The dawn of a new decade presents the ideal opportunity to take stock of where you’ve been and where you’re going. You spend much of your life at work, so your job is a good place to begin your assessment. If you’re seeking an opportunity to increase your salary, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a sound investment. A Wall Street Journal survey found that 75 percent of MBA graduates switch careers, and that doing so can double their salary. An MBA sets you apart from an increasingly crowded and competitive applicant pool. There’s no real limit on what you can do with an MBA, because this specialized training can open doors in just about every field.
This option isn’t for everyone, though. Like any other degree program, you need a clear understanding of your career goals. An MBA is not magic. You’ll need to work hard, then pursue the right career upon graduation. But if you’re interested in business, aspire to a life in management, or hope to one day become an industry leader, you can do a lot with an MBA—while earning a lot more.
Career Outlook for People with MBAs
A master’s degree increases average earnings and reduces unemployment no matter which field you choose. According to 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, master’s degree holders had median weekly earnings of $1,434, compared to $1,198 with a bachelor’s degree. That’s an annual earnings increase of $12,272. People with master’s degrees also benefit from lower unemployment.
An MBA is not just any master’s degree. The data suggest that earnings are substantially higher with this training, compared to many other graduate degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who work in securities, commodities, and finance consistently have higher wages. Those with a master’s degree, particularly an MBA, can earn as much as 90 percent more than their peers. The National Association of Colleges and Employers projects that, immediately after graduation, MBA graduates earn $25,000 more than students who graduate from bachelor’s-level business programs.
A person’s salary depends heavily on the industry they choose. According to U.S. News, the highest earnings are in consulting, an area in which class of 2018 graduates earn an average of $130,656. Even graduates in the lowest earning group, however, can still earn more than those with bachelor’s degrees. The 2018 graduates who chose careers in the nonprofit sector had average earnings of $57,553.
A person’s early career earnings are a major predictor of lifetime earnings. When your starting salary is higher, percentage-based raises may also be higher. This allows your earnings to snowball over time, producing progressively more money as you advance in your career.
Are You Ready for an MBA?
Like any other degree, an MBA is not a magic key to higher earnings. Your career trajectory, job satisfaction, and lifetime earnings depend on a lot of hard work and some luck. So you shouldn’t choose an MBA if you don’t have a clear career path in mind. Some things to think about before enrolling in an MBA program include:
- Whether you can earn more in your current job with an MBA
- Whether it is possible to advance to higher levels at your current organization if you get more education
- Which careers interest you most, and whether an MBA either unlocks higher earnings in these roles or is a prerequisite to these jobs
- The extent to which an MBA is necessary for your next career step
Some questions you can ask yourself as you weigh your options include:
- How much will an MBA cost you, and what is the likely 10-year return on investment in the career(s) you are considering?
- Will you need to take out loans to pursue your MBA? Are there other options open to you, such as grants, scholarships, or tuition assistance from your employer?
- How long will it take you to complete your MBA?
- What lifestyle changes will you need to make to return to school?
- Are you interested in business, or only considering an MBA because you want to earn more?
- Have you talked to other people with MBAs about their career and educational experiences?
What Can You Do with an MBA?
An MBA opens many doors. Because your degree offers training in management, leadership, and business, you’ll gain skills that are valuable in virtually any industry. For example, a nonprofit worker might use their training to streamline operations and make better use of the organization’s limited funds, while a teacher might found an educational startup. Almost every industry needs managers, and some companies require an MBA to enter the upper echelons of management. So if you like your current role, you might be able to stay in the same industry, or even with the same company—just with more status and higher pay.
What if you’re looking for a career change? Some of the most popular jobs you can do with an MBA include:
- Consulting. Consultants usually work for themselves. They partner with businesses, governments, and other organizations to analyze operations, provide feedback, and support more effective strategies. If your consulting work is successful, you might expand by starting your own company and hiring other experts. The best consultants can even become industry experts, authoring books and delivering talks that help change and shape the way businesses operate.
- Healthcare. Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. economy. With plenty of jobs and increased demand for better care, there are numerous opportunities for people who want to innovate and lead. SNU’s MBA-Health Care prepares you to lead healthcare organizations into the 21st century and beyond. Medical and health services managers help oversee operations at hospitals and other health agencies. They not only command high earnings; they can also help improve healthcare outcomes and advocate for positive changes.
- Finance. Jobs in finance are highly lucrative, and you may need an MBA even for an entry-level position. Many MBA graduates choose roles that require financial forecasting and modeling. You might become an organization’s chief financial officer or a senior financial analyst for a bank. In some cases, these roles allow you to rise to prominence, such as by being the public face of a major change in a publicly traded corporation.
- Product and brand managers. Product and brand managers oversee the design, implementation, or marketing of new products. For example, a company developing a new smartphone or other piece of technology might hire a brand manager to market the product and oversee its roll-out. These roles can be highly competitive and allow you to be on the forefront of corporate innovation.
- Joining the C-suite. Many business leaders hold MBAs. Whether you want to start your own company and ensure it succeeds or join the leadership of the business where you currently work, an MBA may be a prerequisite to ascending to the highest ranks. C-suite executives can earn extraordinarily high wages. They also set company policy, support the implementation of new products, and act as the public face of the business.
How to Choose an MBA Program
Getting the most out of your MBA degree begins with choosing the right program. Some questions to ask yourself as you compare schools include:
- Does this program offer flexible degree options? Schools that offer night, weekend, or online classes can help you complete your classes sooner, without disrupting your daily life.
- Is the school accredited? Regionally accredited schools garner more respect. Your credits are also more likely to transfer to other institutions.
- What are your financial aid options? SNU works with students to explore financial aid options, including VA benefits, so you can minimize your debt load and get the highest possible return on your investment.
- Do employers respect a degree from the university you have chosen? If you select an online degree program, choose one from a brick-and-mortar university that already has a good reputation.
- What support does the school offer to students? SNU uses a cohort model to ensure students can begin building their professional network from day one.
- Does the school partner with local businesses to help students get jobs?
- Who teaches the classes? SNU hires skilled professors and business leaders to educate the executives of tomorrow.
At SNU, we know our graduates will lead tomorrow’s businesses. We take seriously our duty to develop the next generation of leaders. From day one, you’ll get exceptional training from the most respected leaders in business. We’re here for you. We’d love to talk to you about your career options. Contact us to explore whether one of our cutting-edge MBA programs offers a path to fulfilling your dreams.