The online MBA might not be the career-switching degree its full-time residential sibling is, but that doesn’t mean virtual MBA students aren’t leveraging the program for higher earnings. As part of our 2021 Best Online MBA Programs, we surveyed alumni graduating during the 2019-2020 academic year for nearly all 47 ranked schools. We also asked each graduate for their pre-MBA and post-MBA salaries.
Lo and behold, we found that online MBA graduates could experience significant income boosts thanks to their new MBA education, with average percentage jumps as high as 63%. Alumni from Imperial College Business School in London reported earning the greatest average change of a whopping $58,360, a hefty 57% over the $102,466 they reported upon entry into the program. In their first year after getting the MBA, they reported earning an average of $160,826. Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business reported average increases of $57,728, a 63% jump, to $149,773.
Of course, a salary boost most typically reflects other benefits of an online MBA degree, including increased responsibility and a promotion to a new role. What it may not measure is the bump in self-confidence a graduate would experience nor the longer-term benefits of the education itself or the alumni network a student acquires with graduation.
ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS WITH THE HIGHEST POST-GRADUATE SALARIES
While the gains at Imperial College and Carnegie Mellon were ahead of all other schools, graduates of many of the ranked online MBA programs did quite well, thank you. The University of Washington’s Foster School of Business posted the third-largest dollar increase in average salary, with alumni reporting earning $42,234 more in their first year after graduating for an average of $155,167. Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business online MBA graduates reported an average salary increase of $38,055, a tidy 42% jump in pay. It was the Silicon Valley-based university’s first-ever graduating class that reported the numbers. Rounding out the top-five were the graduates of the MBA@UNC program at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School’s online MBA program, where graduates reported an average increase of $35,684.
Among all 43 ranked schools in our analysis–programs with an alumni response rate of at least 10%–the average salary increase was $21,551.
While Imperial College and Carnegie Mellon recorded the largest average salary increases, neither school had the highest average salaries reported by recent graduates. The University of Massachusetts-Amherst Isenberg School had online MBA graduates report an average post-MBA salary of $210,143 — much higher than any other school in this year’s ranking. Isenberg online grads boosted their pay by $33,429 over their average pre-MBA salaries of $176,714.
Following Massachusetts-Isenberg is Hofstra University, which reported an average post-MBA salary of $161,444 — an increase of $19,111 from an average pre-MBA salary of $142,333. Imperial College’s post-MBA average of $160,826 was the third-highest, followed by Washington Foster’s $155,167 and Baylor University’s post-MBA average of $153,078. Baylor’s average increase was $31,548.
ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS WITH THE LOWEST SALARY BUMPS
Of course, not all graduates reported frothy salary increases. Graduates of the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s online MBA program actually reported an average loss of $1,000. To be clear, those numbers were dragged down from at least a couple of alumni reporting they had no salary as they were still looking for jobs. Louisiana State University reported a salary increase of just $500.
Two schools that placed very highly in this year’s ranking reported the next two-lowest increases. Villanova University’s School of Business, which placed No. 7 overall, reported an average salary increase of $1,731. Graduates of No. 4 George Washington University had an increase of just $4,619, but did have a high average post-MBA salary of $140,879. Rounding out the lowest five schools for salary increases is the University of Delaware’s Lerner School of Business, which had a salary increase of $9,650.
Florida International University reported the lowest average post-MBA salary at $77,168. The next lowest was the University of South Florida, where graduates reported an average post-MBA salary of $80,125. The University of Michigan-Dearborn reported the third-lowest post-MBA average salary at $83,125.
ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS WITH THE HIGHEST AND LOWEST CAREER IMPACTS
To measure the immediate career impact of an online MBA degree, we also asked alumni to report if they received a salary raise, promotion, or switched employers directly because of the degree. When averaging all three data points, graduates from Carnegie Mellon reported the greatest impact on their professional career trajectories. Some 65.4% of Tepper graduates reported earning a promotion, 76.9% reported a raise, and 50.0% reported switching employers, for an overall average of 64.1%.
An average of 62.37% of graduates from the Mason School at The College of William & Mary reported a promotion, raise, or employer switch. The University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business followed with an average of 60.78%. Rounding out the top-five were Santa Clara (59.26%) and the Washington Foster (57.29%).
See the next two pages for salary outcomes and career impact of all 43 schools to be ranked and have a minimum alumni response rate of 10%.