MBA salary by region: This is how much you are worth

MBA salary by region: This is how much you are worth
MBA salary by region: This is how much you are worth

MBA salary by region: This is how much you are worth

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

Where do you live?

The question sounds innocuous. But the answer can tell you a lot. Fair or not, your location can reflect your values, your passions, and your behavior. Just walk up to someone in an airport lounge. Tell them you’re from California, and they’ll probably picture a vegan surfer about to launch a career in tech (or show business). Texas? How about a gun-toting, truck-driving patriot who subscribes to the Holy Trinity: Jesus, football, and brisket? New Yorker? Think a workaholic survivalist who speaks fast and directly—and rarely holds back.

Yes, these are all cliches, old-fashioned and easily debunked. Yet they represent a starting point in a world where authority, simplicity and permanence are increasingly rare. The same is true when you associate a region with career opportunities. The Midwest? You probably picture vast cornfields surrounding rusting remnants of better days. It’s safe and the cost of living is low… but often your options are limited. The East and West Coasts? They have high wages, diverse industries and deep networks. Opportunities abound, but they are offset by high costs and little space – noise, crowds, crime and congestion.

Therefore, MBA students must ask themselves two fundamental questions when choosing a location: What is most important to me – and what compromises am I willing to make?

Downtown Seattle


In some cases, MBAs have made this choice when they choose a graduate business program. Want to get into consumer goods? You’ll have the advantage of working in nearby firms and well-positioned graduates from Indiana University’s Kelley School and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School (among others). Want a career in technology? The University of Washington’s Foster School is right on the doorstep of Microsoft and Amazon. Want a career in energy? The four largest energy companies – ExxonMobil, Phillips66 and ConocoPhillips – are headquartered in Texas. Not surprisingly, you’ll find a greater concentration of energy-related courses and clubs in programs like Rice University’s Jones Graduate School and the University of Texas’ McCombs School.

Bottom line: Location means access and expertise. Every top business school is a part of an ecosystem that can facilitate the right partnerships, internships and jobs. That proximity also fosters relationships, with some campuses more able to attract the right people to take classes, share best practices, open doors and make themselves available for coffee klatches and site visits. Call it the regional dividend, where connections act as currency and experience equals attraction.

Unfortunately, different regions pay different starting salaries. Historically, the East Coast pays the best salaries for MBA graduates. Here, graduates of 9 MBA programs earned an average of $170,000 or more starting in 2023. Compare that to the Midwest and South, where a combined 9 schools hit the $170,000 or more mark. One reason: The East Coast is the breadbasket of banking, home to Wall Street and players like JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs. Another reason: According to Poets&Quants, 6 of the 10 highest-ranked American MBA programs are in the Northeast. While the highest starting salaries are often found at the higher-ranked programs, there are exceptions. On the West Coast, for example, a BYU Marriott graduate snagged a $190,000 paycheck. That’s more than the average base salary for graduates of Stanford, Wharton and Harvard in 2023. In other words, there is room for negotiation with some companies on the West Coast – and the Marriott graduate was able to demonstrate his or her value.


Of course, regional pay is hard numbers that depend on context. For one thing, a larger MBA program like Harvard Business School will naturally place more students in the Northeast than a mid-sized program like Vanderbilt University’s Owen School in Nashville. In this case, HBS has placed 10 times as many graduates in the Northeast (295 versus 28). In other words, a high or low base pay for a handful of Owen graduates would have a disproportionate impact on the school’s average. Regional salary averages also don’t take into account incentives like 401Ks, performance bonuses, stock options, profit sharing, and even tuition reimbursement. In addition, regional salaries don’t take into account differences in cost of living. Take Boston and Columbus — the Northeast versus the Midwest — with base pay of $150,000. In Columbus, the cost of living is $100,000, according to the National Institute of Education. Forbes Advisorincluding 60% reduction in housing costs – a dividend of $564,000.

In other words, regional pay is a starting point and a piece of the puzzle, a way to compare schools and locations to understand how the market sees you and where you might get the greatest return. Wondering what the average pay by region is for the top 50 MBA programs according to US News? Want to know the highest and lowest entry requirements by school and region? Click on the links below to compare the best MBA programs directly.








Editor’s note: These are the states that make up each region.

Northeast: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont

Mid-Atlantic: District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia

South: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee

Middle West: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin

Southwest: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas

West: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

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