This B-School isn’t a top 10 program but its new MBA grads still start at $175K median base salaries

BY Sydney LakeSeptember 12, 2022, 1:14 PM
The Lawn at the University of Virginia, designed by Thomas Jefferson, as seen in July 2021 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by: Robert Knopes—UCG/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

MBA graduates, on average, earn about 71% more than bachelor’s degree grads; the median base salary for MBAs is $115,000, while bachelor’s degree professionals earn $54,700. Some top MBA programs, however, have the power to more than triple your salary. 

According to preliminary data from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, class of 2022 students earned record-breaking median base salaries of $175,000. Fortune ranks Darden as having the No. 14 full-time MBA program in the U.S., as well as the No. 12 executive MBA program. According to the preliminary data (official, finalized data will be released later this fall), 2022 Darden MBA grads earned 21% more than 2021 grads, who earned a median base salary of $143,000.

Darden officials declined to comment on the preliminary data specifically. Jeff McNish, assistant dean of the career center, tells Fortune that what makes Darden a top MBA program is it draws students from around the world and simulates real-world business decisions using the case method in the classroom. 

“Throughout the curriculum, students learn to act decisively despite imperfect information. It’s a wonderful way to learn and translates directly to on-the-job performance,” he says. “Employers know what to expect when they hire a Darden MBA.”

What do U.Va. Darden grads do?

Preliminary career data from Darden’s full-time MAB class of 2022 shows that the top industries for grads were consulting, finance, technology, consumer product goods, and health care. Consulting, finance, and tech, in particular, are typically lucrative careers—especially for MBA grads. 

MBA grads hired at the top three firms—McKinsey & Co., Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and Bain & Co.—earn base salaries between $190,000 and $192,000, according to data from Management Consulted, a company that offers prep and training for professionals entering the industry. Plus, people who go into consulting make big bonuses that bring their pay packages to nearly $270,000.

“What we’ve seen in the last several years is a really hot job market where MBA graduates in particular have a lot of really great career opportunities available to them—whether that’s in professional services, or industry, or tech or startups. They have more options than they’ve ever had, and they’re well paying options,” Keith Bevans, a partner in Bain’s Chicago office, previously told Fortune. “We consider our value proposition as an important part of what it means to be—and stay—the best place to work. Comp is one part of the value proposition.”

Darden’s 2022 career data shows that the top hiring companies were Amazon, Bain, Bank of America, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell, Deloitte, EY-Parthenon, JPMorgan Chase, McKinsey, Microsoft, Strategy&, and Wells Fargo.

Finance jobs can also be extremely lucrative for MBA grads. Other MBA programs report new alumni earning between $150,000 and $400,000, depending on the sector of finance in which they’re working. In 2021, 26.4% of Darden’s graduating full-time MBA class went into finance, landing median base salaries of $150,000.

See how the schools you’re considering fared in Fortune’s rankings of the best master’s degree programs in data science (in-person and online), nursing, computer science, cybersecurity, psychology, public health, and business analytics, as well as the doctorate in education programs MBA programs (part-time, executive, full-time, and online).