Why bother with an MBA? To land your dream job? Sure. To finally turn that business idea into a reality? Absolutely. The truth is, while an MBA will almost always boost your career, it will benefit some careers more than others.
Depending on your ambitions, an MBA may be the smartest career move you can make, or an expensive mistake. The first question you have to ask yourself is, “where do I want to end up?” Knowing what an MBA will empower you to do, and what it can do for your career, can help you figure out if it’s the right move given that target position. From there, you can start taking your first steps toward that goal career, possibly by diving into the MBA application process.
Where the MBA is Mandatory?
There are some careers or industries where you can only get so far without an MBA. In these fields, you’ll need to either settle for less than the best, or suit up and earn that degree. Consulting and finance are classic examples of this kind of career. While firms will hire you without an MBA, you’ll typically be kept at the kids’ table—the role of analyst or associate—until you earn your MBA. Many people spend two or three years working in these analyst or associate-level roles at consulting firms or finance houses, getting the lay of the land, and figuring out if there is a future for them in the industry. If the future looks bright, then your next step will be an MBA so you can start moving on up the ranks.
The fact that big companies in these two core industries require an MBA has also made it mandatory for a lot of positions in other industries that draw from ex-consultants and ex-investment-bankers. If you are interested in traditional banking, venture capital, private equity, the exciting world of hedge fund management, or virtually any other branch of finance, you’ll need an MBA before you can get very far. If you want to spend your career advising life sciences companies on how to optimize their business strategy, you’ll likely need an MBA (and consulting experience). Ditto for CPG management, C-suite roles at most major companies, etc. Basically, if you want to be at the top of a traditional corporate org chart, you’ll need that MBA degree.
Where the MBA is Beneficial?
If consulting and finance are the old vanguard of MBA career tracks, then the technology, health, and marketing industries are the scrappy up-and-comers. But what can you do with an MBA in these industries? While there are, of course, many paths for which you do not need an MBA, there is an increasing trend of hiring MBAs for tech product management, health administration, and brand or marketing management. Let’s take a closer look at each.
As the technology industry matures, this role is increasingly popular for MBA grads. Tech is exciting, and it’s no mystery why the role of product manager—bringing together the finance, development, marketing, and strategy teams to launch cutting-edge products—is so popular. The wide range of skills required make product management a perfect fit for a generalist degree like an MBA, and the degree is increasingly becoming a requirement. This function extends beyond the world of tech, as well. Product managers are needed in retail and CPG for everything from athletic gear to luxury goods.
Amid constant claims that the American health care system is deeply flawed, many savvy individuals see an opportunity for innovation and leadership in this massive sector. That’s drawing more and more MBAs to the industry. Whether in traditional roles, administrating large healthcare institutions like hospitals or care facilities, or in more innovative, developmental aspects of the industry like pharma and medical devices, there is a lot of room for an exciting career in the health industry with an MBA.
The MBA has always been an asset in a marketing or brand management career, but as data analytics drive more and more advertising decision-making, there are more opportunities for marketing and brand management careers for MBA degree-holders.
While not often associated with an MBA, for those seeking to found, lead, or advise in the non-profit sector receive a huge credibility boost from the degree. The principles of management, leadership, and good business practices hold true in the non-profit sector, and to reach the pinnacle of this career track, an MBA is quickly becoming essential.
The MBA and Entrepreneurship
Up to this point, we’ve focused mostly on how industries and hiring managers value the MBA. But if you’re interested in launching your own business, that doesn’t matter nearly as much. You need an MBA not for your resume (though it will help there) but because of the skills it will give you. Whether you have already found some measure of entrepreneurial success, tried and failed to launch your business already, or simply have a brilliant idea on the back burner, but don’t know how to move forward, an MBA will equip you with the knowledge and network to succeed.
Knowledge and network
Entrepreneurs in all industries face a common set of hurdles: pitching to investors to secure funding, mapping out a business plan to optimize growth, reaching a target audience with the right marketing strategy, hiring and retaining talent, and so on. What if there was a degree, a set of resources, and a ready-made network of inspiring mentors and valuable business connections that you could access all at once to help you overcome those hurdles? There is; that is exactly what an MBA is.
Whether you are seeking some strategy know-how, a business partner, marketing skills, or financing, an MBA is a step in the right direction for any and all of these needs. An entrepreneur in any field will benefit from the general management knowledge and leadership skills of an MBA, not to mention the networking opportunities that come with two years in business school and access to a vast database of b-school alumni. In addition, as MBA degrees trend toward greater and greater specialization, there’s a good chance you’ll find a wealth of resources specifically applicable to your industry at your fingertips within your MBA program.
While there are more possibilities for post-MBA careers than we can possibly cover here, we hope you have a better idea now of where you might end up if you do choose to pursue an MBA. There are so many benefits to the degree, and the applications of solid management, strategy, marketing and finance skills, and a valuable network span across industries and regions. The MBA is, without doubt, a serious investment of both time and money, but if you have your sights set on upper management, it is an investment worth making.
Now, read up and get smart:
- Master in Finance Crash Course
- MBA Essay Analysis Book
- 50 Essays That Worked (Latest Edition)
- Resume Guide
- LOR Guide
- European Crash Course
That’ll get you started. Still have questions? Reach out, and let’s gab.
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