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MBA Salary: Expectations and Reality in 2014

Published On: 30 Oct 2014 | Last Updated On: 01 Nov 2014

Annually, QS carries out two pieces of research which, in combination, allow us to compare the salary expectations of prospective MBA applicants to the reality of what MBA jobs actually offer in terms of remuneration (the QS Applicant Survey and the QS Jobs & Salary Trends Report). Comparisons can also be made between these applicants’ pre-MBA salary levels.

Salary premium of MBA jobs remains undeniable

Two consistent realities emerge from this investigation into MBA salary. The first, which has perhaps become a truism over the years, but certainly remains valid (and let’s not kid ourselves, as one of the main selling points of going through the effort and expense of being able to append those three letters to your name), is that the salary premiums of MBA jobs remain considerable.

However, the other – who knows, maybe as a result of the aggregations of MBA salary levels – is that the salary expectations of applicants consistently exceed what is actually on the plate.

Here are the latest statistics compiled from both reports, broken down into geographical regions – all figures are in US$:


Average Current Salary

(QS Applicant Survey 2014)

Average Target Salary (QS TopMBA Applicant Survey 2014)

Average MBA Salary (2013/14 QS Jobs &Salary Trends Report)

Africa &Middle East




Asia Pacific




Eastern Europe




Western Europe




Latin America




US& Canada




The comparison is not perfect; there is clearly a lot of variance in MBA employers across sectors and regions and it is by no means certain that graduates will seek MBA jobs in their home regions.  However, at the same time, we can still draw some interesting conclusions from these figures, not least because applicants’ salary expectations will be based on what they understand is available around them.

As we can see, without fail, salary expectations remain in excess of the MBA salary levels on offer in reality. But before decrying the modern MBA applicant for his or her naivety, greed or excessive ambition, something interesting is happening. Let’s take a quick look at last year’s applicant figures:


Average Current Salary

(QS Applicant Survey 2013)

Average Target Salary (QS Applicant Survey 2013)

Africa & Middle East



Asia Pacific



Eastern Europe



Western Europe



Latin America



US & Canada



here have been fluctuations in current salary levels seen among pre-MBA jobs, with some regions returning higher figures and others lower – though the global average has remained the same at, US$41,000. However, the global average for anticipated post-MBA salary has fallen from US$117,000 to US$112,000. The year before, the figure stood at an even more considerable US$126,500 (in tempering our conclusions, we might note that this was a record high).

Will salary expectations come closer to reality?

So, it seems MBA applicants are becoming at least slightly more realistic in their MBA salary expectations. Why this is happening is a matter for debate – are they better informed? More aware of the realities of the damage that half a decade of global economic punishment has delivered to many of the industries they will have dreamed of working in?

Sure, expectations are still erring on the side of unrealistic, but, then, to return to an earlier point, the MBA salary levels, which have been on the rise in the same period we are considering here, are by no means going to leave many graduates scrambling down the side of the couch, looking for loose change.

Perhaps this same period of instability has led people to value the other advantages of the MBA, the ability to pursue a dream career, to learn new skills and simply to meet interesting people. Idealistic? Maybe – but certainly not impossible. There has been a decline in applicants with an interest in traditional areas like finance and strategy, while marketing and technology are edging up the table. For the first time in North America, female applicants outnumber male. A different applicant pool will have different expectations.

It will certainly be interesting to observe, in the coming years, how the anticipated recovery of the financial services in North America, in tandem with its growth in other regions, will affect these figures.

To see these figures in more detail, broken down by gender and country, as well as a great deal more information on MBA applicants, download the free QS Applicant Survey.

If you’re considering pursuing an MBA, join the QS World MBA Tour in India from 16th November to 25th November in a city near you. Register online to secure your place at


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