MBA Pay By Region: Here’s How Much You’re Worth

You can’t work online forever. Soon enough, management will demand you return to the office. Sure, everyone loved Zoom: you reached more people in less time. And who missed those exhausting red-eye flights for conferences and conclaves? Still – admit it – there was always something missing online…even with Fido curled up at your feet.

Call it shared experience, the accidental collisions and natural fusions that emerge when people work 10 feet apart. Together, in person, you belong. You speak the same language and live the same values. Whether challenged or inspired, you rally around that mission that brought your community together. That’s an intangible that can’t be replicated when you’re chatting from Charleston or whiteboarding from Wichita.

So back to the office you go. If you’re an MBA, that means paying outrageous rents and enduring congested commutes in New York City, Chicago, and Silicon Valley. After all, out of sight is out of mind – and eventually out of luck. To get ahead, you’re going to take the same path as MBAs before; you have to go where the action is.


Where you live is where you go, to borrow a cliché. By that, it means your location shapes your network and opportunities – even with Zoom and LinkedIn around. Once the family arrives and the mortgage is signed, it isn’t so easy to pick up and move. Over time, that could translate to fewer industry or company choices, relegating you to working below your worth. That’s a penalty that grows wider with each passing year as pay raises accrue.

This gap is further exacerbated by your alma mater. Not surprisingly, different regions pay differently by school. In some ways, that isn’t particularly surprisingly. After all, you’ll find heavy concentrations of banking institutions in the Northeast and tech firms on the West Coast – both of which offer higher first year packages to MBAs. That said, ranking make a difference too. Take America’s Heartland – the Midwest. Here, Stanford GSB grads rake in the highest pay packages – pay and bonus – at $167,857 in 2021. In fact, the five highest averages belong to Top 10 schools. What’s more, the highest individual student packages – a three-way tie at $3000,000 – involve graduates from Top 3 programs: Stanford GSB, Northwestern Kellogg, and the Wharton School.

That said, there are always anomalies. Emory Goizueta and Georgetown McDonough – ranked 21st and 22nd respectively by U.S. News – actually placed 6th and 7th for average starting pay packages in the Midwest, pulling in $147,500 and $146,364 on average. That’s higher than hometown favorite Northwestern Kellogg, let alone Harvard Business School. One reason: Goizueta and McDonough placed a combined 15 graduates in the Midwest last year. Compare that to Kellogg (102) and Harvard (13). In other words, size matters, with smaller segments more prone to swings – good or bad.


That’s one flaw in looking at regional pay. Another is that schools rarely track first year compensation beyond base and bonus. As a result, enticements like tuition reimbursements, 401K matches, profit sharing, performance bonuses, and stock options – variables that can stretch into high five figures when combined – aren’t tracked by business schools. Still, regional pay provides something essential for MBAs: it sets the parameters for what is possible. In other words, it tells you what you could be worth – and where to set your starting points in negotiations.  Regional pay also reflects a program’s reach and imprint in particular areas. For example, The College of William & Mary, ranked 47th by U.S. News, managed to place 3 or more MBA graduates in every region of the United States – including 6 on the West Coast! Compare that to 19th-ranked USC Marshall, whose graduate segments were too small to report for the Mid-Atlantic, South, and Southwest.

In other words, presence and pay gives you an inkling of alumni engagement and employer awareness in certain regions. That’s valuable information to know when it comes time to whittle down schools and pose questions to admissions.

Awareness. Resources. Networking. Leverage. These variables are all reflected in regional pay. It can give you a clearer of your worth during the recruiting process. Wondering how much 2021 MBAs from the Top 50 business schools made in particular regions. Hoping to learn the high, average, and low ranges for pay? Looking to learn how much these numbers have changed over the past two years? Click on the links below so you can compare MBA programs side-by-side in various regions (including International).










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