You’re starting to think about what an MBA degree could do for you. A salary boost? A promotion? Or maybe a career shift into an entirely new industry?
You’re not alone. A 2019 survey1 found that 42% of respondents applied to an MBA program in order to increase their salary, while 57% hoped to change their career.
That said, can earning an MBA really make it happen? Here’s the lowdown:
How much does an MBA raise your salary? It’s all about the Benjamins.
The numbers don’t lie: Whether the increase is large or small, an MBA degree will give your salary a sweet bump.
According to a Transparent Career study,2 MBA salaries get a boost of anywhere from 8% to 65%, depending on your industry. Not only that, a recent Coursera Salary Guide3 reports that MBA graduates earn up to $50k more annually than those with a bachelor’s degree alone.
Bank on long-term leverage
Diminished returns do not apply when it comes to an MBA degree. A 2021 study4 showed that the average salary for MBA graduates over time grew from between 9 to 35 percent.
The average MBA's annual salary after five years fell in the range of $142k for women to $152k for men, while the average MBA salary after 10 years ranged from $179k to $242k for women and men, respectively.
While there’s not a wealth of comprehensive data on the average MBA salary by age, SmartAsset5 reports that from age of 25 to 54, the average American salary jumps from about $52,000 per year to just over $63,600 per year (that's a 22% increase).
With MBA salaries exceeding those without the degree by 76%,6 that 22% increase ensures even larger returns for MBA grads over time.
What type of job can I get with a MBA? Potential = unlimited.
Typical MBA curriculum provides a comprehensive overview of all functions of business. This means that career opportunities for graduates span many industries and disciplines. Here’s a look at some of the most popular options:
Some of the most interesting and in-demand careers in business lie within the tech industry. Companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft7 hire MBAs at above-average salaries in roles like product management, corporate finance, marketing, sales, and business development. Are you in line to be the next Jeff Bezos?
From understanding consumer behavior, to managing supply-chain logistics, to predicting new product performance, the world of business is driven by an understanding of data. More and more companies are recognizing the need for analytics professionals. MBA graduates are well-suited for finance, operations, and marketing analyst roles, as well as corporate strategy and product development.
From Senior Financial Analyst to VP of Finance to Chief Financial Officer (CFO), the finance industry offers MBAs growth opportunities and salaries ranging from $72k to $160k+, according to PayScale.com.8 If you’ve got a head for numbers, an MBA will help you land a great career in this reliable, secure industry.
Even the most innovative products and ideas can’t get off the ground without an effective marketing plan. MBA graduates in the marketing space have the know-how to target the right audience, launch effective promotions, and track their performance. They’re a great fit for roles like marketing director, marketing strategist, creative director, and chief marketing officer (CMO).
While it may be an unexpected pairing, an MBA offers unique opportunities within the field of healthcare. Those with industry experience plus an MBA are primed for roles such as healthcare administrator, policy analyst or researcher, pharmaceutical brand manager, hospital CFO (chief financial officer) or CEO (chief executive officer) and more.
You live and die by a process manual. You can’t get enough of managing projects. Efficiency is your mantra. Sound like you? Then you’re tailor-made for a role in operations. Careers in this field are as reliable as the people who fill them, from quality control to business operations strategist, materials manager, operations research analyst, and production planner, to name a few.
This is just a short list of jobs for MBA graduates. Consulting roles are also popular choices, and offer a unique ability to operate within a range of companies and organizations.
Consultants typically provide solutions to problems within an organization, offer professional advice and guidance, and assist with project and/or people management. If you dread being stuck in a daily 9-to-5 with the same company for years on end, consider independent business consulting.
So, what do most MBA graduates do?
Traditionally, MBA graduates continue to work in the business sector, often promoted to management or director roles post-graduation. MBAs are well-suited to strategy and leadership positions. Seven out of 10 corporate recruiters agree that leaders in their organization tend to have a graduate business school education.9
Non-traditional MBA jobs can run the gamut. Some MBA graduates manage non-profits. Others launch their own ventures. Still others open private law or medical practices. Engineers can leverage the soft skills an MBA program provides to move from a technical to a management role. Web developers and IT professionals can do the same.
“I was getting into more project management and leading those activities with key stakeholders when I decided to pursue an MBA. I wasn’t just wearing my quality engineer hat. I was leading those discussions and planning project execution. I wanted to further develop myself personally and my career.”
Can you make a lot of money with an MBA?
Heck yes, you can! A 2023 survey by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC)9 projected a median starting MBA jobs salary of $125k.
MBA grads not only see annual salaries of up to $50k more than those with a bachelor’s degree alone, they’re also on the fast-track for promotions. 67% of Iowa MBA graduates received a promotion during or after their program.
Keep calm & get paid: Which MBA job has the highest salary?
When it comes to earning top dollar for your MBA investment, the more illustrious the title, the better the paycheck. This list of high-paying careers is not all-inclusive, but demonstrates the broad spectrum of interesting well-paying jobs for MBA grads.10
Operations Research Analyst - $82,360
Financial Quantitative Analyst - $99,711
Financial Manager – $131,710
Management Consultant – $93,000
Medical & Health Services Manager – $101,340
Senior Product Manager – $130,225
Director of Finance – $126,342
IT Director – $119,558
Pharmaceutical Medical Director – $147,494
Marketing Director – $94,799
Chief Technology Officer (CTO) – $132, 056
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) – $151,040
And … jackpot! Check out a few MBA jobs that pay $200k per year:
Chief Financial Officer (CFO) – $213, 020
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – $821,100
Whose school rules? Which MBA has the highest salary?
For full-time MBA programs, the two programs with the highest MBA salary in the U.S. are Harvard University and Stanford University (both right around $198k). Their respective tuition costs are $146,800 (Harvard) and $153,900 (Stanford), according to U.S. News & World Report.11
Once you factor in living expenses and fees, and you’ll dish out a hefty up-front cost to reap the long-term ROI of an Ivy-League credential.
But since full-time programs require you to quit your job and radically reorganize your life, let’s focus on the earning potential for graduates of a more flexible part-time program.
Part-time MBA program cost versus return is a bit more complicated to grasp, as many schools advertise their tuition on a “per unit” or “per course” basis. We did the math and put together a list that details total tuition costs for in-state students plus average salaries for top-ranked schools to make it easier for you to compare at a glance:
Top Part-Time MBA Tuition & Salaries
|US News Ranking||Institution||Total Tuition||Average Salary|
|1||University of California, Berkeley (Haas)||$151,200.00||$152,831.00|
|2||University of Chicago (Booth)||$161,920.00||$165,887.00|
|3||Northwestern University (Kellogg)||$161,376.00||$158,938.00|
|4||New York University (Stern)||$164,204.00||$161,475.00|
|5||University of California – Los Angeles (Anderson)||$139,200.00||$146,727.00|
|6||University of Texas – Austin (McCombs)||$119,925.00||$144,564.00|
|7||University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (Ross)||$120,000.00||$153,465.00|
|8||University of Southern California (Marshall)||$138,411.00||$150,314.00|
|9 (Tie)||Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)||$141,812.00||$148,067.00|
|9 (Tie)||Georgetown University (McDonough)||$159,240.00||$138,552.00|
|11 (Tie)||Georgie Institute of Technology (Scheller)||$61,128.00||$136,819.00|
|11 (Tie)||The University of Texas at Dallas (Jindal)||$44,360.00||$123,163.00|
|11 (Tie)||University of Washington (Foster)||$95,013.00||$147,340.00|
|14||University of Minnesota – Twin Cities (Carlson)||$82,212.00||$121,882.00|
|15 (Tie)||Indiana University (Kelley)||$49,464.00||$136,352.00|
|15 (Tie)||Ohio State University (Fisher)||$75,552.00||$106,779.00|
|15 (Tie)||Rice University (Jones)||$113,400.00||$142,212.00|
|18||University of South Carolina||$38,800.00||$96,434.00|
|19||Emory University (Goizueta)||$83,484.00||$149,759.00|
|20||Washington University – St. Louis (Olin)||$100,440.00||$117,687.00|
The University of Iowa’s Iowa MBA is currently ranked #28 in the nation, with a total tuition of $33,750 and an average salary of $112,820.
I just graduated with my bachelor’s degree. Is an MBA worth it with no work experience?
For starters, most reputable programs won’t offer admissions to students without at least a few years in the workforce. Additionally, in 2022, 49% of recruiters surveyed by GMAC12 cited a lack of work experience as the top reason they lack confidence in business school graduates.
Experience in the workforce adds critical context to your MBA education. It also makes you able to contribute intelligently to classroom discussions, identify real-world applications for what you learn, and understand the perspective of your classmates.
Keep in mind: the required work experience doesn’t have to be limited to a business role. Many professionals with experience in one field add an MBA to pivot into a brand-new industry.
Which MBA specialization is best in the future? Here’s the long view.
Adding a specific focus to your MBA is one way to stand out from other job applicants in a particular industry.
Specializations are available in the forms of certificates, dual degrees, and MBA concentrations. Some of the most popular (and in-demand) MBA specializations13 include general management, strategy, finance, and entrepreneurship.
However, business analytics skills are growing in demand with recruiters. Of those surveyed by GMAC,9 nine out of 10 planned to hire Master of Business Analytics students in 2022 (an increase of 13% over 2021 hires).
In Fall 2022, over 6% of Iowa MBA students added a Master’s in Business Analytics to their MBA program, and more than 5% are pursuing a Business Analytics Certificate along with their MBA.
“As an MBA, I knew I’d be more marketable and earn more money. And I was so excited when Iowa announced the business analytics program. This really is my specialty. The coursework in that program is something I do on a daily basis.”
- S. Edinburgh, et al. "AIGAC 2019 MBA Applicant Survey." Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, Percept Research, 2019.
- “How Much Does an MBA Increase Your Salary.” Transparent Career, May 2019.
- “MBA Degree Salary: 2023 Guide.” Coursera, June 15, 2023.
- Dr. Michelle Wieser. “Experiences and Outcomes of the MBA by Gender and Race.” Forte Foundation Study, September 2021.
- Josephson, Amelia. “The Average Salary by Age in the U.S. – Are You Making What You Should Be?” SmartAsset-Nasdaq, March 13, 2023.
- Haan, Kathy. “Average Salary by Age in 2023.” Forbes, May 23, 2023.
- “The 7 Best Tech Companies for MBAs.” Transparent Career.
- “Master of Business Administration (MBA), Finance Degree.” Payscale.com.
- “Corporate Recruiters Survey – 2023 Summary Report.” Graduate Management Admissions Council, July 2023.
- Salary sources:
- U.S. News & World Report. “6 Hot Jobs for MBA Graduates.” April 25, 2023.
- Martin Mascali. “13 of the Highest Paying Jobs for MBA Graduates to Pursue.” Monster.com.
- “Job Salaries By Industry.” Payscale.com.
- “Chief Executive Officer Salary in the United States.” Salary.com.
- Ilana Kowarski and Cole Claiborne. “Find MBAs That Lead to Employment, High Salaries.” U.S. News & World Report, April 25, 2023.
- “Corporate Recruiters Survey – 2022 Summary Report.” Graduate Management Admissions Council, May 2022.
- “8 Common and In-Demand MBA Concentrations.” Coursera, June 15, 2023.