Background: Although many studies have assessed cognitive functioning in first-episode schizophrenia (FESz), the pattern and severity of impairment across cognitive domains remain unclear. Moreover, few studies have directly compared the pattern of cognitive performance between FESz and chronic schizophrenia (CSz). In this study we examined the cognitive impairment profile in FESz using a standardized neurocognitive battery (MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery; MCCB). Methods: MCCB data were compared from 105 FESz patients, 176 CSz patients and 300 non-psychiatric (NP) participants. Mixed model analysis evaluated group differences in MCCB profiles and relative strengths and weaknesses in the MCCB profiles of patients. Clinical implications of MCCB performance were also examined; we compared the proportion of participants from each group who exhibited clinically-significant global cognitive impairment based on the MCCB Overall Composite score. Results: FESz and CSz showed impaired performance across all MCCB domains relative to NP. With the exception of relative preservation of working memory and social cognition in FESz, the MCCB domain scores were similar in FESz and CSz. The distribution of impairment on the Overall Composite score did not significantly differ between FESz and CSz; compared to NP, both patient groups were overrepresented in moderate and severe impairment categories. Conclusion: The pattern, magnitude, and distribution of severity of impairment in FESz were similar to that observed in CSz. However, early in the illness, there may be relative sparing of working memory and social cognition. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.