Best U.S. Colleges for Business Majors

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Best Colleges for Business Majors

When it comes to landing a good job after college, the STEM fields often get much of the attention. But let’s not forget about business majors — those with degrees in areas such as finance, accounting and business administration are often at the top of employers’ wish lists.

With so many colleges offering degrees in business, which also includes economics, management and marketing, choosing the right school can be overwhelming. So NerdWallet crunched the data to see which colleges offer the best return on your investment.  

We evaluated 358 universities and colleges across the country by looking at affordability, prestige, how much graduates make and the amount of debt they have. To see the full rankings, click here.

Key takeaways

Golden Bears. The distinction for highest salary goes to graduates from the University of California, Berkeley. Business majors go on to earn a median salary of $138,300 at 10 years or more out of school.

Go public. When it comes to providing the best return, public schools dominate our list. Only one private school, Brigham Young University, breaks into the top 10.

California is king. The University of California system leads the nation, home to four of the top 10 schools: University of California, Berkeley is at No. 1, University of California, Irvine is No. 5, University of California, Santa Barbara is No. 8 and UCLA is No. 10.

Tips for students and graduates

Max out federal student loans before turning to private loans: Federal student loans often carry lower interest rates than private loans. They also offer benefits private loans don’t, including income-driven repayment plans and forgiveness if you work in a public-sector job. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, to access federal loans, grants, work-study funds and, potentially, scholarships from your school.

Compare private loan options: If the gap between federal student aid and tuition forces you to take out private student loans, shop around to get the lowest interest rate you qualify for. If you must use a co-signer to qualify for a loan, make sure your co-signer understands he or she is responsible for repaying it if you can’t.

Refinance student loans after graduation: Business majors with full-time jobs, solid income and good credit are often excellent candidates for refinancing student loans. When you refinance, a lender replaces your student loans with a new one at a lower interest rate, saving you money over time.

Learn the ins and outs of the GMAT: Your GMAT score is a key part of your business school application. Use free resources, such as Magoosh’s GMAT guide, to brush up on the different sections of the test to maximize your score.  

1. University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, the University of California system’s flagship campus, tops our list of universities offering the best bang for your buck. Thanks to a median salary of $138,300 for graduates who are 10 years or more out of school — the heftiest salary on our list — those who studied business will be well positioned to pay down their student loans.

2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Part of North Carolina’s famed Research Triangle, this public school’s notable business administration alumni include Hugh McColl, former CEO of Bank of America, and Gary Parr, vice chair of Lazard, a financial advisory and asset management firm.

3. Brigham Young University

With the 2012-13 cost of tuition a mere $4,710, Brigham Young is one of the most affordable schools on our list, and the only private university to crack our top 10. BYU, operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is one of the country’s largest religious universities. According to U.S. News and World Report, 12% of the student body majors in business, management, marketing and related support services, making this area of study the most popular on campus.

4. University of Virginia

While UVA is often referred to as a party school, don’t be fooled — the university has rigorous academic standards. Its median SAT scores for incoming students, 1362, is the highest among colleges on our top 10 list. This public university located in Charlottesville, Virginia, counts business as one of its top majors.

5. University of California, Irvine

Students who go to this school, with over 20,000 undergraduates, will see the second-highest median salary 10 years or more after graduation: $121,000. Located in California’s Orange County, the university is just a short trip from Newport Beach, a perfect place for sun seekers.

6. Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Tech is located in Atlanta, which is also home to Fortune 500 companies, including Coca-Cola Co., Delta Air Lines and Home Depot. While many students focus on science and technology, business is the second-most common major, according to U.S. News and World Report.

7. City University of New York Bernard M. Baruch College

Students could be attracted to Baruch College for its incredibly low average student debt — $5,979, the lowest by far in the top 10 (the next lowest was $15,769 at Brigham Young).

8. University of California, Santa Barbara

If the surfing and sunbathing aren’t enough, there’s also the relatively affordable education at $13,671 for in-state residents. Graduates go on to make a median salary of $102,000.

9. College of William and Mary

The second-oldest college in the country, the College of William and Mary has been cited by Travel and Leisure as one of America’s most beautiful campuses. The school can also boast the second-highest median SAT score on our top 10 list at 1358. This suburban campus is in Williamsburg, Virginia, and has an undergraduate population of over 6,000.

10. University of California, Los Angeles

California’s biggest university, UCLA enrolls nearly 30,000 undergraduates and over 12,000 graduate students. Notable alumni include Laurence Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management company.

 

100 best U.S. colleges for business majors

Scroll through the table below to see the data on the best colleges for business majors.

Rank School Public
or
private
Median
SAT
score
Cost
of
tuition
Average aid package Average student debt Median salary after 10 years or more Score
1 University of California, Berkeley Public 1350 $12,874 $15,764 $17,468 $138,300 83.235
2 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Public 1313 $7,693 $12,622 $17,602 $93,000 71.517
3 Brigham Young University Private 1277 $4,710 $6,457 $15,769 $96,700 71.459
4 University of Virginia Public 1362 $12,216 $15,508 $21,815 $106,400 70.596
5 University of California, Irvine Public 1122 $13,122 $16,066 $20,728 $121,000 70.068
6 Georgia Institute of Technology Public 1352 $10,098 $8,510 $25,027 $116,100 69.299
7 City University of New York Bernard M. Baruch College Public 1225 $5,910 $6,607 $5,979 $88,300 68.859
8 University of California, Santa Barbara Public 1212 $13,671 $15,852 $20,452 $102,000 64.584
9 College of William and Mary Public 1358 $13,570 $13,615 $24,400 $100,900 64.408
10 University of California, Los Angeles Public 1289 $12,692 $16,288 $20,229 $92,200 64.401
11 California State University, Sacramento Public 945 $6,620 $8,939 $4,551 $85,700 63.908
12 California State University, Long Beach Public 1012 $6,052 $8,779 $13,386 $87,400 63.223
13 Washington University in St. Louis Private 1474 $43,705 $25,449 $23,082 $129,100 63.215
14 University of Washington Public 1234 $12,383 $13,441 $21,263 $97,500 62.880
15 California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Public 1070 $6,125 $8,932 $20,636 $91,500 62.838
16 University of Pennsylvania Private 1442 $43,738 $32,489 $19,798 $121,700 62.719
17 California State University, Fullerton Public 1021 $6,195 $8,616 $12,962 $86,400 62.661
18 University of California, Davis Public 1192 $13,877 $15,201 $19,970 $98,800 62.509
19 San Jose State University Public 1030 $6,852 $8,622 $18,424 $95,800 62.374
20 University of Texas at Austin Public 1262 $9,790 $8,627 $25,300 $101,300 62.158
21 San Diego State University Public 1090 $6,578 $9,645 $18,100 $84,500 61.811
22 San Francisco State University Public 998 $6,440 $8,842 $17,985 $91,000 61.280
23 University of Maryland at College Park Public 1310 $8,908 $8,152 $25,254 $93,900 61.234
24 University of Florida Public 1272 $6,143 $6,128 $20,708 $83,300 60.299
25 California State University, Fresno Public 920 $6,228 $9,343 $16,958 $87,800 60.004
26 Georgetown University Private 1398 $42,870 $31,457 $24,064 $121,700 59.999
27 Cornell University Private 1422 $43,413 $32,063 $20,577 $116,100 59.942
28 University of Wyoming Public 1123 $4,278 $6,276 $22,879 $80,400 59.769
29 University of Notre Dame Private 1450 $42,971 $29,753 $27,827 $122,700 59.460
30 University of Georgia Public 1247 $9,842 $7,686 $20,254 $90,500 59.220
31 Indiana University at Bloomington Public 1198 $10,033 $10,361 $27,619 $95,500 58.811
32 University of Wisconsin at Madison Public 1268 $10,378 $7,596 $25,664 $96,200 58.698
33 University of Connecticut Public 1233 $11,242 $9,953 $24,600 $92,800 58.219
34 University of Arizona Public 1106 $10,035 $10,381 $22,497 $92,400 57.868
35 Rutgers University at New Brunswick Public 1210 $13,073 $10,654 $24,284 $96,400 57.830
36 California State University, Northridge Public 918 $6,296 $9,439 $17,534 $82,500 57.736
37 City University of New York Brooklyn College Public 1100 $5,884 $6,313 $11,200 $73,300 57.730
38 University of Oklahoma at Norman Public 1176 $8,706 $7,164 $22,140 $91,100 57.728
39 University of Texas at Dallas Public 1262 $10,666 $9,577 $20,504 $83,600 57.720
40 University of Colorado at Boulder Public 1192 $9,482 $9,345 $24,880 $89,900 57.637
41 Western Washington University Public 1114 $8,805 $7,836 $21,173 $91,300 57.372
42 Texas Tech University Public 1116 $7,517 $6,236 $23,838 $94,700 57.365
43 University of Idaho Public 1070 $6,212 $7,546 $25,691 $88,700 57.275
44 University of Michigan at Ann Arbor Public 1352 $12,994 $13,992 $27,163 $81,300 56.771
45 Virginia Tech Public 1220 $10,923 $8,540 $26,925 $94,400 56.616
46 University of Richmond Private 1313 $44,210 $29,950 $22,225 $118,100 56.539
47 Auburn University Public 1215 $9,446 $8,875 $26,990 $89,000 56.485
48 James Madison University Public 1149 $8,808 $6,704 $23,562 $92,700 56.437
49 University at Buffalo Public 1158 $7,989 $7,033 $16,105 $78,900 56.380
50 Ohio State University Public 1289 $10,037 $8,170 $26,472 $86,600 56.205
51 Truman State University Public 1243 $7,216 $6,719 $23,761 $80,100 56.085
52 University of Iowa Public 1208 $8,057 $7,875 $28,131 $86,900 55.891
53 Clemson University Public 1259 $12,674 $13,817 $34,114 $92,600 55.817
54 California State University, East Bay Public 910 $6,309 $9,038 $19,594 $81,500 55.641
55 California State University at San Bernardino Public 888 $6,327 $9,354 $18,950 $80,700 55.542
56 Arizona State University at Tempe Public 1145 $9,724 $8,503 $21,137 $85,500 55.526
57 Howard University Private 1081 $22,683 $15,608 $10,455 $93,800 55.485
58 West Virginia University Public 1062 $6,090 $7,167 $29,149 $89,200 55.406
59 Miami University (Ohio) Public 1240 $13,594 $7,490 $27,181 $98,400 55.342
60 University of Southern California Private 1380 $44,463 $30,204 $28,474 $118,000 55.169
61 Oregon State University Public 1102 $8,138 $7,040 $22,831 $87,800 55.084
62 Florida Atlantic University Public 1039 $4,789 $5,243 $19,898 $78,900 55.017
63 University of Missouri at Columbia Public 1165 $9,257 $6,968 $24,875 $89,800 54.922
64 University of North Carolina at Asheville Public 1190 $5,916 $6,768 $17,696 $66,100 54.915
65 Rutgers University at Newark Public 1059 $12,590 $9,830 $23,602 $97,500 54.882
66 University of California, Riverside Public 1078 $12,960 $16,330 $21,300 $81,700 54.872
67 University of Illinois at Chicago Public 1092 $13,122 $12,029 $22,503 $91,100 54.871
68 Florida State University Public 1212 $6,402 $4,537 $23,782 $83,300 54.774
69 California State University, Los Angeles Public 871 $6,101 $9,061 $18,099 $77,900 54.655
70 University of Nevada at Reno Public 1081 $6,602 $5,318 $22,113 $86,800 54.564
71 Purdue University at West Lafayette Public 1211 $9,900 $8,993 $29,121 $87,300 54.362
72 Georgia Southern University Public 1094 $5,754 $5,192 $22,805 $82,600 54.220
73 Missouri State University Public 1090 $6,792 $5,159 $19,521 $82,700 53.963
74 University of Utah Public 1109 $7,139 $6,211 $21,795 $81,700 53.901
75 Northwest Missouri State University Public 1050 $6,175 $5,990 $23,264 $83,800 53.893
76 George Mason University Public 1155 $9,620 $6,609 $26,710 $91,500 53.746
77 Colorado State University Public 1127 $8,649 $7,616 $23,726 $83,600 53.691
78 Sonoma State University Public 1006 $7,162 $8,710 $20,351 $77,000 53.607
79 Northeastern State University Public 970 $4,857 $6,682 $18,126 $69,900 53.485
80 University of South Florida Public 1168 $6,334 $6,084 $24,107 $76,100 53.315
81 Utah State University Public 1087 $5,940 $6,139 $19,100 $72,600 53.226
82 Tennessee Technological University Public 1071 $6,692 $7,824 $17,023 $68,100 53.124
83 Florida International University Public 1154 $6,417 $4,904 $17,893 $73,700 53.092
84 University of Kansas Public 1145 $9,678 $6,394 $27,219 $91,500 53.022
85 University of Delaware Public 1178 $11,682 $13,765 $32,571 $84,800 52.955
86 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Public 1270 $13,459 $6,966 $28,384 $91,800 52.839
87 University of North Florida Public 1143 $6,235 $4,824 $17,617 $72,900 52.822
88 University of Nebraska at Lincoln Public 1147 $7,984 $6,699 $23,951 $80,400 52.751
89 Iowa State University Public 1145 $7,726 $6,550 $29,898 $87,100 52.631
90 Boston College Private 1375 $43,878 $29,881 $20,601 $100,700 52.538
91 Appalachian State University Public 1156 $6,059 $6,819 $20,467 $65,700 52.505
92 University of Kentucky Public 1140 $9,676 $7,440 $25,102 $84,700 52.379
93 University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa Public 1171 $9,200 $10,390 $28,508 $77,100 52.273
94 Longwood University Public 1002 $10,890 $7,519 $26,465 $98,100 52.267
95 University of Tennessee at Knoxville Public 1199 $9,092 $7,269 $23,729 $77,500 52.245
96 University of Nebraska at Kearney Public 1049 $6,565 $6,682 $18,173 $72,100 52.208
97 University of Texas-Pan American Public 937 $5,165 $6,920 $15,200 $65,600 52.032
98 Ohio University Public 1104 $10,282 $6,185 $26,928 $92,400 51.765
99 University of New Orleans Public 1072 $5,850 $6,242 $19,957 $69,600 51.738
100 Lehigh University Private 1322 $42,220 $28,327 $33,309 $116,100 51.678

 

Methodology

NerdWallet examined U.S. universities and colleges that offer business majors by looking at affordability, prestige, how much graduates make and the amount of debt they have after graduation.

Debt. How much debt students graduate with is 20% of the score. We measured the average debt of graduates in 2012-13 as reported by the Institute for College Access and Success.

Affordability. This is 30% of the score, which gives equal weight to the cost of tuition as reported by The Institute for College Access and Success and the average amount of student aid, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Salary. How much college graduates make is 35% of the score. We examined the median amount that graduates with a bachelor’s degree in a business major earn as full-time employees 10 years or more out of college, as reported by Payscale.

Prestige. A school’s prestige is 15% of the score. We used median SAT scores, as reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education, as a proxy for prestige, since many schools rely heavily on this test in admissions requirements.

Victoria Simons is a senior analyst covering loans and insurance for NerdWallet.


University of California, Berkeley campus image via iStock.