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Salary expectations for business graduates

October 06, 2023
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Pursuing an MBA is a strategic move to boost your career and income. For perspective, while a bachelor's degree might yield median weekly earnings of $1,661 (as of 2022), those with an MBA—a widely recognized professional degree—can expect median weekly earnings of $2,080.1 Those with a professional degree also have a lower unemployment rate than bachelor’s and high school graduates.1

Digging deeper, the salary you earn is dependent on many things including the industry you work in, job market trends and the type of career you pursue.

In this article, we'll break down the factors that influence the MBA salary and highlight the job opportunities this degree can open up.

Factors influencing the average MBA salary

There’s great news for MBA graduates. According to a 2023 Bloomberg News survey conducted among alumni, students and employers, “the median gain in salary from students’ pre-MBA jobs to their first jobs out of business school in 2022 was $85,000.”2

While discussing median wage average increases and MBAs, it's important to note the various elements that define MBA salaries. All of these factors are important to remember when you’re doing salary negotiations.

Influencing factors that can affect total compensation for job roles include:

  • Industry-specific salaries
  • Location-based pay
  • Market compensation rates
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Negotiation skills
  • Benefits and perks
  • Job growth potential
  • Economic outlook

Let’s take a closer look at a few of these factors.


Professional experience matters. As you gain more years in your field, you'll tackle real-world challenges that aren't covered in textbooks. Combining this experience with knowledge from MBA programs can make you a preferred candidate for employers.

This combination often results in higher salaries and potential performance bonuses and according to LinkedIn, “employees with extensive relevant experience demand a higher pay rate.”3 The more specific the experience, the better the match. Knowing a company's pay structure can be an asset when negotiating your post-MBA salary.

Type of Role

Many roles, especially in sectors like the finance industry and business analytics, offer more than just a fixed salary. They might include performance bonuses, stock options or commissions.

According to Bloomberg News, the top industries for new MBA grads include:

  • Consulting
  • Technology
  • Financial services/accounting
  • Health care/medical
  • Consumer products2

For MBA graduates, depending on the company and job role, there's an opportunity to earn a competitive base salary with added financial perks. Insights from MBA courses and programs that offer career support can guide you on which careers offer these lucrative benefits.


An advanced degree, like the MBA, often comes with increased salary expectations. Therefore, an MBA becomes an obvious choice for those looking to further their business education. MBAs from renowned and reputable business schools can give you an advantage during salary discussions.

Professional licensure or certification can also lead to higher salaries as can higher levels of education. Additionally, master's degrees in specific areas like marketing can also enhance your ability to negotiate for higher wages.

Accessing this education can be easier with the proper support. According to a research report by the Society for Human Resource Management, 56% of employers offer educational assistance benefits.4 Educational assistance can take the form of partial or full tuition coverage, scholarships and more.

Make sure to check out the benefits offered by different organizations when you’re looking for an MBA that will help you enhance your career options.


Your MBA degree salary can go further depending on where you’re located. Although location doesn’t have as big of an impact on wages as other factors, your salary can go further based on geographic demand for a job and the average cost of living in an area.

As the Brookings Institute explains, “A worker in a metro area with a relatively low cost of living (e.g., Dallas) might think twice before accepting a slightly better-paying position in a metro area with a higher cost of living (e.g., San Francisco).”5 You might also consider income or sales taxes, as well as public amenities like libraries, cultural centers and other attractions.

Comparing MBA and BSBA salaries: Decoding the salary landscape

When navigating the business world, one of the common crossroads that professionals often encounter is whether to stick with a bachelor’s degree in business, like a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA), or to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

While the allure of an MBA is undeniable, there are several facets of the decision to be evaluated.

Let’s explore how the two degrees stack up against each other, particularly in terms of salary expectations.

Average starting salary: BSBA vs. MBA comparison

In the evolving business world, many face the pivotal decision of whether to continue with their Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) or to elevate their potential by pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

While both offer valuable insights into the business realm, the MBA degree clearly shines in several aspects, especially when we consider salary expectations. Let's deep dive into the financial dividends of these degrees to better understand their worth—and why pursuing an MBA, post-undergrad, could make a good return on your investment.

The starting salary for a BSBA graduate is influenced by various factors including specialization, industry and location. However, when juxtaposed with the average MBA starting salary, it's evident that the latter frequently boasts a more lucrative package.

Citing data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, in 2021, business majors with a bachelor's degree had a median starting salary of around $57,000.6 On the other hand, the Graduate Management Admission Council reported that MBA graduates reported an average starting salary of over $115,000 in 2022.7

It's worth noting that pursuing an MBA, especially from top-ranked MBA programs, often comes with a notable tuition fee. However, when weighing this against the potentially higher salaries, job opportunities and performance bonuses, many see the MBA as a sound investment for their future.

Job market trends and industry-specific salaries

Holding a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) paves the way for opportunities across various sectors, enabling business majors to explore a multitude of job roles. Yet, to truly stand out for high-paying roles, particularly in finance, consulting and tech sectors, an MBA degree can help propel you to the forefront.2

It’s also important to note that with the dynamic shifts in the business landscape, there's a burgeoning demand for roles centered on business analytics, digital marketing and sustainability.

By pursuing an MBA with updated course offerings tailored to these emerging trends, you not only position yourself as a preferred candidate but also unlock potential salary brackets that rival, if not surpass, those of a traditional MBA.

The bigger picture: Benefits, perks and job growth potential

Average MBA salaries and starting salaries for BSBA graduates are good barometers, but they're merely a segment of the complete compensation panorama.

To fully evaluate potential earnings, prospective MBA students and BSBA graduates should consider the entire compensation package. This package might encompass signing bonuses, stock options and performance bonuses.

For instance, MBA hires in leading technology companies often receive generous signing bonuses and stock options. In contrast, BSBA graduates, particularly in start-ups, might value the exponential job growth potential and dynamic work environment.

In the grand scheme, while a bachelor's degree in business administration lays a robust foundation for fresh entrants into the business world, an MBA degree amplifies one's credentials, offering the potential of not just higher salaries but also a broader spectrum of job opportunities and professional growth.8

Today, numerous firms provide further education benefits, presenting an opportunity for BSBA graduates to consider an online MBA program or a specialized master's degree, enriching their skillset without the substantial costs.4

Looking ahead: Navigating your business career path

Embarking on your journey in the business world with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration is an excellent foundation. However, for those aiming for the zenith of professional growth and the highest average salaries, MBA degrees from renowned business schools can act as a catalyst.

This advanced degree, particularly from accredited MBA programs, amplifies your credentials and can help better position you for not only higher salaries but also for leadership roles, high-paying jobs and unparalleled job opportunities in competitive sectors.8

To navigate your business career successfully, it's essential to stay attuned to job market trends and industry-specific salary data. Yet, above all, aligning with an academic path that resonates with your aspirations and long-term goals is paramount.

While the BSBA provides a strong base, the MBA degree remains the pinnacle for those looking to attain the highest echelons of the corporate realm.

Harness the power of an online MBA from Marquette University

The Marquette online MBA from the Marquette University Graduate School of Management goes beyond standard practices, ensuring that you’re not just career-ready, but also equipped to be a change-maker. As industries evolve, the demand for strategic, ethically-driven business leaders intensifies.9

With a curriculum emphasizing business literacy, strategy and leadership, you become that sought-after graduate. You'll harness insights from the same distinguished faculty that graces their top-ranked on-campus programs, guaranteeing a learning experience infused with real-world relevance and academic rigor.

Several compelling reasons underpin why a Marquette online MBA stands out:

  • Limitless future
  • Tailored for success
  • Immediate ROI
  • Diverse course offerings
  • Commitment to ethics
  • Streamlined path

When you couple all these advantages with the possibility of accelerating your program based on your undergraduate business studies, the Marquette online MBA truly emerges as an unparalleled choice for ambitious professionals.

Ready to redefine your professional future? Dive deeper into Marquette's transformative online MBA program. Speak with an admissions outreach advisor today and pave your path to unparalleled success.