MBA Salaries Rebound After COVID-19 Economic Pressures

MBA salaries are forecast to recover to pre-pandemic levels as corporate recruiters project a “robust demand” for business school graduates, according to a survey by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC).

The global association of leading graduate business schools released its 2021 Corporate Recruiters Survey, which found nine in ten corporate recruiters expected demand for graduates to increase or remain stable in the next five years.

A statement by GMAC said the projected MBA median salary reached an all-time high of US$115,000 (AU$158,000) in 2020 before COVID-19 severely disrupted the global economy and caused it to drop down to $105,000 three months into the pandemic.

However, the median MBA salary for 2021 is projected to recover to its pre-pandemic 2020 level of US$115,000.

At this rate, the median salary of MBA graduates is 77 percent more than those with a bachelor’s degree ($65,000) and 53 percent higher as compared to those hired directly from industry ($75,000).

In addition, a higher proportion of recruiters in 2021 (37%) expect the demand to increase than in 2020 (30%) The survey was informed by 529 responses between February 25 – March 31, 2021.

President and CEO of GMAC Sangeet Chowfla the proportion of surveyed recruiters planning to hire MBA graduates had grown significantly over the last decade.

“As corporations recover from the pandemic and rebuild their workforces, it is no surprise that business school graduates ― with their leadership and managerial skills in high demand ― are specially strengthened in their value proposition as an employee and uniquely positioned to meet today’s economic challenges,” he said.

Key Findings

MBA hiring are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels

Before the pandemic, 92 percent of recruiters indicated they were planning to hire MBA graduates in 2020. However, the disruptions caused by COVID-19 adversely affected those plans, and hence the actual hiring of MBA graduates (80%) was lower than 2020 projections. Looking ahead, the proportion of recruiters planning to hire MBAs in 2021 (91%) returns to the same level as pre-pandemic 2020 (92%). The MBA hiring projections exhibit strength across key regions and industries. Specifically, 95 percent of the recruiters in the consulting sector, an industry in most demand by MBA graduates, are projecting to hire them—a reversal from the 2020 actual hiring of 76%.

Technology sector embraces MBA graduates for hiring and promotion

According to survey respondents, demand for MBA graduates by the technology industry is anticipated to increase by 10 percentage points in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic 2020. In fact, with 96 percent of tech recruiters projecting to hire MBA graduates in 2021, the demand for MBA talents tops the previous three years. The data also show that two in three (68%) recruiters in the technology sector agree that leaders in their organizations tend to have a graduate business school education—an increase of 11 percentage points from 2020 (57%).


Doug Estwick
Doug is an author for MBA News and Fixed Income News Australia. Doug has been a media and communications professional for more than 10 years, including working as an editor for News Corp's Quest Newspaper group.