AM I BEING PAID WHAT I’M WORTH?
Some business degrees also appreciate more in value over time. At Washington University (St. Louis), for example, business graduate pay more than doubles from $55,500 in early career to $118,000 by mid-career. You’ll find similar spikes at programs like Georgetown ($63,300 to $136,000), Georgia Tech ($60,200 to $122,000), SUNY-Albany ($44,800 to $122,000), Loyola of Maryland ($56,500 to $121,000), Southern Methodist University ($58,000 to $120,000), and George Washington University ($55,300 to $116,000).
The PayScale data also provides a great benchmark on how much business majors can expect to see their pay grow over their careers. It gauges whether the investment is worth the cost in two ways. First, take the private school versus public school debate. At Cornell University, for example, tuition, fees and room and board run $64,903 a year. Compare that to an upstate public like SUNY-Albany where the same cost is $21,615 for in-state students and $35,185 for out-of-staters. In other words, students wouldpay double at Cornell to major in a business-related field, even though they’d earn $15,000 less per year by mid-career (Cornell business grads, however, earn $16,300 more annually starting out, perhaps a clearer barometer of the degree’s worth).
This divide between private and public is a theme in the data. In early career pay, 17 of the 25 highest-paid business alumni hailed from private schools. That number swells to 19-of-25 by mid-career pay, further proof that business majors must pay a premium up front in order to cash in after graduation. The data also indicates the potency of an east coast business degree as 13-of-the-25 highest paid business school are found out east for early and mid-career pay.
Second, the data marks whether graduate earnings stack up against their peers. Imagine a member of Notre Dame’s Class of 2013 making $55,000. That’s $12,700 less than his or her fellow business majors. While region and job function play a part, the data reflects that this alum’s pay is trailing the degree’s market value. Everyone knows the rule of thumb: lower than average pay is a sure sign that it’s time to look for a new job (or apply to graduate school) to maximize earning potential.
TOP BUSINESS SCHOOLS OUTPERFORM THE LARGER SCHOOL IN PAY ALMOST ALWAYS
Likewise, the data reinforces the value of an undergraduate business school. Among the 25 highest-paying business schools, just one school’s business majors (Georgia Tech) trailed their peers in early career pay among those who earned just a bachelor’s degree. At mid-career, graduates from the 25 highest-paying business programs still outperformed their peers by a 22-to-3 margin in the same subset, a testament to the enduring value of the degree.
That said, bachelor’s degrees in business still fare poorly against peers who pursue graduate school. Take the MBA degree, which attracts everyone from engineers to actors (along with a 30%-50% of a class being former business majors). At Penn, for example, Wharton grads make $125,000 in early career wages, almost $53,000 more per year than their undergrad counterparts. The difference grows to $60,000 by mid-career ($181,000 vs. $121,000). This pattern holds true across the board from Berkeley (where undergrads make $55,000 per year less at early career and $38,000 less at mid-career) to Notre Dame (-$26,300 early career and -$28,000 at mid-career) to Virginia (-$49,900 early career and -$41,000 at mid-career). Business majors can make a comfortable living with a bachelor’s degree. To truly maximize their long-term earnings, they need to eventually make another investment and return to campus.
Go to next page for the top paying undergraduate schools (Bachelor’s degree only)