Salary Outlook for Business Degree Grads

Created by Henry Steele

By Henry Steele - November 30, 2017
Reading Time: 11 minutes
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Earning a business administration and management degree provides you with general business skills that can be valuable in a variety of careers. Management, business and operational skills are needed to be an effective management professional in many occupations and industries.

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To understand what your possible salary may be with a business administration and management degree, it is necessary to look at the following factors:

  • The level of degree
  • Type of business career chosen
  • Level of experience
  • Industry

Possessing this information, you can learn the level of salary to expect with a business administration and management degree.

Level of Business Degree

It is well established that obtaining a master’s MBA or Online MBA degree will generally result in a higher salary than a bachelor’s degree over your career.

According to a 2015 study by Georgetown University, college graduates with their undergraduate degree earned an average salary each year of $61,000. Professionals with a master’s degree earned an average salary of $78,000 – a $17,000 difference. These figures were an average of many career fields in business management and others.

Another study found that people with bachelor’s degrees earned $2.27 million in their lives, and those with a master’s degree earned $2.67 million.

But what about getting a business administration and management degree – what is the salary difference for undergraduate and graduate degrees? The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) in 2017 conducted a salary survey of graduates that year who earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business-related fields. The survey found substantial differences in salary between both types of degrees, depending upon the business specialty.

Below are the business administration and management specialties with their average starting salaries for bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The figures below are base salaries only; they do not include commissions, benefits, bonuses or overtime.

  • Accounting: $54,838; $67,369
  • Business administration/management: $54,019; $81,685
  • Economics: $55,965; $73,665
  • Finance: $55,609; $70,957
  • Human resources: $52,313; $73,212
  • International business: $54,446; $69,964
  • Logistics/supply chain: $55,694; $68,445
  • Marketing: $52,988; $86,318

There is other data available that indicates you get a leg up with a master’s degree in business and management fields. A report by CBS News stated that a master’s degree makes financial sense if you are aiming to become a general manager. It found that general managers with a bachelor’s degree in business earned an average salary of $79,800, while those with their master’s earned $97,200.

The findings for financial advisors were similar: A financial advisor with a bachelor’s earned an average wage of $62,700. For a master’s in finance, the number was $77,625. Meanwhile, a marketing director with a four year degree earned a salary of $79,100, and for a master’s degree, the salary was $98,800.

For business managers with only a bachelor’s, CBS reported that the average salary was $62,723, but for the same professional with an MBA, the salary was $80,439, a big 22% difference.

The Project Management Institute also has conducted research that shows how the level of education affects project management salaries. Project management is a very common occupation and field in many business organizations:

  • Some college or associate’s degree: $98,000
  • Bachelor’s degree: $104,800
  • Master’s degree: $112,000

Therefore, it is clear that the level of degree you earn in many business-related fields can have a major effect on your salary. In general, you are poised to earn more money with a master’s degree in a business discipline than with a bachelor’s only. That difference in salary can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over a career.

That is why many mid-career professionals in business administration eventually go back to school to earn their master’s degree. An added benefit of this move: Many employers will pick up some or all of the expense of getting that graduate degree.

5 Things to Look For in a MBA Program

If you want to go back to school for your MBA to get a higher salary, here are some quick tips to help you choose the best program:

See also how to Choose the Best Online MBA Programs

  • Find a program with the specializations and electives you seek. Not every MBA program has a good healthcare or entrepreneurship concentration. If you have your sights set on a certain speciality, choose a school that excels in that area. Also many Online MBA programs now offer a No GMAT Online MBA which is great for professionals.
  • While top faculty is important, some top tier business schools have top professors who are rarely actually in class. It is very important to have good instructors who are available and approachable.
  • Look closely at career services. If you are getting an MBA to switch jobs or careers, a good career services department at the school and in the program is essential. Top programs regularly bring in corporate recruiters to hire recently-minted MBAs.
  • Examine reputation of the program. If you dig through various ranking systems of MBA programs, you can usually find information about the reputation of the program. The US News and World Report MBA rankings system has a peer assessment score; this shows how highly the program is thought of by others in the business education world.
  • Accreditation: Ensure that the MBA program is accredited by a respected educational organization, such as the AACSB. This will ensure that you are obtaining a high quality degree that is respected in the business world.

Types of Business Careers

Earning a business administration and management bachelor’s or master’s degree will make a big difference in pay. But so will the exact occupation that you have in the business world. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has compiled 2016 statistics that detail the median pay that you can earn in the most popular business careers.

See also MBA Salary by Concentration

Business Operations

Professionals in this general category focus on the day to day or running many types of businesses.

  • Management analysts: Propose efficient ways for a company to increase their profits and productivity. They may also be called management consultants: $81,320
  • Claims adjusters: Responsible for the evaluation of insurance claims for homeowners, car owners and other types of insurance holders: $63,000
  • Market research analysts: Perform analysis of market conditions to determine possible sales of a service or product. They also assist companies to grasp what consumers want and the price they will pay: $62,150
  • Purchasing agents: Assist companies in buying products and services that the company needs to conduct business: $62,200
  • Compensation and benefits specialists: Responsible for planning, developing, and overseeing programs that provide compensation and benefits to workers: $60,800
  • Logisticians: Perform analysis and coordination of the supply chain for an organization, which is the system that moves products from suppliers to consumers: $74,260
  • Compliance officers: Assure that companies and other entities are in compliance with rules and regulations: $65,600

BLS data shows that management analysts earn the highest salary of all these positions. The salary range for management analysts was $45,900 to $150,000. Type and level of business degree are major factors in the salary range. Years of experience and area of the country also are important.

Look at these potential degree options:

Financial Specialists

Business professionals who enjoy keeping track of money may prefer to work in various financial roles. These occupations often focus on dealing with investments, business accounts and accounting.

  • Accountants and auditors: Responsible for the preparation and examination of financial records. They also ensure that such records are accurate and that all taxes are paid on a timely basis: $67,190
  • Budget analysts: Assist the public and private organizations to better organize their finances. Also work in the preparation of budget reports and monitor how spending is done in institutions: $71,500
  • Financial analysts: Provide business guidance and to individuals that need to make investment decisions. They also perform assessment of stocks, bonds and other types of investments: $80,300
  • Financial examiners: Ensure companies are in compliance with laws that cover financial transactions and institutions: $78,000
  • Insurance underwriters: Decide if the company should provide insurance to the person or entity and under what type of terms: $65,000
  • Personal financial advisors: Offer advice to individuals on insurance, investments, college savings and mortgages: $89,000

The data indicates that financial analysts tend to earn the highest salary in the financial specialties; the salary range is $45,500 to $149,300.

Look at these potential degree options:


Managers are responsible for the oversight of many activities related to businesses. Most managers in businesses need to have experience for even an entry level job.

  • Chief executives: Devise policies and strategies to increase the profits and performance of the organization. Responsible for the long term strategic objectives of the company: $175,100
  • Computer and information systems managers: Responsible for planning, coordinating and directing all of the computer related activities in a company: $131,600
  • Financial managers: Responsible for the overall financial health of a company or organization. Responsible for producing financial reports, directing investment activities and strategies and plans for ensuring financial goals of the organization: $117,900
  • HR managers: Plan, direct and coordinate the many administrative functions of a company. Responsible for the oversight of interviewing, recruiting and hiring new staff: $104,400
  • Marketing and sales managers: Responsible for the directing of marketing and sales teams, as well as achieving company targets for sales: $119,200
  • Medical and health services managers: In charge of planning, directing and coordinating medical and health services. Also called healthcare executives and healthcare administrators: $94,500
  • Purchasing managers: Oversees the product, part and services purchasing for a company to ensure that all materials are available to product whatever the company makes: $108,100

Managers have some of the highest possible salaries in the business world, but that salary is heavily dependent upon the level of degree and experience. Chief executives make the most on this list, and the salary range is from $68,600 to $187,200.

Look at these potential degree options:

Sales Management

Sales are at the core of a business being profitable, so it is natural that you can make a good living in sales in the business world.

  • Insurance sales agents: Works with potential customers to sell various types of insurance: $48,200
  • Real estate brokers: Assist clients in buying and selling of real estate, which can include houses, multifamily buildings and land: $56,800
  • Sales engineers: Sell complex services and technical products to companies. $97,600
  • Sales representatives: Responsible for selling a variety of products and services to consumers, from cars to electronics to insurance products: $51,700
  • Financial services sales agents: Markets and sells financial products to consumers and businesses, such as investments and insurance: $71,500

While these figures may not look that high, remember that many sales agents are paid a salary and commission. Commission payments reward the most successful and hardworking sale professionals. Financial services sales agents have a tremendous range of salary from $32,600 to $187,200 per year.

Look at these potential degree options:

Other Business Occupations

Some of the salaries that you may earn in various other business and management related careers include:

  • Actuaries: Perform analysis of the financial costs of uncertainty and risk for a company, using mathematics, statistics and financial theory: $97,100
  • Economists: Study distribution and production of resources, services and goods by collecting statistics and data: $99,180
  • Operations research analysts: $78,600
  • PR specialists: Create and maintain a strong public image for the company or entity that they represent. May work on press releases and devise effective social media efforts to improve public perception: $56,770
  • Statisticians: Analyze data and apply statistical tools to solve problems in business, healthcare and related fields: $80,110

In this category, actuaries had the highest median wages in terms of the highest and lowest salaries of $58,290 and $180,500. This suggests that the level of degree and experience you possess as an actuary will make a major difference in your compensation.

For median salary, economists’ wages of $99,180 was the top salary.

Look at these potential degree options:

Highest Paying Job Titles

The following list is a sample of our Top 100 Highest Paying Business Jobs.

Business Job TitleNational Salary
Chief Medical Officer$185,835
Medical Director$184,548
Chief Technology Officer$147,424
Director of Engineering$138,182
Director of Pharmacy$136,890
Chief Marketing Officer$136,769
Data Scientist$130,297
Chief Financial Officer$130,123
Quantitative Analyst$127,870
Investment Banker$125,041
Network Architect$123,709
Chief Information Officer$121,573
Pharmacy Manager$119,896
IT Security Specialist$113,452
Data Warehouse Engineer$111,007
Business Intelligence Manager$109,552
Investment Manager$108,746
Director of Sales$108,044
Sales Director$107,659
Tax Manager$107,133
Risk Manager$103,743
Technical Project Manager$100,971
Director of Finance$99,996
Finance Director$99,972
Director of Security$99,822

Work Experience

Work experience is critical to earn a higher salary in business administration and management, regardless of your degree. It is important to gain business-related experience while you are still in school with various internships and practical business experiences. For many bachelor’s and master’s students, internships can be the best way to get a good job; many employers today prefer to hire past interns. This ensures that the person is a good fit for the job and organization.

See also 10 Best Project Management Degrees

In the field of project management in business, years of experience definitely will affect your salary. One of the most coveted certifications in this field is the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential. Having this certification can help the business professional to obtain high paying positions in the $100,000 plus range. But you need to have at least 4,500 of project management experience to qualify for the examination.

A recent survey by the Project Management Institute found substantial differences in salary for project managers based upon experience:

  • Less than five years: $70,000
  • Three to five years: $70,250
  • Five to 10 years: $85,000
  • 10 to 15 years: $100,000
  • 15 to 20 years: $109,000
  • 20 or more years: $115,000

The data from PMI shows that project managers who possess less than 10 years of experience, regardless of degree, have difficulty making $100,000 per year. The data also reveals that in many industries, having at least 10 years of experience in the field begins to open more possibilities, including a higher salary.

A related factor to salary is the amount of progressive experience you have. Many businesses seek professionals who are growing their skills over time. Early in your business career, you might only oversee a small team. But in seven or eight years, many companies looking at your resume will want to see you managing a large team of professionals and managing bigger projects. Professionals in business with plenty of this type of progressive experience tend to earn more.

Improve Your Chances of a Big Business Salary

After reviewing the factors covered in this article, it suggests that careful consideration is required in business administration and management to ensure that you earn the highest possible salary. If you want to boost your odds of getting paid in business, here are some simple tips to consider:

See also 5 Awesome Entry Level MBA Jobs

  • Switch industries: The information mentioned earlier in this article shows that different industries pay different amounts for the same degree. For example, an MBA in finance is usually going to earn more than an MBA in healthcare, even if the level of experience is the same.
  • Look for more complex projects: In business project management, professionals generally will net a higher salary for working on bigger dollar projects. For example, for a project budget of $100,000, the typical PM salary might be $90,000. For projects above a $10 million budget, you may earn a salary as high as $125,000.
  • Get a credential: The PMP credential is a great option for many business professionals as it shows that you have a proven level of skill in project management. Other good choices are Certified Business Manager, Chartered Financial Analyst, Chartered Manager and Professional in Business Analysis. Most of these certifications are optional, but having one or more could help you to get a higher salary.
  • Have more reports: The more employees under your management, the higher your pay will be in many business occupations. Do your best to encourage growth and success of people under you, and you will find it easier to score promotions and more direct reports to you in the future.
  • Learn a new language: Being bilingual in a global business world will boost your power to earn. It is estimated that learning a new language can increase your salary by 2%. Spanish is good for a 1.5% salary premium, but German can net you almost 4%.
  • Take initiative: People who earn the highest salaries generally go well beyond what is in their job description. It is important to take on projects that are outside of your job responsibilities, as long as you are taking care of your core projects and roles. Assume new responsibilities and show that you are willing to help the firm in any way.

Industry & Workforce

CNBC states that ⅓ of MBA graduates at Harvard enter financial services, with many of them focusing on hedge funds and investment banking. Why? Because the financial services industry tends to offer a high level of compensation. Business professionals who work in financial services tend to work long hours, and this is well rewarded. Also, financial services work often involves lucrative business activities, such as a company going public. This allows the professional to have a major impact, and this impact is rewarded financially.

See also Why Are MBA Grads in Higher Demand?

In the project management field, we also can see that the industry chosen can have a substantial effect on compensation:

  • Consulting: $125,000
  • Resources: $122,000
  • Pharmaceuticals: $120,000
  • Aerospace: $117,000
  • Engineering: $113,000

After reviewing the factors covered in this article, it suggests that careful consideration is required in business administration and management to ensure that you earn the highest possible salary. Choose your educational and career path in business with care, and you can easily be making $100,000 or more.


Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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