Wall Street is shelling out $200K pay packages for neighboring Columbia Business School grads

BY Sydney LakeMarch 28, 2022, 1:33 PM
Prospective students wait for a tour to begin, as seen in February 2022 on the campus of Columbia University in New York City. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

Located in the heart of the financial epicenter of the world, Columbia Business School attracts and graduates students who end up at some of the top investment banks and private equity and venture capital firms of the world. Fortune ranks CBS as having the No. 6 full-time MBA program in the country.

“The financial services industry has been part of Columbia Business School’s DNA since its inception in 1916 and the school’s New York City location has long attracted students to industries based in New York, financial services among them,” Dan Gabriel, director of employer relations in the CBS Career Management Center, tells Fortune. Earlier this year, CBS moved to New York City’s Manhattanville neighborhood, which will double the space of the top-ranked business school. The new Manhattanville campus is about a 30-minute commute from Wall Street.

In 2021, 36% of the graduating MBA class from CBS accepted careers in the financial services industry, which includes commercial/consumer banking, investment banking, and investment management. Graduating students who went into investment banking earned average base salaries of $150,000 with $57,500 bonuses; that’s a starting pay package of more than $200,000 directly after earning an MBA. Graduates who went into investment management roles made even more, with $162,500 average base salaries and $87,500 bonuses. 

“New York City is a global financial services powerhouse, and a lot of people are employed by the industry,” Max Kemnitzer, managing director of banking and finance at recruitment firm Michael Page, tells Fortune. Columbia Business School is based here and has an exceptionally strong alumni network in the financial services community, making it an epicenter for those looking to utilize the business skill sets gained throughout their MBA program.”

CBS prepares MBA students for careers in finance through its core curriculum—but the school’s finance division also offers an additional 50 to 60 elective courses in topics ranging from investment banking and capital markets to private equity and venture capital to value investing. The school also offers advanced classes in fintech, blockchain, digital tokens, and cryptocurrency, which ensures students are “one step ahead when it comes to the future of finance,” Gabriel says. 

Why investment banks shell out for MBA grads

Comparatively speaking, MBA graduates who pursue careers in investment banking—think Wall Street—earn more than their peers. The median starting salary offered to MBA graduates in 2021 was $115,000, according to mba.com’s 2021 survey, Is Business School Worth It? 

The high starting salary partly has to do with sheer competition among top investment firms. But competition for MBA talent is increasingly coming from outside of the investment world.

“For the past few years, banks have had to compete with large tech companies and startups for talent,” Tom Ragland, CEO of investment banking recruitment company The Harrison-Rush Group, previously told Fortune. “Before the internet, banking was the thing to do with an MBA, but now banks are competing against Facebook, Apple, [and] Google for top talent.”

That said, banks like Goldman Sachs, Capital One, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America still heavily target prospects from top-ranked MBA programs. “Top banks prefer candidates from top business schools,” Ragland says.

What’s more, MBA candidates don’t typically get into hired entry-level roles—even if they didn’t have prior banking experience ahead of their business degree.

“Typically, MBA graduates tend to become candidates for leadership positions quicker, purely because they are able to combine academic knowledge with real world experience and then add a layer of business acumen on top,” Kemnitzer adds. Those who complete an MBA on top of their bachelor’s degree tend to have gained a much fuller, more rounded understanding of a spectrum of finance concepts, while also developing skillsets in strategy formulation and leadership along the way.”

See how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best business analytics programsdata science programs, and part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.