An MBA, or Master of Business Administration degree, is one of the most versatile postgraduate degrees available. Earning an MBA can help open the door to many high-paying and leadership career opportunities. However, with so many options, it’s easy to feel uncertain about which paths an MBA may lead down.
This guide will explore the various jobs and industries that actively recruit MBA graduates. By understanding the career possibilities, you can make a more informed decision about whether pursuing an MBA is right for your own career aspirations.
Management and Leadership Roles
One of the most common career trajectories for MBA graduates is to move into management or senior leadership positions. The cross-functional business training provided by an MBA curriculum equips graduates with skills highly valued by many organizations. Some typical management roles include:
Department Manager – MBA’s are well-qualified to manage divisions, departments or teams within a company. Responsibilities may include overseeing budgets, projects, personnel and performance. Many companies have formal career tracks that lead MBA graduates into managerial roles over time.
Director – Further leadership experience can result in promotions to director-level positions with expanded strategic and operational responsibilities. Directors often manage multiple managers or entire business units.
Vice President – Continued success in management can carry MBA graduates up to the executive suite as vice presidents. VP roles involve high-level decision making, developing strategic plans and representing the company externally. Common VP specialties drawn from MBA backgrounds include Marketing, Finance, Operations and Business Development.
C-Suite Executive – The very top executive roles, like CEO, CFO or COO, frequently go to individuals with an extensive professional background and an MBA to provide the well-rounded business acumen expected at the C-level. These positions involve ultimate responsibility for the vision, direction and performance of the entire company or division.
Management consulting firms actively recruit from top MBA programs. The analytical problem-solving skills developed through the MBA combined with exposure to multiple business functions makes graduates highly qualified for consulting careers. Some key consulting paths include:
Business Consulting – Generalist business consulting at firms like McKinsey, BCG or Bain involves strategic advisory work, operations improvement projects, M&A due diligence, and more for clients in diverse industries.
Strategy Consulting – Helping clients develop strategies, entry/growth plans, organizational redesigns etc. using analytical frameworks and tools studied through the MBA.
Operations Consulting – Projects focus on process optimization, change management, supply chain enhancement, and operational efficiency for manufacturing and service sector clients.
Technology Consulting – Leveraging technology and digital transformation strategies on behalf of clients, which may involve cloud migration, data architecture, product development and more.
Healthcare Consulting – Advisory for pharmaceutical, payer, provider and medical device clients around market access, clinical programs, cost management initiatives and technology decisions.
MBA graduates are well-represented in jobs across the finance field thanks to the quantitative training and exposure to financial theories provided through business school. Here are some finance options:
Investment Banking – Traditional Wall Street careers in mergers & acquisitions (M&A), leveraged finance, capital markets or sales/trading at major global banks. Extensive quantitative skills required.
Private Equity/Venture Capital – Evaluating investment opportunities, performing due diligence, developing growth strategies and eventually exiting portfolio companies in PE or VC firms.
Corporate Finance – Internal roles in capital allocation, investor relations, financial planning & analysis, lending, risk management within large non-financial companies.
Asset Management – Research analyst, portfolio manager or trader positions at mutual funds, pension funds, hedge funds or sovereign wealth funds. May require securities licenses.
Commercial Banking – Relationship manager positions providing credit, cash management and other services to corporate clients at major global or regional commercial banks.
For some graduates, an MBA can be the starting point for launching their own business. Business school provides exposure to entrepreneurship theories, case studies, networks and often funding resources to support launching new ventures. Popular paths include:
New Company Founder – Using skills and ideas developed, striking out independently to build a company from the ground up in any industry.
Startup Founder – Joining or leading the launch of a technology, consumer product or service company as an early employee or founding team member.
Franchise Owner – Leveraging an established brand by acquiring a franchise location for restaurants, retail or services with the operational training of an MBA.
Intrapreneurship – Launching new internal business units, products or initiatives within an existing large company using an entrepreneurial approach.
Other Industry Options
Many other industries also value MBA graduates for leadership potential and business skills. Some alternatives outside traditional corporate career paths include:
Non-Profit Management – Executive positions leading missions-driven organizations in fields like arts, education, healthcare, environment or international development.
Government Administration – Managerial roles in public policy, budgeting, operations or economic development at
the federal, state or local levels of government agencies.
Education/Training – Careers as instructors or administrators at universities, professional training programs or corporate educational institutions.
Marketing/Media – Executive roles in brand management, product marketing, advertising, PR or business divisions of media/publishing companies.
Healthcare Administration – Administrative leadership positions in hospitals, medical groups, insurers, pharmacy benefit managers or medical device/pharma companies.
Making the Right MBA Choice
As you can see, earning an MBA opens doors to countless potential career paths across industries and functions. However, it’s important to choose a program that directly aligns with your goals. Factors to consider include your target industries or roles, academic strengths, program prestige, experiential opportunities and cost.
Speaking to graduates, recruiters and admissions advisors can provide valuable insights into positioning yourself for the types of jobs and career progression you envision. With strategic selection and self-promotion of new MBA skills, graduates can successfully navigate the wide range of career destinations made possible through a graduate business education.