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Attending a Top B-School Can Mean Greater Lifetime Earnings

New research finds MBA grads from top schools could see a lifetime earning boost of more than $1 million compared to their peers at lower-ranked schools, according to a study commissioned by Bloomberg Businessweek (, 2011). The study, which tracked earnings over a 20-year time frame, used salary data collected by PayScale and business school rankings from Bloomberg Businessweek to demonstrate that grads from eight of the schools ranked in the top 10 schools also had the highest earnings over 20 years.

Harvard MBA grads top the list at $3.6 million in 20-year earnings

Graduates from the top 57 MBA programs earned anywhere from $1.7 to $3.6 million, with an average of $2.4 million over a 20-year period, the study estimates.

The top three schools for 20-year earnings were:

  • Harvard Business School: $3.6 million
  • University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School: $3.34 million
  • Stanford's Graduate School of Business: $3.29 million

However, the study also found that factors like location and industry play a big role in lifetime earnings. For example, although University of Chicago's Booth School of Business was ranked number one by Bloomberg Businessweek, grads from that school earned an estimated $2.9 million over 20 years, which placed them 9th overall in earnings. According to representatives from Booth, that discrepancy has a lot to do with industry. Some schools, such as Harvard, send a lot of graduates into top-paying consulting jobs, whereas at Booth, relatively-lower paying industries such as as finance are more common.

Bloomberg Businessweek cautions that there are some limitations to the data and quotes PayScale executive Al Lee as saying that the increase in earnings over time for specific schools is as important as actual salary figures.