last updated: January 2023
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 70K SGD (SMU) to 71K SGD (Nanyang MBA) to 91K SGD (NUS) to ~140K 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 ($74K USD) and median ($66K USD) salaries. NUS used to give these figures by function, industry, and location. Sadly, not anymore. Or they exist but are difficult to find on their website! (Nanyang’s site does not list the average starting salary of its graduates; SMU’s lists its average as 85K SGD)
NUS MBAs, Nanyang MBAs and SMU MBAs are regarded similarly by employers in Singapore, so those figures will be 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. While the average starting salary was $74K USD at NUS, the highest salary was $160K USD! 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 52% of its 800 graduates into consulting, with more than 120 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 ($74K USD) and SMU MBAs (85K SGD), you wouldn’t get the whole picture. And that’s why I’m mentioning these figures last.