Donald Trump knew it way back in 1968 when he transferred out of Fordham University as a sophomore and went to the Wharton School of Business.
Then as now, Wharton is the money school, the place where employers dangle the biggest pay offers to undergraduate business majors anywhere in the world. In many cases, first-year pay out of Wharton’s undergraduate program rivals the kind of money MBAs from other business schools make.
This year Wharton undergrads accepted jobs that paid record average salary and sign-on bonus of $86,065. The average base salary was $77,566, while the average signing bonus, received by 81% of Wharton students, was $10,493. And those sums don’t even include what Wharton undergrads expect to make in their year-end bonus. Whether wishful thinking or not, the average anticipated extra bonus comes to $28,617 each. Add it all up and the first-year total pay is comfortably in six figures, at $109,817.
Even without the non-guaranteed year-end bonus, Wharton’s salary and signing bonus totals this year are nearly $5,000 more than runner-up UC-Berkeley’s Haas School undergrads, who earned first-year total pay of $81,251 in the best economy in the world in the Bay Area. But students didn’t have to graduate in a hot region to immediately make good on their degrees. Among the top five undergraduate schools by pay this year were those in Pennsylvania and Michigan.
Graduates of Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business in Pittsburgh took home starting pay packages of $81,051, while those at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business scored total pay of $78,952. Rounding out the top five was the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, where the Class of 2016 left campus with starting pay of $78,157.
Given the burden of student debt, today’s bottom-line orientation to undergradaute education knows few bounds. So this story on the estimated return-on-investment of a business major was another big hit of the year. What did we find?
According to the data from PayScale, a leading data warehousing firm that specializes in employee compensation, in-state Berkeley business majors can expect a 20-year return of $1,270,000 on their bachelor’s degree. That comes out to a 12.7% net annualized return on investment, provided the graduate lived on campus and didn’t receive financial aid. And that’s a conservative estimate. For example, in-state Haas business majors who receive financial aid can tack on another $60,000 to their 20-year return, raising it to 16.6%. Not to mention, living off campus can shave $10,000 off graduates’ costs, which goes directly to their ROI.
How dominant is Haas in this category? Out-of-state Berkeley business majors actually rank second in ROI, with a $1,170,000 annual return over 20 years (a number dampened by out-of-state students paying $92,000 more in tuition and other costs). If you add grant aid to the equation — and 53% of Berkeley students receive it — out of-state business majors average a $1,240,000 return.
Dean Richard Lyons attributes the school’s chart-topping ROI to the program’s selectivity. “It’s hard to get into any good university, including Berkeley, but when you apply as a sophomore to the business school, only 30% get in. So there is a double selection process which is quite intense. Also, a quarter of the slots go to community college transfers due to state law and only one in 12 of those students get in. You put all that together and it’s quite a potent mix of students.”