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Top B-Schools, Top Dollar

Top B-Schools, Top Dollar

For many MBA students, earning power is one reason, perhaps the main reason, for enrolling in B-school. So which programs really deliver the goods? Over the course of a career, what's your MBA worth? The numbers will surprise you.

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

The upshot? According to data compiled for Bloomberg BusinessWeek by PayScale, a Wharton MBA has 90 percent of the value of a Harvard MBA. University of Chicago, 76 percent. University of Iowa? Forty-eight percent.

On average, graduates from top MBA programs—Bloomberg Businessweek's Top 30 U.S. full-time programs and 15 second-tier B-schools—on average earned about $2.6 million each over the past 20 years, or $128,267 a year. But as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Graduates of the top 10 programs earned an average of $3.1 million apiece, or $157,397 a year, compared with $2.4 million, or $119,944 a year, for the remaining 35 schools—a pay premium of more than 30 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 but 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 23,000 MBA graduates from the 45 top schools; most of the medians 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.