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A master's of business administration (MBA) degree is a graduate degree that teaches students advanced business skills, including management and leadership techniques.
Getting an MBA can open up career opportunities for graduates since MBA programs provide advanced business training. Some MBA career paths include director of market research, financial analyst, chief financial officer, or corporate controller. Additionally, having an MBA can help job candidates stand out from other applicants, especially in competitive industries.
Earning an MBA can have financial perks. According to a 2020 survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), people with MBAs have an average starting salary of $75,197 a year, which is about 24% more than people with bachelor's degrees in business.
The median salary in 2021 for all MBA graduates is $115,000 according to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). As a result, MBA holders earn roughly $3 million more than people with bachelor's degrees over the course of a 35-year career. Furthermore, GMAC reported that 91% of surveyed businesses said they planned to hire MBA graduates that year.
For those wondering if an MBA is a good fit, information in this guide provides an overview of the program, the employment outlook, and jobs for MBA graduates.
What Are Employers Looking For in an MBA Graduate?
GMAC released their updated 2021 Corporate Recruiter Survey that collected information about what recruiters are looking for in MBA graduates. GMAC surveyed recruiters at 569 employers and used those responses to compile their data.
Corporate recruiters said the top three qualities they are looking for in MBA holders are the ability to think strategically, communicate effectively, and skill versatility. Additionally, 80% of recruiters said that interpersonal skills were the most important skills for MBA graduates, followed closely by learning, motivation, and leadership.
Developing these skills and abilities can help MBA graduates as they hunt for jobs after their MBA. The chart below outlines the percentage of MBA graduates recruiters hired in each field in 2020 and the hiring projections for 2021.
Explore MBA Career Paths
Careers for MBA Graduates in Accounting
Senior Accountant |
Senior accountants manage other accountants and keep their company's financial records organized and up to date. These senior-level employees need strong attention to detail plus math and organization skills. Some senior accountants hold a graduate degree in accounting and several years of experience in non-managerial roles.
Senior Auditor |
Auditing is the branch of accounting that investigates organizations for mismanagement of funds. Senior auditors manage staff auditors and oversee the entire auditing process for different companies, including analyzing statements for errors, omissions, and other discrepancies. Most corporations prefer to hire senior auditors with a master's degree in accounting, business, or a related field.
Financial Manager |
Financial managers prepare financial reports, manage investments, and work with executives to develop short-term and long-term goals. They also study market reports to determine potential areas for expansion. Many employers hire financial managers with a master's degree in accounting or a related field, such as business administration or economics.
Careers for MBA Graduates in Finance
Personal Financial Advisor |
Personal financial advisors consult with individual clients about their investments, mortgages, taxes, and retirement/estate planning. Financial advisors tailor their advice based on individual circumstances. Advisors with a master's degree and certification are well-positioned for advancement opportunities.
Senior Investment Associate |
Senior investment associates sell investments, insurance, financial services, and financial tools. Most work for mutual funds, banks, or insurance service providers. Most of these associates must earn passing scores on the Series 6 and 7 exams offered by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Many employers prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree in finance.
Senior Financial Analyst |
Financial analysts consult with businesses and individuals regarding stocks, bonds, and other types of investments. Senior financial analysts manage analyst teams, delegate tasks, review financial reports, and deliver presentations to executive-level employees. A master's degree in finance or a related field is ideal for this career path.
Careers for MBA Graduates in Marketing
Market Research Analyst |
Market analysts use data from consumers, competitors, and market activities to determine demand and pricing to position their organization's goods and services in the marketplace. They also present their findings to organizational leaders and clients. Some market research analyst positions require a master's degree in fields like marketing research, sales and marketing, or business administration.
Director of Sales and Marketing |
The director of sales and marketing supervises all personnel in their company's sales, marketing, and public relations departments. They lead initiatives that improve their organization's overall sales and effectiveness in advertising. These professionals also participate in staff recruitment, hiring, and training. Employers typically require a degree in fields like business, marketing, or communication for this position.
Advertising Creative Director |
Most creative directors in advertising work for ad agencies or other organizations with a strong advertising presence. They oversee and collaborate with employees in creative fields, such as graphic design and copywriting. Employers may prefer a master's degree in advertising or a similar field for this position.
Careers for MBA Graduates in Economics
Economic Analyst |
Economic analysts use market data and research to provide forecasts and consultations to organizations, public agencies, or elected officials. They rely on datasets related to commodities, currency, labor costs, and other key economic factors to inform their work. A business education is often required for these positions.
Economists use data and research trends to understand how resources, goods, and services are produced and distributed. They perform qualitative and quantitative analyses to generate accurate results. These professionals apply their research in diverse fields, such as business, education, and healthcare. A master's degree is considered the minimum qualification for most economist positions.
Senior Economist |
Most senior economists work within the financial industry, developing policies and analyzing economic research on behalf of their organizations. They often collaborate with chief economists and personnel from other departments to create plans and set goals. Most employers seek senior economists who hold at least a master's degree in economics or a related field.
Careers for MBA Graduates in Technology
Information Security Analyst |
Information security analysts develop, coordinate, and implement various security measures to safeguard their company's computer and information systems. They usually assist with disaster recovery plans, which dictate how an organization should operate when its information security has been compromised. They also study new technology security tools and programs. Some employers prefer to hire information security analysts with an MBA in information systems.
IT Manager |
Also known as computer and information systems managers, IT managers oversee their company's technological operations and infrastructures, as well as the personnel who handle information security, network technology, and software development. They also implement protocols for data access throughout an organization. Many organizations prefer to hire IT managers with an MBA or other graduate degree.
Project Manager, IT |
Project managers supervise short- and long-term projects by ensuring they are carried out correctly, quickly, and efficiently. IT project managers work within their organization's technology divisions, and evaluate individual employees based on their performance during different project stages. A graduate degree in IT or computer science may be required for these positions.
Careers for MBA Graduates in Human Resources
Human Resource Manager |
HR managers oversee and direct their company's administrative functions. They often recruit and screen candidates, conduct new employee orientations, consult with top executives, and act as intermediaries between management and other employees. This position may require an MBA in human resources or a related field, such as business administration or labor relations.
Human Resource Director |
HR directors handle employee complaints and grievances while overseeing compensation and benefits, recruiting and hiring, and budgeting for HR operations. In addition, they evaluate various programs to ensure everything complies with organizational goals, professional standards, and legal regulations. A master's degree is often required for HR director positions.
Manager, Compensation and Benefits |
Compensation and benefits managers process payments, health plans, retirement plans, and investments for their employees. They may also help determine pay structures for different personnel. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with a master's in human resources.
Careers in Supply Chain Management
Logistics Analyst |
These professionals study manufacturing, storage, and shipping processes to ensure their companies operate efficiently. They also implement changes to the supply chain to generate optimal results. Some larger organizations prefer candidates with a graduate degree in a field related to analysis and business management.
Supply Chain Manager |
Supply chain managers build communication between sales and customer service personnel, implement logistical policies for their organizations, and maintain an inventory that reflects current demands. They also consult with suppliers and perform analyses to ensure their company's contracts are cost effective. Supply chain managers generally need an undergraduate or graduate degree in a field like business administration, logistics, or sales.
Director, Supply Chain Management |
A director of supply chain management oversees all operations and processes related to their company's goods and services, including resource identification and acquisition, inventory management, pricing, and purchasing analysis. A master's in supply chain management is often required for this role.
Careers for Executive MBA Graduates
Chief Financial Officer |
A CFO leads their company's accounting and financial divisions and all related personnel. They typically oversee purchasing and pricing, investments, account and debt management, and organizational transactions. Some employers — particularly larger organizations — prefer CFO candidates with an MBA.
Chief Operating Officer |
In most organizations, the COO is the second-highest ranking executive behind the CEO. They develop and implement company-wide standards and consult with midlevel managers and supervisors to ensure that personnel comply with company policies. Most COOs possess a strong background in business and management.
Chief Executive Officer |
A CEO oversees an entire organization. They are responsible for evaluating the job performance of other executives and making key business decisions. They typically hold the most responsibilities in a company. CEOs often need an MBA.
Careers in Environmental Management
Sustainability Consultant |
Sustainability consultants make an organization's operations more efficient and environmentally friendly, which can boost a company's revenue and reputation with the public. Some of these workers focus on the environmental impact of manufacturing and shipping processes by managing waste and minimizing energy consumption. Most sustainability consultants hold a degree in a field related to environmental management or business.
Sustainability Manager |
Sustainability managers optimize their organization's waste and energy consumption, improve efficiency, and implement sustainable operations. Some also serve as company representatives in partnerships with government agencies and non-government organizations. The job requires a blend of sales, marketing, and public relations skills.
Sustainability Director |
Sustainability directors create company policies and initiatives that promote efficient and environmentally friendly operations. Reducing an organization's energy consumption and environmental impact typically requires a significant financial investment, so directors must often work within a prescribed budget. Many employers prefer to hire sustainability directors with a master's degree.
Careers for MBA Graduates in International Business
International Sales Manager |
International sales managers generally work for organizations that export goods and services to other countries. They monitor overseas deliveries and transactions and negotiate sales with international buyers and clients. Larger companies typically hire candidates with a master's in international business or international relations.
Global Sourcing Manager |
Global sourcing managers supervise personnel who source goods and materials overseas. They maintain close working relationships with vendors and suppliers around the world and communicate their organization's goals to ensure a seamless sourcing process. Global sourcing managers typically need an extensive business background and fluency in at least one foreign language.
Global Marketing Manager |
Global marketing managers work for multinational organizations in a variety of industries. They oversee a company's global marketing budget, facilitate overseas development, and maintain close relationships with international partners. At least five years of marketing experience and an MBA are often required for these positions.
Careers for MBA Graduates in Risk Management and Acquisitions
Risk Management Analyst |
Risk management analysts evaluate various types of data to help their companies minimize financial risks and avoid setbacks. These datasets may include liability insurance options and claims, as well as HR-related factors like employee injuries and terminations. Within financial institutions, analysts evaluate investment opportunities, financial products, and organizational strategies.
Senior Risk Manager |
While the day-to-day duties of senior risk managers vary by employer, these professionals generally evaluate a company's operations to pinpoint and mitigate various financial and legal risks. Targets of their investigations include unacceptable workplace conditions, theft, fraud, and unethical business practices. A degree in economics, finance, or statistics is often required for these roles.
Director, Mergers and Acquisitions |
Mergers and acquisitions is a catch-all term for business transactions that consolidate companies and organizational assets. Directors of mergers and acquisitions engage with potential partners, evaluate the market and competing organizations for possible opportunities, and perform financial risk analyses to determine investment options.
Entrepreneurship as an MBA Graduate
Entrepreneurship could be an option for those wondering what to do with their MBA. Entrepreneurs start and own their businesses. According to a report released in 2020 by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), there are 31.7 million small businesses in the United States, and they employ about 41% of the private workforce. Additionally, the SBA reports that the average salary for self-employed entrepreneurs with incorporated businesses was $51,820 in 2018.
MBA programs can help aspiring entrepreneurs by teaching them advanced business knowledge in management, finance, and innovation. Additionally, entrepreneurs can use their time in an MBA program to network with professors and peers.
To find a good program fit for entrepreneurial careers, MBA programs with entrepreneurship specializations may be worth considering. This entrepreneur specialization can assist future business owners in meeting their goals. For example, starting a small business often requires funding, and an MBA program may be able to connect you with potential financing sources or strategies.
How to Use an MBA
MBA programs hone managerial and leadership skills while teaching students about financial investments, business risk analysis, communication, and group dynamics. Graduates can use these skills in a variety of MBA careers.
This page examines some of the most common sectors for MBA graduates. These MBA career paths come with different benefits and cater to diverse individuals.
- What is a nonprofit organization? Nonprofit organizations focus on helping communities through various means, such as charity, legal assistance, public healthcare, and educational improvements. These organizations use their earnings for community betterment rather than company revenue.
- Why would this job appeal to an MBA grad? These opportunities allow candidates to perform business administration tasks while helping others.
- What are some examples of nonprofit jobs for an MBA grad? Candidates can organize clothing drives, manage investment records, or analyze student data to determine positive educational changes. Graduates can also act as human resource specialists, fundraisers, or emergency management directors for nonprofit companies.
- How would an MBA prepare a student for this job? Nonprofit organizations must determine community needs and find ways to address problems. Nonprofits also create programs and organize community events. All of these tasks relate to the leadership skills taught in MBA programs.
Public Service and Helping Others
- What is public service? Providing services to the community, public service workers include police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. These employees may work for federal or state governments.
- Why would this job appeal to an MBA grad? MBA careers in public service allow graduates to use management, leadership, and organizational skills while helping their communities. These MBA careers also allow candidates to focus on an area of interest, such as law or healthcare.
- What are some examples of public service jobs for an MBA grad? Some public service careers require additional degrees, training, or certification, such as paramedic. However, MBA graduates can work in roles like emergency management director and social and community service manager without additional education.
- How would an MBA prepare a student for this job? These positions require the analytical, leadership, problem-solving, management, and research skills covered in an MBA program.
- What does working for the government entail? Government workers cater to local, state, and national needs. Examples include U.S. Postal Service workers, International Revenue Service employees, and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. Federal employees also include administrative assistants, housing renovation workers, and clerical candidates at government facilities.
- Why would this job appeal to an MBA grad? Government jobs typically come with excellent benefits, such as insurance and consistent hours.
- What are some examples of government jobs for an MBA grad? MBA graduates can work as accountants, financial analysts, and program coordinators at government facilities.
- How would an MBA prepare a student for this job? These careers often require analytical thinking and an understanding of finance. Candidates frequently work in teams and tend to the organizational needs of companies. An MBA program helps develop these skills.
Starting Your Own Company
- What does starting a nontraditional company entails? To start an official business, candidates should review registration, licensing, and certification requirements.
- Why would this job appeal to an MBA grad? This option provides ample flexibility since candidates can choose the field that most interests them. Individuals can make creative decisions and design business policies and schedules around their personal preferences.
- What are some example companies an MBA grad could start? MBA graduates can open bakeries, private investigation offices, photography studios, retail stores — essentially any company that sells a product or service.
- How would an MBA prepare a student for this job? Business owners must tend to all company concerns, including finances, organizational structure, and employee management. MBA programs help prepare graduates for these tasks.
Make Your Mark on Wall Street or at a Big Corporation
- What does working on Wall Street entail? Wall Street careers often involve investments, brokerages, and stock exchanges. The settings for these MBA careers vary but include financial firms and large businesses.
- Why would this job appeal to an MBA grad? These careers are among the most lucrative for MBA graduates.
- What are some examples of Wall Street or big corporation jobs for an MBA grad? Candidates can work as chief risk officers who earn a median annual salary of more than $159,660 as of May 2022, according to Payscale. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that compliance officers earn a median salary of over $71,650, while financial analysts earn over $81,410.
- How would an MBA prepare a student for this job? Wall Street employees must understand finance and risk analysis and possess critical thinking and communication skills. MBA programs prioritize these traits.
Common Questions about MBA Careers
Are MBA graduates in high demand?
According to a survey conducted by GMAC, 91% of surveyed corporate recruiters said they planned to hire MBA graduates in 2021. This number is up 11% from the previous year. Additionally, 92% of corporate recruiters expect the demand for MBA graduates to remain stable or increase over the next five years.
How many years does it take to complete an MBA?
Generally, it takes two years to complete an MBA as a full-time student. However, accelerated programs may take less time.
How will an MBA help my career?
MBAs provide advanced business training to students. This expertise can open up new career opportunities for MBA holders, especially in highly competitive fields. Additionally, MBAs can help people advance into leadership positions like chief financial officer. MBAs can also increase a person's lifetime earnings by about 3 million dollars compared to those who only have bachelor's degrees.
Along with providing an advanced business education, MBA programs offer additional benefits to students like improving communication skills, professional networking opportunities, and specialization in fields like finance or entrepreneurship.
What is the highest salary I can get with an MBA?
People with MBAs have an average starting salary of $75,200 a year according to NACE, which is about 24% more than people with bachelor's degrees in business. Additionally, GMAC reports that the median salary of all MBA graduates was $115,000 in 2021. However, salaries of MBA jobs can vary depending on the position and industry.
Featured Image: Marko Geber / DigitalVision / Getty Images
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