Stanford Law School vs. Stanford Graduate School of Business—here’s a look at their paychecks

BY Sydney LakeAugust 17, 2022, 2:12 PM
A view of Hoover Tower and the Stanford University campus, as seen in November 2021 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)

Ivy League schools may serve as the stronghold for top-notch education on the East Coast, but across the country Stanford University offers some of the most coveted and respected professional programs in the U.S. Two of its most sought-after programs include its law school and business school, both of which are consistently ranked as being among the best in the country. 

While Fortune doesn’t rank law schools, Stanford, Harvard, and Yale University typically claim the top three spots on national rankings, and Stanford Graduate School of Business ranked No. 2 on Fortune’s ranking of MBA programs, second only to Harvard Business School. A major part of Fortune’s full-time MBA ranking methodology (the outcomes score, which is 65% of the overall ranking) considers starting salaries and placement rates. 

By three months post-graduation in 2021, 96% of Stanford MBA students seeking employment had landed a job. They earned median base salaries of $160,500, which is 33% more than the national average of $115,000, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s 2022 Corporate Recruiters Survey. In addition, GSB graduates land median expected bonuses of $37,750 and signing bonuses of $30,000. That brings their starting pay packages to more than $228,000.

“GSB graduates are sought after across industries,” Jamie Schein, assistant dean and director of the GSB Career Management Center, tells Fortune. “Their success in the job market reflects the fact that they are talented, impact-oriented, and focused on opportunities that align with their values and priorities and that allow them to put into practice the leadership skills learned during their time at the GSB.”

Stanford MBA grads can make even more

Some Stanford GSB graduates, however, are bringing home pay packages exceeding $400,000. More than 30% of students pursuing a job went into finance, which has a median base salary of $175,000 with an expected bonus of $120,000 and a signing bonus of $34,500 for a grand total of $329,500. 

The most lucrative finance positions, though, are in private equity. In 2021, 15% of Stanford GSB’s class pursued careers in this field, earning an average base salary of $195,000, with an expected bonus of $177,500 and signing bonus of $30,000. That brought their starting pay packages immediately after earning a master’s degree to more than $400,000.

“Many Stanford GSB graduates who pursue work in private equity, venture capital, and management consulting are attracted by the opportunity to have impact by investing in specific sectors,” Schein says. “Additionally, many GSB graduates are drawn to product management, because the role offers the opportunity to influence a product across different functions.”

In 2021, 9% of the Stanford GSB class took on product management roles after graduation, and reported median starting base salaries of $158,000 and bonuses totaling $46,500, bringing their pay packages right above the $200,000 mark.

A look at Stanford Law salaries

By comparison, Stanford Law graduates in 2021 earned anywhere between $54,000 and $215,000 depending on the type of law they chose to pursue. The median starting salary for a 2021 Stanford Law grad was $215,00 for private sector jobs, and within nine months of graduation 99.46% of the class had landed a job, a Stanford Law spokesperson tells Fortune. 

“A Stanford Law degree is a long-term investment with a high return in terms of employment and earnings,” the spokesperson adds.

The school doesn’t release overall median or average salary figures for the entire class. However, more than 42% of the class of 2021 went on to work for law firms, where salaries range from $95,000 to $215,000 depending on size of the company, according to the school’s employment outcomes survey from 2021.

The second-most popular career path for Stanford Law grads in 2021 (with 32% of the class taking jobs) were judicial clerkships, which had a salary range of $55,756 to $78,861, less than half of the average of what Stanford GSB graduates made in the same year

Return on investment

The current tuition for one year at Stanford GSB is $76,950, but other costs including living expenses and books brings the total amount to more than $124,000. It takes two years to earn an MBA from Stanford, which could cost a student nearly $250,000. 

By comparison, one year of tuition at Stanford Law is $64,350, but “most single students find they need to budget a total of at least $107,055 for the school year,” according to Stanford Law’s website for living expenses and supplies. Law school takes three years to complete, bringing the grand total to more than $320,00 to complete a degree from Stanford Law. 

However, Stanford Law offers “very robust financial aid and loan repayment assistance programs,” a spokesperson says. 

Other costs associated with earning a degree from either program include admittance tests including the GMAT and LSAT. Stanford requires MBA applicants to submit a GMAT or GRE score to apply. It costs $275 to take the GMAT, but using an admissions counselor or using exam prep can cost thousands of dollars. 

Same goes with taking the LSAT; it costs $200. To become a licensed attorney, Stanford Law graduates also must take the Bar Exam after graduation, which can become a costly process. Test costs vary by state, but Bar Exam prep is even more expensive, though, and many programs cost between $1,000 and $4,000.

See how the schools you’re considering fared in Fortune’s rankings of the best master’s degree programs in nursingcomputer sciencecybersecuritypsychology, public healthbusiness analytics, and data science, as well as the best doctorate in education programs, and part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.