Today’s global economy and technologically advanced workplaces have broadened the scope of opportunities in almost every sector of business. As you look to advance in your professional career and research the various options available to you, you will find a variety of graduate programs and specializations. With such a range of choices, you may be asking yourself, “What master’s business programs are right for me?”
In this article, we’ll help you make sense of your options and share a few considerations that might help in your decision-making process.
How Master’s Business Programs Can Benefit Today’s Professionals
Before looking into schools and specific programs, it’s important to understand how an advanced degree (such as an online MBA) might benefit you. In general, earning a master’s degree in a business-related field could lead to:
- Higher salary.
- Promotion opportunities.
- Increased or expanded responsibilities.
- Specialized skills and knowledge.
- Greater marketability.
- An edge over other applicants.
- Boosted professional confidence.
- Larger network.
- Personal fulfillment.
An increase in pay is likely a motivator for many adult learners who are looking at enrolling in master’s business programs, and that larger paycheck is related to many of the other factors on the above list. While an official promotion will almost always lead to a raise, you can also move up the pay scale in other ways. For example, you could receive extra compensation for the additional value you and your newfound skills bring to the organization. You could also move laterally within the company to a department or area of specialization known for higher pay.
One benefit listed above that might not immediately make you think of higher pay is boosted confidence. This change in demeanor or new focus could lead to improved performance, increased productivity, higher engagement, and better teamwork, all of which could lead to positive remarks at annual review time. Finally, if you’re open to changing companies or industries, know that if you have a master’s degree you will often start at the higher end of the salary range for an advertised position.
Think about what’s driving your decision to return to school. As you start to explore master’s business programs, keep these possible benefits in mind. The ones most important to you could lead you down one path over another.
Business & Industry: Which Degrees Are a Good Fit My Field or Company?
The master’s of business administration, or the MBA, is probably the best-known advanced business degree. You could even say it’s the gold standard of business credentials. The traditional MBA focused more heavily on finance and accounting, and over the years it has evolved along with the economy and the changing workplace. Today, many programs, like the online MBA at National University, offer a range of specializations.
But the MBA is not the only option for advanced businesses education today; for instance, you could consider a master’s of science (MS) in marketing if that is a specific career area you want to focus on or an in-demand need in your particular workplace. The point is that every industry needs managers and leaders, and some types of businesses have specific or unique needs and challenges that fall within a variety of business education options. Additionally, how we think about the workplace and how we motivate teams has evolved. From that grew new disciplines of academic studies, such as organizational behavior and leadership, that are taking center stage in some advanced business education programs.
As a result, what you see today are more specialized master’s business programs, such as digital marketing or business analytics. National University’s School of Business and Management offers a diverse range of online degrees at the graduate level, such as:
- Master of Business Administration (MBA).
- Master of Science (MS) in Organizational Leadership.
- MS in Marketing.
- MS in Business Analytics.
- Master of Arts (MA) in Human Resources Management.
- MA in Cause Leadership.
- Master of Accountancy.
Master’s business programs, you could say, extend beyond the purely business focus. For example, National offers a number of industry-specific management and leadership programs, such as engineering, information technology, and healthcare administration. These are perfect for people who’ve worked in these fields and want to use their experience to move into management or director positions. These online degrees at the graduate level include:
- MS in Management Information Systems.
- MS in Higher Education Administration.
- MS in Engineering Management.
- MS in Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
- MA in Strategic Communication.
- Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA).
- Master of Public Administration (MPA).
With so many options, it’s certainly an exciting time to advance your career with further education. As you look at these lists above, take notice of which ones might fit your personal goals.
A Closer Look at a Few Master’s Business Programs
To help you narrow down these online degrees, here’s a look at a few popular graduate business programs and career paths they commonly lead to.
According to CNBC, 46% of MBA graduates in 2018 were offered starting salaries of at least $125,000 per year. A versatile degree, MBAs are sought-after credentials in nearly every industry, including technology, healthcare, consulting, manufacturing, government, accounting/finance, education, and consumer products. If moving up to the C-suite (CEO, COO, CFO, or other executive positions) appeals to you, an MBA could be a wise investment.
An online MBA program typically covers core business principles and practices. You can expect classes in accounting, finance, marketing, and management, as well as the ability to take electives or earn a concentration. National University, for example, offers its students the option to focus on one of these areas:
- Accounting Professional Skills.
- Financial Management.
- Human Resources Management.
- Integrated Marketing Communications.
- International Business.
- Management Accounting.
- Mobile Marketing and Social Media.
- Organizational Leadership.
- Supply Chain Management.
MBA courses often involve interactive learning experiences such as case studies and simulations, and usually, end with a capstone project. You can learn more about online MBA programs in our blog post, Why get an MBA?
MS in Marketing
The world of marketing has changed significantly in the Information Age. While many of the same theories and practices still apply, we’ve seen a broadening of mediums and methods to reach audiences (and how we plan for and measure the success of these efforts). This expansion and advancement have created demand for new skills among marketing professionals, most notably data analytics.
An MS in marketing is ideal for someone looking to expand or update their knowledge and skills in specific areas of marketing such as:
- Behavioral targeting.
- Consumer behavior.
- Digital marketing (email, social, web, mobile).
- Marketing analytics.
- Marketing automation.
An online degree in marketing at the graduate level is also a good fit for someone who wishes to lead a creative team.
MA in Strategic Communication
Successfully communicating with our audiences — whether it’s with our customers, clients, employees, members, residents, the media, or the general public — has become more important than ever. This is because we, as a society, have become inundated with information. Messages hit us constantly, from texts and social notifications to emails and ads. Many people scan instead of reading content — if they’re getting or reading our messages at all.
Today, there is greater demand for savvy, sophisticated, and strategic communicators to help companies and organizations meet the challenges of getting the right information to the right people at the right time. An MA in strategic communication can provide you with the advanced knowledge and skills needed to succeed in a higher-level communications role, including audience analysis, campaign development, writing, presentation, persuasion, research, project management, and evaluation.
If you have an interest in advancing your career in local, state, or national government — or even in international affairs or nonprofit management — a master of public administration might be a smart pick from the available options in master’s business programs. Programs like this, such as the one offered by National, combine elements of an MBA program (finance, budget, management) with coursework in ethics, policy, research methods, grant writing, and urban planning. You can learn more about the differences and similarities between an online MBA and an MPA.
MS in Engineering Management
No matter what a company’s size or focus, chances are they rely on technology for nearly everything: data, records, communication, security, production, finance, to name a few. One area of extreme growth and importance is information — both protecting it and using it to help make decisions.
With such reliance on software, databases, and other systems and infrastructure, the information technology footprint within many businesses is growing considerably. This means companies don’t only need people with technical skills to perform day-to-day IT operations, but they need also skilled leaders who can manage these efforts. Earning a
master’s degree in engineering management prepares tech-savvy professionals for these higher-level positions, such as a chief technology officer or chief information officer.
MS in Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Manmade and natural disasters are part of life; we don’t want tornadoes or terrorist attacks to ever happen, yet we must prepare for if and when they do. A relatively new academic discipline, homeland security and emergency management programs bring together aspects of leadership, ethics, management, communications, security, and other related topics. The goal is to prepare professionals to successfully implement emergency response plans and, if the time comes, to put them into action.
National University’s MS in Homeland Security and Emergency Management often appeals to veteran students; leading organizations and communities through crisis situations is especially a good fit for someone with years of military experience and leadership.
MS in Organizational Leadership
If leading a company, its mission, and its people interests you, an MS in organizational leadership could be a good fit. Like the MBA, this online degree program is versatile in that it’s not industry-specific; rather, the skills and knowledge you gain can be applied at businesses and organizations of all sizes. It might be ideal for a top executive or a human resources professional, but organizational leadership is also suited for managers at all levels and even entrepreneurs.
Classes in this program explore various leadership theories, styles, and applications. For example, in National University’s MS in Organizational Leadership online program, you’d take courses such as:
- Developing Groups and Teams.
- Leading Change and Adaptation.
- Leadership in the 21st Century.
- Conflict and Power Dynamics.
- World View and Adult Development.
What Kind of Salaries Could Masters Business Programs Lead To?
The range in salaries is considerably wide for those holding MBAs and other business-related, master’s-level degrees. So many factors come into play here, from education level and years of work experience to geography and industry.
To give you an idea of what’s possible, here are some examples of 2018 national average annual salaries of higher-level positions in various sectors, all reported by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Chief Executives (ex: CEO, COO): $189,600.
- Top Executives: $104,9809.
- Information Systems Managers: $142,530.
- Engineering Managers: $140,760.
- Marketing Managers: $132,620.
- Financial Managers: $127,990.
- Sales Managers: $124,220.
- Human Resources Managers: $113,300.
- Health Services Managers, Hospitals: $108,730.
- Emergency Management Directors, Professional Services: $101,570.
- Operations or General Managers: $100,930.
When you are planning your next steps, you certainly have a lot of online master’s degrees to choose from and many factors to consider that could affect your decision. Narrow down your options down to two or three options that are a good fit for your goals. For starters, you might ask yourself if you want to expand your proficiency in your existing specialty (accounting, marketing, IT, etc.), or if you’re interested in developing general leadership and management skills with a more versatile graduate degree such as an MBA, MA in strategic communications, or MS in organizational leadership.
From there, you can do further research into specific programs, job demand, potential salary, and other career- and education-related factors. Talk to admissions representatives about online degree programs and how they can fit into your schedule. Ask how your previous education and work experience can transfer or help you complete your master’s degree. Don’t forget to talk to your supervisor or human resources department about any potential tuition reimbursement programs. And check with the financial aid office for all available grants, scholarships, and loans that could help you fund your education.
To explore the many master’s business programs available at National University, including the online MBA, visit our Business Degrees section, where you can find details on specific programs or request additional information.