Top MBA Programs for Finance & Investment Banking
Though it has been almost a decade since the global financial crisis of 2008, investment banking and the financial services industry still aren’t the same. Overall, the percentage of MBAs interested in a career in finance is continuing to drop, especially as the products/services and tech industries lure more and more grads. According to the most recent 2017 Alumni Perspectives Survey Report by the Graduate Management Admission Council, the percentage of alumni from two-year, full-time MBA programs working in the finance/accounting industry dropped to 11 percent this year, trailing the products/services (28 percent), tech (16 percent), and consulting (12 percent) industries.
Still, finance is an interesting, lucrative career path for MBA graduates. The work can be widely varied, giving quants ample opportunity to engage their analytical expertise. Not only that, the average graduate earns more than $140,000 in her first year based on the latest U.S. News & World Report. And beyond the money and the work itself, there’s also considerable prestige in working for top firms, which include Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan/Chase, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, and Blackstone, among others.
We get it. For many, finance presents a dynamic, rewarding career path that can also serve as a jumping off point for many future opportunities, including starting your own firm. For those of you with this route in mind, we’ve gathered together a list of business schools best positioned to help you earn a job in the finance industry.
Latest School Placements & Earnings
There are multiple ranking systems that examine top MBA programs for finance. The Financial Times, for example, segments out its own list—Top MBAs for Finance—as part of its annual global ranking of top MBA programs. For 2017, the ranking placed Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) in the #1 slot, with alumni from that school three years out from graduation earning an average salary of $266,000. But while Stanford may be the top school for earnings, it’s not the school that sends the most graduates into the field. For the Class of 2016—the most recent graduating class for which employment statistics have been published—Columbia Business School (CBS) sent more grads into finance than any other school—37 percent—even though it ranked #15 overall in the FT.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to review the schools that send the greatest percentage of their students into finance. Typically, this statistic indicates that more of the school’s resources will be allocated toward preparing graduates for success in the field, both in terms of faculty and coursework and in terms of career services, including cultivating relationships with industry employers and bringing in top recruiters to snap up those students.
These Schools Send More of Their MBA Grads into Financial Services
Five schools lead the pack in terms of percentage of graduates in the Class of 2016 heading into finance. Two of the five—the aforementioned Columbia and NYU Stern School of Business—are located in New York City, one of the world’s greatest financial hubs. Two more—the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and the University of Chicago Business School—have established traditions as quant-focused finance powerhouses. And as an up and comer, we’ve also chosen to highlight a fifth school, Cornell’s S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management.
Here’s what portion of grads these top schools send into finance, at a glance:
- Columbia Business School—36.9 percent
- University of Chicago Booth School of Business—36 percent
- New York University Stern School of Business—35.3 percent
- University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School—35.1 percent
- Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management—33 percent
While at most of these schools, the percentage of graduates heading into finance has remained largely flat in recent years, the field still draws more graduates than any other. At Columbia, the 36.9 percent taking jobs in finance narrowly outpaced the 34.5 percent heading into consulting. At the other four schools, financial services drew more grads than consulting—the second most common industry destination—by a larger margin. At NYU Stern, 35.3 percent went into financial services, as compared to just 28 percent heading into consulting. At Chicago Booth, it was 36 percent financial services, followed by 27.5 percent consulting. At Wharton, the stats were 35.1 percent financial services, trailed by 26.6 percent consulting. And finally, at Johnson, 32 percent of Class of 2016 grads headed into jobs in financial services, as compared to 25 percent going into consulting.
What Those Newly Minted MBAs Get Paid
Next, let’s take a look at salaries. Graduates heading into financial services at four of the schools—Columbia, Chicago Booth, NYU Stern, and Wharton—reported identical median salaries of $125,000. Cornell Johnson graduates trailed slightly, reporting a median salary of $120,509. In every case, an average signing bonus of approximately $40,000 was de rigueur.