What Can You Do After Getting an MBA?
As an investment in your future, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can pay off in many ways. It adds cachet to your resume, boosts your confidence, and expands your professional possibilities. Oftentimes, this means elevating your salary, too. However, before chasing after the highest possible paycheck you can land, consider that the role, industry, and company culture will also contribute significantly to your long-term success. An MBA is an increasingly sought after degree, so you might be surprised by the direction your career can take once you’ve earned yours.
What Jobs Can You Get with an MBA?
There was a time when only the highest offices within a company required an MBA. Now, many employers favor graduate degrees for a variety of roles – particularly as data and technology become key components in the efficacy of nearly every department and industry.
Even if an MBA is not officially required for a job, your degree can distinguish you from your competition. The demand for well-educated and well-rounded candidates means top MBA jobs now include a wide range of executive, managerial, and consultative positions.
Higher-level titles often draw higher salaries, so executive—or "C-suite"—positions can hold a certain allure for many MBA graduates. These top positions can be lucrative and prestigious, but there is much more to an executive role than money and the corner office.
Executive positions carry a lot of responsibility and—in some cases—added stress. The size and health of a company can directly affect the tenure and pay. The more stable a company, the more longevity an executive might enjoy. For companies that are in jeopardy, a full turn-around might be a mandate for the job.
For those interested primarily in executive roles, a dedicated Executive MBA program can offer the most tailored preparation.
The word "manager" can evoke a less glamorous image than that of "executive," but when it comes to contributing to the overall wellbeing of an organization, talented managers are vital. For those overseeing a team, strong leadership is a must, so diving into a managerial role is an excellent way to apply and expand those skills.
Managers can also find themselves in contact with different departments, which is a great way to get facetime with different leaders at your workplace. This can yield more opportunities for growth and advancement within your current company or elsewhere.
Consulting and Advising Jobs
Consultative work can be done through a firm or independently, encompassing roles like "Management Consultant," "Financial Advisor," and even "Accountant."
While working independently does have its advantages (eg: set your own schedule, select the clients and projects that interest you), it means you’ll have to locate your own work. If you're a recent MBA graduate, you might not yet have the breadth of experience or resources needed to draw the clientele you want.
Consulting or advising through a firm might mean less flexibility in selecting clients and projects, but you’ll have the support of a team and an established infrastructure on your side.
Most Popular MBA Jobs and Salaries
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
A CEO is usually the highest ranking officer in an organization. CEOs make major decisions for a company and oversee every aspect of a company’s health, brand, market position, and growth trajectory. CEOs also act as the main point of communication between the Board of Directors and the operational divisions. Traditionally, the only role higher than CEO is Chairman of the Board.
Some high-profile CEOs make millions of dollars in salary and bonuses, but the average CEO salary, according to Salary.com, is about $799,000. Keep in mind that a CEO salary at a small start-up can be more modest than that.
Ideal Degree: Executive MBA, Presidents and Key Executives MBA
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
While a CEO will manage high-level operations of a company, the CFO focuses on its financial health, while also managing investments and projected growth. A good CFO also applies instinct in identifying the best time to launch a new product or move to a new location, working closely with the CEO and COO (Chief Operations Officer).
CFOs typically draw six-figure salaries, which can be anywhere from $112,000 to $400,000+ depending upon the company, longevity of the role, and the geographical location of the job.
MBA Concentration: Finance, Corporate Finance, Executive MBA
Chief Operations Officer (COO)
A COO is often second-in-command—right after the CEO. This individual is frequently a close collaborator with the CEO, assuring that the CEO’s vision and directives are implemented effectively while providing feedback and insight on all aspects and efficacy of the company’s day-to-day operations.
COO salaries are typically in the six-figure range – averaging between $185,000 and the high $400,000’s.
MBA Concentration: Strategic Operations Management, Presidents and Key Executives MBA
Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
Just as a COO is top in command for overseeing the operations of a company while providing close support to the CEO, a CTO is the top position for making decisions related to all aspects of how technology is deployed within that company. As technology expands to virtually every area of an organization – and demands added security measures – the role of Chief Information Officer (CIO) is frequently separated out from CTO. Smaller companies sometimes still combine the two.
PayScale.com places the average CTO salary between $95,000 and $276,000, while GlassDoor.com shows the pay going up as high as $314,000. Keep in mind, averages do not always include bonuses or take into account the size of a company or market/city.
MBA Concentration: Digital Innovation and Information Systems, Presidents and Key Executives MBA
Chief Information Officer (CIO)
CIOs often report directly to the CEO while working closely with their CTO counterparts. Where CIOs differ from CTOs is in their scope of responsibility. CIOs are frequently called upon to assess and manage the profitability of all information and communication technology within a company. As with all other chief executive positions, the CIO is a business leadership position that requires making executive decisions for the welfare of the company at large.
Depending upon the market/city, Chief Information Officers can make anywhere from $95,000 to $300,000+ per year, on average.
MBA Concentration: Digital Innovation and Information Systems, Presidents and Key Executives MBA
“Operations Manager” might seem like a significant step down from COO, but depending on the size of the company, an Operations Manager can have a major impact and influence. In especially large organizations, separate departments or projects might need their own Operations Managers. Anyone in this position must assure departments run smoothly and efficiently in concert with one another. A “Director of Operations” differs in that the latter does not require as much hands-on analysis. An MBA is important to the Operations Manager role for this reason.
Though Operations Managers might start in the mid-to-high five figure range for salary, many make well into six figures – particularly with longevity or within a larger company.
Concentration: Strategic Operations Management, Leadership and Managing Organizational Change
The “Product Manager” position has become endemic to the technology sector. As technology becomes a part of nearly every work process, product managers become more in demand – particularly if they can successfully coordinate multiple teams (finance, development, marketing) toward delivering a product under budget and under deadline. This requires a clearly articulated strategy and vision, as well as outstanding team leadership skills.
According to GlassDoor.com and PayScale.com, product managers are drawing $80,000 to $149,000 in salaries.
MBA Concentration: Operations
Senior Project Manager
Similar to a Product Manager, a “Project Manager” or “Senior Project Manager” strategizes and leads a team through a project or series of projects within a company or on a contract basis. A Senior Project Manager might be responsible for overseeing other Project Managers and coordinating resources to assess the best route for success. How many Project Managers are a part of a company can depend on many factors, including the size of a company and whether that company is experiencing an expansion, a re-branding, or a geographical move.
Project Manager salaries can vary, depending upon the project itself, but a Project Manager working on salary can expect to make between $54,000 and $95,000 per year, according to ZipRecruiter.com. Senior Project Manager is the next logical step up for those succeeding in this field, and this position can draw well into the low six figures.
MBA Concentration: Operations, Operational Management
Brand Marketing Manager
The realm of marketing relies more and more on data analysis, so employers are seeking out MBA grads to add to their teams. Brand Marketing Managers help assess the value of a company’s product and how best to communicate that value to consumers. Brand Marketing Managers also analyze the marketplace and competition.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the median annual salary for Marketing Managers as $125,000.
MBA Concentration: Marketing
Health Services Manager
Health Services Manager is among U.S. News & World Report’s “5 Hot Jobs for MBA Graduates.” As a growing and specialized industry, healthcare is a great place to apply business, operations, and team leadership know-how – valuable skills attained through the pursuit of a Master of Business Administration degree. Hospitals and other healthcare institutions work with unique expenses and budgets, and these organizations now realize they cannot tackle tomorrow’s challenges through decision-making by healthcare professionals alone. For this reason, an MBA-trained Health Services Manager is an in-demand role.
Health Services Managers are currently starting in the high five-figure salary range, with lots of room for growth – well into the low six-figures.
MBA Concentration: Healthcare Management
Human Resources Manager
Human Resources is another fast-growing industry that requires specialized training. With an MBA, you can elevate the position to encompass operational management, team leadership, and an analysis of human resource budgets and costs. This analysis can be quite extensive, encompassing multi-faceted compensation packages, benefits, recruitment expenses, bonuses, and more.
Human Resource Managers often start in the five-figure range, but holding an MBA – particularly an MBA with an applicable HR-related concentration – can boost your starting salary to the high five figures or low six figures.
MBA Concentration: Strategic Human Resources
U.S. News & World Report names “Consultant” among its top 5 hot jobs for MBA graduates for 2019. Consultants often help companies that are facing new challenges or wish to adapt new processes to reach existing goals.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average salary for a Management Consultant in 2017 was $82,450. Moving into an arena that is more specialized or working with companies dealing with rapidly changing processes or regulations can elevate consultant salaries to the six figure range.
MBA Concentration: Management Consulting, Entrepreneurship
Both organizations and individuals need financial advice, so the role of “Financial Advisor” continues to be a viable position for MBA grads. The duties of an advisor can vary, but the core responsibilities center around the research and analysis of cash flow, expenses, market trends, investment opportunities – anything that helps maximize the money available to a client or company.
While this can be a lucrative position for those working within well-known firms or large companies, many MBA graduates find that helping individuals realize their goals is rewarding regardless of the amount of money available. And with the markets always changing, however ‘dry’ the role of Financial Advisor might sound, it is actually a dynamic and evolving job.
Financial Advisors can start in the five-figure salary range ($60,000 to $80,000, depending upon the market), but with time can draw $100,000+ per year.
MBA Concentration: Finance
A Financial Analyst deals with reports, market trends, tax returns, and investment portfolios – sometimes through a deeper dive than a traditional Financial Advisor. While there are instances in which an advisor does both – assess numbers and extrapolate meaning and advice – a dedicated Financial Analyst position tends to stick with analysis alone and yield stability.
According to Investopedia.com, “The greatest difference between these two jobs centers around work-life balance. Most financial analysts follow the same general structure: long, intense hours with a predictable schedule and a steady workflow. Financial advisers, on the other hand, experience a much wider variety of work schedules.”
MBA Concentration: Finance, Applied Analytics
Like a Financial Advisor, a Financial Manager can work with organizations or individuals. Compliance with laws, cash flow reports, profit projection, and accounting all fall under the purview of a Financial Manager. Workflow is a major function of this role, so the ability to coordinate multiple departments and assure everyone understands the meaning of the information being gathered is an important function of this job. According to U.S. News & World Report, “The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 18.7% employment growth for financial managers between 2016 and 2026. In that period, an estimated 108,600 jobs should open up,” which places this job among the more viable for MBA graduates looking for a role that has some semblance of security and consistency.
The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics cites the median salary for Financial Managers as $128,000 per year (as of 2018).
MBA Concentration: Finance
While bringing in capital to a company is vital, understanding how to best allocate that capital can make all the difference in the health of a company. Budget Analysts work to assure an organization is maximizing its resources, which requires regular assessments and reporting – oftentimes, staying one step ahead of other departments and higher offices.
According to GlassDoor.com, a Budget Analyst can start in the high five figures.
MBA Concentration: Finance, Asset and Wealth Management, Applied Analytics
Investment Bankers hold a certain cachet in the financial world because – put simply – they’re able to get their hands on money. Responsible for raising capital for corporations, governments, unions, and other organizations, Investment Bankers command high salaries for their talents as well as their connections. Both are important in being able to increase an organization’s net value.
It should be noted that Investment Bankers’ salaries can start quite high – at least six figures. For those working on an hourly basis, the bulk of the money Investment Bankers make is through bonuses awarded for particularly large deals.
MBA Concentration: Finance, Asset and Wealth Management
Hedge Fund Manager
If you’ve heard of the TV show “Billions” or the movie “Wall Street,” you probably hold the notion that Hedge Fund Managers make limitless amounts of money. To be sure, there is ample opportunity for Hedge Fund Managers to earn well – particularly if the manager owns the firm that is overseeing the fund. In these cases, Hedge Fund Managers are entitled to a healthy share of the profits. Those who work for firms shortly after graduating from an MBA program might start out as a Hedge Fund Analyst, who reports to and works with the Hedge Fund Manager.
Starting in the hedge fund business with a salary of at least $100,000 is not unheard of. If the fund does well, earnings go up; if the fund does poorly, there is some financial and job stability risk.
MBA Concentration: Finance, Asset and Wealth Management, Applied Analytics
Just how it sounds, the job of an Economist is to examine and interpret the economy. However simplistic this might sound, it is actually a highly complex task since all individual economies work in conjunction with other economies worldwide. One economy alone includes employment statistics, industry growth, inflation, natural resources and more. Understanding and being able to forecast how these moving parts interact can be a key to providing context to clients, companies, and government organizations. Economists can also work for academic institutions and news publications – anywhere their expertise is put to use.
Economists make from five figures to low six figures. Many Economists supplement their work with teaching, writing, and speaking engagements. Economists’ expertise also qualifies them for lucrative consulting work.
MBA Concentration: Applied Analytics
Accountants do far more than help people and small businesses file tax returns. Accountants for companies and corporations closely examine data and financial records and assure that company is in compliance with laws, regulations, and any applicable contracts or agreements with other entities. The role of an Accountant has become synonymous with a certain fastidious and exacting nature because that is required for this job and it’s what makes a good Accountant an in-demand candidate.
While accounting might seem like the least exciting way to make use of your hard-earned MBA, consider that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 139,900 new jobs to open in the accounting field by 2026. An Accountant might not be able to make millions at their job, but they can certainly make well into the low six figures/.
MBA Concentration: Accounting
Information Technology Director
IT Directors lead the team(s) responsible for managing all computer and tech resources for a company. Their responsibilities extend beyond efficiency to encompass security matters. An MBA with a concentration in Information Technology and/or Cybersecurity will most definitely help you get your foot in the door on this position, which demands specialized knowledge and experience.
According to GlassDoor.com, the average salary of an Information Technology Director is $130,000.
MBA Concentration: Information Technology, Cybersecurity, Digital Innovation and Information Systems
How To Choose Your MBA Job
The most obvious benchmark of a great job offer is the salary, but this number doesn’t always tell the full story of compensation. Health benefits, stock options, bonuses, and retirement accounts can all contribute to your offer.
Most MBA graduates understand that long hours and weekend work might be part of a new job. That said, consider what is sustainable and suitable for you. The right work-balance doesn’t necessarily mean a 50-50 split – it means you’ve found the challenge and advancement opportunities that fit your life.
A rapidly expanding industry can contribute to your career longevity. Healthcare, for example, is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States due to the changing landscape of our insurance system. As cities tackle new challenges like increased traffic and high rents, urban planning, transportation, and real estate also continue to grow.
Your next great business opportunity might not be in a traditional business environment.
Some roles have a wider range of mobility when it comes to working up the corporate ladder or increasing your earning potential.
For example, the salary for a Chief Financial Officer can range from roughly 120,000 to 450,000, while a Chief Compliance Officer ranges from roughly 130,000 to 265,000. Where you start isn’t always the best measure of how far you’ll go.
How To Choose Your MBA Concentration
While there are MBA programs designed entirely around specific career tracks (Executive MBA, International MBA), MBA concentrations within the standard MBA curriculum can prepare you for in-demand jobs that cater to your strengths and interests, and possibly increase your starting salary.
Not all schools offer all concentrations, so do your research to assure you’ll be able to maximize your MBA education toward your specific goals.
Popular MBA Concentrations
- Information Technology
- Strategic Human Resources
- Asset and Wealth Management
- International Business
- Energy and Clean Technology
Get Your MBA at the Pepperdine Graziadio School
At the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School, we offer both Full-Time MBA concentrations and Part-Time MBA concentrations. Depending upon the program you choose, our options include: Applied Analytics, Digital Innovation and Information Systems, Dispute Resolution, Entertainment, Media, and Sports Management, Entrepreneurship, Finance, General Management, Global Business, Leadership and Managing Organizational Change, and Marketing
The Pepperdine Graziadio Business School also offers unique MBA programs that prepare you for the demands of international business, C-suite positions, and a career pivot that might favor a joint degree.