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26 MBA Programs that Lead to the Highest Starting Salaries

One of the main reasons people go to business school is to make more money. In addition to learning more advanced leadership skills and increasing the value of one’s professional/personal networks, applicants also cite salary as one of their main motivations for wanting to obtain their MBA. However, when reviewing the data in U.S. News & World Report for the class of 2016, Veritas Prep found some interesting trends that could actually influence how you rank your target schools and craft your school list.

American Business Schools Sorted by Average Starting Salary and Bonus

School Average Starting Salary and Bonus Percent Employed at Graduation Average GMAT Score (full-time) Acceptance Rate (full-time)
University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) $155,058 85.80% 730 19.60%
Harvard University $153,830 79.30% 729 10.70%
Stanford University $153,553 62.80% 737 6.00%
University of Virginia (Darden) $150,823 80.70% 712 26.50%
Columbia University $150,229 77.30% 720 14.10%
Dartmouth College (Tuck) $148,997 86.80% 717 22.40%
University of Chicago (Booth) $147,475 84.90% 726 23.60%
Cornell University (Johnson) $146,252 79.80% 700 27.60%
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Ross) $145,926 85.60% 708 26.30%
New York University (Stern) $145,413 82.10% 710 23.10%
Duke University (Fuqua) $144,799 83.10% 695 22.10%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) $143,565 81.20% 724 11.70%
Northwestern University (Kellogg) $141,694 82.80% 728 20.10%
University of California, Los Angeles (Anderson) $140,457 73.80% 715 20.70%
Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper) $140,289 76.00% 686 30.30%
University of California, Berkeley (Haas) $140,067 68.60% 717 12.00%
Emory University (Goizueta) $138,864 84.00% 683 33.10%
Yale University $135,988 76.00% 725 19.00%
University of Texas, Austin (McCombs) $135,194 77.50% 699 28.00%
University of Washington (Foster) $133,299 85.30% 691 23.90%
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler) $131,908 75.10% 700 36.40%
Rice University (Jones) $131,829 75.20% 690 26.60%
Vanderbilt University (Owen) $129,587 80.30% 691 45.50%
Indiana University (Kelley) $128,637 83.90% 670 31.40%
University of Southern California (Marshall) $126,932 75.20% 692 44.60%
Georgetown University (McDonough) $124,417 69.10% 692 44.60%

*Based on U.S. News and World Report 2016 graduating class data.


Where You Come From Matters a Lot

Before you get too excited about these high average starting salaries, there are a couple of important factors to keep in mind.

For some of you, the jump from your pre-MBA salary to your post-MBA salary won’t be that dramatic. For example, if you were doing investment banking pre-MBA, and you return to that industry post-MBA, your increase in salary won’t be nearly as large as someone who is coming from the teaching/education sector, for example.


Great Bang for Your Buck

Also, you’ll notice that most of the schools on this list are top 25 schools - the University of Washington (Foster, #27) and Rice University (Jones, #29) being the exceptions. Generally speaking, the schools with highest earning graduates are pretty selective (as you might expect).

Something that jumped out to us when interpreting this data was that you don’t necessarily have to go to a top 10 business school to be in the top 10 based on average starting salary and bonus. The University of Virginia (Darden) ranked 14th overall has the 4th highest average starting salary and bonus of $150,823. Cornell is ranked #16 overall, but 8th based on average starting salary and bonus, two spots higher than NYU (Stern). That being said, it’s the difference between $145,413 at NYU and $146,252 at Cornell.


What About the Biggest Names?

You might be wondering why highly ranked schools like MIT (Sloan) and Northwestern (Kellogg) don’t show up higher on this list. That raises a great question because even if you go to a school that’s known for producing high earning MBAs, it can vary from year to year. For instance, at MIT, there was a slight decrease in 2016 salaries, which may be attributed to the fact that fewer graduates went into investment banking than previous years. In addition, fewer graduates reported receiving signing bonuses.

Another reason may be that post-MBAs are increasingly focused on creating start-ups. As founders and CEOs of brand new companies, the reported salaries are typically much lower than a person employed by an established consulting firm for instance. Read more about that here.


Your post MBA earning potential can certainly be a factor in determining whether or not you pursue an MBA and where to attend. But make sure to keep all the influential factors in mind when selecting your program! To continue the conversation, contact us at (800) 925-7737 or sign up for a free consultation to discuss your business school plans with an expert. Happy application season!