Salary Expectations After Studying Business

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Business administration (Betriebswirtschaftslehre, commonly known by the abbreviation BWL) is the most popular course of study in Germany. But what career prospects and salaries await new business graduates? In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about your salary after securing a business degree.

Our list of typical jobs for business graduates illustrated the variety of professional roles in business. This diversity is reflected not only in the range of duties and responsibilities but also in the salaries offered. Just as there is an array of different roles and professions in business, salaries and wages also vary considerably. We have referred to a study by back in 2020 (only available in German) for some hard figures on this.

Starting salary after a business degree

The platform indicates that career entrants with a business degree can expect to secure a gross starting salary of €30,000 to €55,000. A starting salary is the remuneration you receive for your first job immediately after graduating from university or completing another form of education. In most cases, this is discussed and agreed during the interview process and is up for negotiation. Over time, as your experience and expertise grows, it’s customary for your salary to increase in recognition of your performance and achievements.

Factors that influence salaries in business

So, business graduates can expect a starting salary of €30,000 to €55,000 – a broad, vague estimate, admittedly. This is due to the numerous factors that influence a business graduate’s starting salary, such as the industry they choose, their job title, their location, the size of their company, the degree they achieve and their experience.

Industry highlights the chemical industry, process engineering, banking and the automotive industry as the best-paying industries. The median salary (not starting salary) in these fields is between €60,000 and €72,000. By contrast, people working in the hotel and hospitality industry, leisure and tourism, marketing and the PR sector earn significantly less on average at €37,000.

Job title

Sales management professionals are the absolute top earners in Germany, with an average annual gross take-home salary of almost €79,000. Key account managers and auditing professionals also earn over €70,000.


The study of German salaries identified regional differences with a clear east-west split. Annual gross salaries for employees with business degrees are highest in North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate at around €62,000. The lowest average salaries are in Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg and Saxony at around €40,000. When it comes to German state capitals, Dresden and Erfurt in eastern Germany lag behind in the rankings. By contrast, wages are highest in Munich and Düsseldorf, where the median salaries for business graduates are close to €70,000. Although these major cities offer the prospect of higher salaries, the living costs – especially rental costs – are also higher. Make sure bear this in mind before relocating for a job: a higher salary won’t necessarily leave your bank balance healthier at the end of the month.

Company size

Another reason salaries tend to be higher in western Germany is the size of companies based there. Companies are more likely to base their headquarters in western regions of Germany, while larger companies with the ability to offer higher salaries also tend establish locations in the west. There is a similar correlation between industry and company size: the chemical industry, which tends to offer well-paid jobs, is dominated by international corporates with more economic power. As a rule of thumb, the larger the company and the more employees it has, the higher the (starting) salaries it is likely to offer. However, the size of a company also has an impact on working conditions. While employees in large companies are often required to shoulder more responsibility and handle a heavier workload, small companies frequently rely on flat hierarchies and offer better opportunities for advancement.

Do you have a bachelor’s or a master’s?

Hoping to start earning money as soon as possible after university? That’s understandable, but remember that a more advanced business degree also pays off. A bachelor’s degree in business will open doors to exciting jobs for you, there’s no question about that. However, starting salaries for graduates with a master’s degree are around 14% higher. A master’s degree certainly makes sense, especially if you aspire to reach a management position over the course of your career. In addition to your degree, the university you study at also has an influence on your job and salary. Munich Business School, for example, has an excellent reputation with HR managers. The WirtschaftsWoche University Ranking 2022 named Munich Business School the Number 1 private university of applied sciences in Germany in the field of business administration for the third year in succession.

Individual experience

Acquiring practical experience during your studies through part-time jobs, internships and study projects can also have a positive impact on your salary. The more closely this experience is related to the job you’re applying for, the more scope you have to negotiate your salary. When it comes to the best-paying roles, such as sales management and other positions outlined above, past professional experience is essential.

As a rule, your interview will lay the foundations for salary negotiations, with your interviewer likely to ask about your expectations. We set out the best way to answer this and other interview questions in our guide to interview questions.

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