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What Companies Are Paying MBAs This Year

The corporate recruiters who hire boatloads of MBAs expect to pay this year’s graduating class slightly less than they did last year. Median starting salaries for MBAs in the U.S. is expected to fall by $2,000 to $90,000, according to a study of corporate recruiters by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) published today (May 21).

GMAC said such slight declines are not uncommon in post-recession years, though it brings median salaries back to their 2008 level. Indeed, in four of of the five last years, median starting salary has been exactly $90,000.  Even so, GMAC said that salary data reported by full-time two-year MBA graduates in 2012 with job offers showed an 81% increase in salary in 2012 compared with their pre-degree jobs.

GMAC attempted to spin the decline in a positive light, noting that employers continue to offer MBA new hires a significantly higher median salary when compared with new hires with bachelor’s degrees. “This premium has remained in the $40,000 range for the last five years of available data, the study found.

These figures exclude signing and performance bonuses that companies offer in addition to base salaries. In the United States, where 46% of companies offer their starting MBA hires a signing bonus, the median signing bonus for those candidates is $15,000, which matches the signing bonus offered to MBA hires in 2011.

Expected Median Starting Salary for Newly Hired MBAs At U.S. Companies

In 2012, 48% of survey respondents plan to increase MBA starting salaries in comparison to last year; a closer look reveals some nuanced results, however. The 2012 Corporate Recruiters Survey asked respondents to estimate the direction of change in base salaries for recent business hires, taking inflation into account. Globally, 13 percent of companies plan to increase MBA starting salaries above the rate of inflation and 35 percent plan to increase pay at the rate of inflation. But half (50%) of participating companies plan to keep MBA starting salaries at 2011 levels without adjusting for inflation. Similar findings are seen across all degree types and geographic regions.

While these companies are not reducing the base salaries they offer new hires, the net result of stable salaries is slightly weakened purchasing power. These results are not surprising given the sluggish nature of the current economic recovery: Many countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, report that wages are struggling to keep up with inflation for most employees.

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