Analysis: MBA Pay Has Vastly Outpaced Inflation

Analysis: MBA Pay Has Vastly Outpaced Inflation

Inflation is an economy killer, and it’s currently wreaking havoc around the globe, including in the United States. But an analysis of salary and compensation data gathered over the years by Poets&Quants proves that MBAs have seen their pay keep pace with inflation — and then some.

Last month, Bloomberg Businessweek published a brief five-year analysis comparing overall inflation in the five years from 2018 to 2022. It showed that inflation over that timeframe was 17.6%, well below MBA salary increases of 28.1% to $205,000 a year from $160,000. Those post-graduation salary numbers are 60% above the rate of inflation for those years. MBA grads also well outpaced the growth in median U.S. worker salaries in the U.S. which just barely beat inflation: 18.7% growth to $54,666 from $46,039 between 2018 and 2022.

A new analysis of pay data, including sign-on bonuses at the top U.S. business schools, by Poets&Quants largely backs up the notion that MBA grads are doing very well at a time when inflation has become a persistent worry and a political issue.  Recent graduating classes of MBAs have recorded record or near-record starting salaries at most business schools.


Looking at 27 of the top-ranked business schools in the U.S., P&Q data shows that total average growth from 2018 to 2022 was 24%. At the elite M7 schools, the number was even more impressive: 26.7%.

Among the schools we analyzed, the highest growth in median base salary occurred at NYU Stern School of Business, which saw its MBAs’ starting salaries grow from $125,000 to $170,000, which is 36%. Three schools were right behind at 34.6% growth: Columbia Business School, Chicago Booth School of Business, and Dartmouth Tuck School of Business, all of which saw their median base salaries grow to $175K this year from $130K in 2018.

The lowest median salary growth occurred at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, 8.3% to $130K from $120K, and Washington Olin Business School in St. Louis, 9.1% to $120K from $110K; they were the only two schools with single-digit growth. See details in the table at the bottom of the page.

In terms of total compensation — which is salary plus bonus adjusted by the percentage of those receiving the bonus — we looked at a handful of schools for whom the data was available. The average compensation increase at 11 schools was 28.7%, with no school seeing lower than 20% growth. Leading them all: Harvard Business School, which saw its total comp balloon by nearly 40% to $223,100 in 2022 from $160,268 five years earlier. See table below.


Median salaries for top schools are one set of data. But salaries for the lowest-paid MBAs at a given school — the nonprofit-, government-, or retail-bound grads who might need a few extra years to pay off those loans — tell a different story. We looked at those grads from four schools: Dartmouth Tuck, UNC Kenan-Flagler,  Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Northwestern Kellogg School of Management. Just one of these randomly selected industries saw salary growth that outpaced the 17.6% of inflation.

  • At Tuck, an MBA who went into retail consumer goods in 2018 (6% of the class) made a median $108,000. Five years later, a Tuck going into the same sector (5% of the class) made a median $126,000. That's growth of 16.7%.
  • At UNC Kenan-Flagler, someone going into retail in 2018 (4% of the class) made a median base salary of $107,500; five years he or she (now just 2% of the class) made $115,000 — up 7%.
  • At Stanford, media/entertainment MBAs in 2018 (3% of the class) made a median base salary of $137,500; five years later, salaries for that sector (now 5% of the class) had risen to $155,000, or 12.7%.
  •  But at Kellogg, we finally find the inflation killer. A real estate MBA in 2018 (2.7% of the class) made a median base salary of $117,500; in 2022 they (2.4%) made a median of $140,000. That's an increase of 19.1%.


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