What MBAs Earn By Industry: Here’s How Much You’re Worth

Don’t settle for less.

That’s the right mentality to enter any negotiation. Win-win? Sure, but you don’t want to leave anything on the table either. This is the era of more, a time when we’re pushing for those little extras – more money, more options, more authority, more impact, more time.

…and you wouldn’t expect anything less from MBAs.

Why wouldn’t they want more? They just gave up two years for business school. Over that time, they would’ve collected six figures in income…and maybe a promotion too. Now, there are debts to pay and time to make up. Come graduation, it’s payback time. After all, MBAs are the epitome of high potentials with high ceilings. They’ve developed deep expertise, absorbed cutting edge ideas, and honed mad skills. They’re hungry and tested, inventive and passionate – projecting minimal risk and maximum return.


Problem is, some MBAs haven’t quite pegged what they’re worth. There are plenty of clues, of course. By school, you can review overall class pay. For the short-term, there are signing bonuses. Of course, regional pay can also tip you off to how the market views MBAs. Here’s another piece of the puzzle: a breakdown of MBA pay by industry.

It’s starting pay, sure. These numbers reflect just how much in base employers are willing to shell out for fresh MBA talent. These numbers, admittedly, are strictly base. That also means they are fixed, enabling MBAs to compare pay from year-to-year, school-to-school, and industry-to-industry.

Along with average pay, the data also includes low and high base pay. In other words, MBAs can learn just how far an employer might go to land their prized recruit. While starting pay is seemingly fixed in some companies and roles, there is enough variance to show MBAs still possess some wiggle room.

Harvard Business School celebrated the first virtual graduation in its lone 112 year history

Take the high end of base pay. Most people associate Harvard Business School with General Management. Who wouldn’t with its “West Point of Capitalism” moniker? In fact, one 2019 HBS MBA pulled in a $200,000 base. That, however, isn’t the high point for last spring’s graduating class in General Management. A Berkeley Haas MBA matched that $200K base – and a Stanford GSB grad topped it with a $210K offer. And hold onto your seats: one Columbia Business School grad actually negotiated a $263K base!


And these big paydays aren’t reserved for the elite MBA programs. Let’s return to General Management, where a 2019 Penn State MBA grabbed $175K to start – the same amount earned by the top-performing grad at both Chicago Booth and Northwestern Kellogg. Impressed? At Brigham Young University, the highest-paid General Management grad earned $180K – or more than his or her top-end counterparts at Duke Fuqua ($170K), Wharton School ($165K), Yale SOM ($156K), MIT Sloan ($150K), Michigan Ross ($150K), and Dartmouth Tuck ($145K). At the same time, high pay can vary by year. For example, Georgetown McDonough General Management grads maxed out at $137K in 2019. That’s not their ceiling. After all, one grad made $180K the year before!

In other words, MBAs may be less limited by their schools’ rankings and more by their own abilities and audacity.

The gaps narrow when it comes to industry average pay. Even here, you’ll find outliers. The highest-paid graduates as a whole? They aren’t found in Boston, Philadelphia, and Palo Alto. Instead, think Charlottesville and Hanover, as in Virginia Darden and Dartmouth Tuck. Their 2019 consulting grads averaged $151,903 and $150,359 respectively – edging out Harvard Business School ($149,504), Wharton ($147,354), and Stanford GSB ($145,093). At the same time, Yale SOM’s Consulting average bases ($133,996) falls short of lower-ranked programs like Rice Jones ($135,863), USC Marshall ($136,543), Emory Goizueta ($139,508), and Carnegie Mellon Tepper ($140,094).

Want to compare schools side-by-side in terms of high, average, and low in industries ranging from marketing to finance to operations? Wondering how pay has changed over the past four years? Click on the links below for all the data you need to know how much you’re worth.



General Management



Management Information Systems / Human Resources

Other Industries

Overall School Pay (Ranked #1-#25)

Overall School Pay (Ranked #26-#50)

Click here to read Class of 2018 data

Editor’s Note:

Class of 2020 pay data will begin to trickle out during the fall. 

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