BY Sydney LakeJune 24, 2022, 2:41 PM
Running in John W. Weeks Bridge and clock tower over Charles River in Harvard University campus, as seen in August 2021 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by: Sergi Reboredo—VW Pics/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)
Harvard University is consistently recognized as both one of the most prestigious and competitive schools in the country including for its undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate degree programs. In fact, Fortune ranks Harvard Business School as having the No. 1 full-time MBA program in the U.S., and Harvard Law School also regularly tops the charts for its program.
Both the Ivy League school’s MBA and law programs are highly ranked for good reason. Harvard graduates leave with ample job prospects and a starting salary to match. In 2021, the $150,500 median starting base salary for MBA graduates was more than 30% higher than the national median of $115,000, according to statistics from the Graduate Management Admission Council’s most recent Corporate Recruiters Survey.
HBS grads also made median signing and performance bonuses of $30,000 and $37,00, respectively. That brings the total starting salary for HBS grads to $217,500. The school hasn’t yet released figures for its class of 2022.
By comparison, grads of Harvard Law School snagged median starting salaries of $201,250 in 2021, compared with a national median for law school grads of just $75,000, according to the National Association for Law Placement. In other words, Harvard Law School grads make almost three times more than the national median.
As with any grad school decision, there are costs and benefits to earning either a law degree or an MBA. Fortune broke down the employment data for professionals considering either degree from Harvard.
Harvard Business School costs and benefits
The total cost of attending Harvard Business School’s full-time MBA program for the 2022-2023 academic year is $112,764, which includes tuition, student fees, room and board, and other living expenses. The full-time MBA program takes two years to complete, so the total cost to complete the program is about $225,000.
Other costs associated with getting into HBS’ MBA program include taking the GMAT, application fees, and potentially hiring an admissions consultant. It costs $275 to take the GMAT exam, $100 to apply to HBS, and hiring an admissions consultant ranges in cost, but can amount to a couple thousand dollars depending on the package offered. That said, using an admissions consultant is completely optional.
While attending Harvard Business School has a high sticker price when compared to other MBA programs, grads see much higher starting base salaries on average. That’s because HBS grads enter lucrative fields like consulting, tech, and finance—each of which frequently offer six-figure starting base salaries.
Harvard Business School doesn’t release industry-specific salary information, but Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Co., and Bain & Co.—three of the top consulting firms in the U.S. and major recruiters from HBS—are paying average base salaries of $175,000 to new MBA grads in 2022, according to Management Consulted. These hires also earn large signing and performance bonuses, which can bring their post-MBA salaries to $250,000, based on figures from Management Consulted, which offers prep and training for professionals entering the industry.
These consulting firms “expect a lot from their employees, and providing bonuses is one way to motivate them to perform at the highest levels,” Don Lowman, a senior client partner and global leader of Korn Ferry’s Global Total Rewards business, previously told Fortune.
Harvard Law School costs and benefits
“A year in Harvard Law School’s LL.M. program is expensive,” the school website reads—and it’s true.
One year of tuition at Harvard Law School is $70,430, whereas the national average for private law school is about $50,000 per year, according to data from Law School Transparency. But adding in other fees and living expenses, a year at Harvard Law School can cost more than $107,350. Ultimately, earning your juris doctor degree from this prestigious university can set you back more than $300,000.
Other costs associated with becoming a lawyer include taking the LSAT prior to applying to law school, which costs $200; and attorneys are also required to take and pass the Bar Exam after graduation. Test costs vary by state, but test takers are usually on the hook for a few hundred dollars. Bar Exam prep is even more expensive, though, and many programs cost between $1,000 and $4,000.
Many law school graduates start to see a return on their investment pretty quickly post-graduation, however. In fact, some new graduates in 2021 earned as much as $215,000.
Not all Harvard Law grads make beaucoup bucks, though. While grads who go on to work for top law firms make well over $200,000, according to Harvard Law School employment data, juris doctors who go into public interest law or work for the government make just $57,350 to $72,675, on average.
The school announced this May, however, that it plans to offer more support to students earning lower salaries or for those students who take public sector jobs.
“Harvard Law School will continue to work with students and graduates to help them thrive in law school and to pursue career options of their choice,” Harvard Law School spokesperson Jeff Neal told The Harvard Crimson in a statement in May.