In our “Straight Talk” series, we go beyond schools’ marketing campaigns and give straight answers to MBA applicants’ most pressing questions.
One of the most popular posts on this site is What’s the Average Salary for Singapore MBA Graduates. A MBA is a huge investment, with tuitions ranging from $55,000 SGD (Nanyang MBA) to $96,000 SGD (INSEAD). Naturally, those seeking MBAs in Singapore want to know what starting average salaries are to figure out their possible return on investment.
In this Straight Talk post, I want to focus on what average salaries are for MBA graduates from NUS, Nanyang and SMU, and help you cut through the often conflicting salary information you see on school web sites, ranking publications, and salary sites (INSEAD has a very detailed employment statistics report which is pretty much self-explanatory).
The short answer? Look at NUS MBA’s graduate employment report which gives mean and median salaries by function, by industry, and by location. Keep in mind that these figures are in Singapore dollars, and based on 90 students (that $110,000 SGD mean salary for those few graduates in real estate may not be entirely representative). Better yet, you can also see the range of salaries by function, industry, experience, and location on Bloomberg Businessweek’s NUS MBA profile (screen shot below). NUS MBAs, Nanyang MBAs and SMU MBAs are regarded similarly by employers in Singapore, so those figures will be quite representative for the other programs, especially for those entering consulting, finance, and sales & marketing roles.
Now let’s tackle the single biggest misperception about average salary data: you are not guaranteed the average salary just by going to these programs. Your starting salary post-MBA will range substantially based on your prior work experience, and the industry, function and geography of your job. As you can see above, the range at NUS was $36K to $164K! Generally, you’ll earn a higher starting salary than average if a) you have more years of work experience b) you are working in a more mature economy. Conversely, your starting salary will be lower than average if a) you have only a few years of work experience and b) you are working in a less developed economy. It’s important to factor this into your ROI calculations.
Unlike the elite MBA programs in the US and Europe, the local Singaporean MBA programs are not feeders to big name consulting and finance firms. For example, INSEAD sent 40% of its 1,000 graduates into consulting, with more than 100 graduates going to McKinsey alone. NUS probably sent one graduate to McKinsey, with the rest going to consulting firms like Deloitte, DHL, Frost and Sullivan, and KPMG, and more boutique outfits like Double Effect, Linkage Asia, DEGW. This is why starting salaries for NUS MBAs in consulting and finance aren’t necessarily higher than in other industries.
If you were to look at the “average” starting salaries for NUS MBAs ($79,000 SGD) and Nanyang MBAs ($73,000 SGD), you wouldn’t get the whole picture. And that’s why I’m mentioning these figures last.