2 Of 5 MBAs In Totally Unexpected Careers


GMAC’s latest survey uncovered few surprises overall, and that includes on the salary front. For entry-level jobs, the highest average base salary, by far, is in the energy sector ($90,106), with the next-highest being in tech ($72,800). Move up a rung to mid-level and energy still rules at $129,076 — but on the next stop, senior level, energy ($158,540) gives way to finance/accounting at $164,932. Consulting offers the top salaried executive positions ($243,601), and energy swoops back into the lead at the C-suite level with an average salary of $321,579.

A new wrinkle in the GMAC survey this year was its calculations using other forms of compensation, such as bonuses. Researchers learned what percentage of compensation was from base salary and discovered that the higher one rises in the ranks, the more one’s compensation comes from non-salary sources. In short, B-school alumni earn 76 percent of their total compensation in base salary, a figure that drops correspondingly with a rise up the career ladder. The average total compensation package for graduate B-school alumni ranges from a median of $75,513 for an entry-level position upward to a median of $440,122 for a C-suite executive.

In the 2016 alumni survey, GMAC measured ROI and found that on average, B-school grads earned back their educational expenses within about four years of graduation. This year the survey did not include that question, “because to get that information and to get the information on salary progression is time-consuming on the respondents’ part, we don’t want to overburden them by asking for both in the same year,” Schoenfeld says.


More than 1,500 entrepreneurs responded to the alumni survey, representing 11 percent of the total sample. Most have businesses in the consulting and products and services industries and employ fewer than 25 people, and most — 65% — began their business after working for a company following graduation. This latter fact explains in part why only 5% of a 1,000-person subset of respondents, members of the Class of 2016, identified as entrepreneurs: These very recent grads took the GMAC survey only four to six months after graduating.

“That 5% from the Class of 2016 has traditionally held steady since we’ve started doing any type of alumni studies,” Schoenfeld says. “When we start looking at entrepreneurship over time it starts increasing. So we delved a little deeper to ask specifically, ‘When do you start your business?’ And what we did find is that 55% of eventual entrepreneurs end up working for a company for a while after graduation.”

GMAC found that 12% of  alumni sought venture capital for their business and 72% of those received funding. About 1 in 8 (12%) of entrepreneur alumni partnered with a classmate to start a business; many said they had access to a variety of school resources to support their initiatives. Asked by GMAC to describe their reasons for going to B-school, one part-time MBA who received his degree in 2012 said he started his business when he was young and “not very knowledgable,” and as his business grew he realized he needed formal education “to better foster the maturation of my ventures.” Another set of respondents echoed each other in saying they went to B-school to learn essential skills.

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