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MBA salary statistics

Can a business degree really pay for itself?


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Business schools often justify the six-figure price tag with the promise of a high-paying job after graduation. But your degree is only one factor in the salary you earn with an MBA. If you’re thinking of getting your MBA, consider the starting salary and potential debt load before you apply.

What’s the median starting salary for an MBA graduate?

The median starting salary for an MBA graduate was expected to be $115,000 in 2019, according to a survey of corporate recruiters by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).

Starting salaries in the top 25% range had an expected median of $125,000. The lowest 25% had an expected median of $85,000.

What schools have the highest starting salary for MBA graduates?

Where you go to school can have a huge impact on your starting salary — especially if you don’t have much experience. Going to a top-tier school doesn’t just look good to top recruiters. A good MBA program should also offer lots opportunities to build connections and land prestigious internships.

MBA graduates from these schools had the highest starting salaries in 2019, according to US News & World Report.

Business schoolClass of 2019 average starting salary and signing bonus
UPenn – Wharton$181,927
NYU – Stern$173,513
University of Chicago – Booth$173,438
Dartmouth – Tuck$169,947
Northwestern – Kellogg$168,924
MIT – Sloan$168,745
University of Virginia – Darden$168,626

What MBA programs have the highest ROI for graduates?

Getting an MBA can cost as much as $200,000 — which often means lots of debt for graduates. These schools offered the highest return on your investment (ROI) in 2018, according to US News & World Report.

MBA graduates of the top business school on this list make an average starting salary that’s 5.4 times higher than the average student debt load.

SchoolAverage starting salary and signing bonusAverage student debtSalary-to-debt ratio
University of Washington – Foster$157,050$28,9685.4-to-1
University of Wisconsin – Madison$119,645$25,7374.6-to-1
Arizona State University$117,272$30,2173.9-to-1
University of Florida$124,245$37,0353.4-to-1
Pennsylvania State University – University Park$126,406$40,1223.2-to-1
University of Rochester$128,543$40,8643.1-to-1
University of Georgia$109,785$36,6033-to-1
NC State University$105,340$36,2882.9-to-1
University of Arizona$105,673$37,4362.8-to-1
Michigan State University$125,320$51,9882.4-to-1

What industries have the highest average salaries for MBA graduates?

Regardless of where you go to school, you might not make that top salary if you don’t go into the right industry. Consulting generally earns you the most, according to US News & World Report. If a bigger paycheck is the name of your game, stay away from nonprofit and government work — that earns the least.

Average salary for MBA graduates by industry

IndustryAverage salary for class of 2019 grads
Financial services$130,001
Real estate$112,086
Health care$109,866
Media and entertainment$108,849
Consumer packaged goods$108,328
Transportation and logistics services$100,726
Human resources$92,046

What types of companies have the highest starting salaries?

Similar to industry, the kind of company you work for can have some effect on your salary — though not as much as your school or industry.

The median starting salary is generally the same for most types of companies, according to 2019 projections in a Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) survey. For-profit companies tend to have the widest range of starting salaries, while public and Fortune 500 companies tend to have the narrowest data.

MBA starting salary by company type

Type of companyMedian starting salary for new hires in 2019
Global Fortune 500$115,000
Global Fortune 100$115,000
For-profit, private$115,000
For-profit, public$115,000

Company size also comes into play

The number of employees in your company can also make a difference. Larger companies tend to offer higher salaries, according to GMAC projections. But don’t write off a startup in favor of a small firm — it doesn’t really make much of a difference until the employee count reaches 1,000.

Starting salary for MBA graduates by company size

Number of employeesProjected median starting salary for new hires in 2019
Less than 100$95,000
100 to 999$95,000
1,000 to 9,999$105,000
10,000 or more$115,000

Where you live can affect your salary, too

Move to the Northeast if you want to have the highest starting salary, according to those same GMAC projections for 2019. But before you start packing your bags, consider the cost of living. Salaries might be the lowest in the South, but that might also spell lower housing, transportation and food prices.

Starting salary for MBA graduates by region

RegionMedian starting salary for new hires in 2019

How MBA salaries compare with other business degrees

MBAs are the highest-earning business degree on average, according to 2019 projections in the GMAC survey. But don’t write off other master’s programs just yet. Any graduate degree will earn you a higher salary than a bachelor’s when you’re just starting your career.

Starting salary by type of business degree

Business degreeMedian starting salary for new hires in 2019
Master of Finance$85,000
Master of Data Analytics$85,000
Master in Management$80,000
Master of Accounting$75,000
Bachelor’s degree$55,000

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