Business Majors With the Highest Salaries

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The National Center for Education Statistics reports more U.S. undergraduates earned a degree in business than any other major in 2019. Business schools offer general business administration degrees and concentrations in areas like leadership, entrepreneurship, and accounting.

The highest-paying business majors include marketing, finance, and international business. Management and human resources management also rank in the top five business majors with the highest salary potential.

How much do business majors make? Business major salary varies by experience, specialization, and education level. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that business and financial professionals earned a median annual wage of $72,250 as of May 2020.

Learn More About: Marketing | Finance | International Business | Management | Human Resources Management

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What Are Business Majors?

Business is one of the top undergraduate majors in the United States. This popular field of study explores management strategies, accounting fundamentals, and general business theory. Business students gain communication, leadership, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.

Undergraduate students can pursue a general business degree, often called a bachelor of business administration (BBA). This degree provides a broad overview of the business field. BBA candidates can also add concentrations in many business subdisciplines. Available concentrations vary by school, but may include real estate, economics, entrepreneurship, and business law.

Specialization areas can influence a business graduate’s starting salary. For example, marketing, finance, and international business majors frequently land well-paying jobs. Majoring in management or human resources management can also lead to high salaries.

Education level also impacts earning potential. Below, we discuss the potential salary benefits of pursuing a master’s degree in business.

How a Master’s Can Affect Your Salary

Earning a master of business administration (MBA) can open the door to more job opportunities and higher salaries. PayScale reports an average annual salary of $69,000 for BBA graduates as of September 2021. Professionals with a master’s degree can earn significantly more, with PayScale reporting an average MBA salary of $91,000 a year for the same period.

Prospective MBA students do not need an undergraduate degree in business to apply. Most business graduate schools accept applicants from a variety of disciplines. Many candidates come from liberal arts, science, and engineering backgrounds.

MBA programs typically offer concentrations in areas like human resources management, information technology, and finance.

What are the requirements for a career in business?

Highest-Paying Business Majors

Marketing, finance, and international business rank among the business majors with the highest starting salaries. How much business professionals earn varies by experience and education.

Below, we describe the top five highest-paying business majors. We looked at average salaries across various career stages for popular MBA specializations.

Marketing

Business majors specializing in marketing can earn some of the highest salaries in the field. Marketing major annual salaries often start around $50,000 and can exceed $100,000 for experienced professionals.

Marketing programs prepare graduates to pursue careers in advertising, marketing research, and public relations. A typical curriculum combines general business theory with a focus on marketing principles. Students explore the psychology behind consumer decision-making. They also learn how to engage with customers and use technology to make marketing decisions.

Marketing majors take classes in consumer behavior, market research, marketing strategy, and marketing analytics. Some programs incorporate a marketing internship or capstone course. Students develop problem-solving, project management, critical thinking, and communication skills.

Marketing professionals may pursue jobs as market research analysts, marketing managers, marketing directors, and social media marketing managers. Other potential careers include brand manager, advertising manager, and public relations manager.

Career Entry-Level Average Salary Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Late Career Average Salary (10-19 years)
Market research analyst $49,830 $54,430 $65,010 $76,860
Marketing manager $48,560 $59,350 $69,860 $76,980
Marketing director $47,700 $60,600 $85,320 $105,810
Source: PayScale, September 2021

Finance

Business programs with a finance concentration emphasize topics like financial management, capital markets, taxation, and investments. Finance majors explore personal finance, professional ethics, organizational change, and accounting fundamentals. They also learn general business principles.

Students learn to analyze investment risks, maximize profit and efficiency, and create long-term financial plans. Bachelor’s in finance degrees typically cover business finance, financial institutions, accounting, and investments. Common elective courses explore small business finance, international finance, income taxation, and accounting information systems.

One of the highest-paying business majors, finance opens the door to lucrative careers in financial analysis, budget analysis, and financial management. Starting salaries for these occupations average over $50,000 annually. Experienced finance managers can earn almost $100,000 a year. Other careers for finance graduates include credit counselor, loan officer, and financial examiner.

Career Entry-Level Average Salary Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Late Career Average Salary (10-19 years)
Finance manager $59,990 $77,790 $98,030 $99,620
Financial analyst $56,140 $61,320 $69,620 $73,130
Budget analyst $51,740 $57,170 $66,050 $72,120
Source: PayScale, September 2021

International Business

Earning an international business degree helps students understand international trade, global business climates, and culturally diverse workplaces. Increasing globalization means that successful businesses need to operate within a worldwide economy.

One of the best-paying business majors, international business prepares graduates to pursue careers in the global economy. International business professionals can work in the private, public, or nonprofit sectors. A bachelor’s in international business also helps students prepare for graduate degrees in areas like public policy and law.

Typical international business core classes examine economics, marketing, supply chain management, and financial management from a global perspective. Popular elective courses cover intercultural communication, the political economy of women, and economic geography. International business students may complete foreign language or study abroad requirements.

Career Entry-Level Average Salary Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Late Career Average Salary (10-19 years)
Economist $59,800 $73,310 $94,680 $99,170
Management analyst $55,200 $62,570 $72,850 $81,520
Policy analyst $50,530 $58,430 $64,840 $75,650
Source: PayScale, September 2021

Management

Business management degrees incorporate general business principles with a focus on management strategies. Management majors learn efficient business operational practices and effective leadership skills.

Popular core courses cover human resources management, conflict resolution, project management, and compensation and benefits planning. Management majors also take general business classes in financial accounting, business ethics, marketing, and business law.

A versatile concentration, management is an in-demand area in nearly every industry. Diverse organizations can benefit from a management major’s skills in problem-solving and communication.

Potential business management positions include chief executive officer, purchasing manager, management analyst, and marketing manager. Management professionals also work as construction managers, sales managers, and training and development managers. The BLS reports that management personnel earned a median annual salary of $109,760 as of May 2020.

Career Entry-Level Average Salary Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Late Career Average Salary (10-19 years)
Chief Executive Officer $102,200 $112,360 $129,050 $156,590
Purchasing Manager $50,850 $59,750 $67,730 $74,200
Management analyst $55,200 $62,570 $72,850 $81,520
Source: PayScale, September 2021

Human Resources Management

Earning a human resources management degree prepares graduates to pursue lucrative careers in human resources, training and development, and labor relations. Applicants for most human resources jobs need at least a bachelor’s degree. Some positions require a master’s.

Human resources management majors study management strategy, employee selection, employment law, along with training and development. Students gain communication, decision-making, leadership, and organizational skills. Hands-on experiences may include using human resources software programs and developing benefits and compensation programs.

Core courses cover employee training and development, organizational behavior, and human resources law. Popular elective topics include project management and workforce diversity. Some programs offer a human resources management internship. Business students specializing in human resources management also complete general business courses in economics, marketing, accounting, and business administration.

Career Entry-Level Average Salary Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Late Career Average Salary (10-19 years)
Human resources manager $52,420 $60,460 $69,440 $74,000
Human resources specialists $45,420 $50,100 $55,290 $57,660
Labor relations specialists $64,820 $65,550 $73,050 $82,730
Source: PayScale, September 2021
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Should You Get a Business Degree?

Earning a business degree prepares graduates for many well-paying careers. Diverse industries need skilled business professionals to maximize profit, increase efficiency, and strategize for the future. Some potential industries for business majors include finance and insurance, accounting, education, and manufacturing.

Your career path will depend on your major, professional experience, and personal interests. When choosing a concentration, think about your personal strengths and interests, along with future career prospects. Our list of the highest-paying business majors can help you make the decision.

Some business majors pay off more quickly than others. Besides salary, remember to factor in projected job growth for potential careers, along with the school’s reputation and faculty credentials.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much do business majors make?

    PayScale reports that business majors earned an average annual salary of $69,000 as of September 2021. A professional’s salary varies by specialization area, education level, and experience.

  • What are the business majors with the highest starting salary?

    The business majors with the highest starting salaries include finance and international business. According to PayScale, entry-level finance managers earned $59,990 annually, and new economists made $59,780 as of September 2021.

  • What are the highest-paying business careers?

    The highest-paying business careers include marketing managers, human resources managers, and top executives. Financial managers, sales managers, plus computer and information systems managers also garner lucrative salaries.

  • What business careers are in high demand?

    Business careers in high demand include human resources managers, management analysts, and market research analysts. The BLS projects much faster than average job growth for financial managers from 2020-2030.


Featured Image: Tom Werner / DigitalVision / Getty Images

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