Every year, colleges around the country hand out more graduate degrees in business than in any other field of advanced study in the United States. Receiving an MBA can put you on the fast track to higher salaries and promotions in your old job, and gives you new career opportunities if you’re looking for them. But it also means a hefty price tag, especially since no college student is immune to tuition hikes and universities seem to be in an every-increasing race to add another zero to your bill.
You might be considering going back to school for your MBA, continuing in a program straight from your undergrad years, or in the midst of finishing a program now. But what happens afterward, and how much can you expect to be making? Above all, which industries and companies will give you the most return on your investment?
Every year, Bloomberg completes a ranking of the best business schools in the U.S. and in the world. They’re based on a number of factors, including satisfaction of current students and alumni, surveys from employers, salaries earned out of the programs, and job placement. As a supplement to that report, Bloomberg also put together a list of companies that would provide the highest paychecks, and which industries were gold mines for higher compensation.
In what should come as a surprise to no one, MBA holders in the financial sector earn the most, based on a survey of business school alumni six to eight years after they completed their graduate program, at a median of about $210,000. People with MBAs in the real estate industry earn a median of about $200,000, and those in the energy sector earn about $180,000. Here’s the list of the top 10 companies based on compensation:
- Morgan Stanley
- Goldman Sachs
- Deutsche Bank
- Boston Consulting Group
- Bain & Company
- Credit Suisse
- McKinsey & Company
Based on Bloomberg’s analysis of compensation packages including base salaries and bonuses, business graduates lucky enough to score a position at Morgan Stanley were the most handsomely rewarded, pulling in a median of $425,000. Goldman Sachs came in second at a median of just over $400,000, largely in part because the company offers the largest bonus packages among those companies included in the poll.
It’s not all stuffy banks handing out major paychecks to MBAs, however. Google and Apple both make appearances on the list, with some of Apple’s bonuses rivaling consulting firms and financial legends.
So far, none of these should be a huge shock. Financial firms like Morgan Stanley have the perception of owning Midas’ touch, and Google and Apple are the technology darlings of the west, with coffers to match. But just because you don’t land a job at one of the top 10 companies doesn’t mean you’ll be left destitute with a piece of fancy paper in return for multiple years of classes and thousands of dollars in loans.
According to the Bloomberg analysis, the agriculture industry is one of the top-paid sectors for MBA degree holders. Those who secure a job in that field earn a median of $180,000, right on par with what you would earn at a consulting firm. The difference is that you’ll likely have less competition if you apply for jobs in this industry. About 46% of surveyed alumni went into finance, technology, or consulting fields after graduation. Just 8.5% started working in the energy, real estate, or agriculture fields — and those are some of the best paid industries.
Of course, the smaller percentage could reflect the reality that there aren’t as many jobs in agriculture or energy for MBAs, compared to the positions open at banks and consulting firms. But they’re a little more creative, and not everyone is going to have their eye on them while they’re applying for an entry level position at Morgan Stanley.
No matter what, this information should help you decide what your post-MBA prospects are, and whether it’s worth the cost if you’re still in the decision-making process. In the analysis of business schools, Bloomberg reports that the average debt for an MBA degree alone is $43,595. Job placement just three months after graduation is 87.9%, however, meaning you have a pretty good shot at making a dent in those loans soon after receiving your degree. There’s some steep competition for new graduates, but in many cases it can be worth the effort. Who knows? You might be on track to become a CEO of a Fortune 500 company someday.