Business school grads earn more (but not because of the elite degree)

If you believe that business school grads earn more in their careers than non-grads, then you would be right. But, it might not be for the reason that you think. 

According to U.S. News and World Report, the average full-time salary of an MBA in 2019 was $106,757. But at some elite schools, that number is even higher. 

For instance, Columbia business school graduates earn over $175,000 a year straight out of college. At Harvard, you stand to earn almost $177,000. And if you have an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business school, you could earn over $181,000. 

The numbers clearly show that business graduates earn a lot of money in their careers. But, you might be surprised that earning a high salary is not just about your degree

High salaries are more than just degrees

A degree from an elite business school (or even an Ivy League school) helps, but it’s not the most important qualification to earning a big salary. 

What is? You. 

Princeton professor Alan Krueger found that students who qualified for an Ivy League school but chose a more traditional option earned just as much as Ivy League grads. 

“Professor and economist Alan Krueger and his fellow researcher Stacy Berg Dale released a study that found that when a student performed high enough to enter an Ivy League school but instead went to a second-tier school, they earned just as much money as their Ivy League counterparts,” wrote Investopedia

Ultimately, career earnings have more to do with ambition, persistence, and chosen career path than they do the piece of paper you get coming out of a business or Ivy League school. 

And, that’s not all. 

An MBA opens doors, says Salary.com. “All other things being equal, MBA degree holders are more likely to get a response to a job application when compared against candidates with a bachelor’s degree or lower.” And, this is especially true early on in your career. 

Also, business school networks can have a huge influence on students. Many schools bring in successful business professionals to teach classes and give lectures. This tactic gives students the opportunity to network with successful business minds and start building strategic relationships with those in the local community. And, these relationships can easily turn into job offers or opportunities for advancement. 

And, there’s the element of correlation vs. causation, according to Salary.com. 

Individuals who are motivated enough to obtain a business degree are also likely to be motivated enough to climb the corporate ladder. “These same individuals may ultimately succeed at a higher rate and earn more in the workforce” because of the type of people that they are. Getting into a good business school takes the same kind of determination that will likely be used in the course of their career, which can result in earning much more money. 

In the end, it’s not necessarily the business degree that opens the door to earning a big salary. It’s about those things that come along with the degree, like an expanding professional network and exposure to successful business minds. 

How to maximize your business degree

Use these tips to capitalize on the time and expense of your business degree

Tip 1: Don’t hide behind your degree. Your business degree does not guarantee a high salary. While your degree can certainly help to get your foot in the door, high salaries come to top performers. Don’t assume your degree alone will bring you wealth. It won’t. 

Tip 2: Use your network. One of the best ways to use your degree is to build, and then use, the professional network that you created in school. Too many professionals never stay in touch with their friends and professors from college, but there are so many opportunities that are missed by losing touch with your network after graduating. Whenever possible, stay in contact. 

Tip 3: Switch companies. One of the best ways to boost your salary is to move around within your industry. The hiring process is the perfect time to boost your earnings significantly. Don’t let company loyalty get in the way of your earnings potential, especially with a business degree. 

Tip 4: Step outside the box. Your degree has prepared you to excel almost anywhere within corporate America. And, virtually every company on the face of the planet needs brilliant business minds. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into one sector. Spread your wings. In fact, these types of “outside the box” opportunities are how a lot of people get very, very rich.