Starting Line for MBAs

Two surveys report the average salaries of MBAs and accountants after graduation in 2016.

Although many factors define the value of a college degree, perhaps the one most easily quantified is the starting salary students earn after graduation. Two sets of data have recently been released that indicate what both MBAs and accountants earn after receiving their credentials.

The MBA Career Services Employer Alliance (MBA CSEA) recently released its annual 2016 report documenting MBA salaries, released in conjunction with the Employment Module of AACSB International’s 2016–2017 Business School Questionnaire. According to the survey, the average weighted starting salaries of MBA graduates in 2016 varied by nearly US$40,000, depending on professional function.

MBAs entering into consulting careers were among the highest paid, while those going into human resources were among the lowest. The figures below show the starting salary in each of seven fields, followed by the change in that number since 2015, as a percentage:

According to AACSB, the fields that experienced the biggest changes—IT and human resources—had a smaller sample size this year compared to last year, which could be one factor behind the difference. However, a growing emphasis on technology-driven fields, such as data analytics, also could be playing a role.

An MBA degree isn’t the only factor that determines an executive’s salary. According to a Global Salary Survey conducted by the Institute of Management Accounts (IMA), accountants who have earned the certified management accountant (CMA) credential have a median base salary that is 45 percent higher than it is for counterparts who do not have a CMA. Their total compensation is 50 percent higher.

According to the survey, which included 2,500 respondents from 81 countries, the global mean and median base salaries for accountants are now $79,278 and $68,675, respectively. That’s up significantly from last year’s numbers, when global mean and median base salaries were $65,868 and $49,410. The survey explains the jump by noting that this year’s survey included a greater number of respondents from the U.S.

Not surprisingly, accountants in the Americas and Europe earned the highest annual base salaries, at $110,238 and $88,349, respectively. Those in Asia and the Middle East/Africa earned the least, at $42,475 and $40,795.

A certification also helps close the gender gap. According to survey results, American women in the early years of their careers earned 98 percent of men’s median base salary when they were CMAs. While young women in Middle East/Africa earn far less than their counterparts elsewhere in the world, their salaries in comparison to men are the highest of any region. For example, the median total compensation for women accountants in Middle East/Africa who are between the ages of 20 and 29 exceeded that of men in the same age group by 48 percent. The total compensation for women in this region who are between the ages of 40 and 49 age was 104 percent that of men in the same age group.

“Each year we hope to see some improvement in the pay gap between men and women,” says Kip Krumwiede, director of research at IMA and author of the survey. “The gap remains pretty small for those members in their 20s, but it continues to be about 20 percent after that. We did find that women in top and senior management positions average about a year less experience in the field and with their employer than their male counterparts.”

Data from the MBA CSEA survey is available to AACSB and MBA CSEA member schools at Global and U.S. data for the IMA survey can be found at