Job prospects for business school alumni are much better now than in spring 2020, and because of low unemployment rates, MBA degree recipients have significant negotiating power, workforce experts say.
“Everyone today is more valuable than they were two years ago, because there’s someone who is willing to pay them more money than they were making before,” says Evan Sohn, CEO of Recruiter.com, a hiring platform.
MBA graduates who finished their degrees in 2021 and got job offers typically received six-figure salaries, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s 2021 corporate recruiters survey. The median starting salary for MBA hires in 2021 was $115,000 — the same as it was shortly before the recent coronavirus-driven economic downturn began.
The number of employment advertisements within management occupations on the CareerBuilder.com website has increased by 123.5% over the past year, according to the company. Kristin Kelley, CareerBuilder’s chief marketing officer, says B-school grads should know that the job market is currently aligned in their favor, which means that “they are in a place where they can really take a driver’s seat in their career.”
MBA professors urge business school alumni in the job market to highlight especially marketable skills they possess, such as training in artificial intelligence, business analytics, change management, project management or supply chain management.
“My approach would be to be very clear what they would consider their initial dream job to be,” says Marie Gould Harper, dean of the American Public University System’s Boston School of Business in West Virginia. Now would be an opportune moment to go for it, according to some experts.
Here are seven career paths where an MBA is advantageous and salaries are generous. Most of these positions excelled in the U.S. News Best Jobs rankings, which evaluates 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
— Business operations manager
— Financial manager
— Human resources manager
— Information technology, or IT, manager
— Management consultant
— Marketing manager
— Medical and health services manager
Business Operations Manager
Many companies pivoted from a 100% in-person work environment to a completely remote one early in the pandemic. However, with COVID-19 precautions subsiding, firms are rethinking whether to conduct business in person, virtually or in a hybrid way. Many companies are hiring leaders to help make these decisions.
Also, because consumers are purchasing more products and services online, businesses are reliant on business operations managers to address logistical challenges. Someone in this position manages deadlines and enforces quality standards to maximize the company’s efficiency, and may also oversee a company’s supply chain.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of jobs within this sector will rise 9% between 2020 and 2030 – slightly above the average job growth rate estimate for all U.S. occupations, which is 8%. As of May 2020, the median salary among business operations managers was $103,650.
Although corporate profits went down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, profits soared in 2021, according to data published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Financial managers, who often are exceptional investors, are trained to solve cash flow problems and sometimes work at financial institutions. Any firm that does not spend wisely can die quickly. That’s 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 $134,180 as of May 2020, according to the BLS. By 2030, the number of jobs for these professionals is expected to be 17% higher.
Human Resources Manager
Many business are having a hard time finding and keeping staff. Recent labor market shortages have led to an increase in demand for human resources professionals, whose jobs entail recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce.
“Every company of size is going to have allocated budget toward someone or some team focused on talent acquisition and retention,” Sohn says.
Many companies also are becoming more vigilant about addressing diversity, equity and inclusion, and are hiring leaders with expertise in those areas.
Many human resources jobs that exist now weren’t around a generation ago, such as the role of chief people officer, Sohn adds. “A company’s greatest asset really should be its people,” he says.
The median compensation among U.S. human resources managers in May 2020 was $121,220, according to the BLS, which predicts that employment within this occupation will be 9% higher in 2030 than it was in 2020.
Information technology, or IT, Manager
The software and technology sectors have expanded rapidly in recent years, and companies in other industries have become increasingly reliant on programming and automation.
“We’ve seen unprecedented sums of money being invested into technology startup companies by venture capitalists,” says Tim Rowley, chief operating officer and chief technology officer of PeopleCaddie, an online hiring platform that matches employers with temporary workers.
A company’s secured network has also become one of its most important assets — and something it must guard against hackers.
IT managers are the leaders responsible for ensuring that a company’s technical tools work well and that the firm relies on best-in-class technology. The median U.S. salary among these types of managers was $151,150 in May 2020, according to the BLS, which predicts that employment in this field will be 11% higher in 2030 than it was in 2020.
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 for a management consulting firm.
Management consulting firms have repeatedly proven themselves capable of surviving recessions and thriving during times of prosperity, Rowley, who has an MBA degree from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business in California, wrote in an email. The profession “has been particularly resilient despite the pandemic,” he says.
According to the 2022 consultant salary report published by ManagementConsulted.com, a company that helps people seeking jobs in the consulting sector, 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 $175,000. Employees often receive a significant signing bonus on top of that and usually are eligible for performance-based bonuses and other benefits.
Both struggling and thriving companies require the assistance of marketing managers. Demand for these managers persisted during the recent pandemic-driven economic crisis, says Harper of the American Public University System.
“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,” Harper 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.”
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.
The median annual wage among U.S. marketing managers in May 2020 was $142,170, according to the BLS, and the number of jobs will likely be 10% higher in 2030 than it was in 2020.
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 jobs involve maximizing quality while minimizing cost. They must maintain meticulous records and help make sure their organization complies with many regulations.
The median salary among these professionals was $104,280 as of May 2020, according to the BLS, which predicts that employment in this field will be 32% higher in 2030 than it was 10 years prior.
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Update 04/01/22: This story has been updated with new information.