MBA grads reliably earn a six-figure salary in these 6 industries

BY Sarah Thomas-OxtobyMay 05, 2023, 1:53 PM
NYU students wearing graduation caps and gowns walk through Washington Square Park, as seen in May 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld—Getty Images)

Students pursuing an MBA often hope to land a job with a six-figure salary after graduation. And that’s warranted; in 2022, the average starting salary for MBA graduates was $115,000, more than 53% higher than the $75,000 average for people who only have a bachelor’s degree, according to Graduate Management Admission Council data. And graduates from top-ranked MBA programs can earn even more, with starting pay packages of $200,000 and up in 2022.

What’s more, an MBA can help grads land roles which earn tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses, including both signing bonuses and annual performance bonuses. That’s why it’s a good idea to factor in the total compensation package when considering employment options. 

“What’s not so obvious is a lot of companies where the salary might be a bit lower, but you’re eligible for stock options,” Stephen Pidgeon, executive director of career services at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, tells Fortune. That would put you into “a very attractive area of income, in excess of $200,000 in your first year” after earning your MBA, he adds. 

Opportunities to earn substantially more than the average MBA salary post-graduation exist—especially for grads from top programs. Here are six of the highestpaying industries for MBA graduates.  

1. Consulting jobs

Consulting roles consistently offer high six-figure salaries. In 2022, MBA grads who landed roles at consulting companies McKinsey, BCG, and Bain were offered base salaries of nearly $200,000.

Top consulting firms have continued hiring more MBA graduates, though that hot streak may be cooling. McKinsey and Bain have pushed back start dates for some new MBA hires to 2024 or offered to pay these recruits to delay starting their jobs, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Still, consulting salaries for MBA graduates from top business schools like Tuck and Kellogg have been steadily rising for years. Some of the most common consulting jobs where MBA grads can earn more than $100,000 include: information services consultant, technical solution consultant, and information services consultant.

MBA grads can see their salaries jump relatively quickly in the industry, as well. While the average base pay for first-year grads out of an MBA program is $190,000, that jumps to a range of $220,000 to $240,000 in the second to third year of employment, according to Management Consulted. More advanced roles—like a senior consultant project leader, a junior partner, and a senior partner—can see base salaries ranging from $275,000 to as high as $700,000, according to a 2023 management consultant salary report.

Finally, it’s important to note that these consultant salary figures don’t include signing bonus or performance bonus options. When those are factored in, take-home pay may be up to $30,000 higher, on average, thanks to the signing bonus. That’s in addition to a potential performance bonus, which can capture up to another $30,000.

2. Finance jobs

The finance industry has long been a popular career path for MBA grads. And working as a hedge fund manager, financial analyst, or investment banker are some of the most lucrative occupations in finance, with starting salaries in excess of $100,000.

Six-figure salaries are quite common for MBA grads who go into roles in financial services. In 2022, graduates from Stern and Tuck reported median salaries closer to the $200,000 mark, while some Harvard MBA grads made nearly $400,000 in their first year out of school, when combining base salary and bonus income.

Venture capital, private equity, and asset management are also among the top-earning occupations in the finance industry, and MBA grads increase their potential to earn well over six-figures when securing one of these roles.

3. Tech jobs

Even with the recent wave of tech layoffs, there are many tech occupations that are still in high demand. And some of the most popular tech jobs for MBA grads include roles in strategy and innovation, product management, and business development or sales, according to GMAC.

MBA grads who accepted roles at tech companies reported a median base salary of $140,000 at the University of Washington (Foster), $151,000 at the University of California–Berkeley (Haas), and nearly $164,000 at Stanford.

Salaries for MBA grads who go into tech may be even higher than their peers who don’t hold an advanced degree. For example, the average salary is around $120,000 for an innovation strategist, about $132,000 for a business development manager, and more than $270,000 for a product manager.

4. Consumer packaged goods jobs

Another career path with solid salary potential is working in leadership roles for consumer packaged goods companies—and this continues to be another traditional pipeline for MBA graduates, Brian Ruggiero, associate dean of career services at NYU Stern, tells Fortune.

Stern graduates who went into this field earned an average salary just above $119,000 and average signing bonus of $32,500, according to Stern’s 2022-23 employment report. Graduates from MIT Sloan School of Management who went into consumer packaged goods earn a median salary of $141,000, according to MIT’s 2022-23 employment report.

5. Entertainment, media, sports jobs

Entertainment, media, and sports jobs are also likely avenues to earn six figures for Stern MBA alumni, according to Ruggiero. Recent Stern grads who pursued entertainment and media roles were hired by companies like NBCUniversal, Hulu, and Playstation, while sports-minded MBA students landed roles with the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Football League (NFL).

The average salary of Stern MBA graduates who entered these roles was $137,500, according to Stern’s 2022-23 employment report.

Graduates of universities located minutes from Hollywood—commonly referred to as the entertainment capital of the world, also fared well when entering entertainment and media roles. Last year, MBA graduates from the University of California–Los Angeles (Anderson), and the University of Southern California (Marshall), both earned an average base salary just shy of $120,000, according to 2022 employment reports from Anderson and Marshall.

6. Health care jobs

The final industry that reliably pays many MBA grads six-figure salaries is health care. In 2022, Tuck Business School graduates who went into health care, pharmaceuticals, and biotech earned base salaries between $118,000 and $185,000. 

Tuck MBA graduates are “not going to be scientists inventing that new drug, but they could be on the marketing side, helping get the word out to patients,” says Pidgeon.

University of Michigan–Ann Arbor (Ross) graduates took home a mean base salary of more than $147,00 in 2022 when entering health care roles, and Stanford Graduate School of Business grads who went into the health care industry enjoyed a mean base salary exceeding $198,000 last year.

MBA graduates who become account managers for pharmaceutical companies can earn between $166,000 and $250,000.

Can MBA grads still expect six-figure salaries in 2023?

Even amid concerns about a potential recession and a recent wave of layoffs, MBA grads this spring area likely to see higher salaries than the class of 2022. Master’s degree candidates in business majors, a broader category than MBAs, are projected to see a 13.1% salary increase this year, according to a salary survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Still, some people may worry that the solid, six-figure career opportunities for MBA grads could be at-risk—and to that Pidgeon has the following advice for current MBA students soon to enter the job market: “If we’re heading into a time of turbulence, then maybe you just need to get a sensible job, get a good salary, and ride out the uncertainty of the next couple of years.”

Check out all of Fortune’rankings of degree programs, and learn more about specific career paths.