MBAs Who Get The Highest Pay

All the hard work to get into a good business school, all the hard work once you’re there — it’s all for a reason, right? In the end, for the great majority of MBA seekers, the long journey has one purpose: getting paid.

So, how are you going to maximize your experience to get the biggest ROI? Which schools offer the best pathway to the rich rewards you’re seeking (and no doubt deserve)? Poets&Quants crunched the data from the latest U.S. News ranking and found some fascinating facts — even as the main answers to these questions will probably elicit a collective “that figures.”

First, the obvious: If you get an MBA from a top-10 school, you’re going to make bank — and for the last five years, while the leading schools have jockeyed for position as the top spots for top pay, the overall landscape hasn’t changed much. In 2017, Stanford Graduate School of Business offered the best average salary-plus-signing-bonus package, at $173,989 (average $144,455 salary, $29,534 bonus), followed by Harvard Business School ($167,148), the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania ($166,930), Columbia Business School ($163,577), and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business ($159,911). The average salary-plus-bonus for the top-10 schools: $161,165.

Of course, the data is only as good as the sample size. For Stanford, only 203 grads reported salary data and another 103 reported bonus numbers. Compare that to Harvard, where 607 reported salary data, or Chicago Booth, where 309 reported their bonuses. When the sample is as small as Stanford’s, a couple of huge numbers can really move the needle of the average.


Stanford didn’t have the top salary-plus-bonus combo in 2013. That distinction belonged to Wharton, at $141,243. But while Wharton increased its average pay by 18.2% over the ensuing five years, Stanford had the biggest increase among all top-10 schools, at 26.5%. Compare that to a top-10 average of 17.5%. The smallest increase among top-10 schools: Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, which rose 13.8% to $158,194.

The elite of the elite are fun to look at, but they are not the whole story, of course. Nor do you find some of the most standout data there. The highest increase in average pay between 2013 and 2017, for example, wasn’t at Stanford or Harvard or MIT Sloan — it was at the University of Florida, where MBAs from the No. 34-ranked Hough Graduate School of Business saw a 38% rise in average pay, to $116,281. The University of Rochester Simon Business School, No. 44, was a close second at 32.7%, to $122,400. On the flip side, the smallest increase came at the Wisconsin School of Business: 4.9%, to $114,635.

Because of ties in the U.S. News ranking, 51 schools can claim to be a “top 50 school” in 2017. Of those 51, only one, the University of Texas-Dallas Jindal School of Management, at No. 40, has average pay that remains in five figures: $99,836. In 2013, that five-figure population was 12 schools. Eighteen schools in the top 51 saw greater than 20% increases in average pay over five years (two, Tennessee-Knoxville Haslam and Utah Eccles, are four-year snapshots because of a lack of data). Only seven schools saw increases of 10% or less.


How much newly minted MBAs make coming out of B-school with their shiny new degrees is usually mitigated by how much they’ve paid to get to that point. In many cases, there’s some serious mitigation going on. We all know that B-school costs include many factors beyond tuition, but as a baseline, the bill a school sends its students can be telling as to just how rarefied is the air they’re breathing. In 2017, the biggest two-year tuition bill was for those lucky attendees of Harvard Business School, who paid $144,000 to set foot on Cambridge’s storied campus (of course, only 9.9% who applied got the privilege of paying that). That was a 22.3% increase from 2014 — but back then the biggest tuition could be found at another Ivy: Wharton, where two years and an MBA cost $136,420.

Incredibly, of the 26 schools P&Q examined tuition data for, Wharton had among the smallest increases from 2014 to 2017: just 2.9%. The smallest was a mere 1.1% increase at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, to $116,276. Also noteworthy: Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business’ 2.3% rise, to $112,800. And the biggest tuition jump? That was at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, which saw a 22.7% jump to $118,000.

See the following pages for a full list of salary + bonus data for the top 50 schools and a side-by-side comparison from five years ago. On Thursday (April 5) P&Q will publish an even deeper dive into pay data, including average “other” compensation for the top schools, percentages reporting a bonus, and more.

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