Highest-Paying Business Schools For Undergrads

Washington University Olin Library

Washington University Olin Library


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.

Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business

Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business

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.


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)

  • 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.