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MBA Pay: The $3.6 Million Degree

News flash: Grads from the top MBA programs make more money over the course of their careers than peers from lower-ranked B-schools. That's not much of a surprise, considering MBAs from programs like Harvard, Wharton, and Stanford command the highest salaries—$126,000, on average—upon earning the business credential. But what is surprising is how much more grads from these highly ranked programs will make over a 20-year career compared with grads from lesser-ranked programs. According to new research commissioned by Bloomberg Businessweek, the difference is more than $1 million.

Executive compensation expert Ken Hugessen isn't shocked at the disparity in MBA earnings. "The differences in salary at the beginning are hugely predictive of the 20-year accumulation," he says. "If you're at a top school, you must be pretty smart to get in. You're a stronger breed of cat from day one. That will follow you throughout your career."