Harvard MBA

How much have Harvard MBAs made this year?

August 27, 2012: 12:06 PM ET

While overall pay held steady from last year, MBA students who ventured into some of the hottest fields experienced healthy increases in starting salaries.

By John A. Byrne

(Poets&Quants) -- A modest economic recovery? Don't tell that to this year's graduating MBAs from the Harvard Business School.

For the class of 2012, median base salaries were $125,000 -- exactly the same as last year -- with three of every four graduates getting a median signing bonus of $20,000 and one in five (21%) reporting median "other guaranteed compensation" of $25,230. Harvard MBAs lucky enough to collect all three landed first-year pay of $170,230.

Yet, even that sum could be highly conservative because Harvard's numbers -- released last week on its website -- do not include such things as performance bonuses, reimbursements, profit sharing, 401k matching programs, stock, or stock options. And the compensation is going to MBA graduates with less work experience. The average work experience for the class of 2012 was 44 months, 10 months shy of the 54-month average only four years earlier in 2008. Typically, the more post-college work experience a graduate has on the resume, the more that graduate is paid.

While overall base pay held steady from last year, MBA students who ventured into some of the hottest fields experienced healthy increases in starting salaries. The median starting salary for a Harvard MBA entering consulting was $135,000 this year, with a $20,000 signing bonus. That's a $10,000 increase in base pay over last year. Harvard said that 94% of its MBAs who went into consulting got a signing bonus, while another 18% received median of $20,000 in other guaranteed compensation.

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Only two other industries paid more to Harvard MBAs this year: hedge funds and private equity. The median salary for a grad landing a hedge fund job was $142,500, with a median signing bonus of $27,500. Even more alluring, however, is the "median other guaranteed compensation," which Harvard reported was $150,000. These jobs, of course, are generally hard to get because there are fewer of them, and they tend to recruit only students with previous experience in the field. The school said only 5% of the class of 2012 went to work at a hedge fund. More

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