An MBA from Harvard Business School nets new grads around $200k these days

BY Sydney LakeNovember 22, 2021, 8:58 PM
Two students are seen leaving campus with baggage at Harvard University, as seen in July 2020. (Photo by Anik Rahman—NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Fortune ranks Harvard Business School as having the best full-time MBA program in the U.S.—and for good reason. Its program lands MBA grads good jobs, which ultimately place alumni “into the highest echelons of corporate America,” as we noted in the methodology for our full-time MBA ranking

During the past five years, HBS has continued to see rising median salaries for their new grads. On Monday, Harvard Business School announced that its class of 2021 graduates, on average, earned a $150,500 base salary, a $30,000 signing bonus, and a $37,000 performance bonus; that’s a $217,000 base salary immediately after earning an MBA from Harvard. It’s also a 14.2% increase from 2017, when grads were earning a total compensation package of $190,000, on average.

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“The HBS class of 2021 weathered quite a few setbacks with the rapid changes to their internships in the summer of 2020, some of which were pulled entirely, others that were quickly transitioned to all remote,” Kristin Fitzpatrick, managing director of MBA career and professional development for HBS, said in a statement. “Despite the challenges of hybrid learning and a world forever changed, this class managed to secure fabulous opportunities at 335 organizations all over the world.”

The HBS class of 2020, on average, earned a $150,000 base salary, $30,000 signing bonus, and $35,000, rounding out at a $215,000 total compensation package. So despite challenges initiated by the pandemic, Harvard still saw a slight increase in their MBA salary outcomes for 2021 grads. 

Plus, among the 2021 HBS MBA grads seeking employment, 96% got a job offer after graduation. Of those who graduated in 2020, only 90% received an offer. HBS graduated about 900 students, and of those 74% were seeking employment upon graduation. Students not seeking employment were either company-sponsored or already employed (12% of the class) or starting their own business (8%).

What type of careers HBS grads pursue

What hasn’t changed much during the past five years are the industries that HBS grads pursue upon completing the program. Consulting and technology remain the top two industries, which employ 23% and 19% of the HBS class of 2021, respectively. Those percentages were nearly identical in 2020.

Generally speaking, consulting and tech companies shell out the most money for MBA grads, so it’s not surprising that HBS continues to see median base salaries grow for its new alumni. HBS doesn’t release industry-specific salary figures, but data from other top business schools suggest that grads who go into consulting make well over $200,000 after earning their degree.

Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey & Co., both of which are consulting powerhouses and major recruiters from HBS, pay an average base salary of $165,000 to newly minted MBAs, according to Management Consulted, a company that offers prep and training for professionals entering the industry. BCG and McKinsey hires also rake in major signing and performance bonuses, which can bring their post-MBA salaries to nearly $240,000, according to previous reporting by Fortune. 

“Consulting firms expect a lot from their employees, and providing bonuses is one way to motivate them to perform at the highest levels,” Don Lowman, a senior client partner and global leader of Korn Ferry’s Global Total Rewards business, previously told Fortune. Retention is also important, so bonuses will not only serve as an incentive to “perform well during the year, but also to remain with the company so that they can collect additional compensation for the hard work they put in all year,” he adds.

Tech salaries for MBAs are also about 20% to 25% higher for MBA grads as opposed to undergrad hires, Keith Feinberg, a director of permanent placement services with Robert Half, previously told Fortune. At other top business schools like Stanford University Graduate School of Business, MBA grads who go into tech are making about $200,000 right after graduation.

Tech companies value MBA grads because they bring diversified expertise, which could be combination of accounting and finance, or data science, programming, and supply chain coursework. These specialized skillsets also result in higher salaries, according to MBA employment experts.

Finally, HBS announced that 14 of its class of 2021 graduates were selected for the school’s social enterprise program, Leadership Fellows, which places students in management positions in nonprofit and public sector organizations for one year. Since 2001, 255 fellows have gone through the program with 93 participating organizations. Organizations pay fellows a $55,000 salary and HBS contributes a $55,000 one-year grant.

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