MBAs Who Earn $3 Million Plus

Last Updated Jun 21, 2011 9:51 AM EDT

Reprinted from PoetsandQuants.com
Want to earn more than $3 million over the next 20 years? You'll need to get into one of only seven MBA programs in the U.S., according to a new study of MBA career compensation.

Not surprisingly, the study shows, Harvard MBAs pulled down the most: a whopping $3.6 million over a 20-year span. Wharton grads were next in the gravy train line, with $3.3 million in median pay, followed by Stanford MBAs whose estimated earnings hit were just shy of $3.3 million. And get this: the numbers don't include stock grants or options that would in many cases significantly increase these gains.

PayScale crunched the data for Bloomberg BusinessWeek's top 57 full-time MBA programs in the U.S. On average, graduates from these schools earned about $2.4 million each over a 20-year career, or $122,146 annually. BusinessWeek reported, however, that graduates of the 10 programs with the highest earnings brought home an average of just over $3 million each, or $153,568 a year, compared with under $2.3 million, or $114,752 annually, for the remaining 47 schools ranked by the magazine.

Of course, there's more at work here than where a person got his or her MBA. Geography and industry choices also play an undetermined role in the estimates of compensation by PayScale, which collects salary data from individuals through online pay-comparison tools. For each school, PayScale estimated median cash compensation--including base pay and bonuses but not stock options--for five points in the careers of the MBAs who reported data. The numbers are based on a sample of 24,000 MBAs from the top 57 schools ranked by BusinessWeek.

The data below, for the top 25 highest earning MBAs, shows median pay ten years after graduation, 20 years out, and total pay over a career lasting 20 years. BusinessWeek calls the 20-year totals a "rough estimate." Nonetheless, for most MBAs, that would mean compensation until they turn 48--long before retirement. So these numbers are fairly conservative estimates of pay over a "career."

MBAS EARNING THE MOST MONEY OVER A 20-YEAR SPAN

Business School Total Over 20 Years Median Pay 20 Years Out Median Pay 10 Years Out
1. Harvard Business School $3,606,601 $217,000 $169,000
2. Pennsylvania (Wharton) $3,340,334 $200,000 $155,000
3. Stanford $3,291,894 $211,000 $157,000
4. Columbia $3,203,292 $188,000 $153,000
5. Dartmouth (Tuck) $3,092,471 $172,000 $145,000
6. MIT (Sloan) $3,056,072 $180,000 $137,000
7. Northwestern (Kellogg) $3,034,837 $195,000 $135,000
8. California (Berkeley) $2,951,549 $174,000 $135,000
9. Chicago (Booth) $2,919,270 $192,000 $132,000
10. Virginia (Darden) $2,883,197 $179,000 $137,000
11. Yale School of Management $2,838,664 $159,000 $141,000
12. Duke (Fuqua) $2,814,183 $172,000 $132,000
13. Cornell (Johnson) $2,785,912 $173,000 $128,000
14. New York (Stern) $2,725,321 $163,000 $124,000
15. UCLA (Anderson) $2,702,338 $159,000 $131,000
16. Emory (Goizueta) $2,701,743 $178,000 $121,000
17. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) $2,654,521 $159,000 $126,000
18. Georgetown (McDonough) $2,618,025 $170,000 $115,000
19. Vanderbilt (Owen) $2,595,074 $170,000 $122,000
20. North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) $2,569,966 $158,000 $116,000
21. Notre Dame (Mendoza) $2,554,927 $154,000 $125,000
22. Texas-Austin (McCombs) $2,529,283 $166,000 $120,000
23. Michigan (Ross) $2,495,495 $143,000 $118,000
24. Southern California (Marshall) $2,446,050 $143,000 $118,000
25. Rice (Jones) $2,443,862 $143,000 $121,000
Source: Payscale for BusinessWeek
Related Reading: image courtesy of flickr user, michaelcardus
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    John Byrne is the editor-in-chief of PoetsandQuants.com and PoetsandQuantsforExecs.com. A former editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek.com and Fast Company magazine, Byrne also is the author or co-author of eight books on business, including two national bestsellers. Follow him on Twitter.