All-Time High Salaries for Stanford MBA Class of 2016

The 2016 Employment Report points to a strong market for Stanford MBA graduates and salaries that surpassed last year’s all-time high.

November 16, 2016


The “Monument to Change as it Changes” is an apt metaphor for the 86% of the Class of 2016 that pivoted in one of four dimensions compared to their pre-MBA career. | Elena Zhukova

Mean and median base salaries both surpassed record highs for the MBA Class of 2016. The $140,553 average and the $136,000 median both topped last year’s record by 5%.

Median signing bonus remained unchanged from last year’s $25,000, while the mean dropped 12% from last year’s record-breaking $23,636. However, the percentage of students receiving signing bonuses increased by 11 points to 55%.

Median other guaranteed compensation (OGC) dropped 22% to $40,750, and the average increased slightly to a record $74,655.

Our graduates care deeply about a job’s potential for impact within the organization and beyond. They are flexible and talented, and increasingly want to feel a strong connection to their work and bring their ‘whole selves’ to any organization.
Yossi Feinberg

Given the typically small sample size of graduates reporting OGC and this year’s range of $8,000 to $400,000, shifts can be large. The 2016 employment report introduces “Expected Bonuses,” a metric that supplements those required by the Career Services & Employer Alliance (CSEA). This footnoted figure shows 61% of Stanford MBA job seekers who expect to receive a cash performance bonus, compared to 35% who reported OGC. These graduates expected an average bonus of $66,341, or $38,750 median, with a range of $5,000-$500,000.

Timing of Job Offers

Of 290 job seekers, 90% received offers three months after graduation, and 82% accepted, representing 2% and 4% drops, respectively, compared to last year.

“Because the market for our graduates remains very strong, they are willing to be patient and take the time to find the opportunities that fit them best,” said Yossi Feinberg, senior associate dean for academic affairs, who oversees the Stanford MBA program.

Take Jonathan Kola. Before arriving at Stanford GSB, he was co-founder and CTO of a Nigerian company in the waste management industry. “I was going down the entrepreneurial path for the first couple months after graduation,” he said. “I was working on a business idea in August when I decided to apply for full-time employment.” He started over, nearly from scratch. Dusting off tools and resources provided by the Career Management Center, he set about structuring his search, including reconnecting with the recruiters he had put on hold, and reaching out to the alumni network. He eventually landed final interviews with three companies.

Once he received an offer he removed himself from consideration in the other two. He started work on Monday, Nov. 14, at the New York office of a multinational technology company. Because Kola accepted an offer more than 90 days after June 11 graduation he is not counted in the CSEA figure.

Similarly, Jeff Barnes accepted an offer after the CSEA 90-day deadline. “I took some time to find the role I’m in now, partly out of the strength of the job market, but also because I wanted to be sure of my decision,” said the former private equity investor. Barnes, who earned the interdisciplinary joint MBA/MS in environment and resources, completed his studies in March, but did not immediately begin applying for jobs. “I took time to refine what I wanted and to determine how to present myself to employers,” he said. Among the resources he tapped, he worked with his CMC advisor, networked with classmates and alums, and reached out to a business leader who was a guest speaker at Stanford GSB. By early September, he was in a few final interview processes and ultimately decided to join a company in the sustainable transportation industry.

Tin-Yun Ho also accepted an offer a few weeks after the Sept. 10 CSEA cut-off, and started working at a multinational high-tech company on October 31.

“I can think of a few classmates who had this happen,” said Kola.

“My takeaways from this experience? Be patient,” said Barnes. “You never know what opportunities are around the corner that may soon be available. My current role did not exist at graduation. Life circumstances permitting, you’re not obligated to jump at the first thing that comes up. Job searches are short, and careers are long. Ultimately, I’m very happy with my outcome,” he said.

Taking a more comprehensive view of the Class of 2016, including entrepreneurs, sponsored students, and those who received or accepted an offer after the CSEA deadline, 95% of the entire class had successfully landed in their careers within 120 days of completing their MBA.

Switching Careers Along Four Dimensions: Industry, Function, Location, and Level of Responsibility

“Our data shows that students are using their time at Stanford GSB to switch gears in their career — not just along one or two dimensions such as industry and function,” said Feinberg. “It turns out a significant proportion of our 2016 graduates also changed geography and/or level of responsibility.”

“We’ve observed this qualitatively in the past. This year we set out to measure it,” said Maeve Richard, assistant dean and director of the CMC.

Among the Class of 2016, 86% pivoted in at least one aspect of their pre-MBA career. Excluding sponsored students and entrepreneurs, 57% reported changing industry, 61% function, 55% location, and 43% level of responsibility. The sum exceeds 100% since some students had more than one change.

“Managing one or two pivots is difficult,” said Richard. “But a sizeable group of our 2016 graduates switched three or four.”

Those reporting making one change represented 17%; two changes, 24%; three changes, 30%; four changes 15%. Only 15% of job seekers reported no significant change in any dimension.

Kola, for example, pivoted on three dimensions: location from Nigeria to New York; industry from waste management to high tech; and job responsibility from founder/CTO to sales engineer within a large organization.

Industry and Function

Technology and finance were again the leading industries drawing a majority of the Class of 2016, with 33% and 31% respectively. The former rose 1% from last year, the latter remained unchanged. Consulting edged up two percentage points to 16%.

“Strong interest in technology is consistent with trends in the economy and with opportunities for job growth,” observed Richard. “In contrast to just a few years ago, cash compensation in tech is now comparable to other fields, often with the possibility of growth equity.”

Continuing a growing trend, technology has become a diversified category comprising organizations that impact both new and traditional industries. Moreover, “tech” has become an industry suffix and serves as a proxy for innovation and growth in nearly every sector. This year’s employment report, like last year’s report, provided breakout detail on these subcategories.

Consulting as a function rose 6% to 24% compared to last year. Finance edged up by one point to 32%, and marketing/sales remained unchanged at 27%.


Graduates who started a venture upon graduation represented 15%, a slight dip from last year’s 16%. Though not included in the CSEA-defined job-seeking pool, entrepreneurs are a significant population within the Stanford MBA class.

Class of 2016 entrepreneurs were involved in 17 industries. The top three were: software, 17%; internet services, 12%; and other technology, 8%.

Of this entrepreneurial cohort 59% stayed in the western United States, and 26% launched outside the United States, both representing a one point drop compared to last year’s class. In contrast, those who fanned out to other regions of the United States rose 3 points to 15% this year.


The U.S. West continued to draw a majority of graduates. At 65%, however, only 41% of these jobs related to tech. The top three industries in the U.S. West were: consulting, 14%; software, 11%; and venture capital, 9%. See the table on page 7 of the 25 industries in the West that drew the Class of 2016.

An indication that the location of technology is broadening, jobs in Northern California dropped by 3% to 56% despite the record acceptances in tech. The Northeast, unchanged from last year, drew 17%. International jobs rose 3 points to 10%.

Closing Thoughts

“Our graduates care deeply about a job’s potential for impact within the organization and beyond,” said Feinberg. “They are flexible and talented, and increasingly want to feel a strong connection to their work and bring their ‘whole selves’ to any organization.”

“Our 2016 MBA employment report demonstrates that leading organizations continue to appreciate these qualities in our graduates,” said Richard. “We are grateful to the 383 organizations that recognized their value and hired them, and to all the organizations that recruited here.”

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