An undergraduate degree in business can open the door to a number of careers, the most common of which is management. A Master of Business Administration opens up even more career opportunities and can lead to a significant increase in salary. The increased salary potential can help graduates pay back their student loans more quickly to get on the road to financial success.
Salaries are based on a combination of education, experience, the company and the position. However, graduates with an MBA degree consistently make higher salaries than those who completed only an undergraduate degree. According to American Intercontinental University, MBA graduates can expect to start out making anywhere from $70,000 to $90,000, depending on their field. Jobs in the finance, health-care and consulting sectors tend to pay the most. Graduates from the top MBA programs can easily make six figures right out of school.
"Forbes" reports that those with an undergraduate degree in business make an average salary of $54,000. "Business School Edge" reports that salaries can be as high as $87,777 for financial controllers who have an undergraduate degree in finance.
Salaries are not the only compensation that business school graduates can expect to receive. Sign-on bonuses are a common part of the compensation package for MBA graduates. According to "U.S. News and World Report," almost half of all companies offer a signing bonus, and the median bonus is $15,000. That can push even the average starting salary over $100,000 for those with an MBA. While some companies may offer a signing bonus to those with an undergraduate degree, the practice is not as common.
While MBA graduates make more money on average, they also pay more in tuition and related educational expenses. The top MBA programs cost well over $100,000 for two years of study. A degree from Columbia University costs $168,307, and a degree from the University of Texas at Austin costs $127,144.
The average cost for an undergraduate degree was $21,657 in 2010-11, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But, although an MBA program may be more expensive, the higher salary helps graduates to pay back their debt faster. "Forbes" says that MBA graduates typically pay back the cost of their education, including tuition and foregone salary, in about 3 1/2 years.
An MBA degree not only leads to higher salaries, but it also opens up more career opportunities. Business School Edge says that MBA holders can work in finance, health care, technology, manufacturing and consulting. They can hold positions in management, such as executive, vice president, chief financial officer and chief executive officer. Those with an undergraduate degree in business can be hired for positions such as project manager, human resources manager, executive administrative assistant, senior accountant and financial controller.
- Forbes: College Degrees with the Highest Starting Salaries
- American Intercontinental University: Salary for a Masters of Business Administration
- National Center for Education Statistics: Fast Facts
- Poets and Quants: How Much Does a Top MBA Cost?
- Forbes: Is the MBA Obsolete?
- Business School Edge: Starting Salaries in Business: How Much Can You Make?
Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.