Want to earn $150k as an intern? Here's Harvard's guide on where to find it

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Highest paying internships

If you go to a top business school, the money you’ll make during a summer internship probably shouldn’t be the biggest factor taken into consideration. But it is a factor, particularly if you are working in an expensive city like New York, London or San Francisco and haven’t yet decided the path you’d like to take. Knowing the industry average of students from top MBA programs should also provide a better window into what you can expect.

To compile the numbers in the chart below, we sorted through the latest MBA internship salary data from three of the biggest feeders of high-paying postgraduate jobs: Harvard, Wharton and Stanford. We then averaged the median salaries across seven different industries: investment banking, consulting, hedge funds, private equity, investment management, venture capital and tech. The schools report the median salaries by month, so we prorated them across a year’s time to make them more easily digestible.

In what may be a surprise to some, consulting firms pay their interns more than any other industry – at least those attending top-ranked business schools. Hedge funds, investment banks and investment management firms are packed tightly together, but then there’s a precipitous drop to private equity firms and tech companies. Falling well behind all other industries are venture capital firms, which only pay their MBA interns a prorated salary of $71k, or just shy of $6k a month before taxes. Private equity and VC firms have become increasingly popular among finance-minded graduates as investment banks have lost some of their luster, but you’re not going to break the bank the minute you walk in the door. Compensation is known to be rather top-heavy.

Digging deeper into the numbers, a few trends emerge. Companies that recruit from top business schools appear extremely consistent with what they pay their interns. The average salary for consultants was exactly $12,250 at all three schools, which is eye-opening considering the large sample size. More than 120 students from Harvard Business School alone took a consulting internship in 2018. The only statistically significant difference was in private equity, where Wharton MBAs averaged a little over a $1k per month more than students at the other two schools.

Although the average tech salary is quite consistent between all three schools, the data from Stanford, which breaks down the industry into multiple buckets, shines a light on the big reason why the average salary is only $90k. People who took internships at fintech firms – startups that can offer equity but less cash – only paid their interns a prorated salary of $56k. If the numbers are similar at Harvard and Wharton, and there’s no reason to assume they aren’t, the average pay for tech internships at more solidified companies would inch up toward the middle of the pack. The only industry to pay its interns worse than fintech firms was the non-profit sector.

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: btuttle@efinancialcareers.com

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