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

Image of St. Louis downtown with Gateway Arch at night.

What do you want to do?

Every MBA applicant wrestles with that question. In reality, it includes several facets. ‘What you do’ starts with industry – staking your immediate future in areas like consulting or technology. It includes adopting roles ranging from marketing to management. Of course, most MBAs secretly harbor a dream employer, be it changing the world with Google or experiencing the world through McKinsey. Beyond the industry, role, and employer parts of the equation, there is another variable that is sometimes overlooked…

Where do you want to live?

Want to go where the action is? Think California, New York, DC, and Washington. However, those big opportunities come with high costs: housing, taxes, and energy — to name a few. Looking for quality of life and a manageable cost of living? Well, Tennessee, South Dakota, and Wyoming beckon. While your buck goes further in these states, your career is more apt to stall there. Work-from-home advocates may claim you can live anywhere and have everything, but history shows ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is the probable outcome.


Where MBAs live often dictates what they make and what they can do – at least initially. That’s why regional pay matters – and why the Top 50 full-time MBA programs track it. For one, regional pay reflects an MBA degree’s worth – and where it possesses the greatest value. Take the Wharton School, which is based in the Mid-Atlantic region. Here, 2022 graduates averaged $152,960 in base pay, third only to Stanford GSB and Harvard Business School – with the difference being a nominal $107 and $183 respectively. In the Midwest, however, Wharton base bested Harvard by over $32,500 for 2022 grads. By the same token, Wharton MBAs earned less than eight counterparts in the Southwest over the same period.

Some of this can be explained by the size of the graduating class, with 37 Wharton grads re-locating to the Southwest in 2022 compared to 228 in the Northeast and 54 to the Mid-Atlantic. In other words, pay variations can impact base pay averages more deeply when the scale is smaller. In the Midwest, however, the difference between the number of Harvard and Wharton grads is 26-to-18 (with the highest base being $250,000-to-$180,000 in favor of Wharton). In fact, Wharton grads snapped up higher average bases in the Midwest than any of its Ivy counterparts. Bottom line: When it comes time for Wharton students to negotiate base pay with Midwestern employers, this data provides an argument for bumping up the going rate in the region.

Even more, regional pay reflects a business school’s footprint. Case in point: The University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business. Ranked 31st by U.S. News and home to 69 full-time MBAs in the Class of 2024, Terry may appear to be a prototypical public program: long on academics and short on national appeal. Reality is, despite its small scale, Terry placed three or more 2022 graduates in every region of the United States besides the West Coast. Compare that to USC’s Marshall School of Business, which placed a combined 2 students in the Mid-Atlantic, South, and Midwest regions (with Marshall’s full-time class being nearly three times larger than Terry to boot).


What does this mean in Terry’s case? That depends on how you interpret the data. Terry’s reach could be an indication of a well-connected career center or a strong reputation among employers. It may also be a sign of a well-placed and enthusiastic alumni network. Either way, the regional numbers flag that such schools require further research by applicants.

That said, regional pay is a flawed measure. Obviously, regional pay varies. Look no further than the standard wage for between Chicago and Des Moines; both Midwest locales, the pay difference can be 10% or more for the same position. Regional pay also doesn’t account for industry – with the East Coast and West Coast enjoying the advantages of high-paying banking and tech jobs respectively. Of course, base salary is an incomplete metric, particularly when some employers incorporate 401K matches, profit sharing, performance bonuses, stock options, and tuition reimbursement into the pay package. This can pad an extra six figures to a pay package.

Still, regional pay is another valuable tool. It acts as a starting point for figuring out your market worth and setting a baseline for potential negotiations. Even more, regional pay can tip you off to which schools may possess an outsized influence – i.e. higher pay – in particular areas. Wondering how much you can expect to make in a region after graduating from a particular business school? Curious what the highest and lowest salaries are by school and region? Click on the links below so you can compare the Top 50 MBA programs side-by-side.









Editor’s Note: These are the states that constitute each region.

Northeast: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont

Mid-Atlantic: District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia

South: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee

Midwest: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin

Southwest:  Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas

West: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.