Harvard, Wharton, Stanford Produce World's Richest Grads

For many students, increased earning power embodies the real value in pursuing an MBA. Which programs are best at helping grads achieve this goal over the course of a career? The numbers will surprise you.

The following slides list the median cash compensation—base salary and bonus—for each school's MBA graduates with less than two years' experience, 10 years' experience, and 20 years' experience, as well as an estimate of their total earnings over a career spanning two decades.

The upshot? According to data compiled for Bloomberg Businessweek by PayScale, a Wharton MBA has 93 percent of the value of a Harvard MBA. University of Chicago, 81 percent. University at Buffalo? Just 49 percent.

On average, graduates from top MBA programs—Bloomberg Businessweek's Top 57 U.S. full-time programs—earned about $2.4 million each over a 20-year career, or $122,146 annually. You get what you pay for. Graduates of the 10 programs with the highest earnings brought home an average of just over $3 million apiece, or $153,568 a year, compared with just under $2.3 million, or $114,752 a year, for the remaining 47 schools. That's a pay premium of more than 25 percent.

Methodology Note: The salary data in this slide show were supplied by PayScale, which collects them from individuals through online pay-comparison tools. For each school, PayScale tallied the median cash compensation—including base pay and bonuses, while excluding stock and options—for MBA graduates at five points in their careers, three of which are shown here. Years of experience includes pre-MBA experience, and individual categories include MBAs with more or less experience. Most individuals with less than two years' experience are career-switchers. The data are based on a sample of 24,000 MBA graduates from the 57 top schools; most median figures shown represent approximately 100 to 300 actual salaries per school. Using the median salaries and average annual growth rates for each school, Bloomberg Businessweek calculated a very rough estimate of earnings over the entire 20-year period. Notable alumni include graduates with MBAs and other advanced management degrees, unless otherwise noted.
 
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