As the industry standard for many advanced careers, an MBA is the go-to graduate degree for business majors looking to expand their job opportunities. These programs build advanced business knowledge and high-level skills in management, entrepreneurship, international business, and marketing. The knowledge and skills gained from an MBA program, online or in-person, apply to many industries, and the degree increasingly serves as a requirement for many top positions.
The MBA builds skills for leadership and management positions, and graduates can pursue a wide variety of career paths, including high-paying occupations such as marketing manager, financial manager, investment banker, and management consultant. MBA careers often feature high salaries: the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that top executives earn an annual median salary of $104,690; most other management positions also boast six-figure salaries.
This page offers an overview of the MBA and its professional value, including common coursework, specialization options, popular career paths, and salary potential. You’ll also find info on professional organizations for MBA graduates and answers to common questions about MBA jobs.
MBA Career Overview
An MBA familiarizes students with advanced principles of management, operations, finance, marketing, accounting, and economics. MBA programs appeal to many types of students, and schools offer a diverse selection of program formats, professional concentrations, and enrollment options.
Many MBA programs emphasize flexibility for working students, offering part-time enrollment options, online learning, or evening courses. Other programs may use an accelerated format, enabling candidates to complete their studies in as little as one year.
An MBA builds high-level business skills applicable to many different industries, and programs increasingly offer a varied assortment of concentration options to meet management challenges in different fields. Some MBA concentrations focus on specific business concepts, building specialized skills in areas such as finance, marketing, human resources, or entrepreneurship. Other programs concentrate on specific industries, such as healthcare, information technology, or agriculture.
Regardless of concentration pathway, an MBA prepares graduates for professional advancement in their chosen field. MBA recipients pursue a wide variety of careers in business and finance, including marketing management, financial management, sales management, investment banking, and management consulting.
While earnings can vary widely among career fields, MBA candidates can generally expect to earn increased salaries commensurate with their advanced level of education. A 2018 study from education research and consulting firm QS Quacquarelli Symonds reports that MBA graduates can expect a total return on investment of over $390,000 within a decade of earning the degree.
Benefits of Earning an MBA
Higher Earning Potential
MBA graduates can generally expect to earn higher annual salaries compared to bachelor’s degree holders. MBA careers commonly command six-figure salaries, and these positions frequently call for candidates to hold a graduate degree. According to the Financial Times, graduates of many top MBA programs can expect to increase their salary by more than 100%.
More Job Opportunities
The specialized skills developed in an MBA prepare graduates not just for career advancement, but a wider variety of job opportunities as well. Many MBA skills apply to a variety of career paths, and the academic rigor of the degree demonstrates to employers that MBA graduates can take on many different responsibilities.
Ability to Enter a New Job Field
Many MBA programs focus on specialization, and choosing a unique concentration option can help students transition into an entirely new job field. For example, a candidate from a business background may enter the healthcare field after earning an MBA with a specialization in healthcare management.
Ability to Advance Within a Current Career
MBA candidates commonly pursue the degree to advance in their current career path. Many programs cater to working students who need to balance classes with full-time employment. MBA students may also see professional gains as they begin to apply their course learning to their current job.
Top 10 Non-Traditional Jobs for MBA Graduates
Chance to Build Professional Connections
An MBA offers obvious value in the form of advanced business knowledge, but students also benefit from opportunities to network with peers, faculty, and other business professionals. MBA graduates typically emerge with a much wider network of professional contacts, which can create more job opportunities, among other benefits.
MBA Salary Potential
Marketing managers oversee promotions, advertising, and other marketing measures for organizations, helping to generate interest in services or products. They earn an annual median salary of $135,900, and the BLS projects positions in the field to grow 8% from 2018-2028.
These managers direct an organization’s sales, setting goals and overseeing other sales representatives. Sales managers earn an annual median salary of $126,640, and the BLS projects positions in the field to grow 5% from 2018-2028.
Financial managers take responsibility for an organization’s finances, overseeing investments and developing strategies to meet long-term financial goals. They earn an annual median salary of $129,890, and the BLS projects positions in the field to grow 16% from 2018-2028.
Also known as management analysts, these specialists help organizations improve their efficiency. They earn an annual median salary of $85,260, and the BLS projects positions in the field to grow 14% from 2018-2028.
Also known as securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents, investment bankers facilitate connections between buyers and sellers, conducting trades and offering financial advice. They earn an annual median salary of $62,270, and the BLS projects positions in the field to grow 4% from 2018-2028.
Professional MBA Organizations
American Management Association
One of the major professional associations for managers, AMA offers training, professional resources, corporate solutions, and industry certifications. Using training materials and professional development opportunities, members can develop skills in key business areas. AMA offers a discounted rate for student members, who receive preferred pricing on AMA seminars, invitations to special events, access to web content and podcasts, and subscriptions to trade publications.
Accounting and Financial Women's Alliance
Serving female accounting and finance professionals, AFWA hosts local chapters that connect members nationwide through conferences and webinars. AFWA's primary goal is giving female finance professionals the tools and resources to succeed in a historically male-dominated field. Membership benefits include both regional and national events, scholarships, volunteer opportunities, and continuing education programs.
Founded in 1998, to serve LGBTQ+ business students and professionals, Reaching Out maintains regional chapters across the country. The organization's ROMBA conference is the world's largest gathering of LGBTQ+ business professionals, drawing more than 1,800 members annually. Along with the ROMBA conference, members can participate in an assortment of learning and networking activities, including the LGBTQ+ Student Leadership Summit, and the MBA Summer Treks, a series of regional meetups that bring students together with MBA alumni and other business leaders.
American Marketing Association
A major organization dedicated to marketing professionals, AMA boasts more than 70 chapters across the country. Offering both professional and academic perspectives, AMA produces several trade publications, including Marketing News magazine and four academic journals. Members receive access to professional development resources in the form of training, workshops, and micro-internships that connect marketers with shared goals and interests. AMA offers highly discounted membership rates for students and hosts an assortment of collegiate events and competitions.
Prospanica is the association of Hispanic professionals. The organization supports Hispanic business achievement on several fronts, including education access, community involvement, and career management. Students receive discounted member fees and gain access to various benefits, including discounted admission to MBA career expos and national conferences.
What jobs does an MBA get you?
MBA candidates can pursue an assortment of career paths, although the degree commonly serves students looking to move into leadership and management. MBA graduates often pursue business management positions in fields including finance, human resources, sales, administrative services, and marketing. Graduates may also find positions in industries such as information technology, healthcare, construction, and industrial production.
Is MBA a good career option?
An MBA is a popular choice for candidates looking to increase their career prospects or advance in their current careers. The degree provides advanced skills that can help students progress to management and leadership positions, which yield higher salaries. However, the degree most commonly serves candidates hoping to pursue leadership roles in larger organizations, so it may not always be the best choice for small business owners or those uninterested in leadership.
What type of MBA is in demand?
MBA programs offer many different concentrations, with some popular options including general management, international management, strategy, entrepreneurship, and finance leadership. MBA concentrations that focus on specific high-demand industries, such as healthcare administration, information technology, and information security, may also lead to strong career prospects, as demand for MBAs in these fields is likely to mirror general industry growth.
Is business a good career?
Judged by standards of job growth, career opportunities, and salary prospects, business is a strong career choice. MBA graduates often pursue management and leadership roles, which yield high salaries and strong potential for advancement. Business also ranks as the most popular graduate major in the United States, demonstrating the value that students find in pursuing MBAs and other related business degrees.