A master’s in business administration (MBA) is a comprehensive graduate degree offered at almost every university’s business school. MBA programs typically feature a core curriculum designed to ground students in foundational business skills across the professional landscape. An MBA is well-known, revered, and coveted because of its tangible and multifaceted applications; as an MBA graduate trained in several areas of business, you’ll be able to wield your knowledge and provide value almost anywhere.
The traditional view of an MBA is that it is a degree only for business professionals. In this view, someone like a middle manager at a financial services company would earn their MBA to be eligible for a promotion, or to learn about different areas of the business so that they could explore other departments. While that can still be true, many more people now are interested in the degree from several different industries, roles and experience levels.
For example, engineers at a manufacturing company might pursue an MBA degree to learn more about developing and selling a new product, as well as hiring and management for a new division. Although they may be an expert in mechanics, they might not know how to balance an income statement. In an MBA program, they can learn finance, supply chain management and marketing to create a comprehensive business plan and set themselves up for success.
The popularity of remote work, contracting and entrepreneurialism has also shifted the way people view MBAs. Now more than ever, people are looking for jobs that are flexible or creating entirely new careers for themselves (e.g., influencers). The fundamentals of business are still important, but they want to be able to customize their degree to serve their modern professional goals. Because of that, online MBA programs and MBA programs with specializations have become increasingly popular. In fact, more students were enrolled in an online MBA program in 2021 than an in-person program.1
A large benefit of an MBA is that along with receiving broad coverage of business essentials, you can also choose to specialize. This means that you would take core MBA classes supplemented by electives in special interests, such as new product management. An MBA with a specialization gives you the best of both worlds: you can gain comprehensive business skills while narrowing in on the concentration of your choosing, seeing how the two work together for your ideal job.
Here are a few of the most popular MBA specialization routes:
Data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are some of the most in-demand disciplines in the world today. The data analytics industry is projected to grow from $7.03 billion in 2023 to $303.4 billion by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 28%.2 According to 2023 surveys from Forbes and Salesforce, 56% of business already use AI to enhance the customers experience, and 67% of business leaders are exploring ways to implement generative — or content-creating — AI.3,4 Because of this growth, a lot of professionals are adding an analytics or AI concentration to their MBA degree.
An MBA in Advanced Business Strategy Using AI and Analytics provides you with the most up-to-the-minute analytics and data science skills, embedded within a context of essential business knowledge. This specialization imparts “hard to find” skills and knowledge areas that employers are looking for in today’s workforce: data visualization, predictive analytics, machine learning and more. At Milwaukee School of Engineering, for example, you’ll take 18 credits worth of analytics courses such as statistics and data analytics; innovation and entrepreneurship; and data wrangling and exploration.
A career in operations (often also called “production management”) offers tremendous opportunities to combine your personal strengths with the leadership skills and business expertise from an MBA program. Companies hiring in this field will look for an educational background that has prepared you to understand the processes within the company, identify areas of improvement and opportunities for innovation and work under tight deadlines. An MBA program will do exactly that; courses in organizational behavior, project management and ethical leadership are perfectly suited to help you optimize output, paired with specialization classes in new products and supply chain management.
You’ve likely heard the saying, “There’s a difference between a manager and a leader,” and many MBAs are designed to home in on exactly that. An MBA in leadership will train you to think beyond the traditional role of a leader and learn to empower your employees, communicate and coordinate between teams and solve business challenges with confidence.
Non-Traditional Paths for MBAs
Not every MBA student works in a stereotypical business setting; as you can tell from above, there are a lot of opportunities that a graduate education can create. MBA career paths are as unique and limitless as the students who pursue them, with a lot of room for customization based on your program. Listed below are some different options for the career paths of MBA graduates.
Entrepreneurship and Startups
Entrepreneurs need to be able to look at the big picture as well as work in the minutiae, and an MBA can support that journey by covering fundamentals big and small—from how to make a business plan to how to vet suppliers. Several specialized entrepreneurial skills are crucial when you hope to transform your vision into a profitable business, including communication, sales, mental focus, business aptitude and strategic planning. All of these skills are a key focus of any high-caliber MBA program.
An MBA program is especially good for networking, which is the lifeblood of almost any successful business endeavor. Surrounded by a support system of faculty and peers, you’ll be able to test-run your ideas in a controlled environment and receive real-time feedback on your ideas. You also can use this network to find new partners, mentors and investors.
Consulting and Advisory Roles
Unlike more cut-and-dry career paths, consultants and advisors get to work with different companies in different industries, often serving in multiple different roles. The industry demands that you become a “Swiss army knife” of sorts, and you must be able to switch between various disciplines, sometimes all in one day.
Many consultants use their graduate education to learn different areas of business that they’ll likely be exposed to in their various projects. Since an MBA is designed to train you in multiple things, you’ll be able to work with different types of people at varying levels to solve complex problems.
"It is extremely valuable to have the education that an MBA provides if one’s goal is to venture into management consulting," Karrie C. Prehm, founder and CEO of Global Regulation Advisers Corp., a Florida-based consulting firm.5
Healthcare and Biotechnology
Career development experts say b-school graduates are in demand across all facets of healthcare.6 In fact, there’s a 28% projected growth in employment through 2031 for medical and health services management positions.7 MBA students could work all across the healthcare landscape, whether it’s within hospital or health system administration, within the pharmaceutical or health tech industries, politics and advocacy or leading health-focused not-for-profit organizations. Some potential job titles are health care administrator, sales manager in pharmaceuticals or director of analytics in a health system.
It might not seem like healthcare would work seamlessly with a business master’s degree, but universities like MSOE recognize that health organizations need capable leaders to oversee their strategic direction, operations and performance. A data-driven, tech-focused business professional can help them elevate healthcare delivery and improve patient outcomes. Through an MBA program, you will become an expert in analytics, organizational management and human capital strategy, along with gaining key leadership skills centered around coaching, development and ethical business practices—all of which are essential in effective healthcare.
Education and Academia
A career as a school or university leader can take you in a number of different directions, including as a school principal, school superintendent, post-secondary academic dean or registrar. Educational leaders hold a lot of responsibility and can shape the student experience from the top down, and thus often require a master’s degree to be eligible. Because of their undeniable importance, these managerial roles are also in high demand; the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of PK–12 principals will grow 5% from 2021 to 2031.8
An MBA in Education Leadership, like the one at MSOE, will prepare you to serve the needs of public, private, charter and choice school emerging leaders and blend the best of leadership development, business and educational administration into one unique educational experience. Two key themes woven throughout the MSOE program are the elimination of the global student achievement gap through targeted school leadership, and the development of school cultures that cultivate positive character education.
Transferable Skills From an MBA
One of the biggest MBA benefits is the list of transferable skills you’ll gain. Here are some of the key abilities you can leverage in whatever career path you choose:
- Leadership and strategic thinking
- Financial and business acumen
- Problem solving and decision making
- Communication and negotiation skills
- Project management and organizational skills
Find the MBA That Meets Your Career Goals
At MSOE, you can choose from four pathways to earn the MBA that is best for your career goals. Choose from the general online MBA Track, the online MBA in Advanced Business Strategy Using AI and Analytics, the online MBA in New Product Management or the online MBA in Education Leadership.
Ready to pursue a worthwhile MBA? Get started today. Complete the form for more information, or get started on your application.
- Retrieved on August 31, 2023, from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/05/17/full-time-online-mba-enrollment-surpasses-person-programs
- Retrieved on August 31, 2023, from https://www.marketresearchfuture.com/reports/data-analytics-market-1689
- Retrieved on August 31, 2023, from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/software/ai-in-business/
- Retrieved on September 19, 2023, from https://www.salesforce.com/news/stories/digital-skills-based-experience/
- Retrieved on August 31, 2023, from https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/articles/will-an-mba-help-you-become-a-management-consultant
- Retrieved on August 31, 2023, from https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/2017-03-22/5-top-jobs-for-mba-grads-in-health-care
- Retrieved on August 31, 2023, from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Management/Medical-and-health-services-managers.htm
- Retrieved on August 31, 2023, from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/elementary-middle-and-high-school-principals.htm