What Business Majors Make

If money really matters to you, Wharton is the school you want to attend. This year’s graduates of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School earned total pay packages to start averaging $90,601. That is a new record for Wharton and for any other undergraduate busines program, up 5.3% from $86,065 a year earlier.

That’s a pretty big chunk of change for a newly minted undergrad, considerably more than the estimated $49,785 made by undergraduates overall. At Wharton, however, starting salarie this year hit a record $80,566, up from $77,566 in 2016 (see below chart), while the average bonus, reported by 79% of the graduates, came to a hefty $12,703. The total compensation numbers are adjusted to account for the percentage of grads getting bonuses.

But you don’t have to get a Wharton piece of parchment to make good money right out of school. In all, nine schools reported average salaries of $70,000 or higher, up from last year’s eight schools. Another 25 schools reported average salaries above $60,000, meaning more than 41% of the ranked schools have graduates making at least $60,000 in their first jobs after graduation.


Kelley’s Cody Zeller undoubtedly earned the most of any business undergraduate this year but not for his business skills. He signed a four-year, $56 million contract to play basketball for the Charlotte Hornets

At 72 of the 82 ranked undergraduate business programs, total compensation exceeded the overall undergraduate average for the year. At Carnegie Mellon, B-school undergrads took jobs with average starting compensation of $82,216. Rounding out the top five were Georgetown ($78,413), NYU’s Stern School of Business ($78,349, and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business ($78,286).

If you include an extraordinary outlier in the salary stats for Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Kelley grads averaged a remarkable $82,791 this year. But that total includes basketball star Cody Zeller, who completed Kelley’s employment report. He was drafted by the NBA and received a four-year, $56 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets. Otherwise, Kelley’s total compensation would come in at $66,026, behind 22 other schools. That’s still an exeptional return for an undergraduate program in Bloomington, Indiana.

In Wharton’s case, the record compensation numbers were accompanied by another record in employment: 97.9% of the graduates seeking employment had a job offer within three months of graduation, up from 95.9% a year earlier. Though Wharton has yet to publish its undergraduate employment report for the Class of 2017, its graduates earn such high pay packages due to the brand name recruiters who seek the school’s students. Last year, Boston Consulting Group, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, McKinsey & Co., and Goldman Sachs each hired Wharton graduates in double-digit numbers.


At most of the highly ranked business schools, starting salaries for new college grads have never been higher. At one school after another, 2017 compensation broke new records. At Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, average total pay rose 6.2% to $78,413 this year from $73,867 in 2016. At Washington University’s Olin School, average total compensation increased 4.2% to $74,482 from $71,509. And at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business, the average starting pay package advanced 2.0% to $63,185 from $61,953.

Of course, 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.

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 $78,413, more than $15,000 a year to start than business graduates of nearby University of Maryland. In New York, graduates from NYU’s Stern School outlearned those from Fordham’s Gabelli School by a similar margin: $78,349 versus $63,185, 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 $77,246 in average total pay, while Olin grads in St. Louis earned $74,482. That compares with average pay of $66,770 at Santa Clara in the heart of Silicon Valley or $64,957 at Northeastern University in Bean Town.

And some schools actually saw total compensation fall slightly, largely because changes in industry and location choices shifted a bit for this year’s graduating class. At UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, the Class of 2017 averaged total pay of $78,286 each, down from $81,251 a year ago. At the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, compensation declined to $77,246, about $1,700 less than last year’s $78,952.

(See following page for our table on how much undergraduate business majors made this year in starting pay)

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