These Business Programs Have the Best Payoff

A report found that two years after graduating, business students' median earnings are about 10 times their debt payments.

Published September 21, 2022

Edited by Darlene Earnest
These Business Programs Have the Best Payoff
Opinion & Analysis
Photo by RapidEye / E+ / Getty Images

  • Business graduates' annual earnings, minus debt payments, exceed $100,000 at 29 schools.
  • Master's degree-holders in finance from the University of Pennsylvania have median earnings of $195,600 a year.
  • Median earnings for men with master's degrees in business are $23,400 higher than earnings for women.

Business has long been the most popular college major for undergraduate and graduate students in the U.S. During the 2019-2020 academic year, business degrees accounted for approximately 21% of all bachelor's and master's degrees conferred.

Now, a recent report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce reveals that the increasingly popular field of study also has a major payoff. Two years after graduating, business students' median earnings are about 10 times their debt payments.

Though earnings and debt for students can vary by institution and degree level, business students are likely to see a decent return on their investment at all levels. Even at the associate degree level, business students' earnings after debt payments yield the 10th-highest earnings out of 25 majors.

Still, not all business programs produce the same results. According to the report, these are the top 10 business programs by institution where students have the highest returns two years after graduation:

Within business, students' chosen field of study will also impact their median earnings.

At the master's degree level, median earnings net of debt payments can range from $80,400 per year for students from business/commerce programs to $39,600 for students from human resources management and services programs.

Students who majored in management sciences and quantitative methods have the highest median earnings net of debt payments two years after graduating at $96,000 per year.

At the bachelor's degree level, students who choose to major in construction management see the highest median earnings two years after graduating at $62,400 per year.

Median earnings net of debt payments two years post-graduation are highest for master's degree-holders in finance and financial management services from the University of Pennsylvania at $195,600 a year.

Despite these high earnings and the widespread popularity of business among various groups of students, men continue to account for the majority of business students. They also — along with Asian students and white students — tend to see the highest median earnings of all business students after graduating at both the bachelor's and master's degree level.

At the bachelor's degree level, median earnings for business students who are men are $5,900 higher than the median earnings for women. Differences in earnings between men and women increase at the master's degree level, with men yielding median earnings of $99,000 annually and women earning $75,600 annually — a $23,400 difference.

Overall, despite varying levels of debt and educational attainment, business students can anticipate a high return on their investment when they enter the workforce.