% 33.6% 33% 35% 35%
Financial Services 35.7% 36.9% 36.0% 33.2% 34.3% 32.2% 34% 37% 37%
Manufacturing 0.9% 3.2% 4.1% 4.0% 6.8% 6.8% 6% 8% 8%
Media/Tech 12.8% 16.0% 17.0% 19.8% 13.8% 15.7% 16% 10% 10%
Real Estate 3.3% 3.6% 4.5% 1.4% 4.1% 4.0% 4% 4% 4%
Healthcare 2.6% 1.5% 2.3% 3.8% 3.9% 1.8% 3% 3% 2%
Retail 0.8% 0.6% NA NA <1% 1.8% 0% 1% 1%
Nonprofit/Govt. 1.6% 1.4% 1.4% 1.7% 1.4% 1.6% 1% 2% 2%

Source: Columbia Business School employment reports

COLUMBIA ADDS 'YEAR-END' PLACEMENT RATES: 92% OFFERS, 91% ACCEPTS

Did someone mention placement rates? It was in this all-important category that the M7 schools — like every other U.S. and international school that publishes MBA employment reports — had trouble in 2023. Columbia was among the hardest hit.

Only 84% of CBS's MBA Class of 2023 reported receiving offers by 90 days after graduation, down from 95% in 2022 (and 94% in 2021), and just 81% reported accepting, down from 92% in each of the previous two years. The numbers are the worst on record for Columbia, including even the coronavirus pandemic classes; which explains why the school looked to offset them by including, for the first time, “year end” numbers: By the close of 2023, 92% of the class had job offers, and 91% had accepted.

Other M7 schools had historic trouble finding work last year, too:

    • Harvard Business School’s Class of 2023 employment data showed that 86% of last year’s grads received job offers 90 days after graduation, down from 95% a year earlier, and 80% accepted, down 10 percentage points from the previous year’s 90%.
    • Of MIT Sloan School of Management’s 336 job seekers in last year’s MBA class of 446, 90.2% received job offers by three months after graduation, and 86.9% accepted. You have to go back to 2013 to find another sub-90% job acceptance result for Sloanies.
    • At Chicago Booth School of Business, total job offers at graduation (91.1%, from 93.1%) and three months later (95.6%, from 96.8%) were down year-over-year, while acceptances dropped to 88% at graduation from 90.4%, and to 94.3% after 90 days from 95.6%.
    • At Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, job offers at three months post-graduation fell to 95% from 99%, and acceptances declined from 97% to 92%.
    • At the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, of the 688 students seeking jobs out of a class of 917, 97.2% received job offers by three months after graduation, down just a little from 98.7% in 2022 (and 99% in 2021); and 92.3% accepted, down from 96.2% last year (and 96.8% in 2021)

We've saved Stanford Graduate School of Business for last. Stanford may have had great compensation numbers but it had its worst placement numbers in years, with job offers at three months post-graduation sinking to 89%, lower even than the pandemic class of 2020 (91%), and acceptances — normally a lower number for Stanford than most schools because of the high number of entrepreneurs in each class — at just 82%, lower than every class going back to 2016. Even Stanford’s two pandemic classes of 2020 and 2021 managed job acceptance rates of 85% and 91%, respectively. Given the challenging environment, Stanford’s number of MBAs seeking employment was dramatically lower this year: 256 compared to last year’s 309. Just 62% of the class went job seeking, down from 67% in 2022, 66% in 2021, 67% in 2020, and 72% in 2019.

HIGH JOB SATISFACTION FOR THOSE FINDING WORK 

 

Source: Columbia Business School

Columbia's 2023 employment report provides interesting insights into the motivations of Columbia MBAs as they evolved over the years. As P&Q has reported, the top three reasons the Class of 2020 gave for accepting an offer were job content (14.4%), growth potential (14.0%), and opportunity for advancement (13.6%); in 2021, they were firm culture and people (15.5%), job content (13.4%), and advancement opportunities (13.4%). In 2022, the top three reasons for accepting an offer were firm culture and people (15.1%), company reputation (14.6%), and advancement opportunities (13.0%); last year, 17.5% chose advancement opportunities, 14.3% firm culture and people, and 13.8% company reputation.

Jobs may have been scarcer, but as Columbia's report shows, those who found work had high satisfaction. As in past years, the school asks grads to rate their satisfaction on a 1-5 scale; in 2023, 94% of students reported their job satisfaction as a 4 or 5 on scale of 1-5. That comports with past years: In 2022, 95% of students rated a 4 or 5; in 2021, 97%; in 2020, 94%; and in both 2019 and 2018, 93%.

Geographically, Columbia MBAs (like their counterparts at other top U.S. schools) mostly stay in the States: 86% of the Class of 2023 stayed in the U.S., exactly the same as in 2022; 4% found work in Asia, down from 7%; 5% in Europe, up from 4%; 2% in Central/South America, same as 2022; 1% in Africa/ME, unchanged in a year; and 1% in Canada.

"At CBS, we have continually retooled how we educate students and have vastly expanded our course offerings to meet the needs of a rapidly changing business landscape," Dean Costis Maglaras says in an introduction to the new report. "Our curriculum offers a comprehensive range of business courses that delve deeply into fields such as tech fundamentals, applied AI, digital product management, blockchain/crypto, and climate technology. Experiential courses leverage our state-of-the-art campus and co-working spaces, fostering opportunities for students to collaborate in the kinds of cross-functional teams that are essential to modern organizations.

"Students explore the impact of tech and data on valuation and investing, collaborate with leading executives through our private equity program, and participate in consulting projects that enable them to learn from and apply their business skills to real world situations."

MAJOR EMPLOYERS OF COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL MBAs 2014-2023

Employer 2023 Hires 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Amazon 18 23 26 22 14 18 23 8 9 12
Bain 30 33 23 24 29 22 27 28 35 31
Bank of America Merrill Lynch 8 14 8 7 4 5 6 5 9 13
Barclays 4 10 2 3 7 3 1-2 4 6 4
BCG 39 44 35 30 28 21 36 28 29 28
Citi 7 9 8 7 6 8 7 11 9 16
Credit Suisse 6 8 9 7 8 1-2 4 7 4 8
Deloitte 17 28 16 21 21 17 21 24 28 17
EY-Parthenon 4 7 6 11 6 1-2 1-2 1-2 3 1-2
Evercore Partners 4 9 6 9 8 3 4 5 5 6
Goldman Sachs 7 17 13 14 15 16 8 15 13 15
Google 14 12 11 14 8 3 7 7 4 14
Guggenheim 3 1-2 1-2 6 1-2 1-2 7 1-2 3 1-2
JP Morgan Chase 9 14 8 6 12 9 14 10 14 11
Lazard 5 4 4 5 1-2 6 1-2 1-2 3 1-2
McKinsey 77 78 55 45 45 55 55 62 55 51
Moelis 4 3 3 5 4 5 4 NA NA NA
Morgan Stanley 18 7 7 6 8 6 11 14 8 10
Oliver Wyman 6 1-2 1-2 1-2 0 5 1-2 NA NA NA
Pfizer 3 3 1-2 1-2 4 1-2 1-2 6 1-2 1-2
PwC Strategy& 15 16 5 14 17 12 14 26 9 23

Source: Columbia Business School employment reports

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