MBA programs have long promised to open new opportunities for workers, setting them on the fast track to career success. The job titles with the most auspicious prospects for graduates change over time, however.
Data from surveys and job advertisements and advice from employment experts point to this year's hottest jobs for MBA graduates.
Shifting Industries and Roles
The worlds of finance and consulting used to draw MBA graduates in droves. But these days, students leaving school with master's degrees in business administration are finding jobs elsewhere.
They are more likely than earlier alumni to work in the products and services industry and the technology sector, according to the B-School Alumni Employment Report Alumni Perspectives Survey of 2018. The study, published by the nonprofit Graduate Management Admission Council, collected data from 10,882 alumni from 274 institutions.
Among respondents who got their degrees from 2016 to 2017, 23 percent work for products and services companies, 18 percent work in the technology sector, 13 percent work for finance and accounting firms and 12 percent work for consulting companies.
"The big change in the last couple years has been the rise of top-tier candidates going to technology firms, heading out west to Silicon Valley," says Andy Challenger, vice president of national career transition firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The specific roles MBA graduates take are shifting, too, the study shows. Recent alumni are increasingly filling roles in marketing and sales (20 percent) and operations and logistics (13 percent). Although finance and accounting (20 percent) and general management (18 percent) positions still account for large shares of new graduates, their popularity has fallen.
Job Ads Show Concentrated Demand
Most new graduates from MBA programs find mid-level positions, while smaller numbers obtain senior- and executive-level jobs, according to the B-School Alumni Employment Report. Job advertisements for these mid-level roles offer insight about where there's demand for workers graduating with MBA degrees.
In 2017, jobs that required applicants to possess MBAs frequently had titles related to operations, analytics and marketing, according to data from job-search website ZipRecruiter.
"Operations analyst" was the third-most frequently posted job title among positions requiring an MBA. Other similar popular titles included "operations officer" and "business operations analyst." These jobs focus on studying logistics and improving processes.
"Analytics manager" was the 11th-most frequently posted job title in the category. Other top related titles included "analytics associate" and "analytics lead." Workers in these positions sort through data to find meaningful patterns.
Two of the 15 most-frequently posted job titles in the category were "chief marketing officer" and "marketing executive." Although those high-level roles may be out of reach for many new MBA graduates, their presence on the list suggests that marketing is a promising field.
Indeed, companies are increasingly looking to fill marketing and technology positions with employees who have MBAs, says Dawn Fay, district president for Robert Half human resource consulting firm in New York City: "I had not seen it in those sectors as much as I do now."
[See: 25 Best Jobs That Pay $100K.]
Hot Jobs for MBA Graduates
So which positions from the U.S. News Best Jobs of 2018 rankings should new MBA graduates look for this year? Applying for the following jobs, or positions with similar titles and duties, may yield good results, especially in the industries of technology and products and services:
Median salary: $99,310
Unemployment rate: 1.7 percent
Employees who work under this broad umbrella perform a variety of duties to help companies meet their goals. They may deal with hiring, budgeting or marketing.
Median salary: $131,180
Unemployment rate: 2.8 percent
Marketing managers assess pricing and consumer demand to figure out how, where and when to sell products and services.
[See: The 25 Best Jobs of 2018.]
Median salary: $79,200
Unemployment rate: 3.3 percent
These workers strive to optimize logistics for companies. They use statistics and modeling to figure out the best ways to design and run processes.
Median salary: $81,330
Unemployment rate: 3.9 percent
These consultants help companies increase efficiency and profits. This job title was the sixth-most frequently posted job title requiring an MBA in 2017, according to ZipRecruiter.
Analytics Roles and Jobs in Big Data
Big data is a relatively new field, and there isn't much reliable government information yet about the salaries and employment levels of its workers. But as the ZipRecruiter advertisements show, companies are hungry for more people to work in "analytics" departments, discerning patterns from data. These jobs may overlap with those of data scientists or statisticians.
MBAs Can Cost More Than $50,000 a Year
(Martin Barraud/Getty Images)
While earning an MBA can advance your career path and future earnings, few people can shoulder the upfront cost. Tuition among the top b-schools can soar above $100,000 for the entire program.
Even attending a public business school can be costly. For instance, a few public b-schools charge more $50,000 a year for both in- and out-of-state tuition, according to 2016-2017 tuition data reported to U.S. News in an annual survey.
For prospective MBA students, here are 10 areas to explore to help pay for an advanced business degree.
1. B-School Fellowships
(Harvard Business School)
A few business schools offer generous fellowship awards. These awards are similar to scholarships, since this is grant money that doesn’t need to be repaid.
Harvard Business School, for example, offers need-based fellowships to nearly 50 percent of each class. According to the school’s website, the average HBS fellowship is around $37,000 a year – or $74,000 in total.
2. Graduate Scholarships
“Most schools, including Bentley, offer a number of merit MBA scholarships that don’t involve a work component," says Gordon Berridge, associate director of admissions at the McCallum Graduate School of Business at Bentley University in Massachusetts.
Berridge says graduate scholarships are based on previous educational achievements, GMAT or GRE scores and also what the student is likely to contribute to the incoming class.
3. Graduate Assistantships
Working as a graduate assistant while enrolled in an MBA program is another way to pay for business school. These assistants typically work alongside faculty or administrators in either research roles or in educational or administrative activities.
“These positions are generally only offered to full-time graduate students with limited work experience and are awarded for merit,” says Berridge of these assistantships at McCallum.
4. Industry Scholarships
Business school experts say when MBA students are looking at external scholarships, they should consider exploring niche awards.
“If you’re interested in taxation, research what types of scholarship are available for people looking to pursue a taxation degree,” Berridge says.
5. Employer Sponsorship
(Hero Images/Getty Images)
Some companies offer sponsorship to help employees earn an MBA, but expert says this usually involves some type of contract or obligation, such as returning to the company upon degree completion. Around 8 percent of prospective MBA students plan to use either employer reimbursement or sponsorship to pay for b-school, according to a 2016 survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT.
Other forms of employer sponsorship include tuition reimbursement with a maximum allowable amount per year. “Read your employee handbook or talk to human resources to find out if your company has a standard tuition assistance or sponsorship program in place,” says Dennis Yim, director of academics at Kaplan Test Prep.
6. Federal Student Loans
At least two federal student loan options are available each academic year for U.S. students: the Stafford loan and the Grad PLUS loan. The Stafford is limited to $20,500 for a year, while the Grad PLUS is available for the school’s cost of attendance.
Typically, the interest on these loans are higher than the rates offered to undergraduates. Currently, the loan interest rate for a graduate Stafford is 6 percent and 7 percent for Grad PLUS. To apply for these loans, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
7. Private Student Loans
Private lenders can provide customized options, such as loans at a variable or fixed rate.
Oftentimes these loans are at rates even lower than the federal government. For instance, Citizens Bank and CommonBond, to name a couple, offer specialized MBA loans at lower interest rates compared with Grad PLUS.
8. Retirement Savings
According to IRS guidelines, those who make an early withdrawal from a retirement account, such as an IRA Roth or 401(k) account, are exempt from the 10-percent penalty so long as the funds are put toward a qualified higher education expense. Attending a business school qualifies for this exemption.
But account holders who make an early withdrawal will still face income tax on these funds.
9. 529 College Savings Funds
While tax-advantaged 529 accounts are typically thought of as a popular way to pay for college, you can use these funds for grad school.
A family, for example, can decide against tapping these funds for undergraduate expenses and save the money to cover an advanced degree.
10. Special Government Grants
A few programs exist at the government level that help students pay for an advanced business degree overseas, such as the Fulbright Business Grant.
One of the awards under Fulbright for business grad students provides funding to recipients to study a one-year MBA program in Spain.