An analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data published by the Australian Financial Review in 2023 said people in the highest income bracket in Australia earn over $180,000 before tax annually, or nearly $3,500 per week.

This top income bracket equates to approximately five per cent of Australia’s total income earners, with individuals in industries such as mining, financial services and professional, scientific and technical services ranking among the country’s highest earners.

Earlier analysis of this data by the ABC looked at the highest-earning group by occupation. It showed that people in five specific professions comprised 29 per cent of that top-earning bracket.

They were:

  • Senior managers, such as CEOs and general managers.
  • Business administration managers.
  • Construction, distribution and production managers.
  • Medical practitioners.
  • Legal professionals.

A subsequent report based on ABS data from August 2022 revealed those with the highest median weekly earnings held postgraduate degrees (including individuals with an MBA), with an approximate weekly income of $1,750.

Most of the top earners in this group have at least a bachelor’s degree. However, for an MBA salary, Australia is a top place to be. As shown in the QS Global Employer Survey conducted in 2022, Australia offers the fourth highest salary for MBA graduates in the world.

Compare this top income earners group with the general adult working population, where only 32 per cent of people have at least a bachelor’s degree.

It’s a fascinating and revealing view into the earning patterns within the Australian employment market – highlighting specifically the clout of university degrees and the potential earning power of people in business management roles. Three of the top five earning groups relate to business management.

If you’re thinking about MBA vs bachelor’s degrees, it appears that those with a higher business-related degree – such as MBA graduates – would have an excellent chance of finding themselves in the top two to three per cent of income earners in Australia, meaning the course could potentially pay for itself. It also serves as an excellent launchpad for anyone wanting to develop a career in business administration across a wide range of areas. For those looking at the benefits of an MBA salary, Australia has a lot of opportunities just waiting to be snapped up.

What does the research say, though?

Here, we look into the evidence behind the average salary of MBA graduates and salary outcomes for university graduates to figure out the value of the degree in dollars. It’s a valuable exercise, particularly when considering whether MBA fees can pay themselves off and, if so, how long that could take.

Many candidates hesitate when applying for an MBA because of the cost of fees, which can be prohibitive. We’ve found reasons why that should not discourage you, and in fact, you should follow your dreams and apply.

Let’s explore how much more MBA graduates earn as well as what a typical salary looks like, before and after you graduate with an MBA.

What does an MBA holder say?

Ulrika Lobo is the founder of financial lender Sparrow Loans. As an MBA graduate, Lobo believes the qualification gave her the skills needed to run a business and the chance for higher earnings.

“Having an MBA gave me a lot more control, including being able to create my own salary as a business owner,” Lobo says.

For those seeking employment elsewhere, it can be a useful tool for negotiating a higher salary.

“An MBA is a respected qualification, and it’s something a lot of employers favour highly,” Lobo says. “It’s definitely something you can use to get more responsibilities, gain a promotion, and have the confidence to negotiate your salary.”

Salary outcomes for university graduates

The 2022 Graduate Outcomes Survey looked into short-term (four to six months after graduation) salary outcomes for graduates of higher education institutions.

Over 131,000 graduates were surveyed for the most recent study. Undergraduates in general, the research revealed, enjoyed a short-term median salary of $68,000. However, postgraduates—graduates with higher degrees, such as master’s degrees—had a short-term median salary of $91,600.

The numbers vary slightly for graduates in the field of business and management, where undergraduates had a short-term median salary of $65,000, and postgraduates had a short-term median salary of $115,000.

Which MBA has the highest salary in Australia?

The MBA with the highest salary in Australia can lead to various senior and executive positions, including CEO and operations manager, with salaries reaching over $225,000. Depending on experience and skills, an MBA can open doors to a wide range of positions and income levels.

  • Portfolio manager: these finance professionals make investment decisions for individuals and institutions, with an average salary of $130,000 to $150,000 per year.
  • Business analyst: a business analyst researches and identifies problems within a business and offers solutions, earning up to $125,000 a year.
  • Operations manager: tasked with managing an organisation’s operations, these managers earn up to $125,000 annually.
  • Finance manager: responsible for overseeing the distribution of financial resources within a company, a finance manager earns between $120,000 to $140,000.
  • Chief executive officer: A CEO can earn an average of $225,000 annually in Australia as the highest paid executive within an organisation.

MBA career outcomes and global opportunities

It’s not just in Australia that MBA graduates are in demand.

Many of the world’s most successful businesses, including Google, Amazon, PwC, Microsoft, McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, Facebook and EY, are major employers of MBA-qualified graduates. Leveraging this demand, Australian graduates are in a commanding position, especially those seeking to develop a comprehensive understanding of global trends. James Cook University’s MBA Global equips you with a deep understanding of global trends and the skills necessary to make strategic decisions, abilities that are highly sought after in the international business landscape.

A global 2022 study from the Graduate Management Admission Council found that four in five candidates agree that a graduate business degree helps them stand out. RMIT Online’s MBA allows you to choose electives from four minors, so you can tailor your education to suit the industry and position you want. Southern Cross University Online’s MBA features ten electives to choose from, so you can focus your study on health management, accounting and more.

There’s an emerging market in startups, and an MBA can not only support entrepreneurs but also steer you as a business owner on the correct track. Some of the best known businesses, including Deliveroo and Atlassian, came from the minds of business entrepreneurs who recently graduated with an MBA. Completing an MBA with Victoria University Online gives you access to specialist units, including one on innovation and entrepreneurship.

Many pursue the degree to be the master of their own domain, to launch and run their own business. If that’s the case, then the sky’s the limit in terms of what sort of income or lifestyle you might achieve once obtaining the powerful qualification. An MBA will enable you to stay ahead of the game and use your expertise to drive the business forward.

Do employers and recruiters value MBAs?

The demand for MBA graduates remains robust despite challenging global economic conditions. Corporate recruiters worldwide anticipate increased hiring of graduates in 2023 compared to the previous year. The survey, conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), reveals insights into employers’ perspectives on skills shaping the workplace, recruitment trends and salary decisions, which are positive and highlight the resilience of business and MBA education are still important in the evolving landscape of business employment.

The survey also analysed hiring outcomes in 2022 and asked recruiters to respond based on an increase, stable or decreased hiring of MBA graduates. MBAs and experienced industry graduates saw the highest hiring rates, with their versatile skills appealing to a diverse number of companies across the regions surveyed.

MBA salaries: Before and after graduation

A graduate salary means nothing if it’s not an improvement over what the graduate earned prior to the MBA. So, what can you do with an MBA if improving your salary is your goal?

Of course, it would be expected that an employer would pay more for an MBA graduate, compared with the same individual without such a qualification. However, once again, it’s important to look to the data to find out what the evidence says. According to a 2019 study by the Australian Financial Review, MBA graduates can earn significantly more following completion of their qualification.

MBA and EMBA (Execute MBA) graduates can expect the following differentials in their pay after they have completed their MBA:

Following an MBA or an EMBA, many graduates were promoted within their organisation, or were successful in obtaining more senior positions within their industry. However, substantial pay increases were also enjoyed for another reason: many MBA graduates were able to successfully change careers after an MBA, which resulted in not only a higher salary, but also a substantial increase in job satisfaction.

One MBA graduate who was able to do this was Tanmay Bhardwaj, who was interviewed by Business Because. Tanmay, who migrated to Australia from India, was able to transition from working as an Indian army major, to becoming a consultant at Innovoir. Tanmay believes his MBA helped him learn many technical business terms that he’d never come across before, as well as help him to foster news connections, all of which helped him secure his current role. He says:

“[My MBA was] a great help … Alumni are really keen to refer other MBAs to their company and suggest positions they think are a good fit for you.”

The increased employee value that comes from an MBA, researchers say, is evident on a number of levels. Leadership skills and knowledge are vastly improved, and teamwork and collaboration capabilities and management of related processes are dramatically enhanced. Earning an MBA can also boost strategic thinking skills and knowledge, communication capabilities in a broad array of business environments and, of course, a deep understanding of specific business specialisations such as finance, accounting, marketing, HR, IT and more.

The survey carried out by GMAC  also showed that employers thought highly of the skills graduates obtain during an MBA. Specifically, when asked about their abilities post-graduation, employers agreed with the value that an MBA provides skills for the future with employers saying communication, data analysis and strategy are among the most important skills.

From an employer’s perspective, it’s clear that an MBA is a potent offering that’s clearly worth significantly more in terms of both salary and the broader contribution of MBA graduates.

Supercharge your career with an MBA

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