Let’s look back to an earlier time. The year is 1981. MTV launched two months after our 15th Orientation Program & Career Forum. “Sailing” by Christopher Cross won the Grammy for song of the year. “Chariots of Fire” took Oscar’s best picture trophy. Beyoncé was born.
We know that our students—including the ones entering The Consortium this year—have many reasons for pursuing their MBA. Some are interested in switching careers. Some see the degree as a path to take their existing career to the next level. Today’s students, like those no doubt of yesterday, see the degree as a way to increase their earning potential.
So what did those 1981 Consortium MBAs earn when they were fresh out of business school?
In 1981, six top MBA business programs were part of The Consortium, which staged its Orientation Program on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis. In October, The Consortium reported that 66 students had graduated with their MBAs, bringing the total number of alumni from our program to 827.
Another 15 students were scheduled to complete their MBAs in December 1981.
In that October 1981 document, The Consortium reported on the profile of the class of ’81, sharing attributes such as the percentage of African Americans; men versus women; work experience; marital status; and a lot more.
Among the 32 men who graduated that year and took post-MBA jobs, the average starting salary was $25,372. Among the 34 women, their average starting salary was a smidge higher at $25,521. Salaries for the Consortium’s fledgling MBAs ranged from $19,000 to $40,800 in 1981.
(Update: Consortium fellow Lynn Keel, who earned her MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981, replied after reading this blog post with a reminder that after inflation, the average woman’s starting MBA salary would be about $68,400 in today’s dollars. For the men, it’s just shy of $68,000.)
“The Consortium MBAs with undergraduate technical/science majors received higher starting salaries than those Consortium MBAs with business/economics majors,” the report’s authors wrote. “Majors in humanities, social sciences, etc., received the highest mean starting salary.”
The authors attributed that to the fact that the latter group had more pre-MBA experience—four or more years versus three years or fewer.
Today, Consortium MBA graduates have an average of five years of experience. Our employment reports do not ask about salary, but U.S. News & World Report reported in March that the average salaries for the class of 2016 ranged from $126,919 in consulting to $81,776 for MBAs in the nonprofit sector.
That means today’s new MBA business consultants make nearly five times more than the average 1981 MBA student from The Consortium.
Pictured above: The cover of the 1981 resource guide for the 15th Annual Orientation Program & Career Forum in St. Louis. We resisted the urge to use a photo of Beyoncé. That would have been cheating.