If you want to know why business is the most popular major in America, look no further than the starting salaries that freshly-minted graduates are landing straight off-campus. At five leading undergraduate business programs, students in 2019 walked off with salary and bonus averaging more than $85,000–and that’s to start.
At the top end, Wharton undergraduates earned the most right out of school, reporting total average pay of $91,353, a sum that includes a base salary of $82,494 and an average signing bonus of $10,597, received by 83% of the graduating class. The total compensation numbers are adjusted to account for the percentage of grads getting bonuses.
Though far in excess of the average undergraduate salary for 2019 of $51,349 across all majors, the 2019 Wharton number isn’t a record. In fact, the average is slightly less than last year’s average total starting compensation of $92,057. The reason? Wharton salaries were up by 2.7% from $80,354 in 2018, but signing bonuses slipped from a record $12,960 in 2018 when slightly more than 90% of Wharton’s graduating class were handed bonuses just to accept a job.
TOP FIVE BUSINESS SCHOOLS IN PAY AFTER WHARTON ARE CARNEGIE MELLON, WASHU, NYU & UVA
You don’t have to go to Wharton, however, to make good money right out of school. In all, last year’s graduates of 85 different business schools did better than the national average starting salary for college grads. Some 21 B-schools reported salaries and bonuses of $70,000 or higher.
The top five schools in the 2019 pay sweepstakes included Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business where B-school undergrads took jobs with average starting compensation of $89,930, up from $85,791 last year and $82,216 two years earlier. Rounding out the top five were Washington University’s Olin School of Business ($86,090), NYU’s Stern School of Business ($85,930), and the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce ($85,591).
Wharton maintained its lead in starting pay while also posting extraordinarily high employment numbers: 97.7% of the graduates seeking employment had a job offer within three months of graduation, even better than last year’s 95.7% . Though Wharton has yet to publish its undergraduate employment report for the Class of 2019, its graduates earn such high pay packages due to the brand name recruiters who seek the school’s students.
GOLDMAN SACHS, JP MORGAN & MCKINSEY HIRE BIG AT WHARTON
Goldman Sachs hired the most Wharton grads in 2018, carting away 20, while JP Morgan Chase and McKinsey & Co. both hired 18 each. Boston Consulting Group (14), Bank of America (12), and Google (10) all hired Wharton undergrads in double digits. The school’s other big employers were Credit Suisse (9), Deloitte (9), Morgan Stanley (8), Accenture (7), Blackstone (7), Evercore (7), E&Y (7), Facebook (7), and Wells Fargo (7).
While those well-known companies help to drive up the pay for Wharton undergrads, compensation is impacted by the location and industry choices of graduates. Schools that feed more students into finance and consulting are more likely to have higher starting compensation packages than those that don’t. Schools that place students in major metropolitan areas, from New York and Boston to Chicago and San Francisco, are also more likely to have higher starting pay totals.$82,878 in 2019, up from
But college brand can often trump location as a factor in undergraduate pay. In the Washington, D.C., metro area, for example, Georgetown business grads pulled down total compensation of $82,878 in 2019, up from $79,513 a year earlier, and seventh highest in the nation and roughly $8,000 more per year than business graduates of nearby American University. In New York, graduates from NYU’s Stern School outlearned those from Fordham’s Gabelli School by an even larger margin: $85,930 versus $69,822, respectively.
And undergrads from several Midwestern schools–including Olin in St. Louis and Ross in Ann Arbor, Michigan–made more money to start than graduates from some schools in Boston and Silicon Valley. Ross grads in Michigan pulled down $82,012 in average total pay, up from $78,165 a year earlier, while Olin grads in St. Louis earned the third-highest pay packages in the U.S. at $86,090, a big jump from $75,986 in 2018. That compares with an average pay of $68,402 at Santa Clara in the heart of Silicon Valley or $69,079 at Northeastern University in Bean Town or $62,068 at Babson College, just outside Boston.
(See following page for full salary and bonus data for the leading undergraduate business schools)