Top 10 Non-Traditional Jobs for MBA Graduates

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Earning an MBA from a top-ranked business school can provide a wealth of advantages, including a high salary, strong career prospects, and a versatile skill set. As one of the most sought-after credentials in job applicants, an MBA can open doors to a challenging career as a manager or top executive.

MBA graduates commonly pursue careers in corporate finance, investment banking, and management consulting. However, an MBA can also pave the way to less conventional careers. Degree-holders may wish to deviate from the typical MBA path to pursue a passion or make a greater social impact. Conversely, individuals with a non-business degree may go for an MBA to boost their earning potential or academic credentials.

Degree-holders may wish to deviate from the typical MBA path to pursue a passion or make a greater social impact.

MBA graduates who seek an unconventional business career path enjoy strong job prospects. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 17% growth in employment for social and community services managers and a 32% growth for health services managers from 2019-2029, significantly higher than the national average.

Our rankings below describe the 10 best nontraditional business jobs for MBA graduates. We also consider what makes a business career path nontraditional, which sectors regularly hire in these positions, and how an MBA can be conducive to the skills these jobs call for.

Read more about these jobs

What Makes a Business Career Path Nontraditional?

A nontraditional business career is not conventionally associated with an MBA degree. Typically, we think of MBA programs as fostering expertise and career prospects in management, corporate finance, and securities.

However, MBA graduates can enter other fields as well. An MBA helps build skills like leadership, creativity, and problem-solving, which apply to a variety of nontraditional roles. Owing to these skills’ versatility, an MBA can give job applicants an edge over the competition, regardless of industry.

Most highly regarded MBA programs let students use elective courses to explore nontraditional aspects of business. Graduates can use the skills from these classes to pursue nontraditional business careers.

Read Why an MBA Can Be a Good Investment

The 10 Best Nontraditional Business Jobs

Our rankings below describe the 10 best nontraditional business jobs in 2021. To create this list, we first identified occupations rarely featured on our site that require the expertise typically cultivated in an MBA program. From this pool, we then ranked the 10 least-featured positions using BLS salary data.

  • Architectural and Engineering Manager

    Typical job duties for architectural and engineering managers include overseeing the recruitment and training of new staff, managing budgets for new projects, and making plans to produce new processes, designs, or products.

    This managerial role provides opportunities to climb the career ladder to higher-level leadership positions like architectural director and chief engineering officer.

    Some of the largest sectors employing architectural and engineering managers include research and development, manufacturing, government agencies such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required, master’s degree preferred
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +3%
    2020 Median Annual Salary: $149,530

    Earning an MBA develops skills like entrepreneurship and project management, useful for architectural and engineering management careers.

    Architectural and engineering managers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in architecture, engineering, or related areas like physics, along with considerable work experience.

    An MBA can complement the technical knowledge acquired during prior studies, providing the leadership expertise and advanced knowledge of data and project management needed to successfully manage architectural and engineering projects.

  • Natural Sciences Manager

    Natural sciences managers direct the research projects of natural scientists, such as physicists, neuroscientists, chemists, biologists, and environmental scientists.

    Typical job responsibilities include coordinating scientific research activities, managing product development, and helping revise policies. People in this occupation may advance to higher leadership positions down the line, such as chief science officer or chief sustainability officer.

    Sectors that regularly hire for this position include pharmaceutical research and development, manufacturing, government agencies like the National Institute of Health, and nonprofit organizations such as Greenpeace.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required, master’s degree preferred
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +5%
    2020 Median Annual Salary: $137,940

    An MBA delivers skills conducive to natural sciences management, such as effectively analyzing data, drafting operational reports, and reviewing research methodology.

    Natural sciences managers typically need a bachelor’s degree in a natural science or related disciplines like engineering alongside considerable work experience.

    An MBA can supplement the technical knowledge acquired during undergraduate coursework, providing the leadership skills and business savvy needed to direct research projects in the natural sciences.

  • Public Relations and Fundraising Manager

    Public relations and fundraising managers oversee public relations and coordinate events to raise funds and other forms of support.

    Duties include reviewing advertising and promotional programs, developing fundraising strategies, and meeting with potential donors. These workers may advance to higher managerial or leadership positions such as vice president of marketing, chief brand officer, or chief communications officer.

    Sectors that regularly hire people in this administrative role include higher education, consulting, state and local government agencies such as the Florida Office of Communications, and nonprofit organizations like NPR Media Relations.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required, master’s degree preferred
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +9%
    2020 Median Annual Salary: $118,430

    An MBA strengthens skills relevant to public relations and fundraising management, such as networking, public speaking, and effective communication.

    A bachelor’s in business, the humanities, or communication provides knowledge that can help future public relations and fundraising managers succeed in an MBA program.

    An MBA can complement prior skills with the management and communication expertise needed to develop successful fundraising and public relations strategies.

  • Training and Development Manager

    Training and development managers direct activities that educate employees or the public. Typical job duties include staying apprised of new research or events affecting educational needs, designing and revising training materials and methods, and overseeing educational activities.

    Training and development managers may advance to higher leadership roles, such as chief learning officer or chief human resources officer. Sectors that regularly hire people in this vocational role include postsecondary institutions, consulting firms, corporations, government agencies such as the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and nonprofit organizations like the Human Rights Campaign.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required, master’s degree preferred
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +7%
    2020 Median Annual Salary: $115,640

    An MBA can foster training and development management skills such as effective communication, conflict resolution, and interpersonal skills.

    Training and development managers commonly hold a bachelor’s degree in business administration, education, or psychology. An MBA can further develop leadership, team building skills, and strategic problem-solving abilities.

  • Medical and Health Services Manager

    Typical job duties of medical and health services managers include developing the objectives of medical services, improving the quality and efficiency of healthcare, and ensuring that healthcare services operate within funding limits. Managers in this role may advance to higher positions, such as vice president of health services or chief medical officer.

    Sectors that regularly hire medical and health services managers include hospitals, private healthcare practices, government agencies, nonprofit health organizations like Doctors Without Borders, and humanitarian projects such as Mercy Ships.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required, master’s degree preferred
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +32%
    2020 Median Annual Salary: $104,280

    An MBA develops skills conducive to medical and health services management, such as knowledge of risk assessment, budget preparation, and financial reporting.

    People in this job commonly hold a bachelor’s degree and on-the-job training. An MBA can cultivate leadership expertise and advanced knowledge of data analysis and management.

  • Postsecondary Education Administrator

    Postsecondary education administrators direct departments or offices responsible for faculty research and student services in higher education. Typical job duties include managing budgets, overseeing academic policies, and participating in faculty appointments and tenure decisions.

    Postsecondary education administrators may advance to a higher administrative position, such as dean, provost, or chief academic officer.

    Required Education: Master’s degree
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
    2020 Median Annual Salary: $97,500

    MBAs promote skills necessary for postsecondary education administration, such as cross-cultural competency, team building, and effective communication.

    Any college degree can serve as a starting point for a career in higher education. An MBA can provide supplemental managerial skills and advanced knowledge of data management and analytics.

  • Construction Manager

    Construction managers plan, budget, and supervise construction projects. Frequent job duties include estimating construction project costs, ensuring compliance with building and safety regulations, and reporting progress to clients and construction firms.

    Construction managers may advance to higher managerial and leadership positions, such as director of operations or chief operations officer.

    Many construction managers are self-employed. Sectors that regularly hire construction managers, sometimes on a contractual basis, include construction companies, government agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and nonprofit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required, master’s degree preferred
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +8%
    2020 Median Annual Salary: $97,180

    Earning an MBA fosters abilities conducive to construction management, such as project management and team building skills.

    Construction managers commonly hold a bachelor’s degree and on-the-job training. An MBA can complement prior experience, providing managerial expertise and knowledge of building and safety regulations.

  • Postsecondary Faculty

    Postsecondary faculty hold teaching and research positions at colleges, universities, and professional schools. Typical job responsibilities include teaching classes, grading homework, advising students, and serving on committees. Research positions also require conducting research and publishing in the discipline.

    Postsecondary faculty may advance to higher administrative positions, such as dean, provost, or chief academic officer.

    Required Education: Master’s degree
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +9%
    2020 Median Annual Salary: $80,790

    MBAs strengthen versatile skills for teaching and research positions in an MBA program, such as public speaking, team-building skills, and translating business language for the general public.

    A college degree in any discipline can serve as a good starting point for a career in higher education. Eligibility for tenure-track positions, depending on the field, typically requires a master’s degree or a doctorate.

    However, MBA programs commonly hire MBA-holders in non-tenure track teaching and research positions at colleges and universities.

  • Emergency Management Director

    Emergency management directors assess risks and prepare plans to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies, like hurricanes, pandemics, and terrorist attacks.

    Typical job duties include reviewing emergency plans for medical facilities and other organizations; directing emergency response training of volunteers, staff, first responders, and the public; and coordinating the distribution of resources and equipment within communities during an emergency.

    Emergency management directors often advance to higher positions, such as director of operations or chief emergency management officer. Sectors that routinely hire emergency management directors include hospitals, postsecondary institutions, state and local government agencies, like the California Department of Social Services, and nonprofit organizations such as Convoy of Hope.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required, master’s degree preferred
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
    2020 Median Annual Salary: $76,250

    MBA programs build skills relevant to emergency management, such as entrepreneurship, problem-solving, and risk assessment.

    Emergency management directors usually need a bachelor’s degree in business, public health, or emergency management. An MBA can supplement prior education with managerial and entrepreneurial know-how to successfully plan for and manage emergencies and natural disasters.

  • Social and Community Services Managers

    Social and community services managers direct programs and organizations that provide support for public well-being. Job responsibilities include working with community members to identify community needs, implementing new community programs, and assessing the effectiveness of these programs.

    Social and community managers may advance to higher positions, such as community habilitation services director, long-term care facility director, or chief green officer.

    Sectors that regularly hire people in this position include long-term care facilities, rehabilitation facilities, state and local government agencies such as the Illinois Department of Human Services, and nonprofit organizations like the Food Bank for New York City.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree required, master’s degree preferred
    Job Outlook (2019-29): +17%
    2020 Median Annual Salary: $69,600

    An MBA provides expertise useful for social and community services managers, such as public speaking, entrepreneurship, and translating business language for the general public.

    Social and community services managers typically need a bachelor’s degree in public or business administration, public health, social work, or related fields. An MBA can cultivate the leadership skills and advanced knowledge of project management needed to successfully direct social programs.

The Nontraditional Job Hunt for Business Majors

Students seeking nontraditional business jobs should consider using already-available resources. Job fairs, for example, provide an excellent opportunity for discovering atypical career paths while gaining first-hand information about companies’ open positions and the responsibilities associated with them.

Career-focused websites like Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Google Job Search are also useful for job hunters. The value of these online spaces goes beyond their job postings. Some job boards provide templates for application materials and advice columns, and some allow job-seekers to upload their application materials for future recruiters to review.

With new technology and innovations and impending health and environmental crises, the list of nontraditional business jobs will likely shift. New occupations and industries may rise to prominence as society’s needs change. Only the future can tell what this jobscape will look like, but traffic controllers for self-driving cars, operations directors for drone airports, and robot rights officers seem inevitable.

Professional Networking Tips for MBA Grads

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why should an MBA graduate get an unconventional job?

    MBA graduates may wish to deviate from the conventional career path in order to pursue a passion, contribute to humanitarian causes, or make a lasting social impact.

  • How is a nontraditional business job different from a traditional business job?

    We commonly think of MBAs as delivering expertise in management consulting, corporate finance, and investment banking. A nontraditional business career is one that lies outside such conventional fields, such as leadership positions in nonprofit organizations.

  • Can a business major have a freelance career?

    Yes. Many business majors and MBAs pursue careers as entrepreneurs of their own consulting firms, which allows them to work for other companies on a freelance basis.

  • What can I do with an MBA with no business experience?

    MBAs with no business experience qualify for many lower managerial jobs that can help provide the business experience required for higher managerial roles. To gain professional experience, MBA graduates can also pursue internships.

Feature Image: Sornranison Prakittrakoon / Moment / Getty Images

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