The Master of Business Administration has long been one of the most respected graduate degrees. This credential confers instant respect, and with good reason—MBA programs are notoriously rigorous. Given the inherent challenges of this pursuit, many aspiring grad school students wonder: Should I get an MBA?
In many cases, the answer should be a resounding yes—but a lot depends on which concentration you intend to pursue and how you'll use your degree when you graduate. Under the right circumstances, this journey can deliver a huge return on investment. To illuminate available opportunities, we've highlighted a few of the most important career considerations for prospective MBA students below.
Reasons to Consider an MBA
Above all else, the MBA is worthwhile because of its esteemed status. As mentioned above, the credential makes employers take notice. This can be seen in annual surveys from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) in which corporate recruiters consistently cite a strong demand for MBAs.
In 2021, for example, GMAC survey respondents projected "robust hiring" for business school graduates—and many expect that this will actually accelerate in the next five years. With this strong demand comes impressive earning potential. GMAC cites a median annual MBA salary of $115,000 versus $65,000 for employees with only bachelor's degrees.
The general financial value of the MBA is abundantly clear, but it's important to identify targeted career goals before you proceed. The following are a few of the biggest changes your MBA may enable:
1. Advancing Your Current Career
Perhaps you've found your dream career path and have no intention of departing your niche. At this point, all you want is a promotion or the pay boost you deserve. Professional experience can help, of course, but some jobs are simply out of reach without targeted credentials.
Of course, exceptions exist, but in most cases candidates for upper-level positions won't be taken seriously until they've studied at the graduate level. The C-suite at your current company, for example, will most likely remain out of reach until you possess both several years of experience and an MBA.
The benefits of an MBA begin before you've even graduated. Many students who return to school for their MBA quickly discover that their years of experience in the workforce make their studies richer and more meaningful. Regardless of your long-term job ambitions, you'll be amazed at the extent to which you can immediately apply all that you learn in the workplace. The result? A greater ability to pursue purpose-driven projects and feel as if you're making a difference.
2. Changing Your Career
The career trajectory outlined above doesn't apply to everyone. Maybe, after a few years in the work world, you've discovered that you're not as passionate about your field as you anticipated.
This is not the time to get complacent or assume that it's too late to pursue your professional dreams. Yes, a lack of targeted experience in your desired niche could be a liability, but it won't hold you back nearly as much if you're able to show off one of the most respected degrees: the MBA.
An MBA offers numerous advantages as you embark on a completely different career path. First, it swiftly builds the targeted skills you need. Through in-depth research, intriguing discussions, and hands-on projects, you'll gain valuable knowledge that would take far longer to acquire through experience alone. Meanwhile, you'll expand your professional network, which may not yet extend to your new professional sphere.
Finally, you'll discover that employers are willing to take a chance on you simply because you hold the title of MBA. This can overcome major deficits in experience as employers will know you have what it takes to get through a notoriously rigorous academic ordeal.
3. Triple Jump
It's no secret that MBAs rise rapidly through the corporate ranks once equipped with graduate-level credentials, but some professionals are surprised by just how quickly this ascent can occur.
Ambitious professionals can do it all, but planning and discernment are crucial to achieving a phenomenon known as the triple jump: changing location, job sector, and function simultaneously. If anything can make it happen, it's the distinction (and strong network) of an MBA.
4. Start Your Own Business
If you're ready for an especially dramatic career change, an MBA could equip you for life as an entrepreneur. While some business leaders gain their knowledge through the school of hard knocks, this can be a risky path as difficult lessons can lead to business failure. A safer alternative? Gaining both leadership skills and professional connections through an entrepreneurship-focused MBA program.
Top MBA Career Areas
While MBAs can make their mark in a variety of sectors, certain fields tend to be especially compelling to aspiring management professionals. A broad-based degree can be helpful for those who have yet to identify their preferred niche, but others may see greater benefits from specializing early on, particularly if they're able to select their academic concentrations accordingly.
Many tech companies specifically seek out MBA graduates—especially those with a background in computer programming. The combination of, for example, a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology Sciences and an MBA can prove particularly enticing to demanding employers. Many hope to find applicants who possess the right blend of hard and soft skills.
Don't worry if you're interested in entering the rapidly growing world of tech but lack experience in this specific sector; the best MBA programs incorporate technical training into their demanding and well-rounded curricula. If you're ready to make the leap into management while also moving into IT, an MBA provides the perfect introduction to the tools and technologies currently required in this quickly evolving field.
Many business school graduates go on to hold the title of information systems manager. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these high-ranking professionals earn a median salary of $151,150 per year. While professional experience may be sufficient for some to achieve such lucrative positions, employers are far more inclined to grant these jobs to respected MBA grads.
Finance is a central component of any MBA curriculum, leaving graduates thoroughly prepared for positions such as financial analyst, investment manager, or finance manager. The foundational course Managerial Finance lays the groundwork by delving into such critical topics as capital budgeting and capital structure.
This concentrated training makes it possible to hit the ground running in the exciting world of financial management. This is one of the most lucrative niches pursued by MBAs; the BLS highlights median annual earnings of $134,180 for financial managers.
MBA students hone key skills in business school, such as preparing financial statements and analyzing market trends. Leadership skills are also crucial as high-level financial professionals are often responsible for overseeing large teams of employees.
Healthcare represents one of the economy's most quickly growing sectors. Not all those with a calling for healthcare desire to work in a clinical capacity, however—even in the midst of such abundant opportunities.
Those who prefer more of an administrative role can make their mark in healthcare management. Encouraging insight from the BLS suggests that this is among the fastest-growing segments of the industry. The job outlook within the category of medical and health services managers has reached 32 percent, while median pay topped $104,000 in 2020.
While it's sometimes possible to enter healthcare management with a bachelor's degree, job seekers may find it difficult to impress employers without upper-level credentials. An MBA with a concentration in healthcare administration is ideal, as this verifies a thorough understanding of healthcare policy, medical malpractice, and many other relevant concerns.
MBAs who want the best of both worlds—job stability plus professional control—often gravitate towards consulting. This allows them to leverage targeted knowledge to improve efficiency and profit margins within specific organizations or departments. A significant subset of consultants are self-employed, although many work for consulting firms that help them secure both temporary job placements and long-term clients.
Referred to by the BLS as management analysts, consultants often travel extensively to meet with clients. Increasingly, however, many are able to fulfill key obligations online, using video chat and other solutions to build strong connections with clients from all around the world. Those equipped with their MBA may find it easier to call the shots, either as self-employed professionals, small business owners, or senior consultants.
While the position's median income of $87,660 rests well below that of some MBA careers highlighted above, a lot more variation exists within consulting. Depending on academic achievements, professional experience, and niche demand, management consultants can often earn well over six figures, with BLS data suggesting that the top 10 percent make over $156,840 per year. It can be difficult to pinpoint a median or average salary, partially because consultants take such dramatically different approaches to structuring their work and schedule.
Crush Your Career Goals With an MBA
Whether you envision a future in healthcare management, consulting, or elsewhere in the vast business sphere, you can achieve your loftiest goals with help from an MBA. Don't underestimate the power of this degree to get you on the path to an amazing career.