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What do Harvard MBA graduates do? How much do they make?

Today, living HBS MBA alumni are a 47,000-strong community that contributes skills and knowledge to spur the growth and excellence of various organizations around the world, some of which they themselves launched or incubated.

Many, nearly two-thirds of them, build their careers in the US. Financial services, consulting, and technology are now the top industries for most HBS MBAs.

Whatever it is that interests them, and whatever their pursuits, HBS alumni seldom seem to ignore the question that their alma mater taught them to ask themselves: What difference will you make to the world?

For many of the around 900 MBAs who graduate every year from HBS, “making a difference” is a life mission.

Here, we look at the career paths of a few of them, some usual and some unusual.

Life after Harvard MBA: What do HBS graduates do?

What do Harvard MBA graduates do? How much do they earn?

Veteran behind a start-up

A veteran management wizard who has served in top positions at Walt Disney, DreamWorks, Procter and Gamble, and eBay for many years is now the spark behind a start-up.

Meg Whitman (MBA, 1979) is the CEO of Quibi (from “Quick Bites”), a short-form mobile video platform, which hopes to transform cellphone storytelling, come April 2020.

In the venture launched by Jeffrey Katzenberg, former chairman, Walt Disney Studies, she looks for support from Tricia Lee (Head of Product, MBA 2013) and Greg Gioia (Financial Planning and Analysis, MBA 2015), among others as they race toward the deadline with a budget of $1 billion.

About all the stress and expectations, Whitman says she doesn’t feel risk the way most people do. “I think it’s because of my mom,” Red Cross Volunteer during WWII Margaret Whitman.

Investing in society

John Paulson (MBA 1980) was a successful entrepreneur at 19, employing 50 people in his father’s home country of Ecuador.

When his business outgrew his skills, he decided to do a BS in Finance at NYU’s School of Business and went on later to HBS for MBA.

After stints at BCG and Bear Sterns, he launched his own investment fund, Paulson & Co., in 1994, which attracted $6 billion under management by 2006.

Inspired by his mother, he focuses on “giving back”: he has made a landmark contribution to the Central Park Conservancy besides supporting educational and cultural initiatives in New York.

“Central Park is the heart and soul of New York. People of all ages, income levels, races, and nationalities walk through the park every day. Everyone is smiling and it’s all free,” Paulson, for whom the HBS School of Engineering and Applied Science is named after, for his historic contribution, says.

East to West

Before joining HBS, Thai Lee (MBA 1985) Thailand-born Korean American, had three personal targets: gain corporate experience in her 20s, launch her own company in her 30s, and have a child by 40.

She met all these goals: she worked for Procter & Gamble and American Express, took over an ailing business and gradually built it into a $5 billion tech company, SHI International, which is now headquartered in New Jersey and employs 2,300 people, and had two children, now 15 and 10.

SHI, the largest minority- and woman-owned business in the US, has 28 offices around the world and partners such as Microsoft and Dell.

Lee, who helped her elder sister overcome cancer, provides hope and care to cancer patients through her philanthropy programs.

Intensely committed to her family, Lee finds inspiration from her late father, and says she and her two sisters have “followed in his footsteps to achieve our own version of the American dream.”

Explorer extraordinaire

Victor Lance Vescovo (MBA 1994) is a private equity investor, a co-founder of Insight Equity Holdings, and the chairman of four firms providing a range of services from precision machining to defense electronics assembly.

But Vescovo is also an undersea explorer who has travelled deeper into the sea than any human before him: he descended to 10,928 meters in the Marina Trench of the Pacific Ocean on April 28, 2019.

At the bottom of the ocean, ensconced inside a $48 million submersible vehicle built with his own money, Vescovo radioed the 200 crew members on his support ship, Pressure Drop, and the scientists who made the mission possible: “Congratulations to you all, you made this happen.”

By the way, this Harvard MBA graduate has also scaled Mount Everest at 8,484 meters.

Race to road safety

Scaling down road-accident deaths through self-driving automation is a cause to which Dhivya Suryadevara (MBA 2003), GM’s CFO, and her company are deeply committed.

Suryadevara, who had potential annual earnings of $5 million as CFO, was named in Fortune’s “40 under 40” in 2015 and 2018.

“Building a safe, self-driving car is the greatest engineering challenge of our lifetime. I think we’re going to get there sooner than we think.”

Empowering African artists

Helping talented artistes from Africa get to a favorable market sooner is the mission of Nana Quagraine (MBA 2008).

She has created a website, 54kibo, to provide a platform for the most talented emerging designers from the continent to unveil their work to US customers, including home and interior decorators.

“Many designers reach out to us because they appreciate our aesthetic and trust that their products will be in good company and presented well,” says Quagraine.

Family matters

Some HBS MBAs are called upon to help their business families right after leaving school.

Nicolas Ibañez (MBA 2011) stepped in with the new skills he had gained at HBS to enable his family to manage $1.6 billion that Walmart had paid them for the sale of their Chilean supermarket chain in 2009.

A year after completing his MBA, Ibañez launched a New York-based property investment firm, Drake Real Estate Partners, which raised interest among Latin American investors and now owns assets worth $1.5 billion.

Ibañez is now looking to set up a $400 million investment fund.

Right on the ball

Domonique Foxworth (MBA 2015) is a seven-year veteran cornerback of the National Football League of the US, former president of the NFL Players Association, and former COO of the National Basketball Players Association.

He is now an ESPN contributor and co-host of ESPN’s weekly radio show “The Morning Roast.” Foxworth retired from NFL in 2012 because he felt he would be more comfortable as a players’ union representative.

He went to HBS because he knew he was smarter than the NFL negotiators.

After MBA, he joined the corporate world as he thought that was what HBS graduates were supposed to do. But he quit when he realized that he had enough to look after his family and pursue happiness for them and for himself.

Foxworth loves to speak freely on issues that matter to people. “I don’t fear failure. You can’t be a professional cornerback and be scared to get burnt a couple of times,” he says about his latest career move.

What are the fresh HBS MBA grads up to?

Now let’s see the first career moves that fresher HBS MBAs make after leaving school.

According to HBS statistics for the Class of 2018, the latest available, 75% of the graduates sought employment; 95% of them received offers and 89% accepted an offer.

Of the 25% who did not seek employment:

  • 12% were company-sponsored students or were already employed
  • 8% were starting their own business
  • 2% were postponing their job search
  • 1% were continuing their education
  • The remaining had other reasons


Preferred sectors, salaries

Which sectors did the newly minted business brains favor?

The top three industry destinations for Harvard MBA were:

  • financial services (29%)
  • consulting (25%)
  • technology (19%)

Following them were healthcare with 6%, manufacturing 5%, entertainment/media 4%, consumer products, services, and retail/trading 3%, and non-profit/government 2%.

How much did the Class of 2018 make in their first jobs after graduation?

Of the 75% students of the Class of 2018 who accepted employment, the median base salary was $140,000, the median signing bonus was $25,000, and the median “other guaranteed compensation was $28,750 across all industries and functions.

Industry-wise, the biggest median salary of $150,000 went to Harvard MBAs in financial services (investment management, hedge funds, venture capital, private equity, and LBO) and consulting, as reported by students.

They were followed by those in the aero/auto/transport equipment manufacturing with $145,000 and consumer electronics technology with $140,000, software technology with $135,000, and entertainment and biomed/pharma (healthcare) with $130,000.

The top median signing bonus of $50,000 went to those who went into investment banking and sales and trading (under financial services) and consumer electronics and e-commerce (technology), followed by $35,000 in investment management / hedge fund and consumer products.

The top median “other guaranteed compensation” of $150,000 went to investment management / hedge fund along with VC/PE/LBO.

Preferred job functions, salaries

What job function did the Class of 2018 choose?

The top five functions, chosen by the largest number of Harvard MBAs of the Class of 2018 were finance 29%, consulting 26%, general management 16%, marketing 11%, and business development and strategic planning both 8%. “Other” functions accounted for the rest.

The top median base salary of $150,000 by function went to those in consulting, investment management / hedge fund, VC/PE/LBO. They were followed by product management professionals with $137,500, then by those in business development, project management, other general management, and strategic planning with $130,000.

Harvard MBAs serving in the function of investment banking / sales & trading received the highest median signing bonus of $50,000, followed by corporate finance ($35,000), and “other general management ($30,000). The highest median “other guaranteed compensation” by function went to MBAs in investment management / hedge fund ($168,000), followed by those in VC/PE/LBO ($112,000).

Job locations: Where do Harvard Business School graduates work?

Most of the Class of 2018 remained in the US for work (86%), 5% went to Europe, and 4% to Asia. The best place to work in terms of salary was the US with a median base salary of $142,000 (Atlanta $152,000, Washington DC and Texas $150,000, California/LA area $147,000, California Bay Area $145,000), followed by Canada with $138,500, and Europe and Asia with $125,000.

Alumni salary, location, top skills

The average HBS MBA alumni salary three years after graduation is $205,846, according to Financial Times. The average difference between pre-MBA salary and post-MBA salary was 112%.

Payscale reports that MBA and Economics degrees from HBS earns alumni the highest salaries in the range of $300,000 (data on the career stage at which these salaries are earned isn’t available).

Other top-earning positions for HBS alumni (though the MBA degree is not specifically mentioned) include chief executive officer (medial annual salary $252,000), president ($282,000) and chief operating officer ($239,000).

At the bottom of the scale are executive directors, who make an average of $121,000.

According to Payscale, New York is a popular destination for HBS alumni. So also is Seattle, where the median annual pay for HBS alumni is $159,000. Although alumni earn the lowest pay in Washington, DC (median salary $130,000), it is a common destination. Other cities preferred are San Francisco and Boston.

Leadership skills bring 5% bigger paychecks for HBS alumni. Other skills most in demand among employers are strategic planning, project management, and financial analysis.

Also read:
What to expect as a Harvard MBA student
16 things every Harvard Business School MBA student should know
Harvard MBA vs Stanford GSB vs Wharton MBA: Which one is right for you?
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

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5 thoughts on “What do Harvard MBA graduates do? How much do they make?”

  1. Hello I am Payal Rathore,
    I am doing my MBA in Paris. Will my degree be worth it at the end. Can I get a good job in India.
    My university name is Schiller International University.
    Please help me.
    Thank you

  2.  Dear Sameer,

    I am an IT Professional with 5.2 years of experience as an SAP Consultant. I want to pursue MBA and have been going through various MBA Programs offered at different esteemed premiere institutes. Upon some initial research, I came across, ISB PGP and ISB PGP Pro, programs. The Eligibility criteria for ISB PGP Pro on the ISB website is given as greater than 5 and lesser than 12 yrs, but on certain blogs and cover stories the best experience considered would be greater than 6/ 7 yrs. Kindly suggest would it be ideal for me to apply for ISB PGP Pro program or ISB PGP ?

  3. Hello Sameer
    I have done in India now I am in US and wanted to do masters in finance here can I get admission for that here?and what procedure I have to do my education pattern was 12+3 please guide

  4. Hello sir ,
    I am a CA FINAL student, After completing CA I want to join MBA in Finance. I have completed CFA L 1 and also looking to give FRM L1. Doing CFA and FRM will help me in MBA Admissions looking a background of CA ?

  5. @Payal: The degree you’re aiming for isn’t ranked among the top 100. We’ve written about the value of an international degree in India here:

    @Nikhila: ISB PGP would be a better fit. Full-time programs from top bshcools have a better market value than their executive MBA degrees.

    @Pranjali: Here’s a list of universities that accept 3-year bachelors degrees:

    @Saurav: We’ve covered the value of a CFA in MBA admissions here:


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