Advertiser Disclosure

Making the Most of an MBA: Analyzing Graduate Placements and Salaries

Loans, Student Loans
MBA Study

Pursuing an MBA degree is a major personal investment. Tuition and expenses at top business school programs are in excess of $60,000 a year, but high costs come with the hopes of career advancement and big salaries. Is an MBA your golden ticket?

NerdWallet collected salary and employment data from the nation’s top MBA programs. Data was gathered directly from schools, in the form of self-reported salary reports, recruitment guides, and employment records. Our analysis provides a view into the relative success and disparity across MBA programs.

The following analysis was conducted in conjunction with the launch of NerdWallet’s MBA School Comparison tool. This resource pulls together post-graduate information representing over 30,000 MBA students from the classes of 2009 through 2011.  

Our findings indicate that, among top MBA programs:

  •  The highest and lowest average starting salaries across all schools ranges from $121,455 to $73,748, a difference of 65%.
  • A majority of MBA graduates enter Finance or Consulting & Strategy roles (52%), which also receive the highest compensation.
  • Top finance graduates can expect to earn at least 30% more then the average MBA student, with some students earning over $200,000.

The findings are explained in additional detail below:

An Overview of MBA Graduates

Although there are not yet uniform guidelines for MBA schools reporting their post-graduate results, all schools split employment statistics by industry and function.  This enables prospective students to view graduation statistics based on either the career field or job role. However, placement percentages by industry and function were typically unique for each school, and therefore had to be standardized by category to calculate average employment profiles.

Increasing earning potential is one of the major drivers motivating prospective MBA students. The average undergraduate majoring in business will earn $55,679 directly out of college, but an MBA degree can greatly increase students’ compensation, particularly for those graduating from top schools in specialized finance roles:

  • Across all schools, the average MBA school graduate compensation was $113,730 (including signing bonus of  $18,730).
  • The average compensation for Consulting & Strategy ($124,262) is slightly higher than the average among all Finance jobs ($121,832), but no other category can touch finance grads that go into private equity, venture capital, or hedge funds ($157,328).
  • Investment banking graduates earn over $60,000 more than graduates in government and non-profit roles: $141,453 compared to $80,240.
  • Stanford University reported the highest average salary ($121,455) and compensation ($146,677) across all job categories.


Additional Articles on MBA Schools

Wall Street Bound: The Future 1%

Show Me the Money: Top MBA Schools by Total Compensation

Is an MBA right for you?

The Most Innovative Leadership Programs at MBA Schools

How to Choose the Right MBA Program for You


Findings will be updated as new schools are included into tool.