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Top Salaries: Which Business School Grads Earn the Most?

Oct. 25, 2013
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Business students are becoming increasingly interested in entrepreneurship, and universities are responding by strengthening their professional business development and entrepreneurship programs.

As we continue our graduate survey series, NerdScholar ranked the business schools with the highest salaries upon graduation based on colleges’ self-reported grad surveys. We also highlighted specific entrepreneurship and experiential learning programs that give these business students the skills and experience to stand out as they enter the job market.

Twenty new entrepreneurship programs for undergraduate business students have been created since 2006, according a study by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Yet there’s debate over whether entrepreneurship can be taught in a classroom or must be learned through hands-on experience.

The importance of internships

To give students the chance to gain that experience and, at the same time, to diversify and broaden their education, a number of universities are offering entrepreneurial internship programs for undergrads. This type of experiential learning can be instrumental for students, allowing them to dip a toe in the real world of business and even serving as a launchpad for student ventures. Business students will often complete multiple internships by the time they graduate (in addition to studying abroad and other programs).

Consequently, students are searching for internships sooner than ever before. The so-called Big Four accounting firms (Deloitte, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG) offer summer internships for qualified college sophomores. A recent study from the National Association of Colleges and Employers found students with paid internship experience earned higher salaries upon graduation.

Some students also have the opportunity to join a school business incubator. Such programs help them meet potential future business partners and gain the skills to build a business plan before graduating.

Through entrepreneurial programs and great career services that prepare business students for the working world, business programs across the country are setting their students up for success.

Top 10 business schools based on recent graduates’ salaries

1. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania: $65,627

U.S. News and World Report ranked Wharton as the best undergraduate business program for 2013. With an average salary of over $65,000 a year for its business graduates, Wharton tops the list. These students get a well-rounded education; 40% of their curriculum is outside of the business school.

They are also provided with ample opportunity for experiential learning. Twenty-three percent of Wharton students study abroad, and approved study-abroad programs are available in seven different languages. Wharton Leadership Ventures offers diverse and unique experiences, such as whitewater rafting, an Iron Chef competition, and a Peruvian leadership trek to Machu Picchu. These trips help students develop leadership, team-building and communication skills that are essential for the workplace.

Wharton is also home to the Goergen Entrepreneurial Management Program, which allows undergraduate business students to specialize in entrepreneurship and innovation. This year, 40 students who planned to spend the summer working in an entrepreneurial setting were awarded the Wharton Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowship. These students received awards ranging from $500 to $4,000 to support their internships. Next year, they will serve as ambassadors of fellowship, helping other students find and land internships.

2. Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business: $63,541

Graduates from the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business, in Pittsburgh,  ranked second highest for salary in the survey with $63,541. The Tepper Career and Professional Development Center offers a career exploration program called Wednesday Night Insight to give students weekly opportunities to learn about various careers and industries.

Tepper also has partnerships with many different study-abroad providers to give their students a taste of global business. For example, business students are approved to study with IES Abroad in Milan; Quito, Ecuador; and Auckland, New Zealand. At these centers, students take courses in the local language and culture as well as international business.

On campus, Tepper students can get involved with 10 business-focused student organizations, such as the Undergraduate Investment Club and the Financial Frontline Society. Undergraduate students also plan and implement the annual Business Opportunities Conference, which includes a job fair and a networking reception for graduating seniors.

3. New York University Stern School of Business: $62,189

Coming in third is NYU’s Stern School of Business, helping its students earn $62,189 annually. There are currently over 500 Stern alumni who are CEOs around the globe. What sets Stern apart from similar business schools?

Stern has 11 research centers that focus on a wide range of topics, including real estate finance, business analytics, and volatility. Additionally, the Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation hosts an annual social venture competition to encourage students to use their entrepreneurial spirit to address global social problems. The competition offers $50,000 in prizes to the winning ventures.

Students are also encouraged to participate in Stern Around the World, a program for international study and travel. Students can take part in traditional study-abroad programs through NYU’s extensive global network or sign on for short-term immersion/volunteer programs through SAW Abu Dhabi, SAW India, and SAW Ghana.

4. Georgetown University McDonough School of Business: $60,513

The McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, located in Washington, D.C., is well known for producing students with a strong understanding of global politics and business. Their recent graduates have average starting salaries just over $60,000. Norean R. Sharpe, senior associate dean and director of undergraduate programs, believes it is essential that McDonough students get a well-rounded education.

She says students are given a “liberal arts foundation that focuses on critical thinking and reasoning,” which along with the First Year Seminar and Entrepreneurship Fellows program goes a long way toward preparing them for a variety of business careers.

Georgetown has partnered with ESADE in Barcelona (Escuela Superior de Administración y Dirección de Empresas), one of the most prestigious business schools in the world, to offer a Global Entrepreneurship and Marketing program for McDonough students. Participants spend five weeks in Barcelona enrolled in classes taught by ESADE professors and taking field trips to local businesses. Similar programs exist at Oxford and in Shanghai.

Georgetown students interested in entrepreneurship can apply to the co-curricular Entrepreneurship Fellows Program. Fellows earn a certificate in entrepreneurship and gain access to internship opportunities, such as the Startup Hoyas summer incubator.

5. Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School: $60,083

The Olin Business School at WashU provides a combination of quality academics and real-world experience that help graduates earn approximately $60,000 a year. Over one-third of Olin undergrads study abroad, whether for a semester or a summer. In 2014, Olin will be launching the Israel Summer Business Academy in partnership with the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. This partnership will allow students to gain hands-on experience through nonprofit consulting and visiting local companies while also taking courses.

For those who want to tackle domestic issues, Olin gives students the chance to study and intern in Washington through the Semester in D.C. program. Students pay the same tuition while in Washington, and their WashU financial aid also applies. Programs such as these help students create a professional network they can leverage even before they graduate.

6. University of Michigan Ross School of Business: $59,431

Undergraduates from the Ross School of Business earn an average salary of $59,431 upon graduation. Unlike many other schools, Ross has undergrads spend their first year in the college of literature, science and arts and then apply to Ross (although a select number of students are admitted directly from high school).

Ross is well known for establishing the Center for International Business Education and Research, a multidisciplinary program to teach and learn about international business. CIBER receives its funding from the U.S. Department of Education, and there are now 33 CIBER centers throughout the United States.

In addition to CIBER, Ross has several other global initiatives, such as the C.K. Prahalad India Initiative, which provides opportunities for students to do fieldwork and for faculty members to complete research. Ross’ website boasts that “45,000 alumni live and work in 88 countries worldwide. They are part of a broader global community of over 500,000 UM alumni.”

7. University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business: $56,770

For the fourth year in a row, Bloomberg Businessweek ranked the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame its No. 1 undergraduate business program. Mendoza graduates are among top earners, making starting salaries over $56,000.

With a tagline of “Ask More of Business,” Mendoza places great emphasis on ethics and the individual integrity of students. One professor, Joe Holt, is providing opportunities for students to analyze and evaluate their ethics through discussions and personal reflection. By cementing their own ethical principles in the classroom, students may be better able to handle situations that arise in the workplace.

Mendoza students often choose to build up their personal skill sets outside of Indiana. More than half of Mendoza students spend at least one semester or summer studying overseas. At the University of Notre Dame Australia, students can take business courses, including one that focuses on business in Asia.

8. Lehigh University College of Business and Economics: $56,399

Graduates from the Lehigh University College of Business and Economics are bringing home an average of $56,399. Aside from the typical core curriculum for business students, Lehigh offers unique academic programs to help students distinguish themselves in the workplace.

The Integrated Business and Engineering program allows students to gain theoretical engineering knowledge and practical business skills. The Integrated Real Estate minor helps students interested in appraising to jump-start their careers. Over 80% of the necessary training to become a certified appraiser, which typically takes 300 hours, can be accomplished through the minor requirements.

The Lehigh SiliconValley program is an intensive experiential learning program that allows students to spend a week in the heart of entrepreneurship in California. Each day, students work on actual cases presented by Silicon Valley CEOs.

9. Boston College Carroll School of Management: $55,666

Students from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College can expect to make a salary over $55,000 upon graduation. To achieve this type of success, students frequently begin developing their skill sets early in their college careers. As sophomores, Carroll students can participate in the Sophomore Accelerator, a program that helps them explore career interests and master  skills such as resume writing, an elevator pitch and networking.

Students can also participate in the Boston College Venture Competition. This allows entrepreneurial-minded students of any major to gain hands-on experience in a high-stakes competition; the winning team receives $20,000 cash. In preparation for the competition, experienced alumni mentor students as they work to create and pitch their business plans.

Carroll students with a 3.2 GPA are able to participate in any of the college’s study-abroad programs, such as the business programs in Copenhagen or Vienna, or approved external programs such as CIEE’s program in Accra, Ghana, focusing on international business and culture.

10. College of William & Mary’s Mason School of Business: $52,711

The final school in the top 10 is Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary, which helps its students earn an average of $52,711 upon graduation. The school aims to create an environment that fosters innovation, allowing all Mason students to customize their curriculum in what is known as the individual program of study. For example, students interested in corporate social responsibility and sustainability can tailor their program to include courses such as the Green Supply Chain.

Mason students are encouraged to study abroad and not just in programs with a business focus. Students can participate in a semester-long course that culminates in a 10-day trip to Cuba to learn about that country’s culture. They can also advantage of the school’s partnership with the Social Entrepreneurship Corps, which provides short-term social-impact immersion trips to Guatemala, Ecuador, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Unique experiences like these help Mason students individualize their education with the goal of being able to stand out among the crowd when applying for jobs.




Average salary


University of Pennsylvania

Wharton School



Carnegie Mellon

Tepper School of Business



New York University

Leonard N. Stern School of Business



Georgetown University

McDonough School of Business



Washington University in St. Louis

Olin Business School



University of Michigan

Ross School of Business



University of Notre Dame

Mendoza College of Business



Lehigh University

College of Business and Economics



Boston College

Carroll School of Management



College of William & Mary

Mason School of Business


Graduate Cartoon Image courtesy of ShutterStock

Data collected from individual colleges’ self reported data by NerdScholar