McCombs School of Business | Ms. Registered Nurse Entrepreneur
GMAT 630, GPA 3.59
Chicago Booth | Mr. Desi Boy
GMAT 740, GPA 3.0
Rice Jones | Mr. Simple Manufacturer
GRE 320, GPA 3.95
Chicago Booth | Mr. Corporate Development
GMAT 740, GPA 3.2
Tepper | Ms. Coding Tech Leader
GMAT 680, GPA 2.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Impactful Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.7
Kellogg | Mr. Hopeful Engineer
GMAT 720, GPA 7.95/10 (College follows relative grading; Avg. estimate around 7-7.3)
Wharton | Mr. Rates Trader
GMAT 750, GPA 7.6/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Former SEC Athlete
GMAT 620, GPA 3.8
Tuck | Mr. Army To MBB
GMAT 740, GPA 2.97
Columbia | Mr. Forbes 30 Under 30
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB Advanced Analytics
GMAT 750, GPA 3.1
Chicago Booth | Mr. Banker To CPG Leader
GMAT 760, GPA 7.36/10
Ross | Mr. Leading-Edge Family Business
GMAT 740, GPA 2.89
Darden | Mr. Logistics Guy
GRE Not taken Yet, GPA 3.1
Kellogg | Mr. Stylist & Actor
GMAT 760 , GPA 9.5
Columbia | Mr. Ambitious Chemical Salesman
GMAT 720, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. Irish Biotech Entrepreneur
GMAT 730, GPA 3.2
Stanford GSB | Mr. Cricketer Turned Engineer
GMAT 770, GPA 7.15/10
Wharton | Mr. Planes And Laws
GRE 328, GPA 3.8
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Refrad
GMAT 700, GPA 3.94
Harvard | Mr. Supply Chain Photographer
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
Chicago Booth | Mr. Space Launch
GMAT 710, GPA 3.0
Kellogg | Ms. Product Strategist
GMAT 700, GPA 7.3/10
Columbia | Mr. MBB Consultant
GRE 339, GPA 8.28
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Avocado Farmer
GMAT 750, GPA 3.08
Georgetown McDonough | Mr. International Development Consultant

The Best Paid MBA Concentrations

pretty woman throwing money

There are three phases in any MBA decision-making process. First, you’ll evaluate the degree’s value. You’ll weigh the $200K (or more) you’ll forego in tuition and lost wages against bigger paychecks, which can go as high as $3 million dollars (or more) over a career. Then, you’ll compare programs by their networks and prestige, where the income difference between acceptance at Harvard or Notre Dame could be a million dollars or more over 20 years. But there’s still one more choice: What should I specialize in? Yes, that decision, too, could cost you $50K-$60K a year.

No pressure, right?

If you’re applying now, you’re probably fretting over whether you’ll get into your top choice or a safety school. If your GMAT score was below par, you might be wondering if you’ll be condemned to a second-tier school. Let’s face it: The best companies target the top programs. And being accepted at a celebrated school provides the coveted halo effect. It is a stamp of approval, proof that you had the academic chops and professional pedigree to join a very exclusive club.

However, not all MBA (or business master’s) degrees are created equal in employers’ eyes. Sure, your concentration may not be your destiny. Depending on your employer (and advocates), it can give you a faster start by exposing you to the right people sooner. So before you sock big money into a concentration that the market doesn’t value, ask yourself: Where can I earn the highest return over my career?


That question was recently addressed by PayScale, a leading data warehousing firm that specializes in employee compensation. In October, PayScale released its “Gradate Degrees by Salary Potential” list, which revealed the early and mid-career salaries for holders of 232 fields of studies. The list included salary data for holders of advanced degrees at 166 business schools, 55 law schools, 336 non-MBA master’s schools, and 49 doctorate-granting research universities.

As with all data sets, the salary information consisted of “base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, and overtime.” However, it did not take into equity or stock compensation. PayScale’s methodology also didn’t incorporate benefits like pensions or healthcare benefits into salaries.

The data is broken down by major and degree. PayScale provided salary information at “early career” (an average of zero to five years of professional experience) and mid-career (10 or more years of professional experience). In addition, the data included a “high job meaning” category, the percentage of degree holders who answered “yes” to “Does your work make the world a better place?” According to The Atlantic, 180,000 MBA degree-holders participated in PayScale’s salary listing for degrees.


Chess 3So which concentrations provide the highest return? According to PayScale, the honor goes to strategy, which ranked #1 among MBA degree types and #5 overall, probably because of the large numbers of strategy consultants at the Big Three firms which are now hiring top MBAs to start at a base of $135,000. At mid-career, MBAs specializing in strategy can expect an annual median salary of $145,000, owing to the fact that when you count up all the MBAs out there, very few of them work for McKinsey, Bain or BCG. Following closely behind was “general and strategic management” at $140,700, which ranked #7 overall. Strategy also topped the early career salary ranking at $92,200, followed by an MBA in “computer science” at $83,000.

Overall, the top income earners held a master’s degree in Petroleum Engineering, where graduates were earning a median mid-career salary of $187,600. That was followed by professionals who held a master’s in Nurse Anesthesia ($162,800), a doctorate in Computer Engineering ($150,000), and a doctorate in Electrical and Computer Engineering ($145,100). A law degree ranked #10 at $139,000.

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