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Salary Outlook for Business Administration Degree

The Master of Business Administration (MBA), the pinnacle of education for business professionals around the world, is a time-honored pursuit for pros looking to climb the corporate ladder, remain competitive in the profession, and increase their overall value.

Earn an MBA from a top graduate school and you’ll be on the radar of recruiters across the country and on the short list of top employers. This graduate degree signals to employers that you’re in touch with today’s current business climate, that you possess a well-rounded skillset that includes knowledge in areas like finance, design science, accounting, and organizational design, and that you’ve got the soft skills—creativity, leadership, critical thinking, communication, etc.—that make you a valuable asset in any number of business roles.

No one needs to tell you that today’s business world is a competitive place to be, so you’re likely well aware of the value of having an MBA from a top business school on your resume. But earning an MBA is a considerable investment of both your time and money, so you’ve also likely mulled over whether it makes financial sense for you.

Perhaps the best way to determine an MBA’s value is to examine your earning potential with and without one. The MBA remains a clear leader over a bachelor’s in terms of professional opportunities, both as a job candidate and as an employee, but does it deliver in terms of increased salary potential?

MBA Job Market Scope

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), not only does the MBA offer a bigger paycheck, the difference in pay between bachelor’s prepared business professionals and their MBA colleagues is significant. In short, there’s a very good reason why the MBA remains one of the most frequently sought after graduate degrees in the U.S.

To get a better idea of the earning power behind the MBA, take a look at May 2019 stats from the BLS, which provide a clear picture of what business professionals are earning at all levels based on job title and the industry in which they work.

The most accurate way to examine salary differences between bachelor’s prepared business professionals and their MBA counterparts is to assume that those with a bachelor’s degree as their highest degree likely earn salaries that fall at the lower end of the pay scale (25th -50th percentile), whereas those with an MBA earn salaries at the higher end of the pay scale (75th-90th percentile).

MBA Salaries, by Profession

We’ve outlined these salary ranges for some of the most common titles in business to highlight the difference in earning power between a bachelor’s and the MBA:

  • General and operations managers
    • $65,650 – $100,930 Bachelor’s
    • $157,120 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Advertising and promotions managers
    • $86,330 – $125,510 Bachelor’s
    • $175,940 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Marketing managers
    • $97,710 – $136,850 Bachelor’s
    • $185,320 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Administrative and services facilities managers
    • $72,220 – $96,940 Bachelor’s
    • $128,230 – $166,330 – MBA
  • Sales Managers
    • $85,150 – $126,640 Bachelor’s
    • $177,830 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Public relations and fundraising managers
    • $84,780 – $116,180 Bachelor’s
    • $161,230 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Computer and information systems managers
    • $113,110 – $146,360 Bachelor’s
    • $185,610 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Financial managers
    • $92,310 – $129,890 Bachelor’s
    • $181,980 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Purchasing managers
    • $92,560 – $121,110 Bachelor’s
    • $152,890 – $193,400 MBA
  • Compensation and benefits managers
    • $91,430 – $122,270 Bachelor’s
    • $163,980 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Human resources managers
    • $88,150 – $116,720 Bachelor’s
    • $156,560 – $205,720 MBA
  • Training and development managers
    • $84,720 – $113,350 Bachelor’s
    • $152,340 – $196,070 MBA
  • Project Management specialists and business operations specialists
    • $54,110 – $73,570 Bachelor’s
    • $99,150 – $128,420 MBA

The difference in pay between bachelor’s and MBA-prepared business professionals is significant across the board, with some professionals, such as general and operations managers, advertising and promotions managers, marketing managers, and public relations and fundraising managers with an MBA earning nearly double that of their bachelor’s prepared counterparts at both the low and high end of the salary scale.

MBA Salaries, by Industry

Another way to compare the salary differences between bachelor’s and MBA-prepared business pros is by examining what they’re earning within specific industries.

While salary differences vary based on the industry in which they work, the results are similar: MBA professionals greatly out earn their colleagues with a bachelor’s as their highest degree in every industry and at every level.

Management of Companies and Enterprises

  • Advertising and promotions managers
    • $87,210 – $119,250 Bachelor’s
    • $164,580 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Public relations and fundraising managers
    • $98,980 – $131,560 Bachelor’s
    • $181,120 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Administrative services and facilities managers
    • $82,060 – $109,610 Bachelor’s
    • $146,120 – $195,200 MBA
  • Financial managers
    • $109,790 – $145,280 Bachelor’s
    • $195,230 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Medical and health services managers
    • $88,600 – $119,020 Bachelor’s
    • $163,860 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Business operations specialists
    • $56,140 – $73,920 Bachelor’s
    • $98,260 – $126,010 MBA
  • Financial specialists
    • $58,580 – $76,070 Bachelor’s
    • $100,290 – $131,470 MBA

Manufacturing

  • General and operations managers
  • $78,620 – $118,180 Bachelor’s
  • $174,160 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Advertising and promotions managers
  • $86,320 – $124,940 Bachelor’s
  • $172,380 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Public relations and fundraising managers
    • $90,950 – $125,360 Bachelor’s
    • $172,350 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Administrative services and facilities managers
    • $81,970 – $104,630 Bachelor’s
    • $135,770 – $171,420 MBA
  • Financial managers
    • $101,090 – $130,900 Bachelor’s
    • $169,290 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Business operations specialists
    • $53,390 – $70,090 Bachelor’s
    • $93,310 – $120,910 MBA
  • Financial specialists
    • $59,710 – $75,610 Bachelor’s
    • $97,140 – $122,940 MBA

Information

  • General and operations managers
  • $75,120 – $123,020 Bachelor’s
  • $196,320 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Advertising and promotions managers
  • $70,970 – $106,270 Bachelor’s
  • $159,790 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Public relations and fundraising managers
    • $96,380 – $134,140 Bachelor’s
    • $181,500 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Administrative services and facilities managers
    • $82,010 – $110,330 Bachelor’s
    • $147,740 – $191,090 MBA
  • Business operations specialists
    • $59,540 – $81,790 Bachelor’s
    • $112,210 – $144,150 MBA
  • Financial specialists
    • $61,910 – $80,340 Bachelor’s
    • $106,760 – $139,510 MBA

Finance and Insurance

  • Advertising and promotions managers
    • $88,500 – $113,770 Bachelor’s
    • $156,390 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Public relations and fundraising managers
    • $96,740 – $128,890 Bachelor’s
    • $175,220 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Administrative services and facilities managers
    • $84,350 – $110,170 Bachelor’s
    • $149,000 – $201,100 MBA
  • Financial managers
    • $80,590 – $125,600 Bachelor’s
    • $192,600 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Medical and health services managers
    • $92,400 – $123,350 Bachelor’s
    • $190,440 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Business operations specialists
    • $53,360 – $70,300 Bachelor’s
    • $93,050 – $120,420 MBA
  • Financial specialists
    • $53,830 – $75,260 Bachelor’s
    • $109,890 – $167,530 MBA

Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

  • General and operations managers
    • $91,350 – $140,840 Bachelor’s
    • $206,160 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Advertising and promotions managers
    • $100,360 – $143,510 Bachelor’s
    • $196,470 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Public relations and fundraising managers
    • $97,480 – $133,5480 Bachelor’s
    • $198,440 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Administrative services and facilities managers
    • $78,760 – $106,760 Bachelor’s
    • $145,050 – $191,330 MBA
  • Medical and health services managers
    • $90,740 – $129,510 Bachelor’s
    • $189,770 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Business operations specialists
    • $55,420 – $76,390 Bachelor’s
    • $105,650 – $146,810 MBA
  • Financial specialists
    • $53,490 – $70,450 Bachelor’s
    • $96,350 – $130,850 MBA

Healthcare and Social Assistance

  • General and operations managers
    • $62,020 – $88,970 Bachelor’s
    • $131,530 – $196,880 MBA
  • Advertising and promotions managers
    • $57,540 – $74,950 Bachelor’s
    • $112,430 – $148,470 MBA
  • Public relations and fundraising managers
    • $74,970 – $98,550 Bachelor’s
    • $131,840 – $175,040 MBA
  • Administrative services and facilities managers
    • $65,150 – $86,960 Bachelor’s
    • $117,280 – $153,270 MBA
  • Financial managers
    • $87,620 – $116,960 Bachelor’s
    • $157,430 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Medical and health services managers
    • $74,560 – $98,030 Bachelor’s
    • $129,530 – $182,190 MBA
  • Business operations specialists
    • $43,160 – $57,480 Bachelor’s
    • $76,190 – $98,270 MBA
  • Financial specialists
    • $50,860 – $64,050 Bachelor’s
    • $81,830 – $101,570 MBA

Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation

  • General and operations managers
    • $51,290 – $73,930 Bachelor’s
    • $116,270 – $190,680 MBA
  • Advertising and promotions managers
    • $60,130 – $90,370 Bachelor’s
    • $128,940 – $196,860 MBA
  • Public relations and fundraising managers
    • $74,010 – $99,870 Bachelor’s
    • $140,560 – $199,440 MBA
  • Administrative services and facilities managers
    • $59,360 – $81,630 Bachelor’s
    • $112,300 – $151,680 MBA
  • Financial managers
    • $84,210 – $110,180 Bachelor’s
    • $154,110 – $208,000+ MBA
  • Business operations specialists
    • $39,390 – $53,760 Bachelor’s
    • $75,810 – $114,180 MBA
  • Financial specialists
    • $50,810 – $64,150 Bachelor’s
    • $82,180 – $106,540 MBA

Starting Pay After An MBA

Based on BLS numbers, it’s clear that MBA grads earn far more than bachelor’s prepared grads with the same amount of experience. But even when comparing the salaries of bachelor’s business professionals with significant experience vs. MBA business pros with less experience, the MBAs still come out far ahead in terms of earning power.

For example, bachelor’s-prepared training and development managers at the high end of the pay scale – $73,750 (indicating significant experience) still can’t compete with their MBA colleagues with just a few years of experience – $99,150.

Similarly, compensation and benefits managers with a bachelor’s degree earn $122,270 at the high end of the pay scale, while their MBA colleagues earn $163,980 at the low end of their pay scale – a more than $40,000 difference.

Is an MBA a Good Investment?

In nearly all cases, the answer is a resounding yes. Simply put, the MBA remains the most valuable tool for business pros looking to climb their way up the corporate ladder and increase their earning potential.

For many, the real value of the MBA and a clear indicator of its power in the business world is realized by examining top executives—business professionals who rise through the ranks through a combination of education and experience to assume executive roles in both public and private corporations and organizations.

According to the BLS, top executives earn an average annual salary of $193,850, as of May 2019, with those in the 75th percentile and above earning above $208,000 annually. The BLS also highlights the average salary for these professionals, by industry – all of which surpass the $200,000 mark:

  • Management of companies and enterprises: $234,690
  • Computer systems design and related services: $232,840
  • Real estate/rental/leasing sector: $212,790
  • Business, professional, labor, political and similar organizations: $200,090
  • Grantmaking and giving services (charitable trusts, fundraising): $203,610
  • Computer and related devices manufacturing: $240,890
  • Investment funds/pools: $247,110
  • Pipeline/natural gas transportation companies: $268,750
  • Monetary authorities – Central Bank: $264,610

It’s important to note that for many of the biggest players in business, including those with C C-level positions—CEOs, CFOs, COOs, presidents, vice presidents, etc.—salary is just one aspect of their overall compensation package, with signing bonuses, annual bonuses, stock options, and more often significantly contributing to a chief executive’s overall salary package.

Resources and References

May 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics data for Management Occupations and Chief Executives. Figures represent national data, not school specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2021.