The Best MBA Programs for Private Equity

Business school has the potential to help private equity professionals level up through its curriculum, networking opportunities, and status. Here are the top MBA programs for those currently in or interested in PE.

Posted April 23, 2024

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If you are interested in a career in private equity, pursuing an MBA from a top-ranked business school can be one of the best investments you can make in your future. With the right MBA program, you can gain the skills, knowledge, and connections needed to succeed in this highly competitive field. In this article, we will provide you with an in-depth analysis of the top 10 MBA programs for private equity, as well as tips and strategies to maximize your chances of acceptance into these prestigious programs.

Private Equity and MBA Programs

Private equity is a form of investment in which high-net-worth individuals and institutional investors purchase shares in privately held companies. These investors typically seek to purchase a significant portion of a company, with the goal of helping it grow and eventually selling it for a profit. A career in private equity requires a combination of analytical skills, business acumen, and networking ability, which can be gained through an MBA program.

Private equity firms often look for MBA graduates to join their teams, as these individuals have a strong foundation in finance, strategy, and leadership. Many MBA programs offer specific courses in these areas, as well as opportunities for students to gain practical experience through internships and consulting projects. Additionally, MBA programs have strong alumni networks, which can be valuable for networking and job opportunities in the private equity industry.

The 10 Business Schools for a Career in Private Equity

To rank the top MBA programs for private equity, we reviewed data from various sources, including business school rankings, employment reports, and alumni surveys. We also considered factors such as curriculum, faculty, student body, and alumni network.

It is important to note that while these rankings provide valuable insight, they should not be the sole determining factor in choosing an MBA program for private equity. It is crucial for prospective students to also consider their personal career goals, location preferences, and financial situation when making this decision. Additionally, networking and gaining practical experience through internships and extracurricular activities can also greatly enhance one's chances of success in the private equity industry. With that, let’s dive in!

1. Harvard Business School

  • Graduates in Private Equity: 17%
  • Median Base Salary of PE Graduates: $185,000
    • Median Signing Bonus: $30,000 (42% receiving)
    • Median Performance Bonus: $181,250 (85% receiving)

Harvard Business School is widely considered to be the best MBA program for private equity. The school boasts a world-renowned faculty, a diverse student body, and a strong alumni network that includes many private equity industry leaders. Harvard's case study method of teaching provides students with a practical understanding of how to evaluate investment opportunities, while its wide range of electives provides students with a deep understanding of the industry. The school also offers a private equity and venture capital club that provides networking opportunities and access to industry events.

Sample Courses:

  • Venture Capital and Private Equity
  • Field Course: Private Equity Projects and Ecosystems
  • Private Equity Finance
  • Real Estate Private Equity
  • Field Course: Venture Capital Journey

More courses can be found in Harvard Business School’s course catalog.

For those who are more into their career, HBS offers an executive education program on VC/PE: Foundations of Private Equity and Venture Capital. This can be a good crash course for those who’d like to learn the basics in a sprint-style, structured program.

2. Stanford Graduate School of Business

  • Graduates in Private Equity: 18%
  • Median Base Salary of PE Graduates: $215,000
    • Median Signing Bonus: $27,500
    • Median Expected Performance Bonus: $160,000

Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) is another top-ranked MBA program for private equity. The school has a strong focus on entrepreneurship, which includes private equity and venture capital financing. The curriculum provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to evaluate investment opportunities, negotiate deals, and manage portfolio companies. The school's alumni network also includes many influential private equity professionals, which provides students with a valuable source of mentorship and networking.

With Stanford GSB’s rigorous curriculum, the school will equip you with the right knowledge for private equity. The core curriculum is composed of foundational topics like finance and leadership, and there are many elective courses that allow you to specialize in the topics you’re most interested in.

Sample Courses:

  • Private Equity — An Overview of the Industry
  • Economics of the Private Equity Industry
  • Capital Markets and Institutional Investing
  • Building a Money Management Business
  • Financial Restructuring

3. Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

  • Graduates in Private Equity: 14%
  • Median Base Salary of PE Graduates: $189,322

The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania is one of the most prestigious MBA programs in the world, especially for individuals in finance. Its alumni network in the private equity industry and adjacent fields is vast and impressive. The school's curriculum includes a wide range of private equity courses, including private equity investments, mergers and acquisitions, and LBOs. Wharton also offers a private equity and venture capital club, which connects students with alumni and provides opportunities to attend industry events.

Sample Courses:

  • Advanced Topics in Private Equity
  • The Finance of Buyouts and Acquisitions
  • Advanced Corporate Finance
  • International Financial Markets and Cryptocurrencies
  • Global Valuation and Risk Analysis

More courses can be found on Wharton’s website.

Private Equity: Investing and Creating Value is a program tailored for institutional investors and investment professionals seeking to enhance their expertise in private equity management. It’s offered through Wharton’s Executive Education opportunities for more mid and senior-level business leaders.

4. Columbia Business School

  • Graduates in Private Equity: 5.6%
  • Median Base Salary of PE Graduates: $175,000
    • Median Sign-On, Year-End, and Other Guaranteed Compensation: $71,000

Columbia Business School is a well-respected MBA program that provides students with a strong foundation in finance, which is essential for a career in private equity. The school's curriculum includes courses on private equity, as well as equity valuation and investment banking. Columbia also boasts a strong network of alumni in the private equity industry, and the school offers a private equity and venture capital club that provides students with access to industry events and alumni.

Columbia Business School offers an elective course on the Foundations of Private Equity. The curriculum delves into the multifaceted role of private equity, exploring its function as both a financing mechanism and an investment avenue. Participants examine the intricate dynamics encountered by various stakeholders — investors, lending institutions, managers, entrepreneurs/shareholders, and advisors — throughout the investment lifecycle and negotiation stages. Key topics cover industry structure, comprehensive analysis of investment scenarios, and the underlying factors driving value generation.

Sample Courses:

See all courses in Columbia Business School’s course catalog.

Columbia Business School’s Private Equity Program has also emerged as a pivotal hub connecting students, alumni, the Columbia community, and the broader business sphere into a cohesive network. Through strategic industry partnerships, the program facilitates collaboration between the business school, the university at large, and the private equity sector, fostering mutual enrichment and expanding the intellectual horizons of the Private Equity Program.

This program offers an annual KKR Competition for students every fall, where they can learn more about private equity, understand the value of diverse teams, and learn to pitch an investment in a real-life context. There is also an annual Deal Camp program, a learning event where participants are taught the basics of private equity.

5. Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

One-Year MBA

  • Graduates in Private Equity: 19.23%
  • Median Base Salary of PE Graduates: $180,000

Two-Year MBA

  • Graduates in Private Equity: 9.81%
  • Median Base Salary of PE Graduates: $190,000

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University has a top-ranked finance program. The school's private equity curriculum includes courses on PE investments, deal structuring, and portfolio management, among others. The school also offers a private equity and venture capital club, which provides students with networking opportunities and access to industry events.

Northwestern Kellogg offers a variety of “Pathways” for its MBA candidates – these are specialized tracks that make it easy for students to pursue a certain career or interest path. One of those available is a Venture Capital and Private Equity Pathway, a great opportunity for aspiring investment professionals.

Sample Courses:

  • Mergers and Acquisitions, LBOs, and Corporate Restructuring
  • Wall Street, Hedge Funds, and PE
  • Private Equity Deep Dive
  • Private Equity Lab
  • Value Creation and Capture in Biopharmaceuticals

6. Booth School of Business, University of Chicago

  • Graduates in Private Equity: 9.1%
  • Median Base Salary of PE Graduates: $166,500

The Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago has a rigorous, highly-regarded finance curriculum. The school's private equity curriculum includes courses on private equity investments, portfolio management, and risk management. The school also has a private equity and venture capital club that gives students access to industry events and alumni. The Chicago Booth School of Business offers numerous elective courses that you can choose from to help you broaden your knowledge in private equity.

Sample Courses:

  • Entrepreneurial Finance and Private Equity
  • Private Equity Transactions
  • Financial Econometrics
  • Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition
  • Women as Entrepreneurs, Venture Capitalists, Private Equity Executives, Investors and Board Members

See all courses in Booth’s course catalog.

The Chicago Booth School of Business also has a Private Equity Group that hosts year-round events and workshops to help students learn the necessary skills and network.

7. Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College

  • Graduates in Private Equity: 3%
  • Median Base Salary of PE Graduates: $175,000
    • Median Signing Bonus: $10,000 (80% receiving)

The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College may be small, but it has a strong reputation in the private equity industry. The school's PE curriculum includes courses on investments, deal structuring, and portfolio management. Tuck's network of alumni in the private equity industry is also impressive, and the school's private equity and venture capital club provides students with valuable networking opportunities.

Sample Courses:

  • Quantitative Private Equity
  • Small Buyouts Private Equity Practicum
  • Structuring Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Venture Capital and Private Equity
  • Research to Practice Seminar: Corporate Takeovers

Visit Tuck School of Business’s website to see all of their elective courses.

8. Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley

  • Graduates in Private Equity: 4.8%
  • Median Base Salary of PE Graduates: $150,000

The Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley is known for entrepreneurship, energy, venture capital, and socially responsible students, among others. Though there are fewer graduates who go on to private equity than some of the other schools on this list, there is still a good chunk which leads to a decently sized alumni network. The curriculum is slightly more limited, but still has many investing-related electives available.

Sample Courses:

  • Private Equity Leveraged Buyouts
  • Designing Financial Models That Work
  • Valuation Models
  • Financial Information Analysis
  • Corporate Financial Reporting

The Fall 2024 MBA Elective Schedule can be found here.

Berkeley Haas also offers a Finance concentration for MBA candidates that, it claims, “reflects the Bay Area at large; we live and excel here at the global intersection of finance, technology, entrepreneurship, and impact.” MBA students not only have the chance to join the Finance, Investment, Private Equity, Fintech, and Venture Capital clubs, but also participate in national competitions like the Alpha Challenge, Impact Investing Competition, Sustainable Investing Challenge, and other various PE competitions.

9. Sloan School of Management, MIT

  • Graduates in Private Equity: 2.4%
  • Median Base Salary of PE Graduates: $180,000

The Sloan School of Management at MIT is a STEM-oriented MBA program that emphasizes financial engineering. MIT's network of alumni in the private equity industry is also impressive, and the school's private equity and venture capital club also provides students with valuable networking and recruiting opportunities. Instead of concentrations, Sloan offers different certificate programs that allow students to tailor their education to their needs. For individuals interested in PE, there is a Finance Certificate available. Sloan is a great choice for those interested in a more quantitative and tech-centric career in private equity.

Sample Courses:

  • Mergers, Acquisitions, and Private Equity
  • Practice of Finance: Perspectives on Investment Management
  • Healthcare Finance
  • Proseminar in Corporate Finance/Investment Banking/Private Equity
  • Laboratory in Investments

More courses can be found at MIT Sloan’s course catalog.

The Sloan School of Management’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Club offers resources to help you learn more about private equity. Additionally, you can attend member-exclusive sessions and networking opportunities that can help you build connections throughout the community.

10. Yale School of Management

  • Graduates in Private Equity: 2.3%
  • Median Base Salary of PE Graduates: $150,000

The Yale School of Management has a highly regarded finance program that prepares students for careers in private equity and other competitive paths. The school's PE curriculum includes courses on traditional topics, as well as innovative courses on impact investing and social entrepreneurship. Yale also has a private equity and venture capital club with frequent events.

Sample Courses:

  • Private Equity: Value Creation
  • Private Equity: Leveraged Buyouts
  • Private Capital and Impact Investing
  • Investment Management
  • The Future of Global Finance

See all of Yale SOM’s courses here.

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How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Into a Top-Ranked MBA Program for Private Equity

Most upper leadership in private equity have an MBA or other graduate-level degree and because of this, there are a lot of people from similar, “traditional” career paths applying to top MBA programs. Business schools don’t evaluate your profile compared to every single other person applying – they compare you to people with similar backgrounds/aspirations. If you’re coming from private equity, management consulting, investment banking, etc. with the goal of getting into a top PE fund post-MBA, you are not alone. The key is differentiating why you belong at the school compared to these other individuals.

Here are four things we recommend focusing on in your application to give you a better chance of admission.

  1. Focus on nailing the basics, especially your standardized test score: Your score should ideally be above the class profile average for your target program(s), the quant section even more so.
  2. Have a clear idea of your goals: You’re not committing to follow the specific path, but you do want to have a really strong understanding of how you’re going to make an impact in your field post-graduation. Schools want to accept people who will reflect the program well throughout their careers. They’ll choose the people who, they think, have the greatest chance of success.
  3. Highlight what makes you unique: Your work experience may be “traditional” and look like a lot of others, but there is more room for differentiation within that than most people think. What do you do in your free time? What special projects did you take on at work? What is your unique spin in the private investment world? What makes you tick, what are you passionate about? All of these things can make you stand apart in the crowd.
  4. Demonstrate fit with the program: Another way to differentiate yourself from others is to show that you know exactly what a specific school has to offer for your career and interests. Going into the interview/application with a clear understanding of the clubs, professors, classes, trips, competitions, and other opportunities that you plan to take advantage of will give the AdCom confidence in your desire to make the most of the program.

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