How Much Do MBA Graduates Make?

Published: 04th June 2009
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The MBA or Masters of Business Administration is widely viewed as a ticket to a high salary job whether on Wall Street or in Corporate America. There are obviously many variables that contribute to high MBA earnings including the school attended, the field being worked in and the professional and personal contacts the MBA holder has access to. With that said, there is a certain earnings range that MBA graduates can expect that I go over in this article.

Traditionally, various publications such as BusinessWeek, U.S. News and World Reports, Forbes and others have focused on the average starting salary of graduates in their first year of graduation. In 2008, for the average of the top ten ranked schools this number was $120,400. The top two earning schools were The Wharton Business School and Harvard Business School. The top ten was closed out by the Duke (Fuqua) School.

The Long Term

Recently however a study was conducted that noticed something different over time. Some schools that were lower right out of the gate seemed to gain steam over others in the long run. Two schools in particular stood out as head and tails above all others in terms of total gross earnings 5, 10 and 20 years out from graduation.

The leaders were clearly Harvard and Wharton. Harvard led the pack with total 20 years gross earnings of $3,889,880 while Wharton came a close second with $3,541,110. The bottom two of the top ten schools were Michigan's Ross School and Duke. One school that seemed to benefit by its location and came in New York City was Columbia University's Business School. This was in large part to its proximity to Wall Street and the number of graduates that were hired into investment banking. Total 20 year gross for Columbia came in at $3,368, 440, bested only by Harvard and Wharton.

One surprise in the study was that contrary to belief the total gross income from schools in the 2nd '10', in other words the 11-20 slots in many ways held up to some of the top ten schools. Some standouts include Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business which outpaced several top ten schools with gross 20 year earnings of 3,181,610. This beat such schools as MIT, Chicago and UC Berkeley.

The Larger Perspective

When the rankings and earnings analysis is opened to the top 30 schools what is seen is that the range of earnings after 20 years ranges are all above the $2 million mark with the tail end being Indiana's Kelly School at $2,164,500. The average of the top 30 ranked schools in earnings for the first 20 years out of school is $2,750,724.

It does pay however to try and get into a school in this top 30 subset compared to a lesser school as schools in the next tier, ranked 31-45 had an average 20 year gross pay of $2,200,100; a full $550,000 average less than the average of a top 30 school but still nothing to be ashamed of. For more great information about the MBA please visit

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