A friend of mine asked me to dig up information on salaries in various fields recently. In the US, salary information is jealously guarded, which makes it more difficult for students to weigh their career options. When data is available, it varies in quality, and often shows median salaries, whereas most people are interested in salary data based on data from their peers. I pulled together data below from personal experience and articles I’ve read. Bear in mind that the peer group in mind is those individuals graduating towards the top of their college class, having gone to an elite university, or otherwise possessing similar talent.
Post-Business School Salaries:
According to US News & World Report, HBS and Stanford grads made roughly $125,000 in total compensation right out of school. This takes into account graduates going into a wide variety of fields, including academia, government, and non-profit positions, thus dragging down the average for those MBAs going into finance and similar fields.
The New York Times reports that on Wall Street, top MBA grads at major investment banks can expect to make considerably more – between $200,000 and 270,000 in total compensation after business school. As the Times article reports, salaries rise slowly in the middle-tier of investment banking, and skyrocket rapidly into the millions (or hundreds of millions) for managing directors, heads of successful hedge funds, and the like.
Post-Law School Salaries:
Top-law school graduates moving into corporate law firms find that major law firms match salary offers very closely in each major market, in a vague sort of collusion. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that in San Francisco and New York, 1st-year associates now command $160,000 in salary (law firms typically give almost all compensation as base salary). My wife tells me that in Atlanta starting attorneys have moved up to $135,000 annually. Attorneys typically get $5,000-10,000 raises per year thereafter, until they make partner (8-12 years down the road), at which point their salary can rise dramatically.
Post-Med School Salaries:
Doctors’ salaries range widely, from salaried general practitioners making $100,000, to cardiologists, interventional radiologists, and various surgical specialties routinely breaking 400-500k in private practice. A number of sites provide compilations of statistics:
Average doctors’ salaries are often quoted significantly below the numbers I’ve stated, because a correct average of doctors’ salaries takes into account their income during residency and fellowship, which is generally quite low ($30,000 – $50,000 during residency).
Code-Monkey Salaries (IT Salaries):
We programmer types’ salaries are all over the map, almost as much so as doctors’ salaries. Dice.com provides a starting point for information on IT contract rates. In my experience, engineers from top schools with experience can expect salaried positions with base salaries between $100,000 and $150,000, with bonuses between 5% and 25%. IT contractors in most markets can expect $75/hour to be near the top of the market, while those with specialized skills can reach up to $100/hour. Unlike attorneys, who charge much higher rates and bill in smaller increments, IT consultants typically bill 8 to 10 hour days regardless of how much they’ve accomplished.
In New York, where the confluence of finance and technology drives rates higher, consultants can command rates above $100/hour, and occasionally as high as $150/hour. Since contractors are often kept on staff for years, and are often paid an 8-hour daily rate, this translates into $200,000 – $300,000 in annual salary.