Whether you’re after a higher position within your current industry or want to transition to a completely new field, the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree remains a proven — and profitable — path to career success.
In 2019, the median starting salary for MBA graduates working for U.S. employers reached an all-time high at $115,000, with starting salaries highest in the industries of consulting ($135,000) and finance and accounting ($125,000), according to the Graduate Management Admission Council.
Below, two experts from the USC Marshall School of Business break down even more positions and areas in which the MBA is an essential and rewarding steppingstone.
What Jobs Can You Get with an MBA?
Just a few of the fields in which an MBA can catapult your career include:
- Management and management consulting
- Investment banking and other financial services
- Technology, the digital realm and big data analytics
- Development and marketing of consumer-packaged goods and other products and services
- Health care administration, from hospitals to the biotech and pharmaceutical industries
“The main theme across these many jobs is leadership,” said Miriam Burgos, academic director of the USC Marshall Online MBA program. “If you’re interested in heading the strategic direction of a company or organization, that’s the type of role an MBA will help you get.”
Right out of the gate, graduates can expect jobs at the director level or other key positions implementing a company’s vision, Burgos adds. MBA skillsets can also mean success for the leaders of entrepreneurial startups.
Bank on It
“You still see management consulting as a mainstay of MBA employment,” said Mark Brostoff, USC Marshall assistant dean and director of Graduate Career Services. “About a third of students come in as career switchers interested in pivoting to consulting or wanting to accelerate their strategic role in their current company or industry.”
This has held true even in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Brostoff. Corporate optimism, he said, “is one of the true tests of the economy if you’re looking at MBA employment. As long as consulting firms are hiring MBAs, they are banking on a positive level of engagement with firms around the globe. And COVID-19 hasn’t really caused a significant downturn in this outlook.”
Just behind consulting ranks the financial services sector as a source of employment.
“The obvious one is investment banking, but more and more, MBAs are also looking to pivot into corporate finance,” Brostoff noted.
Although Wall Street might not be adding many positions at the moment, he admitted, “financial services and investment services are holding steady,” opening up positions through employee turnover.
As technology continues expanding and advancing, so do MBA opportunities.
With categories including hardware, networking, software and telecommunications, “technology is creeping closely to eclipsing consulting in terms of the level of interest companies have in MBAs upon graduation,” Brostoff said.
In addition to working for tech giants like Google or Facebook, Brostoff noted that opportunities exist with startups and companies all around the globe.
“They are definitely looking for talent with skills in leadership, strategic thinking and decision-making — all the tools that an MBA brings to the table,” he noted.
Playing pivotal roles in nearly all these fields, jobs as brand and product managers are also bolstered by MBA skills, Burgos said.
What’s the difference? Brand managers work to enhance the image and awareness of companies and products. Meanwhile, product managers focus on developing goods and services to meet consumer needs and wants.
“Managing the strategic direction of cloud computing services for Google Cloud is the type of job an MBA graduate might get,” Burgos explained.
Her own experience in the field includes helping take consumer packaged goods from concept to the international marketplace for Procter & Gamble and Colgate Palmolive.
Healthy MBA Career Options
Along with the always-popular category of consumer goods, the health care sector keeps booming. Hospitals and other care providers, biotechnology firms, pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers all depend on MBA abilities — from management and marketing to finance and human resources.
In addition to running these organizations and various departments, MBA grads can even be vital in helping physicians and scientists administer the clinical trials that bring medical breakthroughs to the marketplace to save and improve lives.
“I certainly expect technology and biotech and healthcare industries to climb” in their need for MBAs, Brostoff predicted.
Success in Uncertain Times
The devastating consequences of COVID-19 have joined societal change and rapid technological advances as disruptive factors in commerce. In such uncertain times, many companies rely more than ever on well-trained, imaginative MBA graduates to help steer brands, products and services to success.
Whether working remotely or in corporate suites, business experts add value to whatever enterprise they join — or start.
“I’m optimistic that the MBA will remain a meaningful degree — and maybe become even more meaningful in the next decade,” Brostoff said.
Learn more about USC Marshall’s online MBA program today.