Top Executives, Top Dollar

Top Executives, Top Dollar

One way prospective students judge a business school is by the riches it bestows on graduates. Another benchmark is the size and quality of the alumni network. What follows is a look at both measures for 45 top MBA programs.

For each school, we list the median cash compensation—base salary and bonus—for MBA students in the first few post-MBA years and 20 years later. The data are supplied by PayScale, which gathers the information from online compensation tools that require people at various points in their careers to report their actual pay. And it's enlightening to say the least. There are three schools where pay for MBAs who graduated 20 years ago is at least double what new grads are earning, and they're not top-ranked schools. On the flip side, there are 10 schools where average cash compensation after 20 years in the workforce is the same as, or less than, what Harvard Business School grads make in the first few years after receiving their diplomas.

To give readers a sense of each school's alumni network, we dug through our files and found one famous graduate from each MBA program. These individuals are far from representative. It seems safe to say that most MBAs will never go on to become a governor of New Jersey as Jon Corzine did (Chicago Booth, 2008 cash compensation: $1). Nor will many reach the pinnacle that Laurence Fink did at BlackRock (UCLA Anderson, 2007 cash compensation: $16.7 million). With the economy in a tailspin, two-thirds of these MBA alumni didn't earn bonuses in their last year on the job. But salaries (minus Corzine) averaged nearly $1 million—not a bad haul in anybody's book.

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