Survey: MBA Graduates’ Starting Salaries Estimated to Increase

Corporate recruiters estimated that the starting salaries for master of business administration (MBA) graduates would increase for 2023 compared to their 2022 projections in a new Graduate Management Admission Council survey.
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Published on July 21, 2023
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  • Master of business administration (MBA) graduates' starting salaries are estimated to be higher than 2022 projections, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council's 2023 Corporate Recruiters Survey.
  • Starting salaries for those with other graduate business degrees were projected to be lower, but they largely remained above those for bachelor's graduates.
  • The GMAC asked employers to estimate their average base starting salary in increments of $10,000 to offer new hires in the upcoming year — and the results revealed an increase only for MBA graduates.
  • Corporate recruiters said communications and tech skills are key and will continue to be important over the next five years.

Starting salaries for master of business administration (MBA) graduates are expected to be higher than 2022 projections even when accounting for inflation, according to a new report, and corporate recruiters remain optimistic about hiring.

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) found in its 2023 Corporate Recruiters Survey that estimated starting salaries for MBA graduates were set to increase in 2023, while starting salaries for other degree types were set to decline.

The GMAC asked employers to estimate their average base starting salary in increments of $10,000 to offer new hires in the upcoming year — and the results revealed an increase only for MBA graduates.

"The sentiment among employers remains positive — 69 percent of employers say employees with GME (graduate management education) degrees tend to earn more at their companies than others, which is largely consistent across region, industry, and company size," the report reads.

"MBAs, especially in the U.S., have been less affected by changes in employee compensation plans compared to those with more specialized master's degrees."

MBA graduates in the United States had an estimated median starting salary of $125,000 in 2023, according to the report, an increase from $115,000 in 2022. Median starting salary estimates for other degree types — like master in management, master of accounting, master of finance, and master of data analytics — fell when accounting for inflation.

Starting Salaries in 2022 and 2023 for Business Degree Holders
Degree Type 2022 Estimated Starting Salary 2023 Estimated Starting Salary
Master of business administration (MBA) $115,000 $125,000
Master in management $105,000 $85,000
Master of accounting $95,000 $75,000
Master of finance $105,000 $85,000
Master of data analytics $115,000 $85,000
Master of business analytics $105,000 $85,000
Bachelor's degree $75,000 $75,000
Industry experience $115,000 $105,000
Source: the Graduate Management Admission Council

The GMAC cautioned in the report that starting salaries are not necessarily a fair estimate of a degree's overall value, noting that a graduate education often brings a positive return on investment in the long term.

More employers said in the 2023 report that they plan to offer sign-on bonuses as opposed to in 2022, according to the survey of more than 1,000 corporate recruiters and staffing firm hiring managers from across the globe.

While employers said they were concerned about inflation and the risk of a recession, many still anticipated hiring to continue into 2023, even in the hard-hit tech industry.

When it comes to graduate business education, younger students have increasingly prioritized return on investment in ways beyond just salary. Gen Z students indicated in an earlier GMAC report that they want both a financial and emotional return on investment and are focused on achieving a good work-life balance.

Getting an MBA is generally linked to higher earnings, although it might take time for students to see a full return on their investment. The average MBA program costs close to $55,000, although prices vary by school and program type, but earning the degree can often mean boosted salary and career prospects.

Communications and Strategy Skills Are Key

The recent GMAC survey found that communications, strategy, and data analysis — all skills commonly covered by MBA programs — are key to employers.

"Currently, 62 percent of employers globally say interpersonal skills are important for GME graduates to possess, 59 percent say communication, and 56 percent say strategy and innovation," the report reads.

"More than half of employers globally also indicated data analysis and interpretation; learning, motivation, and leadership; decision-making processes; and general business functions are important skills for current GME graduates in the workforce."

Those skills aren't just important now, employers said, but will be even more important in the next five years. Of employers who listed communications skills as being important, cross-cultural competence and multilingualism were the most important.

Employers who listed tech skills as currently valuable saw Web3, virtual reality, and blockchain technologies as the most important skills for the future. Cloud-based technology, artificial intelligence, and data visualization also ranked highly among tech skills that will be even more relevant in five years.

"In summary, employers believe many of the same skills that are currently important for GME graduates — like communication, data analysis, and strategy—will grow even more important in the future," the report reads.

"But employers also signal graduates' skills will need to be deployed in an increasingly global and hybrid environment. As employers predict a growth in technology needs, there is an opportunity for business schools to deepen their students' capacity to understand and communicate within the changing conditions of the future workplace — even if many of the skills they need to wield are tried and true."

MBA programs continue to cover fundamental topics like communication, leadership, and ethics, but many also offer a wide variety of MBA concentrations that allow students to specialize in the same areas that corporate recruiters see as important.

Other programs have revamped their entire core curriculum to integrate emerging topics. Tulane University earlier this year announced it would incorporate data across its core courses. And the international business school INSEAD moved to make sustainability key across its entire MBA program.