Choosing to study for an MBA often means making a large financial investment in your future.
Arming yourself with as much knowledge as much as possible about your potential post-graduation salary and how your investment will pay off with can help you weigh up the big decision.
Here we explore MBA graduate salaries at different schools, in various countries and regions of the world, as well as in different sectors, to find out who’s earning the most and where you can find the best value.
Some MBA grads in the US can expect to earn six-figure salaries
In terms of MBA graduates in the US, especially those who studied at top-tier schools, salaries have been going up.
A recent report from GMAC found that average salaries of recent MBA graduates in the US are set to top $110,000, an increase of $5,000 over 2015.
And, unsurprisingly, graduates from the top-ranked programs generally have the highest salaries.
According to a recent MBA salary report from US News & World Report, 90 percent of grads who were seeking work found jobs within three months of graduating – although it’s worth noting that of the 131 US schools surveyed in US News’ annual MBA report, 88 percent of MBA graduates found work within three months, so going to a top-tier school doesn’t make so much difference when finding work.
But where it does make a difference is in salary. Graduates from the rankings’ top schools earned an average of at least $100,000 per annum as their base salary.
The school with the highest-earning graduates was Stanford University, with an average starting salary of just over $140,000. Harvard University MBA graduates earned, on average, $134,071.
Even the school with the sixth-highest paid graduates, New York University Stern School of Business, saw them earning, on average, a little more than $120,000 per year before bonuses.
Compare that to schools lower in the rankings: according to the most recent MBA ranking from US News, for instance, MBAs from the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business bring in around a still-respectable $91,000 per year; graduates from William and Mary’s Mason School of Business make just over $87,000, on average.
US MBA grads have the highest salaries – but grads in Asia and Europe aren’t far behind
Looking globally, salaries of MBAs at the top US schools tend to be the highest. According to data from the most recent Financial Times’ Global MBA Ranking, US-based schools dominated the top 10 positions for salary.
The ranking, which uses salary data from graduates three years after finishing their MBAs, found that alumni of the top 100 MBA courses from the Class of 2013 were paid, on average, $142,000 per year.
In terms of overall salaries, Stanford University was the top school, with graduates earning, on average, $195,322 per year.
The index was adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP), a controversial way of comparing the earning power of people in different countries by comparing a “basket” of common goods.
As a result of this adjustment, the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A) was ranked second for average earnings, with its graduates earning, on average, $181,863 when adjusted for PPP.
Of course salaries in India are much lower than in the US, and the difference between the earnings of someone with an MBA qualification and the wages of an average worker in India is incredibly vast.
The use of PPP gives MBA programs in low-earning countries an ever better chance of placing highly in the earnings rankings, which can be viewed as a distortion: because, of course, in real terms, most IIM-A grads make nowhere near $180,000 USD. For example, 2016 IIM-A PGP-X grads who landed jobs in India after graduation made, on average, around $36,000 after converting from the Indian ruble. Grads working international made around $110,000, on average.
Across the US MBA programs ranked in the Financial Times’ top 100, average salaries three years after graduation ranged from just under $200,000 per year for Stanford University grads down to $98,464 for graduates of Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
In the UK, the University of Strathclyde Business School’s graduates were earning, on average, $98,105 per year, but the top-earners, from University of Cambridge Judge Business School were earning, on average, $164,462.
In France, the four schools ranked in the top 100 earned, on average, somewhere between $101,596 at Grenoble Ecole de Management and $167,657 at INSEAD (based in France and Singapore).
In Germany, the two ranked schools—ESMT Berlin and Mannheim Business School—had a much more modest range with average salaries of $108,360 and $113,829 respectively.
Salaries for Australian MBA graduates were also more modest, ranging between $100,319 and $131,488 for graduates from the three Australian schools listed in the top 100.
In Asia, Chinese schools’ graduates earned, on average, somewhere between $121,193 and $159,870 when weighted for PPP. Graduates from Nanyang Business School earned, on average, $126,218 per year three years after graduation, while graduates from the National University of Singapore Business School earned a little more at $131,760, on average – still considerably lower than the graduates from INSEAD.
Of course, the range of MBA grads’ salaries in any of these countries is much broader once you move outside the top 100. If you have a certain school in mind for your MBA studies, it’s always worth researching their specific salary figures. Because often, the salary you’re offered following graduation has a lot to do with the name of the school where you studied.
Which industries are paying the most?
The Financial Times’ Global MBA Ranking 2017 found that MBA grads’ salaries in all sectors except education had increased from last year, and that these increases were by the largest amount in a decade.
MBA graduates working in financial services were the best paid, with graduates in that field earning $159,000 on average. MBA grads in ecommerce were the second-highest earnings, with an average salary of $154,000.
Data from the US News’ 2016 survey shows a similar pattern, however they put consultants’ earnings slightly ahead of those working in financial services.
Those working in technology, the energy sector and healthcare (including products and services) were the next-highest earners, respectively.
Those MBA graduates with positions in retail rounded out those sectors with MBA grads earning six-figures, on average.
MBA graduates working in media, manufacturing and real estate earned a little under $100,000 on average per year, and those in the non-profit sector earned considerably less, with average earnings of just $81,776.
It’s important to know as much as possible about your potential earnings before investing in your studies, to make sure your MBA has the desired result on your earnings.
But quality of life in different cities and countries, job satisfaction and future career opportunities are also factors worth weighing up when considering your potential salary post-graduation.
Image: Many dollar banknotes by Jericho CC BY 2.0 (cropped)