Everything You Need to Know About the MBA Program at Columbia Business School

Columbia Business School (CBS) is an M7 business program located in Morningside Heights, Manhattan. The school takes every advantage of being “at the very center of business” in the Big Apple, with its “theory-to-practice” approach to a world-class business education and its embrace of New York City as an extension of its campus. (See a campus map here.)

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Why we love the Columbia Business School MBA program

CBS students have access to top managers and high-profile executives

By virtue of its location in NYC, Columbia Business School draws an impressive list of high-profile business leaders and executives into its classrooms, research centers, community events, and Executives in Residence program. CBS boasts that “no business school has more on-campus visits than [they] do,” with over 500 guest speakers a year giving MBA students valuable insight into their experiences in the broader business community. The school also has over 100 business leaders who serve as adjunct faculty practitioners and teach elective courses in specialized topics.

Proximity to corporate decision makers in NYC allows Columbia to connect its classrooms with board rooms and trading floors, which means its MBA students get to learn firsthand from industry leaders operating “at the very center of business.”

CBS offers great networking and internship opportunities

Over fifty Fortune 500 companies have their global headquarters in NYC, which makes Columbia’s location attractive for students looking to pursue summer and/or academic-year internships in the city or with hopes of remaining in NYC post-graduation. Access to major Wall Street banks via subway draws some heavy-finance applicants to the Columbia MBA. The many tech startups in Manhattan and Brooklyn also make CBS attractive to techies and entrepreneurs.

Finally, with a number of major nonprofits headquartered in the NYC-area (there are actually over 35,000 nonprofits in NYC), CBS is an interesting option for the more socially-conscious MBA seeker. Needless to say, Columbia Business School offers fantastic professional networking and internship opportunities.

CBS students are all about urban living - including public transportation

Don’t have a car? Worry not. Having a car is a hassle in NYC thanks to heavy traffic and the expenses of parking. Studying in NYC, you’ll have convenient access to public transportation, taxis, and ride shares that will get you almost anywhere you need to go. If you opt for less expensive housing options across the river in New Jersey, further out on Long Island, or in the Westchester and Connecticut suburbs, you might need a car over there!

Modern and green campus facilities coming soon!

Columbia Business School has long made Uris Hall in Morningside Heights (between the Upper West Side and Harlem) its academic home, along with the rest of Columbia University. But with the growth of its MBA program and the rapidly changing nature of business and business education, the school plans to move further uptown to a new campus in Manhattanville beginning in January 2022.

CBS’s Manhattanville home will provide more spacious facilities than its current space (492,000 sq. ft. across 2 new buildings), with more meeting spaces to foster social interaction and collaboration within its community. Manhattanville’s glass buildings are also environmentally conscious, earning a LEED-ND designation from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Want to know your odds of getting into CBS?

Meet MBAmo – the best MBA admissions calculator out there!

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What does Columbia Business School believe in and stand for?

Columbia Business School’s mission centers on “developing ideas and leaders that transform the world—from the very center of business.” It prides itself on being an institution dedicated to advanced research, with an educational philosophy that bridges theory and practice in the heart of America’s biggest urban hub.

CBS’s mission statement expands on this goal, with a heavy emphasis on business management research and scholarship:

“We are committed to educating and developing leaders and builders of enterprises who create value for their stakeholders and society at large. We accomplish this through our MBA, MS, PhD, and Executive Education programs.

We are equally committed to developing new scholars and teachers, and to creating and disseminating pathbreaking knowledge, concepts, and tools which advance the understanding and practice of management; we accomplish this through our faculty research and PhD programs.”

Given the pressing need to address racial inequality and discrimination, especially in the wake of the nation’s 2020 demands for greater action and accountability, Columbia Business School has expanded its mission to include a more defined set of institutional values regarding diversity, inclusion, and community integrity:

“To achieve our vision of developing innovative ideas and inspiring leaders that transform the world, Columbia Business School (CBS) is committed to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The faculty, staff, students, and other stakeholders of CBS strive to build and sustain a welcoming and intellectual community that values and respects individuals’ different and shared identities and perspectives, leading to a sense of belonging for all.

Individuals’ identities can be based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, language, socioeconomic status, geographic origin, political ideology, and more. CBS proudly celebrates the diversity of its hometown, New York City, and promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in the following ways:

  • Actively seeking and including new members in our community who challenge conventional beliefs and propose and respectfully debate bold ideas
  • Fostering an inclusive learning environment and curriculum for all students
  • Continuously measuring our progress by eliciting meaningful feedback from our community
  • Basing decisions about policies and initiatives on evidence and data

We have a community-wide responsibility to uphold and defend our shared values and principles at CBS and beyond.”

Columbia Business School’s DEI Standing Committee works to ensure the school meets the 3 Pillars of Diversity – (1) Community (2) Diversity, Curriculum & Classroom Inclusion, and (3) Culture & Climate – and collaborates with the Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to oversee accountability to the school’s DEI commitment.

What will you learn in Columbia’s MBA program, and how?

Degree requirements for the Columbia MBA

The 2-year, full-time MBA program at Columbia Business School requires students to complete 18 credits of core courses and 42 elective credits over four terms. CBS does not accept transfer credit, but first-year students can place out of some of the required core classes if they have significant academic and professional experience in certain subjects. The minimum course load to be considered a full-time MBA student is 12 credits a term, but students typically take 15 credits per term. (The max per term is 18 credits.)

Core curriculum classes

There are two full-term courses and eight half-term courses in CBS’s core curriculum. That leaves you a lot of room for electives, so you can tailor the MBA to your desired career path. Recent popular electives include, “The Economics and Politics of Digital Disruption,” “The Luxury Approach,” and “The Pandemic Economy.”

Your first year in the program

During the first year, Columbia’s incoming MBA class (around 780 students) is divided into clusters of 65-70 students who take core classes together. CBS fosters an even deeper sense of community and peer mentorship through their learning teams – subgroups of approx. 5 students with diverse backgrounds and experience.

Here’s how your first-year courses would look, with core courses in bold:

Half-Term (1st ½)
Half-Term (2nd ½)
1st Term
Lead: People, Teams, Organizations
Financial Accounting

Corporate Finance
Managerial Statistics

Strategy Formulation

Managerial Economics
Business Analytics


Global Economic Environment
2nd Term
(Fill remaining schedule space with electives)
Operations Management
Elective credits

To give you a sense of how all this coursework breaks down during the week, Columbia provides the following Sample First Year schedule on its website:

First Term:

9:00 am
Strategy Formulation (first half of semester)

Global Economic Environment (second half of semester)
Strategy Formulation (first half of semester)

Global Economic Environment (second half of semester
10:45 am
Managerial Statistics (first half)

Marketing (second half)
Managerial Statistics (first half)

Marketing (second half)
12:30 pm
Club Time*: no classes (to allow for lunchtime club meetings, speaker events, etc.)
Club Time*: no classes (to allow for lunchtime club meetings, speaker events, etc.)
2:15 pm
Corporate Finance
Managerial Economics (first half)

Business Analytics (second half)
Corporate Finance
Managerial Economics (first half)

Business Analytics (second half)
4:00 pm
Financial Accounting
Financial Accounting

Second Term:

9:00 am
Operations Management (first half)

Half-term elective (second half)
Real Estate Finance (elective)
Operations Management (first half)

Half-term elective (second half)
Real Estate Finance (elective)
10:45 am
Half-term Elective (first half)

Half-term Elective (second half)
Half-term Elective (first half)

Half-term Elective (second half)
12:30 pm
Club Time*: no classes
Club Time*: no classes
2:15 pm
Capital Markets (elective)
Global Immersion: Brazil (first half elective)
Capital Markets (elective)
Global Immersion: Brazil (first half elective)
4:00 pm

To learn more about “A Day in the Life” of a Columbia MBA student, check out this article from Business Insider.

Anecdotally, our clients tell us that the first two terms at CBS are like drinking from a firehose. The half-term courses pack a TON of learning into a very short period of time. So if you’re planning to head to Columbia, take a few weeks off between the end of your full-time job and the start of b-school. You’re gonna need the rest!

Tailoring your classroom education with electives and concentrations

Within the first-year required curriculum, students have some flexibility to choose courses from a list of over 325 elective classes taught by renowned faculty – almost 150 full-time faculty and more than 100 adjunct faculty. CBS also encourages students to take advantage of the more than 4,000 graduate-level classes available across the University. MBA students can even brush up on their foreign language skills in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish through the Chazen Language Program.

Second-year MBA students can tailor their course of study to specialize in one of Columbia’s divisions, centers, or programs, including:

If interested in a dual degree, Columbia might be the place for you

Columbia University’s broad course offerings enable MBA students to gain multidisciplinary depth through cross-registration and dual degrees/joint programs. Students looking to develop expertise in another field in addition to business can apply to dual-degree programs with the schools of:

While students apply to both programs at the same time, they cannot pursue courses in both schools simultaneously. Typically, dual degree students register in only one school per term. Since Columbia Business School does not defer admissions, dual degree students should apply to the MBA for the year in which they plan to enroll. Exceptions are considered for the 3-year JD/MBA and on a case-by-case basis beyond that.

While 2-year, full-time MBA students must complete 60 credits across 4 terms, dual degree MBA students complete 45 credits over 3 terms of residency. Once dual degree students complete the requirements for both schools to graduate, both degrees will be conferred simultaneously.

Theory-to-practice & experiential learning opportunities

Columbia Business School’s pedagogy has a strong focus on experiential learning, with a “theory-to-practice” approach to business education. Here are some unique CBS offerings that bear this out:

  • Executives in Residence (EIR) – Established in 1971, the Executives in Residence Program at Columbia was one of the first of its kind. EIR “is comprised of 25 senior executives from the C-Suite of companies in…technology, retail, health care, manufacturing and consumer goods, as well as senior partners from strategy consulting, private equity, financial services and real estate.” Check out an impressive list of former EIRs here. The program creates an opportunity for MBA students to learn and receive mentoring from resident executives on career paths or new ventures through one-on-one meetings, Lunch & Learn events, and small group meetings with student clubs. EIR contributes to the school’s philosophy of bridging theory with practice by giving students the opportunity to learn from executives in and out of the classroom.
  • NYC Immersion Seminars give Columbia MBA students the opportunity to engage with industry practitioners (often C-Suite execs) on challenging, topical business problems through site visits to multiple organizations within an industry.
  • Master Classes are some of the most popular electives at Columbia Business School, because they connect MBA theory with real-world practice. Working in teams of 4-6 individuals and mentored by Columbia faculty and industry practitioners, second-year MBA students apply core business concepts and make managerial decisions or recommendations for real-world, contemporary business problems. Each Master Class focuses on a specific industry and incorporates student teams, guest speakers, adjunct faculty, and alumni participation. The experience involves a high level of commitment and the challenges are demanding, but the payoff for good work is a host of professional contacts as well as real-world experience.
  • Global Immersion Program (GIP) – Students take their classroom lessons and business practices abroad in this program, working on themed team projects with a participating organization. Classes meet for half a term in New York, then culminate in a one-week visit (“immersion week”) to a focus country where students meet with local business executives and government officials. Students conduct a wrap-up meeting when they return to campus to reflect on their business experience abroad. Past Global Immersion countries include China, India, Brazil, Costa Rica, and South Africa.
  • Global Consulting Projects – In this Independent Study course through the Chazen Center, Columbia MBA students gain hands-on exposure to other business cultures while working on a semester-long project with a team of 3-4 students. Participants leverage their diverse skillsets and backgrounds to advise a sponsor company on a global challenge. Each team meets on a weekly basis (in-person or virtually) with their assigned mentor/project manager from the sponsor company. At the mid-point of the semester, teams present their preliminary findings and recommendations. At the end of the semester, they present to client stakeholders and sponsors.
  • Chazen Global Study Tours – Chazen Leadership Fellows design and organize study tours abroad (7-12 days) over winter and spring break. These tours give groups of 20-40 students first-hand exposure to and experience with the business culture of another country through meetings with executives, government officials, and alumni. Study tour groups visit an average of two business per day, with 8-12 company visits for the week. Students also gain a better understanding of that country’s history and culture through visits to cultural sites. To learn more about this experience, check out a sample Japan tour agenda and other past tour experiences here. While study tours are considered non-credit learning opportunities, MBA students can incorporate their tour experience into a larger Independent Study class for credit.

Leadership development at Columbia Business School

  • Individual, Business, and Society Curriculum (IBSC) – teaches students how to make ethical business decisions that help businesses, shareholders, and society through the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership & Ethics. During orientation, first-year students are introduced to the 3 pillars of the curriculum (leadership and integrity, corporate social responsibility, and corporate governance) in a series of sessions fostering community dialogue. The curriculum then continues through core courses lectures and case studies, complemented by guest speakers, panel discussions, case competitions, and other special events.
  • Silfen Leadership Series – attracts top business leaders to speak on campus to share ideas and offer valuable insight based on their personal and professional experience.
  • The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) – a new co-curricular program designed by two MBA students from the Class of 2020 in collaboration with the DEI initiative and The Bernstein Center that equips students with essential skills for managing diverse organizations. The pilot phase of this program launched in the spring of 2021, and every first-year student is required to attend at least one PPIL-approved event and turn in a post-event reflection form.
  • Bernstein Leadership Board – MBA and EMBA students on the Student Leadership and Ethics Board interact with faculty, staff, and alumni to develop and support extracurricular events, including a high-profile speaker series (the Montrone Seminar Series on Ethics) and experiential learning activities. Fellows are chosen based on an interest in leadership and ethics, as well as academic record and work experience.

Columbia entrepreneurship

Columbia Business School takes pride in its entrepreneurial program through the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, which offers courses and hands-on guidance for launching, investing in, or joining a start-up. Featured courses include:

In addition to courses, the Lang Entrepreneurship Center also offers a plethora of events and networking opportunities such as:

The Summer Startup Track (SST) helps rising second-year Columbia MBA students advance their own startup initiatives during the summer by providing advisors, a peer network, and talks with industry leaders through the SST Speakers Series. Students can also score a grant between $5K-10K for their venture by winning the pitch competition at the end of summer.

The Columbia Technology Founders Track (CTech) is a cross-disciplinary program for second-year MBAs and graduate Engineering students dedicated to launching and growing tech-enabled startups while at Columbia.   

Finally, students looking to launch and grow a startup post-graduation receive guidance and support from the Lang Entrepreneurship Center through:

  • Columbia Startup Lab (CSL) – an entrepreneurship program with a new co-working space in Soho that helps first-year alumni successfully launch and grow their businesses after graduation.
  • Columbia Alumni Virtual Accelerator (CAVA) – designed to enable early-stage alumni startups across the globe and across different industries. CAVA cohorts run each quarter for a 12-week term.

Social enterprise at Columbia Business School

For students interested in using their business education and management skills to address social and environmental challenges, the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise offers many course options (see the Social Enterprise course map for a list) and experiential learning opportunities, including:

  • Nonprofit Board Leadership Program – students gain hands-on experience engaging with decision makers at a nonprofit and helping them overcome challenges their organization faces.
  • ReEntry Acceleration Program (REAP) – in partnership with the Tamer Center and Columbia University Center for Justice, REAP trains MBA students to help incarcerated individuals develop business and networking skills in order to find employment post-incarceration. REAP consists of two components: (1) delivering business training to incarcerated individuals, and (2) creating business forums to persuade a network of businesses to hire formerly incarcerated persons and people with criminal records.

Some of CBS’s student clubs also provide great experiential learning opportunities for social enterprise:

  • Small Business Consulting Program (SBCP) – MBA students work in teams to provide pro bono consulting services to local startups and nonprofit clients. Student teams help clients with a range of tasks, from developing business plans to doing market research. Teams also receive feedback and guidance from strategy consulting firms.
  • Social Enterprise Club (SEC) – houses a Pangea Advisors initiative that offers pro bono international consulting to nonprofits and for-profit social enterprises addressing business challenges in the developing world. Teams of students are mentored by a Columbia faculty member or professional in the field and matched with clients in various countries and industries. Pangea Advisors works in cooperation with Microlumbia (the student-run impact investment fund) and the Tamer Center.

In addition to these hands-on experiential learning opportunities, Columbia has funding opportunities for students undertaking social enterprise ventures:

  • Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship – provides financial support to MBA students engaged in summer internships that create social and environmental value. Around 70 summer fellows are supported each year. (Columbia and Barnard undergraduate students working at early-stage social ventures are also eligible and are included in the 70 awards distributed each year.)
  • International Development Consulting Project (IDCP) Travel Fund – provides financial support for MBA students engaging in pro bono consulting projects abroad. Projects for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), public, and nonprofit organizations are given preference over startup ventures and companies.
  • Three Cairns Fellowship – supports MBA and EMBA students, working individually or in teams, whose semester- or year-long projects address sustainability and climate change issues. The fellowship is awarded to 4-6 projects per academic year. Individual students without a team can get up to $3K. Teams can get a max of $6K for their projects.

Values investing at Columbia Business School

Columbia University’s Heilbrunn Center for Graham & Dodd Investing houses the Value Investing Program, a competitive program that accepts only 40 second-year MBA students. Successful admits complete 7 courses, including:

  • Modern Value 
  • Applied Value Investing
  • The Credit Superhighway
  • Economics of Strategic Behavior
  • Value Investing with Legends
  • Two elective courses from a menu of Heilbrunn Center courses

MBA students in the program also receive access to special programming, including career and recruiting workshops, mentoring, and networking events.

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Top 5 must-knows before you apply to the MBA program at Columbia

1. Two application intakes per year: August & January

One key thing that makes Columbia Business School different from the other top MBA programs is that it has two application intakes per academic year: August entry (70% of the class) and January entry (30% of the class).

August entry is for the standard two-year MBA program, with the summer between your first and second year dedicated to interning. The January entry program (or “J-term”) allows MBA students to earn an MBA in just 16 months by forgoing the summer internship option in order to accelerate their studies. J-term and August-entry students merge into a unified class in fall of the second year.

The J-term path is almost identical to the August entry in terms of admissions, competitiveness, student resources, academic rigor, and first year curriculum. The difference is that J-term students take the second-term classes of their first year during the summer in order to catch up to the August-entry class. Even without the summer internship, J-term students are not necessarily at a disadvantage because they can still pursue a school-term internship in their second year with a NYC-based company.

2. Rolling admissions decisions

Another distinctive feature of CBS is that MBA admissions decisions are made on a rolling basis. August-entry applicants have the option to apply Early Decision, with an early October deadline. Applicants who apply Early Decision must sign a Statement of Commitment and submit a $6K nonrefundable tuition deposit within 2 weeks of acceptance if an offer is made.

3. They accept the Executive Assessment

CBS is one of the programs that accepts the Executive Assessment (EA) – traditionally accepted by Executive MBA programs – in lieu of the GMAT and GRE for its full-time MBA applicants. This is a great option for otherwise qualified applicants with stellar profiles who have their hearts set on CBS but struggle with standardized tests like the GMAT and GRE. According to the EA website, the exam was “created specifically to measure the skills and knowledge of experienced professionals.” Because of that, “it’s designed to require minimal preparation and is significantly shorter in length at 90 minutes.”

If you’re burned out on studying for the GMAT or GRE or don’t have time because of the demands of your job, the EA is a fantastic option for your Columbia application. (Other M7 schools do not accept the EA in lieu of the GMAT/GRE yet). Columbia’s admissions committee only considers your highest score, so if your GMAT/GRE scores are below the average, try taking the EA. (FYI: CBS’s GMAT and Executive Assessment code is QF8-N6-52, and its GRE code is 6442.)

4. Excellent MBA training and strong career placement

According to a 2018 Bloomberg Businessweek study which surveyed 3,698 employers, recruiters ranked CBS MBA graduates #6 for the “Best Trained MBAs. In terms of brand and reputation among recruiters, CBS ranked #9. And despite CBS’s long-standing reputation for strong graduate career placement in finance (especially in the NYC job market), its Employment Reports for the past several years reveal that CBS actually sends more of its graduates into consulting than a career in finance.

Learn more about Columbia’s job placement in our MBA Career Report.

5. Campus changes on the horizon

CBS’s expected move to Manhattanville is part of Columbia University’s $6.3 billion dollar extension of its campus. While the new business school buildings offer the students the benefit of plenty of carefully designed meeting spaces to foster greater collaboration, the downside is that to make room for the new campus, the surrounding community in that area was disrupted. Gentrification has become a major issue arising as thousands of people were displaced from their homes and hundreds of small businesses were pushed out through alleged eminent domain abuses to make way for Columbia’s new campus.

For a more insight and perspective on this issue, check out this report by the Coalition Against Gentrification. You could ultimately be part of the solution by using your Columbia MBA to innovate ways of integrating and creating economic benefits for the surrounding communities. 

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Is Columbia Business School a cultural fit for you?

CBS community and campus life

CBS has been rumored on various MBA admissions forums over the years to have a cutthroat, competitive culture that lacks a sense of community due to its status as a “commuter school.” As with any information on public MBA forums, this rumor ought to be taken with a grain of salt and with some mindful consideration regarding how one defines “community.”

CBS in located in NYC, which is crowded, fast-paced, and (in many parts) grungy – pretty much the opposite of a quaint New England college town. Applicants who prefer a warm, close-knit feel where most students live and socialize on campus (or nearby) probably won’t find Columbia to be the right kind of community for them. Columbia MBA students live off-campus as a rule. Some are nearby in Morningside Heights; others live further away in the outer boroughs, suburbs, or across the Hudson River in New Jersey and commute to campus every day. But that’s not because Columbia students don’t value community and collaboration. It’s because Manhattan rent is so dang high!  

Columbia Business School doesn’t lack community. It has more than 100 student-led clubs, which host dozens of cultural, professional, athletic, and service-oriented events every week. Columbia even has dedicated Club Time built into students’ schedules every Tuesday and Thursday from 12:30 to 2:30 P.M. to encourage community engagement and collaboration. And, of course, outside of classes and clubs there are a gazillion fun things to explore in NYC.

CBS’s move to the new Manhattanville campus – which has more affordable housing options nearby – might help mitigate its reputation for having a far-flung study body. Its new buildings offer more meeting spaces for learning teams, clubs, and casual chats, which could also foster a warmer vibe.

One CBS alumna and journalist, Kim Gittleson, offered her critical opinions of Columbia and business schools in general in a 2017 opinion piece for Bloomberg. She argued that the lack of clear guiding values in business schools promoted a culture where the MBA is merely seen as a selfish entryway to six-figure salary jobs. For further reading on the matter, check out her Bloomberg opinion article, Chicago Tribune commentary article, and this Poet & Quants article about her. CBS has since expanded its written mission and values, including adding guiding values regarding diversity and inclusion on campus.

As always, do your own school research. Don’t let what you read on the internet and on MBA forums be a substitute for gathering first-hand intel about the CBS community. The best way to get a feel for the culture at CBS is to chat with current students and alumni about their experience. It’s also a great way to make new friends!

Class profile

With a class size of around 780, CBS’s MBA program includes students from almost 90 countries. Here’s a closer look at the demographics of their 2020 admits.

Test Scores & GPA
Applications Received
GMAT Range
Avg. GPA
Jan. Entry Class Size
Avg. Yrs. Work Exp.
5 years
Aug. Entry Class Size
Avg. Age
U.S. minority
American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Other Pacific Islander
Asian American
Black/African American
Did not report

Undergrad Field:

Pre-MBA Industry:

It’s interesting to note that a significant portion of the incoming class consists of students with business and economics academic backgrounds, while applicants from tech, the humanities, and the natural sciences are a small minority. Most applicants also have work experience in either financial services or consulting.

Will a Columbia Business School MBA increase your salary?

Most of Columbia’s MBA students take advantage of the CBS Career Management Center (CMC) to polish their resumes, find jobs, and prep for interviews.

According to the Columbia MBA Class of 2020 Employment Report, 90% of Columbia MBAs (of a class of 725) had full-time job offers within 3 months of graduation and 87% accepted those offers. 72% received full-time job offers through school-facilitated opportunities like internships, on-campus recruiting, school job boards, alumni networking, and school-sponsored networking events. 28% of graduates found full-time employment through their own independent efforts. 19 students started their own ventures.

Although Columbia has a reputation for attracting finance bros, it actually sends slightly more graduates into consulting.

Post-MBA Industry:

What’s unsurprising is that CBS MBA graduates rake in the dough. Here's a breakdown of where Columbia MBA graduates make money post-degree (and just how much).

Percent receiving
Base Salary
$70,000 – $375,000
Signing Bonus
$5,000 – $100,000
Other guaranteed compensation
$3,000 – $250,000

Compensation by Industry

% of MBA Class
Base Salary Range
Median Base Salary
Financial Services
Commercial/Consumer/Credit Cards
Not available
Investment Banking/Brokerage
$100,000 – $160,000
Hedge and Mutual Funds
$133,300 – $200,000
Private Equity
$110,000 – $375,000
Venture Capital
$105,000 -$260,000
Other Investment Mgmt
$100,000 – $210,000
$80,000 – $145,000
Consumer Products/Beverages/Food
Consumer Products – Luxury Goods
Not available
$72,000 – $180,000
$70,000 – $152,000
Internet Services/E-Commerce
$90,000 – $200,000
$120,000 – $145,000
$79,000 – $155,000
Real Estate
$135,00 – $170,000

For a broad list of hiring organizations, check out pages 12-13 of Columbia’s 2020 MBA Employment Report. Page 14 lists the top hiring companies for the Class of 2020 (also pictured below).

Top 10 Employers for Columbia MBA Class of 2020:

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Famous Columbia Business School alumni

Columbia Business School’s alumni network

Columbia boasts a large, accessible, and global alumni network of 48,000+ graduates. Domestic and international alumni clubs as well as affinity clubs and women’s circles dot the globe.

Here are just a few of Columbia Business School’s notable alumni:

  • Sallie Krawcheck – founded female investment platform Ellevest, a financial company with a digital investment platform for women by women. Barron’s has named her one of the 100 Most Influential Women in U.S. Finance.
  • Gail McGovern – CEO of the American Red Cross, former Harvard Business School faculty, and previous president of Fidelity Personal Investments. Check out this New York Times article on how she got the Red Cross out of financial trouble and continues to carry the organization’s mission forward in a post-pandemic world. Also be sure to check out her Columbia Alumni Impact video on creativity and trying new things.
  • Warren Buffet – While the “Oracle of Omaha” technically has a Master of Science in Economics from Columbia Business School (not an MBA), the billionaire Berkshire Hathaway CEO and philanthropist who has promised to donate over 99% of his wealth remains one of the school’s most notable alum.
  • Jamie Kern Lima – cofounder of IT Cosmetics, which she sold to L’Oreal for $1.2M in 2016. Check out her down-to-earth Ellen Show interview on how she turned personal setback into professional success. She also has an inspirational new release, Believe It: How to Go from Underestimated to Unstoppable.
  • Robert F. Smith – a billionaire philanthropist and venture capitalist (Founder and CEO of the Vista Equity Firm) who is considered by Forbes to be one of the 100 Greatest Living Minds and holds a spot on Bloomberg’s 50 People Who Defined 2019 list. He made the headlines when he committed to paying the debt of the entire graduating class of 2019 at Morehouse College after delivering their commencement address. He wanted to help bridge the wealth gap faced by black families and students in America by giving graduates of the historically black college the chance to start their careers with a clean slate.
  • Vikram Pandit – former Citigroup CEO and current CEO of the Orogen Group, as well as a member of the Board of Trustees for Columbia University.
  • Xavier Rolet – former CEO of the London Stock Exchange. Harvard Business Review named him one of 100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World (2017).
  • Colonel Timothy Kopra – astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station (ISS).
  • James Gorman – CEO of Morgan Stanley who also serves on the Federal Advisory Council to the U.S. Federal Reserve Board. He was listed in Bloomberg’s 50 Most Influential People in 2014.
  • Rochelle Lazarus – leads Ogilvy and Maher, the world’s most influential advertising and PR firm from 1996-2012. She introduced the concept of 360-degree branding.
  • Hanzade Dogan Boyner – founder of Turkey’s leading internet company, Dogan Online, and Chair of the e-commerce platform, Hepsiburada (known as the “Amazon of the East”).

Curious about other famous Columbia Business School alums? Read more on the notable lists at Ranker and AlumniUS.

Famous CBS professors and their research

The Business School at Columbia University boasts 13 Noble Prize winners in economics who taught or studied at Columbia.

CBS faculty members are world-renowned for their cutting-edge research and impact on standard business practices. For more information about current faculty research, check out CBS’s Ideas at Work. Here are a few examples:

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What writing the Columbia MBA essay will teach you about yourself

For the past few years, the Columbia MBA application contained 3 short essays of between 300 and 500 words each plus the optional essay. The first essay question asked about your career goals. The second usually asked about why Columbia (or NYC) was a fit for you. And the third essay was generally a little more creative, probing your character and values. 

CBS Admissions changed things up a bit for the 2021-2022 application essays to reflect its growing commitment to diversity and inclusion on campus. Applicants still had to answer the traditional short- and long-term career goals essay of 500 words, but they had the option to choose from a list of essay prompts for the second and third essays (which carried an even shorter word limit of 250).

Essay 1:

  • Through your resume and recommendation, we have a clear sense of your professional path to date. What are your career goals over the next three to five years and what, in your imagination, would be your long-term dream job? (500 words)

Essay 2 and 3: Please respond to two (2) of the three (3) essay questions listed below.

  • The Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL) is a new co-curricular program designed to ensure that every CBS student develops the skills to become an ethical and inclusive leader. Through PPIL, students attend programming focused on five essential diversity, equity, and inclusion skills: Creating an Inclusive Environment, Mitigating Bias, Communicating Across Identities, Addressing Systemic Inequity, and Managing Difficult Conversations.Tell us about a time you were challenged around one of these five skills. Describe the situation, the actions you took, and the outcome. (250 words)
  • Why do you feel Columbia Business School is a good fit for you? (250 words)
  • Tell us about your favorite book, movie, or song and why it resonates with you. (250 words)

In selecting your second and third essay topics from the choices given, you’ll learn about yourself as an applicant. Choosing the diversity prompt could indicate that you’re someone who values diversity and inclusion, and someone who can meaningfully contribute to CBS’s mission to advance DEI on campus. If you choose the “why Columbia” option, it signals that Columbia is one of your top choices and you can articulate specific ways in which a CBA MBA will advance your career. Selecting the third option could highlight you as a creative thinker – someone who is self-aware about your values and appreciates how those values are reflected in the arts and humanities.

There’s no right or wrong option in choosing which essays to write for your Columbia MBA application. The ones you naturally gravitate towards, or have an easier time answering, say something about what you have to offer the Columbia Business School community. Since there’s no way to predict what the admissions committee will be looking for in the personalities and diversity of any given MBA class, the MOST important thing is to write authentically and own what comes naturally to you.

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