What Can You Do With an MBA?
Advance in your current position. Increase your earning potential. Stand out from other job candidates. Expand your knowledge and skills. These are all answers to the question, “What can you do with an MBA?”
To get more specific, a master’s in business administration (MBA) is a sought-out graduate-level degree in the business community. Many working professionals committed to career development and personal growth are willing to invest in an MBA — and many employers are ready and willing to invest in people with this credential for top positions.
Companies and organizations of all sizes and in nearly every industry need qualified individuals to lead and grow their business. In today’s global and technology-dependent society, hiring managers are also looking for employees with the most up-to-date business education. An MBA prepares future leaders for the next step in their careers, whether that’s advancing to a higher level or transitioning to a new field.
Good Timing: Demand for MBAs is Rising
A bachelor’s degree has become the standard for entry-level positions in a variety of industries. Having a graduate degree in your chosen field is one way to stand out from other applicants, whether you are seeking your first job, early in your career, or established in the field and looking to expand your responsibilities or move up in your organization. Typically, a graduate degree, along with ample career experience, is required of senior managers and executives. In the business world, the advanced degree of choice is often an MBA. In fact, more and more employers are requiring this credential, especially for top leadership positions.
According to a 2018 year-end employer poll from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 78 percent of respondents planned to hire recent MBA graduates. And, in this same poll, more than half of the companies indicated they planned to increase MBA starting salaries in 2019. An MBA can lead to positions in a variety of industries. Finance and accounting are two common areas in which graduates begin their careers with skill sets that are in great demand. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial manager positions are expected to grow by 19 percent over the next decade, which is faster than the average occupation.
It’s no longer just big business seeking out MBA grads. On the opposite coast from Wall Street, Silicon Valley is also seeing a rise in jobs for MBAs. But the demand is not confined to the region of the U.S. most associated with the web, social media, artificial intelligence, software, and telecommunications; tech firms around the globe have an increasing interest in MBA grads as well. The aforementioned GMAC survey also broke down the hiring rate by industry and discovered the tech world is set to recruit MBAs at a higher rate (89 percent) than financial and accounting firms (76 percent). As an example of this growth, The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon hired 1,000 MBA graduates between 2016 and 2017.
These statistics indicate that opportunities for qualified MBA graduates are becoming more plentiful, and in more fields — and that employers are willing to compensate well.
Time Commitment: How Long is an MBA Program?
Finding a master’s in business administration program that suits your personal career goals and is flexible enough to fit your schedule is important. When wondering, “How long is an MBA program?” you’ll find that the answer is frequently, “It depends.” MBA programs can vary in length of expected completion time; for example, it could depend upon a school’s graduation requirements, academic calendar, class delivery format (such as if it’s an online degree or an accelerated program), and other factors such as if you are attending the program as a full-time student or juggling work and family responsibilities while you are studying. Typically, if you’re attending a program designed for adult learners, you can expect to complete an MBA in about 18 months.
National University ranks among the best colleges in San Diego for working adults who want to pursue an MBA. Dr. Farhang Mossavar-Rahmani, a professor of finance and director of the MBA program at National, says his program’s timeline was created specifically to fit into the lives of students who might be working and attending school at the same time.
“[I]n fact, all programs at National are designed for adult learners. We understand what they need,” he says. “Our MBA program is very flexible. We offer online classes and our on-campus classes are held on Saturdays.”
Breaking your education into smaller pieces or setting several milestones is a good way to help the overall goal appear more achievable. So, with this in mind, you might also want to ask, “How long is an MBA program’s typical term?” That can vary too. Some schools may be on a traditional semester system, and others may operate on trimesters. At National University, MBA students take a new class every four weeks, year-round. Mossavar-Rahmani says this format is beneficial because “it’s easier to focus on one course at a time.”
When thinking about how long it takes to earn an MBA, also keep in mind you won’t need to wait until graduation to use what you’re learning. One benefit to taking courses in an on-site or online MBA program while you’re working is that you can immediately apply what you’re learning to your current position. So while the degree may take upwards of a year to complete, you’ll benefit from new knowledge and skills right away. This is rewarding because you’ll be able to demonstrate you’re becoming an even stronger asset to your team — one course at a time.
Plotting Your Path: First Stop, Goals!
We’ve talked about the growing demand for MBA graduates as well as the potential time investment you need to make to earn one. Now let’s explore your options in more detail.
First things first, though, Mossavar-Rahmani of National explains, “An MBA was designed for all individuals looking to advance in a business environment. That’s the chief function of an MBA.” This comment suggests just how broad the career options are: many individuals, many environments. To help new MBA students navigate their way through these myriad choices, Mossavar-Rahmani says he and his faculty talk to each student about their interest and needs.
“We get to understand their goals and objectives, what they want to do with their life,” he says, adding that this helps them advise students which courses (outside of the required core) will help them with those aspirations.
Along with this, Mossavar-Rahmani mentions that some MBA students may come directly from an undergraduate program. Others may come to an MBA program without a strong business background, but ready for a career change. In both of these instances, these students should feel at ease; Mossavar-Rahmani says through mentoring, they’ll find where they’ll fit best.
So you could say the question isn’t exactly, “What can you do with an MBA?” but instead, “What do you want to do with your MBA?” If you don’t know right away, that’s OK too; you’re likely to discover more about yourself and business goals as you take courses and interact with your classmates and teachers. Either way, you’ll find you’ll have plenty of options.
Career Options: What Can You Do With an MBA After Graduation?
After completing an on-site or online MBA program (and, as mentioned earlier, sometimes even before!), you’ll have a range of options in varying positions within many industries and at companies of all sizes from start-up and family-owned to Fortune 500.
Let’s start with industry. You’d be hard pressed to find a business sector that doesn’t have a need for the skills and knowledge someone with an MBA can bring. Here is a look at some of the industries GMAC’s corporate recruiting survey reports as being well-known for hiring MBAs:
- Health care.
- Consumer products/services.
Other than those included on the GMAC survey, other industries an MBA graduate could consider include retail, transportation, education, engineering, real estate and property management, and media.
What about where you’d fit within a company? Again, since an MBA education is so multi-faceted, you’re likely to find people with the degree in many areas of a company including:
- Executive offices.
- Human resources.
- Research and product development.
- Data analytics.
- Business development.
- Information technology.
- In-house counsel.
While job titles vary from company to company, here are some common examples of positions MBA graduates fill, from entry- to executive level:
- Accounting manager.
- Finance manager.
- Financial analyst.
- Budget analyst.
- Data analyst.
- Investment banker.
- Investment fund manager.
- Marketing manager.
- Market research analyst.
- Human resources manager.
- Sales/business development manager.
- Program manager/director.
- Brand manager.
- Product manager.
- Project manager.
- Operations manager.
- Risk manager.
- Supply chain manager.
And looking at C-suite and upper-level management positions:
- General manager.
- Department/division director.
- Department/division executive director.
- Chief executive officer.
- Chief operations officer.
- Chief financial officer.
- Chief marketing officer.
- Chief technology officer.
- Chief information officer.
As you can see, it’s clear there are many career paths an MBA graduate can take and also plenty of room for growth.
If you’re already searching for campus-based programs or online degrees that can help you grow your career, you likely already have an industry in mind. And that leads us to another benefit of an MBA program: specialization.
Benefits of Specialization: What Can You Do With an MBA Concentration?
An MBA can give you an edge in your career and lead to higher-level and higher-paying positions. What about adding a specialization? That’s an extra accomplishment that adds one more differentiation to your list of qualifications. More important, though, is that choosing to concentrate your studies in a particular area will better prepare you for the challenges of that specific career path.
MBA programs traditionally focused on finance and accounting but the evolving demand of the market led most graduate business programs to offer additional areas of focus. Mossavar-Rahmani says of National’s program: “We have nine or so areas of concentration. This helps students become more knowledgeable about a particular field.”
For example, he says those looking to be a more effective leader may choose to focus on organizational leadership, while someone looking to up their decision-making and operations quotient may opt for a concentration in supply chain management.
Concentrations will vary from school to school; here’s a look at some areas National University students can choose to focus on:
- Accounting professional skills.
- Financial management.
- Human resources management.
- Integrated marketing and communication.
- International business.
- Management accounting.
- Mobile marketing and social media.
- Organizational leadership.
- Supply chain management.
Mossavar-Rahmani reiterates why he often recommends students to add a specialization. “At the end of the day, we want them to be more successful in their chosen field,” he says.
What Can You With an MBA, Outside of Climbing the Corporate Ladder?
While most pursue a master’s in business administration with the goal of being promoted, landing a leadership role, moving into the C-suite, or simply meeting qualifications for a dream position at a dream company, an MBA can prepare you for other experiences, too.
Many MBA-seekers are aspiring entrepreneurs. The curriculum in a graduate-level business program can provide a solid foundation for planning, starting, managing, and growing a sustainable, successful business.
“The finance program is an especially good fit for students if they want to run their own business. You can’t do that without an understanding of finance,” Mossavar-Rahmani says.
Launching your own product or service, however, is still closely tied to the idea of leadership and management for an employer. So, aside from working in a traditional business environment, what can you do with an MBA or how else will an MBA benefit you professionally and personally?
Here are a few examples of other job options as well as community involvement opportunities where you can apply your business savvy:
- Teaching – an MBA and a solid work history may qualify you to teach at the college level at a school in your area or in an online degree This is because many programs value the experience of experienced professionals and what they can bring to the classroom. Many business leaders are adjunct faculty, teaching part-time while still working in the field, and enjoy doing so.
- Community Board Service – many business leaders also become involved in local charitable organizations, whether it’s volunteering or participating in fundraising events. If giving to your community in a greater capacity interests you, consider joining a nonprofit’s board of directors or a committee; many of these groups are in need of someone with business and financial expertise. This is also a great way to connect with other business leaders and possible partners and clients.
- Business Development/Education Volunteer – another way to share your knowledge with young adults or aspiring professionals is to serve as a mentor to others. For example, maybe your public library offers a business resource center, or perhaps your county is home to a chapter of SCORE (a nationwide volunteer network of business experts), or maybe you live near a Junior Achievement location (a national educational program dedicated to work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy for elementary through high school students).
These are just a few ways you can take what you learn in the MBA program and on the job and use it to benefit others. Not only do these volunteer opportunities feel good; they can also help you expand and nurture your network.
What Can I Expect to Earn With an MBA?
The potential for an excellent salary is another motivator for earning an MBA. Of course, pay will vary based on various factors including geographic location, work experience, and type of organization.
To give you an idea of what you might expect, here is a list of common positions requiring a master’s in business administration and their average national salary, according to the BLS. We also highlighted some industry averages, as that can certainly impact your salary offer. As one of the best colleges in San Diego for adults learners, we’ve also included data from National University’s home state of California, where many of our students and graduates live and work:
Accountants and Auditors
- National average: $69,530.
- California average: $83,540.
- Industry with highest average salary for this type of position: finance and insurance ($74,140).
Market Research Analyst
- National average: $63,230.
- California average: $122,960.
- Industry with highest average salary for this type of position: publishing (non-internet).
- National average: $75,240.
- California average: $87,400.
- Industry with highest average salary for this type of position: professional, scientific, and technical services ($82,360).
- National average: $84,300.
- California average: $122,960.
- Industry with highest average salary for this type of position: securities, commodity contracts, financial investments and related activities ($100,180).
- National average: $125,080.
- California average: $154,310.
- Industry with highest average salary for this type of position: professional, scientific, and technical services ($140,040).
Human Resources Managers
- National average: $119,120.
- California average: $139,860.
- Industry with highest average salary for this type of position: management of companies and enterprises ($124,540).
- National average: $121,060.
- California average: $131,100.
- Industry with highest average salary for this type of position: finance and insurance ($152,590).
- National average: $129,380.
- California average: $164,410.
- Industry with highest average salary for this type of position: advertising, public relations and related services ($123,640).
Operations or General Managers
- National average: $100,410.
- California average: $136,080.
- Industry with highest average salary for this type of position: professional, scientific, and technical services ($137,950).
Chief Executives (ex: CEO, COO)
- National average: $183,270.
- California average: $222,950.
- Industry with highest average salary for this type of position: professional, scientific, and technical services ($208,000 or more).
While these figures can help you get an idea of your earning potential in your desired field, or encourage you to consider a new field, it’s important to keep in mind these numbers are only averages based the Department of Labor’s research.
There are many reasons to earn an MBA: career advancement, salary increase, and personal enrichment to name just a few. If you’re interested in learning if a master’s of business administration is right for you, explore your options at National University’s program page.