Given the massive damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has not only claimed lives but also destroyed livelihoods, some may question whether an MBA degree could translate into a well-paying and interesting job opportunity at the moment.
Despite increased unemployment globally, MBA graduates who received their degrees in 2020 and got job offers typically commanded six-figure salaries, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s 2020 corporate recruiters survey. However, the median starting salary for MBA hires in the immediate aftermath of the crisis — $105,000 — was $10,000 lower than the amount for individuals hired shortly before the crisis began.
Though the overall quantity and quality of jobs for new MBA grads tends to depend on the general state of the economy, someone who receives the degree during a bad economy may still find a great job, according to MBA recruiters, corporate executives and hiring managers.
Job market experts urge MBA job-seekers to remember that even in dark times, there are bright spots and areas of opportunity.
Brandi Frattini, a talent acquisition lead at CareerBuilder — a technology company that connects workers with employers — notes marked annual increases in CareerBuilder job postings for multiple types of business roles, including financial manager positions, where the number of openings posted in January 2021 was more than 20% greater than in January 2020.
The number of health care administrative and support positions on CareerBuilder also surged within that time frame, increasing by more than 45%.
“Every crisis is also an opportunity,” says Roger James Hamilton, founder and CEO of Genius Group, a multimillion-dollar conglomeration of entrepreneurial enterprises. Hamilton notes that because of the pandemic, many companies that previously would not have considered allowing executives or managers to work remotely are now willing to do so, which in turn invites MBA-level job seekers to look globally rather than within a particular region.
Business school graduates and second-year MBA students should identify industries that are growing despite the upheaval and consider applying for jobs within those sectors, MBA faculty say, noting that the health care, technology and finance sectors have thrived in spite of the crisis.
MBA professors also urge business school alumni in the job market to advertise any especially marketable skills they possess, such as training in supply chain management, business analytics or change management. Any knowledge that could be used to help businesses solve their most pressing challenges should be highlighted in resumes and job interviews, B-school professors suggest.
Here are five career paths where an MBA is advantageous and salaries are generous. Each excelled in the U.S. News Best Jobs rankings, which evaluated jobs using compensation statistics, unemployment figures, job growth forecasts and measurements of on-the-job stress and work-life balance.
Hot Jobs for MBA Graduates
— Marketing manager
— Medical and health services manager
— Management consultant
— Financial manager
— Business operations manager
Struggling companies often require the assistance of marketing managers, so demand for them has persisted during the pandemic, according to Marie Gould Harper, dean of the American Public University System’s Boston School of Business in West Virginia.
“The pandemic has made many industries question whether they are positioned to succeed, or merely tread water … As a result, many businesses find themselves in the fight of their lives by reinventing themselves, finding new ways to do business and probing potential markets for new customer bases,” she explained in an email.
“This is where the savvy marketing manager becomes an asset. Someone has to create ideas and develop a strategic plan that provides a blueprint on how to test the markets to determine which direction to go for the New Norm.”
Because every business has a product or service it wants to sell, marketing managers are needed in nearly every industry. They typically earn six-figure salaries. The median annual wage among U.S. marketing managers in May 2019 was $136,850, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS.
Marketing managers help oversee a company’s marketing campaigns and coordinate the efforts of a company’s marketing employees. They also are responsible for figuring out how high the demand would be for a potential product or service and determining who might be interested in purchasing it. These business executives can contribute to discussions about whether a business idea is viable and may be involved with setting prices for products or services. They often come up with strategies on how to attract consumers and increase sales.
The number of jobs for marketing managers will likely be 7% higher in 2029 than it was in 2019, according to the BLS. The job growth forecast in this field is better than the 4% average among all U.S. occupations.
Medical and Health Services Manager
Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, health care organizations face tremendous logistical challenges and need skilled managers to overcome them.
Medical and health services managers run various types of health care facilities, and their job involves maximizing quality while minimizing cost. These managers must maintain meticulous records and help make sure their organization complies with many regulations.
The median salary among these professionals was $100,980 as of May 2019, according to the BLS, which predicts that employment in this field will be 32% higher in 2029 than it was then.
MBA-trained management consultants assist companies that are either at a critical turning point in their development or facing major obstacles. Executives at those firms may be struggling to resolve problems and desire an outsider’s perspective, and a management consultant’s job is to assess the situation and suggest a solution. Such a consultant may work independently or work under the auspices of a management consulting firm.
Tim Rowley, the chief operating officer and chief technology officer of PeopleCaddie, an online hiring platform that matches employers with temporary workers, suggests that management consulting is a viable career path right now.
“Consulting has been particularly resilient despite the pandemic,” Rowley, who has an MBA degree from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business in California, wrote in an email.
Management consulting firms have repeatedly proven themselves capable of surviving market downturns, Rowley says. “In good times, these firms are sought out by clients to assist them in developing growth strategies. In downturns, they assist with strategies for how to best deal with adversity.”
According to the 2021 consultant salary report published by ManagementConsulted.com, the typical base salary for MBA hires at one of the Big Three management consulting firms — McKinsey & Company, Bain & Company and Boston Consulting Group — is roughly $165,000. They often receive a significant signing bonus on top of that and usually are eligible for performance-based bonuses and other benefits.
Starting salaries for MBA-trained consultants at the Big Three consulting firms increased in mid-2019, but entry pay has stayed flat since then, according to the salary report.
COVID-19 increased expenses and decreased revenue at many businesses, making it difficult to balance the books in recent months and necessary to come up with creative cost-cutting measures.
Financial managers, who often are exceptional investors, are trained to solve cash flow problems and sometimes work at financial institutions. Bankers have done particularly well during the pandemic, Rowley says, noting that bank stock prices are at “all-time highs.”
A company cannot run without money, and a company that does not spend wisely can die quickly. That is one reason financial managers — the business executives who monitor a company’s budget and decide where to make financial investments — are usually highly compensated.
The median annual pay for a financial manager in the U.S. was $129,890 as of May 2019, according to the BLS. By 2029, the number of jobs for these professionals is expected to be 15% higher.
Business Operations Manager
Social distancing measures implemented during the pandemic have forced many companies to change their operating procedures, with some pivoting from a 100% in-person work environment to a completely remote one. Many companies are hiring leaders to oversee this transition.
Also, because consumers now often purchase products and services online when they ordinarily might do so in person, the resulting logistical challenges for businesses can be addressed by a business operations manager. Someone in this position manages deadlines and enforces quality standards to maximize the company’s efficiency.
The BLS predicts that the number of jobs within this sector will rise 5.8% between 2019 and 2029. As of May 2019, the median salary among business operations managers was $100,780.
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