The Highest-Paying MBA Concentrations

| OnlineMBA.com Staff Updated on June 9, 2022

The Highest-Paying MBA Concentrations

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Business ranked as the most popular field of graduate study in the United States in 2017-2018. An MBA serves as the gold standard for business education. These degrees build advanced management skills applicable to many professional fields.

As business careers become more specialized, many students can customize their MBA with a concentration to develop skills in areas such as finance, management, or information technology. Concentrations build industry knowledge and can help MBA graduates stand out to employers.

This page offers an overview of the highest-paying MBA concentrations, including industry trends, in-demand specializations, and average salaries for various career paths.

Top 10 Highest-Paying MBA Concentrations

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What Are MBA Focus Areas?

A general MBA program emphasizes widely applicable business skills. It also builds broad knowledge of major business concepts in management, finance, and marketing.

While an MBA with a concentration covers the same business foundations, the curriculum focuses on one area, such as healthcare management or international business. MBA focus areas, also called concentrations, may target core business practices such as marketing and human resources or specific industries such as real estate and information technology.

Concentration or specialization options can vary widely among schools. While not all MBA programs feature concentrations, most schools offer at least a few options, often in popular fields such as management and finance.

Students typically select MBA focus areas to distinguish themselves in a competitive job market. The advanced knowledge conferred by an MBA concentration can help candidates pursue more specialized career paths. Studying an in-demand concentration may also lead to more job opportunities with higher salary potential.

The Highest-Paying MBA Programs

We explore high-paying industries and careers in which MBA graduates are in high demand. Some of the fields with the highest earning potential include finance, IT, and healthcare administration.

Earning a specialized MBA concentration can help students improve their career prospects and pursue advanced positions. However, most of the highest-paying MBA positions require significant professional experience and a proven record of business success.

Management

One of the most popular and highest-paying MBA concentrations, management tracks prepare students to plan, supervise, and make decisions for organizations of all types. General MBA programs typically also focus heavily on management.

A management MBA program offers the advantage of building broad skills that apply to most business sectors. These programs cover organizational management, marketing, economics, finance, and business ethics. A management concentration prepares graduates for various career paths. However, certain positions may prefer candidates with more specialized concentrations.

Candidates specializing in management can progress to top leadership roles that boast some of the highest-paying MBA salaries. Yet, these positions almost always require significant professional experience along with education.

Career Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Experienced Career Average Salary (10-19 years)
Chief Executive Officer $113,000 $129,000 $157,000
Vice President, Operations $99,000 $116,000 $135,000
Divisional VP, General Manager $106,000 $123,000 $138,000
Source: Payscale (September 2021)

Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship focuses on strategies and best practices for new business ventures. Programs emphasize innovation, business planning, and business forecasting methods. This concentration typically serves students interested in starting businesses or using entrepreneurship skills to expand existing companies.

The top entrepreneurship programs cover planning and feasibility assessment methods. They provide students with the tools to analyze and project the marketability and potential success of business ideas. Another key curriculum component is innovation. Students explore how businesses enact effective change in their processes and services.

Salary expectations for entrepreneurship MBAs can vary more than other concentrations due to the unpredictable nature of starting new business ventures. However, entrepreneurship graduates can also use their skills to pursue leadership and consulting roles with existing businesses, yielding some of the highest-paying MBA salaries within the entrepreneurial field.

Career Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Experienced Career Average Salary (10-19 years)
Chief Executive Officer $113,000 $129,000 $157,000
Management Consulting Firm Partner $140,000 $155,000 $221,000
Venture Capital Firm Associate $87,000 $120,000 $147,000
Source: Payscale (September 2021)

Finance

A key component of any business, finance ranks high among MBA concentrations for its wide relevance and high salary potential. This concentration trains students to analyze financial outcomes to aid in decision-making processes, ensuring organizations remain profitable. The BLS projects careers for finance managers to grow 17% from 2020-2030, with particularly high projected growth for cash management and risk management roles.

An MBA in finance builds vital knowledge and skills in management, financial planning, and financial analysis. The top MBA schools for finance commonly cover budgeting, accounting, economics, and taxation. Many programs also explore high-level frameworks for analyzing and projecting financial change, such as analytics and big data.

The BLS projects careers for finance managers to grow 17% from 2020-2030, with particularly high projected growth for cash management and risk management roles.

Financial management and analysis play a vital role in any organization. Therefore, finance graduates can pursue careers in many business sectors. As with most career paths, higher education typically leads to advanced career opportunities.

However, candidates also need to obtain significant experience and demonstrate a record of success to move into the highest-paying financial management positions.

Career Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Experienced Career Average Salary (10-19 years)
Financial Director $80,000 $108,000 $123,000
Financial Controller $72,000 $85,000 $100,000
Vice President of Finance $121,000 $130,000 $156,000
Source: Payscale (September 2021)

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Marketing

Many companies rely on marketing to raise consumer awareness of their brand and generate interest in their products or services. Marketing can take many forms, such as advertising, promotional strategies, social media, public relations, and market research. The BLS projects the job outlook for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers to grow 10% from 2020-2030.

Marketing managers commonly develop, oversee, and assess the effectiveness of marketing strategies. An MBA in marketing covers key business management practices alongside marketing topics such as advertising and public relations. MBA marketing programs also prepare graduates to analyze marketing trends and implement effective marketing strategies that reflect changing consumer behaviors.

Earning an MBA in marketing prepares candidates for marketing management and director positions. Managers may take responsibility for individual aspects or the overall direction of a company's marketing strategy.

Career Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Experienced Career Average Salary (10-19 years)
Marketing Director $61,000 $85,000 $106,000
Chief Marketing Officer $98,000 $143,000 $179,000
Advertising and Promotions Director $50,000 $75,000 $83,000
Source: Payscale (September 2021)

Information Technology

IT underpins most aspects of modern business, creating a high demand for technology leaders who can oversee companies' computing strategies. The BLS projects computer and information technology careers to grow 13% from 2020-2030, faster than the national average.

An MBA in information technology combines knowledge in business management with modern computing concepts, giving students the skills to integrate technology into business operations. Most programs cover advanced topics in management, organization, and other broadly applicable business concepts. Students also gain IT skills in network administration, information security, and software architecture.

Top MBA programs in information technology prepare graduates for a variety of mid- and high-level leadership positions. Given the widespread use of technology, students can typically pursue careers with many types of organizations. The highest-paying MBA careers, such as chief technology officer, often require many years of experience.

Career Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Experienced Career Average Salary (10-19 years)
Chief Technology Officer $117,000 $133,000 $164,000
Director of Information Systems $78,000 $98,000 $111,000
Information Technology Manager $69,000 $81,000 $94,000
Source: Payscale (September 2021)

Information Security

Information security focuses on securing digital information and computer networks for organizations. The need to secure data, coupled with increases in cyberattacks, leads to high demand for information security professionals. The BLS projects jobs for information security analysts to grow 33% from 2020-2030, far outpacing other career paths.

An MBA in information security prepares learners to develop, implement, and manage an organization's computer networks and security protocols. Many graduates pursue positions in information security, network administration, and information technology management.

Top information security programs typically feature an overview of advanced business and management principles, with more technical courses focusing on network security practices.

An MBA in information security prepares graduates for many high-paying security and management roles. However, candidates typically need extensive professional experience to advance to the highest-paying MBA positions.

Career Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Experienced Career Average Salary (10-19 years)
Information Security Manager $95,000 $115,000 $122,000
Network Architect $95,000 $114,000 $123,000
Information Systems Manager $70,000 $79,000 $92,000
Source: Payscale (September 2021)

Human Resources

Human resources (HR) managers ensure employee satisfaction and productivity by implementing effective workplace policies and systems. At the highest management levels, they may direct an organization's overall HR strategy, design performance assessments, implement pay and benefits systems, and develop protocols for addressing workplace issues.

MBA programs in HR focus on employee management, including labor relations, organizational development, and performance management. MBA candidates gain the skills necessary to negotiate the needs of organizations and their employees. Programs emphasize effective communication and management systems that meet legal and professional standards.

Given the widespread need for their skills, HR managers can find employment with almost any type of organization. The BLS projects positions for HR managers to grow 9% from 2020-2030.

Career Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Experienced Career Average Salary (10-19 years)
Human Resources Manager $60,000 $69,000 $74,000
Human Resources Director $66,000 $83,000 $96,000
Compensation and Benefits Manager $76,000 $85,000 $96,000
Source: Payscale (September 2021)

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Healthcare Management

The healthcare industry's rapid growth has increased demand for managers who can apply business principles to healthcare administration. MBAs in healthcare management have grown to meet this need. Students who pursue this concentration can expect strong job prospects after graduation. The BLS projects positions for medical and health services managers to grow 32% from 2020-2030, a rate four times the national average.

An MBA in healthcare management focuses on healthcare administration topics, such as health finance, healthcare law, and healthcare informatics. Top healthcare management programs prepare learners to manage healthcare personnel and services. Students examine general business principles, including marketing and finance. They also review specialized industry concerns such as insurance billing and hospital operations.

Healthcare MBA graduates can manage operations in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, community health centers, and insurance agencies.

Career Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Experienced Career Average Salary (10-19 years)
Executive Medical Director N/A $275,000 $317,000
Hospital Administrator $81,000 $91,000 $90,000
Program Director, Healthcare $66,000 $80,000 $90,000
Source: Payscale (September 2021)

Real Estate

An MBA in real estate applies business and management principles to the real estate market. These programs teach students how to analyze market trends and supervise real estate projects.

Real estate MBA programs build general business and management skills along with specialized real estate knowledge, including real estate laws and contracts. Students also analyze market trends regarding real estate and property development. Courses often highlight population behavior, employment trends, and city planning.

Given the specialization of the degree, real estate MBA graduates typically find employment with real estate and property firms. However, they may also pursue careers in other sectors where property transactions come into play, such as finance. At the highest levels, real estate MBAs may manage firms or specific company divisions, such as real estate acquisitions.

Career Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Experienced Average Career Salary (10-19 years)
Vice President, Real Estate Acquisitions $90,000 $125,000 $149,000
Real Estate Development Manager $80,000 $96,000 $119,000
Senior Financial Analyst $78,000 $84,000 $88,000
Source: Payscale (September 2021)

International Business/Global Management

A globalized business market demands professionals who can supervise operations both domestically and abroad. International business and management concentrations highlight management skills in a global context and emphasize the unique challenges of operating in international markets.

Candidates prepare to work with companies operating abroad and in the United States. International business MBAs cover supply chain logistics, organizational management, finance, and marketing, but with an emphasis on international operations. Most programs also examine international trade and investment regulations, often focusing on specific global markets such as Europe or Asia.

At entry- and mid-levels, graduates might pursue international sales manager positions and international trade and compliance manager roles. At higher levels, MBA graduates may manage global accounts or direct global operations.

Career Early Career Average Salary (1-4 years) Midcareer Average Salary (5-9 years) Experienced Career Average Salary (10-19 years)
Global Account Manager $79,000 $92,000 $116,000
Global Program Director $88,000 $93,000 $148,000
International Sales Manager $61,000 $76,000 $92,000
Source: Payscale (September 2021)

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The Best MBA Concentrations According to Industry Trends

Workforce specialization has led to increased demand for MBA concentrations. Additionally, employers value candidates with specialized industry knowledge and skills. However, demand for the best MBA concentrations fluctuates according to industry trends. When selecting a specialization, students should consider salary prospects and industry growth.

A 2020 corporate recruiter survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) reports significant growth (and corresponding hiring increases) in the technology, consulting, healthcare, and finance/accounting industries.

Technology tops the list with 80% of surveyed companies projecting growth. Consulting ranks second, with 75% of companies projecting growth, while healthcare and finance come in third and fourth, with 72% and 67% of companies projecting growth, respectively.

The BLS projects a 13% growth in computer and information technology jobs from 2020-2030, faster than the national average. With more than 540,000 new careers expected in the coming decade, organizations need skilled managers who can develop and oversee technology operations. The growing tech field likely centers on cloud computing, big data, and information security.

Consulting boasts similarly strong growth projections. The BLS projects management analyst careers to increase 14% from 2020-2030. MBA graduates can pursue consulting after gaining professional experience. Management and entrepreneurship graduates can advise businesses on general management practices. Information technology or healthcare management graduates can provide consultation to companies in their respective areas of expertise.

An aging U.S population has led to dramatic growth in the healthcare field. The BLS projects 16% growth in healthcare occupations from 2020-2030, much faster than other jobs. Medical and health services managers are projected to grow even faster, with jobs increasing 32% through 2030. MBAs in healthcare management paired with industry experience can help candidates distinguish themselves in the field.

Business and finance occupations, while not expanding as rapidly as healthcare and technology, still boast respectable growth levels. The BLS projects this sector to grow 8% through 2030, adding more than 750,000 new jobs. The agency expects high demand for accounting, auditing, and market research professionals.

Should You Get an MBA Concentration?

Completing an MBA specialization can help students increase their career prospects and salary potential. Some of the benefits of obtaining an MBA concentration include:

Advanced Job Opportunities
Earning an MBA with a concentration opens up specialized career opportunities. Completing a specialization can also make graduates more competitive applicants for higher-level positions.
Increased Salary
An MBA can help professionals seek out higher salaries. A concentration in a high-paying career field, such as finance or information technology, can help graduates increase their earnings even further.
Stand Out to Employers
A concentration demonstrates a student's dedication to a particular business field. An MBA concentration along with relevant industry experience can help graduates distinguish themselves in a competitive job market
Opportunity to Change Careers
While MBA programs can enhance professional experience, the specialized skills students learn allows them to change careers entirely. Industry-specific concentrations, such as real estate or healthcare management, serve as the perfect springboard to a new career path.
Specialized Networking Opportunities
Students in a specialized concentration program interact with peers, faculty, and other business professionals, creating strong networking opportunities. For instance, international business candidates can build a network of global contacts during their studies, while healthcare management students can connect with other healthcare professionals.

Concentration tracks distinguish themselves from general MBAs through their focus on one business area. However, obtaining a specialization can also have its drawbacks.

A general MBA builds broad, widely applicable skills and prepares graduates to pursue a wide selection of careers in various industries. More specialized pathways, such as real estate, healthcare, or information technology, may limit students to pursuing career paths within that industry.

A concentration is a natural choice for students already employed or committed to pursuing a career in a specific industry. However, a general MBA may serve as a more practical, open-ended choice for students just entering the business field or those uncertain about their future career path.

Frequently Asked MBA Questions

How much does an MBA increase salary?

While salary levels vary based on many factors, an MBA graduate salary typically yields higher overall pay. According to the GMAC's 2020 Corporate Recruiters survey, MBA graduates can earn 75% more than those with just a bachelor's degree.

Which MBA is most in demand?

No single MBA concentration is highest in demand. However, rapidly growing fields such as information technology, consulting, healthcare, and finance offer strong employment prospects for MBA graduates.

Who earns more, an MBA or MS?

Salaries vary widely depending on factors such as experience, location, and industry of employment. Both degrees allow graduates to pursue career advancement opportunities and higher salaries. An MBA program emphasizes business and management skills, while an MS focuses on technical skills in a science discipline.


Reviewed by:

Portrait of Krystal Covington, MBA

Krystal Covington, MBA

Krystal Covington, MBA, is a business growth strategist with 15 years of experience in marketing and public relations. Her company, Go Lead Consulting, provides clients foundational tools to build new client and customer relationships.

Covington founded Women of Denver, one of the largest privately held membership organizations in Denver, Colorado. Her program helps women increase their business acumen, sharpen leadership skills, and connect with other high-achieving women. Covington received her MBA from Western Governors University in 2012.

Covington is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.

Sources

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