Thursday, July 18, 2013

Do MBAs have realistic salary expectations?

QS TopMBA.com recently did a survey of full-time MBA applicants from around the world.  The results, reported at the MBA news website Poets and Quants, show that U.S. applicants expect to make $140k per year upon graduation.  The average pre-MBA salary of the applicants is $58k.  So if their expectations were realistic, the full-time MBA would yield a 240% salary bump.

In many other countries, expectations are even less realistic.  For instance Russian applicants expect to pull in $144k versus their current salary of $37k.  The worst case is India, where applicants expect to make $112k, a 469% increase over their current $24k salary. 

Harvard MBA grads brought in $124k last year; the numbers from most MBA programs are much lower.  So something is seriously amiss.  There is plenty of MBA salary data available on the web, so it is hard to imagine ignorance is a factor.  One possibility is that applicants are over-confident on two counts: (1) underestimating the odds that they will get into a top 10 school and (2) overestimating their salary potential regardless of which school they get into. 

At NC State the salary bump for full-time Jenkins MBA grads has been running about 50 percent over the last two years, which is consistent with what you see at most large, public research-intensive universities.  The MBA remains a great investment.  In fact Forbes shows that five years after graduation, students make 2 to 2.5 times their pre-MBA salary.  But applicants should not expect to double their pre-MBA salaries immediately upon graduation. 

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