Starting Salaries For Business Majors In 2018

At many of the best colleges, starting salaries for business majors in 2018 broke records, vastly exceeding the $50,390 average for all college grads. In fact, graduates of the top ten undergraduate business schools easily made 50% more in first-year pay right out of school than the college grad average.

Students whose diplomas were stamped by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School again topped the pay list. with average total starting compensation of $92,057, with salaries of $80,354 and signing bonuses of $12,960, received by slightly more than 90% of the graduating class. The 2018 total, a new record, topped the year-earlier pay of $90,601 by nearly $1,500. The total compensation numbers are adjusted to account for the percentage of grads getting bonuses.

You don’t have to go to Wharton, of course,  to make good money right out of school. In all, last year’s graduates of 79 different business schools did better than the national average starting salary for college grads. Some 17 B-schools reported salaries and bonuses of $70,000 or higher.


At Carnegie Mellon, B-school undergrads took jobs with average starting compensation of $85,791, up from $82,216 a year earlier. Rounding out the top five were NYU’s Stern School of Business ($84,764, up from $78,349), the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce ($80,842) and Cornell University’s Dyson School ($79,850).

Those sums are a great deal larger than the average for all college grads in 2018 of $50,390, according to a study by Korn Ferry which analyzed salaries of 310,000 entry-level positions from nearly 1,000 organizations across the United States.

Wharton maintained its lead in starting pay while also posting extraordinarily high employment numbers: 95.7% of the graduates seeking employment had a job offer within three months of graduation, down slightly from the record of 97.9% a year earlier (see Best Business Schools For Landing A Job Right Out Of College). Though Wharton has yet to publish its undergraduate employment report for the Class of 2018, its graduates earn such high pay packages due to the brand name recruiters who seek the school’s students.


Hiring Wharton grads in double-digits in 2017 were McKinsey & Co., which employed 19 Wharton undergrads, Bain & Co. (17), Goldman Sachs (15), Boston Consulting Group (14), Credit Suisse (14), JP Morgan Chase (13), Bank of America (11), IBM (11), and Morgan Stanley (11). In fact, the list of major employers at the school is phenomenal, including such tech giants as Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft.

Wharton continues to see an increase in the percentage of students entering the technology field, 14.7% in 2017, as well as real estate, investment banking, and hedge funds. Slightly under half of Wharton’s students entered a financial job function, with the popularity of investment banking roles increasing in 2017, along with trading, real estate, and data analytics.

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 $79,513, sixth highest in the nation and roughly $20,000 a year to start than business graduates of nearby American University.  In New York, graduates from NYU’s Stern School outlearned those from Fordham’s Gabelli School by a similar margin: $84,764 versus $66,528, 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 $78,165 in average total pay, while Olin grads in St. Louis earned $75,986. That compares with average pay of $68,560 at Santa Clara in the heart of Silicon Valley or $67,229 at Northeastern University in Bean Town or $59,680 at Babson College, just outside Boston.

The 2018 Special Report On Undergraduate Business Education

Ranking The Best Undergraduate Business Schools In The U.S.

How We Crunched The Numbers To Come Up With Our Ranking

2018 Report Card: How Business Majors Grade Their Own Undergraduate Programs

Acceptance Rates For The Best Undergraduate Business Programs

Average SAT Scores At The Top Undergraduate Business Schools

Best Business Schools For Landing A Job Right Out Of College

Starting Salaries For Business Majors In 2018

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