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The (recent) graduates making $400k

Harvard Business School is probably the most famous business school in the world.

Aside from the books that mention it, “what they teach you at Harvard Business School” and “what they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School” (set theory suggests that these two books contain the entire sum of knowledge the universe has to offer), they’re also popular destinations for the hallowed halls of high finance to hire from.

The school recently published employment data for its class of 2023. It broke down the numbers by the number of students that entered each industry, as well as their median salaries and bonuses.

Finance salaries and bonuses at Harvard Business School’s MBA program


The numbers are quite different to last year’s, although not by much. Whilst base salaries were equal last year ($175k a head), consultants in 2023 received a pretty significant bump to $192k. Average salaries for investment bankers and hedge funders, however, were flat, and private equiteers saw a less dramatic increase compared to last year.

Signing bonuses were also relatively similar, ranging between $30k and $54k this year for the industries we’ve surveyed (we didn’t look at venture capitalists, who earned $20k on average, last year). It’s also worth noting that there was a lot of variance between who did and who didn’t get a bonus – whilst 100% of graduates in investment banking did, only 20% of those in venture capital could say the same.

It was in performance bonuses, as ever, that there was a real difference. The mighty salaries of consultants translated to just $32k in performance bonuses, whilst hedge funders, for instance, saw $175k base salaries be accompanied with $120k performance bonuses on average.

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However, bonuses are surprisingly different to last year. Hedge funds and Investment banks, which paid $168k and $125k to graduate hires last year on average, only paid $120k and $100k respectively this year. Private equity firms, however, lifted performance bonuses from $175k to $181k, and consultancies lifted theirs from $30k to $32k.

It’s not very surprising to see decreases across the board. The economy has certainly had better years, and adjusting inflation probably makes the compensation decreases seem less worse than they actually are.

Stanford and Wharton business school MBA salaries & bonuses


Wharton and Stanford’s business schools are also very prestigious, although the employment data they offer on graduates isn’t as conclusive as Harvard’s.

However, where there is data, general trends match. Private equity offers the highest pay-package for a first-year graduate at Stanford, whilst Wharton (which only had salary data) had Hedge Funders at the top of their pyramid.

Curiously, investment banking seems to have fallen out of favor with MBA students. Whilst they made up a fair few of Wharton’s graduate class (14%), they were practically non-existent amongst Harvard’s (3%) and seemingly totally non-existent for Stanford’s, who seemed to prefer Venture Capital at higher rates.

Consulting, however, seems a relatively unassailably popular choice. Its salaries are also very consistent, with a median of around $190k. Total compensation packages, which include signing and performance bonuses, are also consistent where the information is available (Harvard and Stanford).

What does this all mean for the wallet-measuring contests, though? It means that, if you’re a young MBA graduate from a top university, going to a hedge fund is no longer the highest-paid career for you (right out the door, at least) – you want to go to a private equity firm, although neither are quite so bad. Consulting and venture capital are the ones to avoid, if you can.

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AUTHORZeno Toulon

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