Highest-Paying Business Schools For Undergrads


Georgetown isn’t the first name that springs to mind when experts list the top undergraduate business programs. Penn and Notre Dame enjoy the best brand recognition. State schools like Michigan, Texas, and Virginia churn out business graduates in droves. Of course, UC-Berkeley business alums historically boast the highest earnings.

That is, until now.


If you’re looking to become a big dog in business, it pays to be a Hoya. That was one takeaway from PayScale’s 2016-2017 College Salary Report. According to their data, Georgetown and Berkeley business majors each average $136,000 annually in mid-career earnings. In fact, the schools stood apart from all comers, with their mid-career grads making — at minimum — $12,000 more per year than their peer schools.


However, the news isn’t completely rosy for either school. The tie has less to do with Georgetown’s growing prowess and is more about Berkeley grads’ decreased earnings. Last year, Berkeley (Haas) business alums reported making $140,000 collectively, meaning this year’s numbers represent a $4,000 pay decrease. At the same time, Georgetown (McDonough) mid-career income remained steady at $136,000. The pattern is the opposite with early career pay, however. Here, Berkeley business major pay rose from $72,800 to $75,000. That number far outpaces Georgetown grads, who report $63,300 starting pay packages (which is still a $3,000 bump over the previous year).

What’s their secret? On the surface, you couldn’t find two more different schools. Berkeley is the jewel of California’s public education system, a left-leaning bastion to causes of every shape and stripe. Georgetown, a private university that’s as old as the United States itself, is immersed in old school Jesuit values. Beyond that, they have striking similarities. Each business program is strongly infused with a liberal arts curriculum. The schools are also united in their common commitment for the disadvantaged and the greater good. Even more, each benefits from an exceptional location. Haas is 15 miles from San Francisco’s ever-surging entrepreneurial scene —and an hour from Silicon Valley royalty like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Salesforce. On the opposite coast, McDonough is just five miles from Capitol Hill, with nearly every major employer having some presence in the Beltway. As you can imagine, both urban schools attract recruiters from every corner, ensuring that business graduates from both schools should continue cashing those big checks for years to come.

Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business


The “College Salary Report” data is culled from surveys completed by PayScale website visitors. To access salary information by region, industry, and job function, visitors must complete a survey that includes their education and salary history. The report, which is based on 1.4 million responses from Americans, includes both early career (five years or less of post-graduation experience) and mid- career (median age of 44 years old and has 15 years of experience).

To calculate pay, PayScale “combines base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, overtime, and other forms of cash earnings, as applicable.” However, it excludes stock compensation, retirement benefits and the value of other non-cash benefits such as healthcare. The data set is also limited to students who hold only a business-related bachelor’s degree, excluding degrees like MBAs, MDs, JDs, or PhDs. In other words, these numbers understate the pay business majors receive to an extent. Even more, it is restricted to individuals who work a full-time job to avoid data being skewed by factions like contract employees.

Overall, 535 American business programs are represented in the survey. In its methodology, PayScale notes that the “sample size for each school included ranges from ~50 profiles to ~4000 profiles, depending largely upon the size of the school.” While PayScale points out that it “placed certain restrictions on minimum sample size and spread in pay for the school/major combinations,” it does not reveal the number of business majors per school who participated.

Go to next page to see the undergrad b-schools with the highest pay.

  • Red Layug

    The rankings on pages 3 to 5 make very little sense. Earnings are heavily influenced by: 1. job sectors, then, 2. location.
    STEM and highly technical or specialized engineering graduates are more likely to be absorbed by companies and organizations that pay more than humanities or social sciences (minus business and economics) are. So, this automatically penalizes those schools having a wide range of undergrad programs such as Berkeley. This is an apple and orange comparison. You cannot pit a school as huge and as diverse as Berkeley against a heavily STEM school like or Caltech, for instance. Or, the huge Berkeley (with so many undergrad programs) against the tiny Princeton or Stanford (not entirely STEM-dominated schools but have a much lesser undergrad programs).

    A more sensible comparison would be to divide this into 2 groups:
    1. Schools with few undergrad major offerings (Dartmouth, Duke, Princeton and the like), and
    2. Schools with many undergrad major offerings (Berkeley, Michigan, Texas, UIUC and the like).
    That’s one.

    But the better way to approach this is to devide this into 4 catogeries (make it 6 if you can), almost similar to your page 2 ranking where you made a specific ranking for business major graduates only. These 4 categories are the 4 main divisions of academic discipline:
    1. STEM
    2. Humanities
    3. Social Science
    4. Languages and the Arts.

    Alternatively, or, better yet, you may further divide it into 6 and include the following:
    5. Preprof/vocational — Hotel Administration, tourism, architecture, sports management, teachers, etc…
    6. Paramedical — nursing, physiotherapy, pharmacy

    Now, let’s see how much better would the Ivies be versus the “public Ivies”, or if there really is a difference between MIT and Berkeley in STEM.

    I used MIT and the Ivies as examples because, they’ve registered impressively on the overall charts. And, Berkeley, because I’ve noticed on their career website how big the disparity is between or among programs. For example, the average salary of the computer science and the EECS fresh graduates of Berkeley is something like 110k, while it’s only around 55k for the humanities grads. And, this reinforces my suspicion that the reason why heavily tech schools like MIT and Caltech… and, small schools like Yale and Princeton… are doing better than Berkeley (although the gap isn’t big) is because Berkeley has plenty more undergrad programs — and thereby, will be sending many more graduates — to organizations and sectors that aren’t as generous as the others.