The Highest-Paying MBA Programs & Concentrations

MBA graduates earn more on average than graduates with only a bachelor’s degree, but salaries can vary depending on the MBA program and concentration you pursue. Learn more about the average salary after graduation for the highest-paying MBA concentrations and programs in our comprehensive guide.

Posted May 20, 2024

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One of the biggest benefits of pursuing an MBA degree is the opportunity to expand your career opportunities and boost your earning potential—the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) reports that graduates of full-time MBA programs had an average starting salary of $125,000 in 2023, compared to about $56,000 for new graduates of bachelor’s programs. However, the average salary of new MBA graduates varies widely depending on the business school they attended, the MBA specialization or concentration they pursued, and the sector they entered. In this article, we’ll explore the average MBA salary by business school, specialization/concentration, and sector.

The Highest-Paying MBA Programs: Average Starting Salaries & Signing Bonuses

It’s no surprise that MBA graduates from the top business schools report the highest base salaries and signing bonuses. In addition to the strong academic offerings and connections that students gain from the top MBA programs, the prestige of these schools is often enough to get them a foot in the door for competitive and high-paying jobs.

Below are the fifteen business schools with the highest average salaries, as well as their average signing bonuses and percentage of graduates employed three months after graduation.

SchoolAverage Starting Salary*Average Signing Bonus% Employed After Graduation***
Stanford GSB$189,010$32,13382%
Chicago Booth$180,000**$33,000**94%
Dartmouth Tuck$175,000**$30,000**93%
UPenn Wharton$175,000**$30,000**92%
Duke Fuqua$175,000**$30,000**92%
Yale SOM$175,000**$30,000**88%
Columbia Business School$175,000**$30,000**81%
Harvard Business School$175,000**$30,000**80%
Northwestern Kellogg$169,698$35,32492%
NYU Stern$168,182$38,19294%
MIT Sloan$168,095$38,98997%
UVA Darden$167,899$37,58895%
UMich Ross$162,946$30,000**94%
Berkeley Haas$162,831$36,77789%
Cornell Johnson$162,808$38,82693%
Average$125,000$22,77687%

*Annual salary, does not include other compensation such as performance bonuses, loan repayment, or stock options

**Median value, average not stated

***Usually, this figure does not account for graduates who have started their own enterprises as they are not “employed” upon graduating.

Average Starting Salaries by Industry

While all MBA programs prepare their graduates to excel in business administration and leadership roles, certain sectors of the business world offer higher salaries and signing bonuses. These sectors tend to be the most competitive, so it’s important to gain a deep understanding of each field beyond the general MBA curriculum through internships, student organizations, courses, and specializations, also known as majors, areas of interest, and concentrations while you are still a student.

In the table below, we break down the average base salaries and sign-on bonuses of each industry among graduates of the fifteen schools listed above, the average percent of graduates from those schools going into each industry, and related MBA specializations and concentrations. Some MBA programs reported median values or did not share the average signing bonus of each class.

Unsurprisingly, consulting and finance (which includes investment banking, investment management, venture capital, private equity, and more) are the highest-paying and most popular sectors for MBA grads, so most business schools offer pathways to explore and gain experience in these sectors before graduation, such as electives, job and internship fairs, and specializations.

IndustryAverage Starting SalaryAverage Signing Bonus% of GraduatesMBA Specializations & Concentrations
Consulting$185,772$31,39237%Operations Management; Strategic Management; Business, Energy, Environment, & Sustainability; Organizational Effectiveness; Environmental, Social & Governance Factors for Business; Social & Governance Factors for Business; Business Analytics; Leadership & Change Management; Emerging Markets
Finance$173,955$47,75527.1%Accounting, Analytic Finance, Corporate Finance, Energy Finance, Finance, Financial Analysis/Accounting, FinTech, Venture Capital & Private Equity, Financial Instruments & Markets, Financial Systems & Analytics, Quantitative Finance, Investment Banking, Asset Management/Sales & Trading, Data Modeling & Analytics
Technology$156,882$34,94615.4%FinTech, Technology Product Management, Technology, Design Thinking & Innovation, Business Economics & Public Policy
Healthcare$143,337$28,8684.3%Healthcare, Health Sector Management, Healthcare Management, Leadership & Change Management, Business Economics & Public Policy

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Average Starting Salaries by Function

In the table below, we break down the average starting salaries and sign-on bonuses of each function among graduates of the fifteen schools listed above, the average percent of graduates from those schools going into each function, and related MBA specializations and concentrations.

Some industries have only one corresponding function (such as consulting), while others do not match up. For example, if you are a marketer for a software company, your industry is technology, while your function is marketing.

FunctionAverage Starting SalaryAverage Signing Bonus% of GraduatesMBA Specializations & Concentrations
Consulting$184,576$30,33339.9%Operations Management; Strategic Management; Business, Energy, Environment, & Sustainability; Organizational Effectiveness; Environmental, Social & Governance Factors for Business; Social & Governance Factors for Business; Business Analytics; Leadership & Change Management; Emerging Markets
Finance$176,961$47,07627.4%Accounting, Analytic Finance, Corporate Finance, Energy Finance, Finance, Financial Analysis/Accounting, FinTech, Venture Capital & Private Equity, Financial Instruments & Markets, Financial Systems & Analytics, Quantitative Finance, Investment Banking, Asset Management/Sales & Trading, Data Modeling & Analytics
General Management$158,799$30,15010.4%Leadership & Ethics, Behavioral Science, Strategic Management, Multinational Management, Organizational Effectiveness, Strategic Management, Operations Management, Management Science, Managing Organizations, Growth & Scaling, Leadership & Change Management, Enterprise Management
Marketing/Sales$146,495$34,8069.2%Marketing Management; Decision Sciences; Marketing; Strategy; Brand Management; Business Analytics; Luxury Marketing; Digital Marketing; Entertainment, Media, & Technology; Social Impact; Marketing & Operations

Choosing an MBA Specialization

When deciding on an MBA concentration, you should consider both the industry and function of your future career. While a general MBA degree will still prepare you for the business management responsibilities associated with most higher-level roles, adding on a more specialized MBA concentration (also known as an area of focus/interest, specialization, or major depending on the business school) can give you more in-depth knowledge and expertise, making you a stronger candidate with a better chance of landing offers with high salaries.

However, even if you haven’t decided on a specific career path yet, MBA concentrations can still improve your job prospects, as they can equip you with skills transferable to multiple industries and functions. In the ever-changing business world, top companies are looking for MBA graduates who can adapt to new circumstances using both soft and hard skills. According to the 2023 GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey, employers believe “communication, data analysis, and strategy skills are important now and will grow to be even more important in the future,” so MBA concentrations and specializations that build on these skills, such as business analytics or data modeling, can improve your job prospects regardless of the field you enter.

MBA Programs without Concentrations

If your MBA program does not offer concentrations, you can still gain industry-specific expertise through internships, dual-degree programs, student organizations, and other professional and academic experiences. Many prestigious MBA programs, including the programs at Stanford Graduate School of Business and Berkeley Haas, instead encourage their MBA students to individualize their business educations and learn about specific MBA functions and industries through electives, which have the added bonus of allowing you to explore multiple areas of business compared to MBA concentrations, of which students usually can only select one or two.

Key Takeaways

  • When deciding to enroll in an MBA program, you should consider the return on your investment: how much can you expect to earn after graduation compared to the costs of attendance?
  • The average MBA salary for a new business school graduate is more than twice as much as the average college graduate’s starting salary. However, certain programs boast an even higher starting base salary.
  • MBA grads of the top business schools unsurprisingly have the highest average base salary of $160,000 and greater.
  • The highest-paying MBA program is Stanford GSB, with an average base salary of $189,010, followed by Chicago Booth at $180,000. Six schools tie for third at $175,000: Harvard Business School, University of Pennsylvania Wharton, Columbia Business School, Yale SOM, Dartmouth Tuck, and Duke Fuqua.
  • The highest-paying MBA industries are finance, consulting, healthcare, and marketing/sales, with MBA grads from the top schools reporting an average base salary ranging from $143,000 to $185,000.
  • The highest-paying MBA functions are finance, consulting, general management, and marketing/sales, with average salaries spanning from $146,000 to $184,000 for new MBA grads from the top business schools.
  • Many business schools offer industry and function-specific concentrations, such as corporate finance or strategic consulting, as well as more versatile concentrations, such as business analytics or entrepreneurship, that can improve your career prospects and earning potential no matter the type of role you enter.
  • If you’re attending a business school without concentrations, you can still gain industry- and function-specific expertise through electives, dual degree programs, internships, and student organizations.

For more information about MBA salaries and careers, check out these resources:

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