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The Ultimate Career Roadmap for MBA Graduates

(Revised for 2021)

Introduction

Your education is one of the most powerful determinants of career success. The right degree unlocks doors that were previously closed, raises career ceilings, and increases your earning potential. No matter where you work or which field you pursue, more education confers more authority, potentially propelling you to higher positions in management and leadership, or giving you the skills you need to become a high-earning consultant. 

Master’s degree recipients have median annual earnings of almost $13,000 more than those with only a bachelor’s. If you really want to rev up your earning potential, a master of business administration (MBA) is a wise investment. A 2019 survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that an MBA is the highest-earning master’s degree. Median starting salaries for new MBA hires was $115,000. That amounts to an increase of more than $50,000 in median annual earnings compared to what you might earn with just a bachelor’s degree. 

Even in the notoriously underpaid nonprofit sector, an MBA can boost wages. According to U.S. News, the average nonprofit MBA holder earned $86,840 annually. Those who rise to the upper ranks of nonprofit leadership may earn significantly more.

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Chapter 1

What You Need to Know About Returning to School in 2021

If you’re like many prospective MBA students, you may be concerned about time and money — especially amidst the uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. You may fear leaving (or losing) your job, or worry about investing in your education at a time when so much in the economy is shifting. 

What about the return on investment (ROI)?

Many adults say they are worried that their academic investment will not pay off. While 42% in one 2020 survey reported that the pandemic had increased their interest in returning to school, 21% said it made them less likely to go back to school. 

In 2019, 77% of adult learners said a return to school would be worth the cost. By mid-2020, just 59% agreed. Most (64%) still think more education will help them land a job, but that figure has also declined thanks to the pandemic. 

It’s scary to make a major career leap when you don’t know what the future holds. The reality, though, is that this has always been the case. Education is one of the best things you can do to recession-proof your career. In fact, in 2018 — more than a decade after the Great Recession — the least-educated workers still had not recovered, even as people with more education continued to enjoy earnings increases.

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How do I afford it?

The average MBA costs $60,000, but the price can vary greatly depending on which school you attend. For example, SNU’s MBA program can be completed for around $20,000, while other universities charge more than $190,000

Earning your MBA may seem like a big investment, but with the right financial aid package, most students can easily fund this expense. Moreover, the earnings increase may be sufficient to help you pay off your degree in less than two years. 

For busy learners, SNU offers accelerated coursework and a flexible class structure. Students can attend school once a week at night or online, enabling them to seamlessly embed a graduate degree into their daily lives. SNU’s graduate programs in business cost significantly less than the national average, enabling you to work towards a better future with less debt.

 

Chapter 2

Benefits of an MBA

In an uncertain economy, it’s important to choose a job with plenty of openings and lots of growth potential.

In January 2021, as COVID-19 and the many catastrophes it caused were surging, so too was unemployment. However, unemployment rates inversely correlated with education, such that the most educated workers had the lowest unemployment rates. Less educated workers faced a disproportionate impact. Between 2020 and 2021, those with just some college saw their unemployment rates more than double. 

As more students choose an MBA, demand and competition for graduate school admissions continue to increase. That means the time to pursue an MBA is now. Some other reasons to consider this degree include the following benefits 

Higher Earning Potential

Not only are median salaries higher with an MBA, but the number of jobs available to you will also increase. That means you can earn more in a lifetime and potentially switch out of your current role and into a more lucrative one. Seventy-five percent of MBA graduates change careers, and many double their current earnings. 

Survival in an Uncertain Economy

Strong markets inevitably weaken. As the pandemic illustrates, the economy is inherently unpredictable, which means you’ll probably weather several economic storms over the life of your career. There will always be businesses in need of expertise, especially when the economy presents challenges. 

An MBA offers career insurance no matter what the market does. It also offers the ability to pivot. If you lose your job or need to transition to working from home, your business expertise may make you more valuable as a consultant, freelancer, or part-time advisor as you search for something else.

MBA graduate working as an investment banker

Wide Applicability

Though many people with MBAs become consultants, start businesses, or pursue lucrative roles in finance, the skill set you master is usable in virtually any profession. You’ll master the craft of leadership, become an exceptional communicator, and dig deeply into the inner workings of business, finance, and the economy. These are all skills you can put to use just about anywhere. 

More Job Opportunities

Some people hit a career ceiling that they can’t break through without more education. An MBA offers new skills, as well as leadership training that can help you better serve virtually any organization.

Chapter 3

Potential Career Paths with an MBA

An MBA can pave the way to a life-changing career that boasts higher earnings, greater flexibility, even a chance to change the world. Here are some of the best jobs you can get with an MBA.

Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic showed just how much we all depend on healthcare institutions — and how catastrophic it can be if there is a shortage of supplies or providers. 

These jobs can command very high earnings, though the specific salary depends on where you work and what you do. Hospital executives, for example, can earn anywhere from $274,300 to more than $1 million per year. Use your MBA to prepare health institutions for the next pandemic, ensure patients get the quality care they deserve, and nurture a supportive environment for stressed health providers. 

No matter what healthcare role you choose, you can expect rapid career growth. In August of 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, healthcare jobs grew by 75,000 available positions. In 2019, before the pandemic, The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated roles in healthcare would grow 15% over the next decade — a figure that has almost certainly increased. 

SNU’s MBA in healthcare is the perfect stepping stone to a career in health administration or leadership. 

Entrepreneur

A little ingenuity goes a long way in normal times, but the pandemic has shown just how well forward thinking can serve you. Consider the companies that offer product delivery, remote learning, or that manufacture personal protective equipment. If you want to be your own boss and have a great idea to prepare for the next big thing — whether it’s a pandemic or a new trend — an MBA equips you with the skills you need. 

Entrepreneurial earnings vary a lot, from zero in a small startup to seven figures or more if your company goes public. Take a gamble that may pay off, and put your MBA skills to work starting your own business. 

Two managers shaking hands in an office

Manager

Every industry needs managers. Spend a little time reading career blogs and you’ll soon understand the importance of good managers, especially during a crisis such as COVID-19. 

Companies with bad managers suffer through endless calls that should have been emails, force their workers to come to work when it’s not safe, and fail to meet their goals during a crisis. But good management can turn things around, creating a better environment for workers and nurturing a strong reputation that helps the company thrive. 

In this role, you’ll oversee the work of your team, set benchmarks for success, inspire employees to work harder and smarter, and plan for the future of your organization. In 2019, managers had median earnings of $105,660, with a 5% occupational growth projected through 2029. 

Consultant

A consulting role is a great way to work for yourself — and, often, a chance to work from home. As we’ve all witnessed during the pandemic, both offer significant value during a crisis. In this position, you’ll parlay business expertise and prior career experience into a lucrative consulting role. Some consultants work for large firms, but many own their own business, catering to a variety of business clients. 

In this role, you’ll offer advice, insight, and analysis to various companies. Some consultants specialize in specific sectors. For example, with a healthcare MBA, you might offer consulting services to hospitals or medical startups. Wages vary greatly depending on the field you choose and how many clients you have, but many consultants earn well over six figures. 

"Your career trajectory depends on many factors, including social skills, what you’ve already done, and communication. No matter what your experience is, however, an MBA shows employers you have the necessary expertise for a vast range of business roles."

Investment Banker 

Investment bankers help clients raise capital. Sometimes this means supporting a small business to fund a new project. You might also work with a startup to go public or cash out, or oversee mergers and acquisitions. Although you’ll need plenty of financial acumen, investment bankers also need to know how to negotiate and communicate in order to deliver an exceptional experience to every organization you serve. 

One of the strangest COVID-19 detours was in the Game Stop debacle of 2021. Suddenly, an apparently failing company had the potential to thrive, thanks to the work of apparently amateur investors on Reddit. Dig a little deeper, though, and it became clear that many of these investors knew exactly what they were doing. 

Investment bankers help their clients raise money, often through an initial public offering (IPO) on the stock market. They use their insight to make predictions, give their clients a competitive edge and — as in the case of GameStop — predict the seemingly unpredictable. 

Investment banker salaries vary a lot, from the low $100,000s to $300,000 or more, depending on where you work, how long you are employed, and how successful your company is. These roles are growing at an average rate, with projected growth of 4% between 2019 and 2029. 

Corporate Executives

Corporate executives fill vital roles in their companies, overseeing every aspect of strategy and operations. And as the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated, the decisions they make — and their ability to rapidly respond to emerging crises — can affect jobs, markets, and the entire economy. 

They had median annual earnings of $104,690 per year in 2019, but executives at the largest companies can earn exponentially more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects average growth, of about 4%, in these roles by 2029. 

Financial or Research Analyst

Financial analysts can expect average career growth, but very high earnings. Though median annual earnings in 2019 were $81,590, many financial analysts earn much more, especially with performance bonuses. 

In this role, you’ll help individuals, businesses, governments, and other organizations make investment decisions. This requires significant financial knowledge, as well as the ability to understand an individual or agency’s specific goals and risk tolerance. 

Human resources manager collaborating with coworkers

Human Resources (HR) Expert 

Got a career problem? Your first call might be to human resources (HR). These professionals help preserve corporate reputations, mediate disputes, and ensure that companies remain compliant with relevant laws. During COVID-19, that’s been especially important as new regulations come down the pipeline and companies pivot to working from home. Some human resources experts start their own consulting or training firms to help companies better manage their staff. 

HR professionals boast median annual earnings of $61,920 per year, though those with a master’s degree may earn more or work at higher profile companies. These jobs are growing faster than average, with projected growth of 5% between 2019 and 2029. 

Marketing Professional 

Marketing experts work in numerous companies, each with the same goal in mind: to bring in new, better, and more lucrative business. That has proven invaluable to many companies struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic. As COVID-19 winds down, companies may seek marketing experts to help rebrand and bounce back. 

Marketing can take many forms, from overseeing a sales team to devising a company’s quarterly marketing plan and budget. An MBA equips you to analyze financial partners so you can make intelligent marketing decisions and predictions. This may make you significantly more valuable than someone who only has training in advertising or marketing. 

In 2019, marketing managers had median annual earnings of $135,900 per year, with projected growth by 2029 of 6%. 

Accountant 

Businesses and individuals will always need accountants — but especially now, as they try to make sense of government COVID-19 loans, tax breaks, and other unexpected shifts thanks to the pandemic. 

Your specific duties depend on your company. In general, you’ll play a key role in analyzing and preparing financial records, especially when companies undergo mergers or acquisitions. Some accountants open their own businesses, consulting with various industries or filing tax returns for corporations and individuals. 

Accountants with bachelor’s degrees had median annual earnings of $71,550 in 2019, with a projected growth rate of 4% between 2019 and 2029. With an MBA, accountants may be in better positions to take on more responsibilities and help guide the financial direction of a company, perhaps even as chief financial officer (CFO) or in another C-suite role. 

Accountant calculating costs

Product Manager

A product manager oversees the design, marketing, implementation, communications, or management of a product or suite of products. For example, if your company develops a new piece of technology, it may recruit a product manager to position the product to be as competitive as possible. This role demands exceptional communication, an interest in innovation, creative thinking, and the ability to manage well. In some cases, you may manage multiple teams. 

Product managers earn average salaries of $108,992, but earnings are heavily location- and company-dependent. In large companies or competitive industries, you may earn much more. 

Combining Career Paths

One of the best features of an MBA is that it positions you to move from position to position. For example, you might begin your career as an accountant, then rise in the corporate ranks, gaining visibility and increasing earnings, until you become the chief financial officer. Or you might transition to a new company, where your experience managing the financial realities of the business can help you manage the financial aspects of a new product rollout. 

Your career trajectory depends on many factors, including social skills, what you’ve already done, and communication. No matter what your experience is, however, an MBA shows employers you have the necessary expertise for a vast range of business roles.

 

Chapter 4

Choosing the Right Career Path After Graduating with an MBA

If you choose an MBA, you need a career path in mind. This can help you plan for the future and begin your job search before you graduate.

There’s no one-size-fits-all MBA career that works for everyone. Indeed, that’s part of the appeal of this versatile degree. You can switch careers if you choose, transition into and out of management, and make lateral moves between organizations. 

Some questions that can help guide your selection include:

What do I enjoy doing? 

Prioritize your most lucrative hobbies and interests. For instance, if you have a passion for helping people talk about their emotions, you might be an exceptional manager. Math enthusiasts may relish a career in finance. 

What am I good at? 

Ideally, you should find the point at which your interests and your talents converge. That’s because loving something isn’t enough; you need to be good at it in order to compete. Consider what your previous employers might say about you and which positive attributes your performance reviews consistently highlight. 

What is daily life like in the jobs you envision? 

It’s easy to fantasize about the “perfect” job, but the truth is that no job is flawless. There are good and bad days, and frustration is a part of every career. So talk to some people who currently occupy a role you hope to pursue. Ask them what they like and what they don’t, and use their feedback to help guide your decisions.

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What are your long-term career goals? 

The career trajectory of someone who wants to start their own business may be very different from that of someone who hopes to become a motivational business speaker or product manager. So, think not only about the immediate future, but your long-term career goals. 

What does a good life look like to you? 

Some careers offer more work-life balance than others, just as some jobs offer more control over your life and time. A self-employed consultant, for example, may have almost total control over their schedule. However, they’ll also need to continually drum up business and may need to work long hours—with no guarantee of paid time off. Think about what you want out of your life, then consider how work fits into that puzzle. 

What is your career experience? 

Prior experience can help guide your next steps. If you’re an in-house accountant with a bachelor's degree, for example, an MBA could give you the skills you need to start your own accounting firm or to climb the corporate ladder and eventually become a CFO.

Chapter 5

SNU’s MBA Program

SNU prioritizes your success from day one. We also know that you have a life and that succeeding at school may depend on thriving in your career and personal life.

We help you strike the right balance between excelling at school and tending to your daily obligations. Here’s what sets us apart: 

Several MBA Options

Depending on your career goals, we offer several different MBA options. Our most versatile degree is our traditional MBA that can be applied to many different roles in virtually any industry. We also offer two speciality tracks, including an MBA in healthcare that prepares students for leadership roles in healthcare and a master of science (M.S.) in management that can help cultivate management and leadership skills.

One Class at a Time

Juggling multiple classes makes it difficult to sharpen your focus and invest deeply in the material you’re learning. That’s doubly true if you have young children or a full-time job. Our one-class-at-a-time model empowers you to master course material without needless stress or distraction. 

A Cohort Model

Your classmates may one day become business leaders. Begin building your professional network now with our unique cohort model. You’ll learn alongside like-minded peers who are committed to successful, long-term careers. You may one day work together or even hire one another. 

Versatile Class Structures and Scheduling

Don’t let your schedule get in the way of pursuing a better life in a satisfying career. Students at SNU can choose to take classes at night, just one night a week. Or you can opt for an online-only model, which allows you to attend school anywhere without fighting traffic or even getting dressed. 

No GMAT

Studying for the GMAT can be exhausting and intimidating. Even if you’re confident in your ability to get a good score, studying for and taking the test can be expensive and may delay your admission to graduate school for months. SNU applicants do not have to take this stressful test. 

Financial Aid

Most SNU attendees get financial aid. In many cases, it’s possible to get sufficient funding to cover both tuition and other costs of attendance, such as books and childcare. We work with you to weigh your financial aid options, and our Financial Aid Office can even help you fill out the paperwork.

 

Chapter 6

SNU: Here to Help You Succeed

SNU supports its students, from their initial application through graduation and beyond. We hire professors who are experts in the field, allowing you to learn from industry leaders and forge important professional relationships.

We know you're here to help shape a brighter tomorrow, and we pride ourselves on being a part of your story. We’re building a generation of thoughtful, innovative leaders. We’d love to welcome you into the fold. 

Ready to take the next step? Apply now! Learn more about your funding options by contacting our Financial Aid Office.

 

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