Students pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) because it delivers valuable skills and knowledge, because employers require or prefer it, and because it can result in substantial pay increases. In all three areas, the benefits of an MBA can be significant.
Consider income. According to a recent Graduate Management Admission Council study, the median salary from 2018 to 2021 for those with MBAs was $115,000. That's $50,000 per year more than for professionals with a bachelor's degree only. Pro rate that out over a career, and it becomes clear how thoroughly an MBA degree pays for itself.
Some business skills are more highly sought after than others—and many deliver higher dividends. We looked at online job postings to see which skills appear most often. Read on to learn about the top specialized MBA skills in today's business job market.
According to Emsi, postings for jobs that require an MBA list the following skills (in order of frequency) most often:
Let's have a quick look at each.
Finance encompasses a broad range of jobs and skills. Finance experts are conversant with various investment and funding options: stocks, financial derivatives, bonds, and loans. They must also understand budgeting, cash flow, pricing, valuation, the time value of money, and the processes driving mergers and acquisitions. The field requires well-honed quantitative skills.
To say computing is integral to the business world would be an understatement; modern business is unimaginable without computers permeating every aspect of operations. MBA grads with a specialization in computer science or information systems are well-positioned to manage technical teams, as they have backgrounds in both computer science and management. That can offer a significant advantage over candidates with proficiency in just one of those fields. Some MBA programs offer sub-specializations in computer science; Stevens Institute of Technology, for example, offers information systems, business intelligence and analytics, and network and communication management and services.
Marketing is so much more than advertising. Marketing skills drive the branding, sale, and promotion of products to boost sales and engagement. They encompass everything from new product development and pricing strategies to the differences among various global markets. They include soft skills—communication, strategic thinking, and creativity—and hard skills like social media, analytical skills, and content creation. Expertise in marketing requires strong quantitative skills to utilize analytic data, creativity to develop marketing campaigns and marketing strategies, and even an understanding of psychology: interpreting and predicting consumer behavior is part of a marketing professional's portfolio.
A business can't operate if it has no systematic and accurate means of keeping track of its assets and liabilities. That's why accounting is such a critical and sought-after skill in the business job market. Accountants compile income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, tax reports, financial reports, and budget reports to inform managers, investors, the government, and (sometimes) the public about a business's operations. A thorough understanding of global regulatory standards is essential for success in this field. All MBA programs require students to complete at least one accounting course. Pursuing a concentration in the discipline can bolster your credentials when it comes time to find a job.
Agile methodology is an iterative approach used to improve a firm’s adaptability and performance. Agile methodology constantly reevaluates and adapts business operations based on marketplace changes, customer feedback, or obstacles like software bugs. Agile methodology is prevalent in software development, but project managers across all fields now employ this strategy. If you want to gain skills in agile methodology, you may want to look into MBA programs emphasizing strategic innovation and management.
So much modern business activity is project-based. It requires input from various teams across a business at multiple junctures in the planning, developing, and delivering of a service or product. Someone needs to coordinate all that work. That someone is the project manager. Project management requires leadership skills, time-management skills, risk-management skills, and the ability to facilitate collaborative teamwork. Some schools offer an MBA in project management, while others—Stevens Institute of Technology, for one—confer a project management graduate certificate.
An audit is an analysis of a business's financial status. There are several types of audits; they all share risk evaluations and suggestions to improve financial practices. Effective auditors need critical thinking skills to analyze financial records, communication skills to explain their findings to stakeholders, familiarity with accounting and financial software, and knowledge of the regulatory environment in which the business operates. They also need the fortitude to deliver bad news, especially when their work uncovers fraud or other detrimental activity.
The rapid growth of available business data over the past several decades has spurred a race to extract the most, and most useful, insights from the resulting mountain of information. Businesses employ data analysis for every conceivable purpose, from marketing and customer engagement to employee productivity and satisfaction. Case Western Reserve's Online MBA program homes in on how business managers in the healthcare industry can apply skills like data analytics to improve their operations.
Strategic planning enables companies to align business approaches with goals. It involves analyzing company data, evaluating current strategies, and identifying opportunities for improvement in business operations and the development of competitive advantages. Strategic planning is critical to all leadership roles, as well as in consulting and analytics.
Process improvement is another skill that figures prominently in consulting. Companies frequently hire outside consultants to audit their business processes, identify inefficiencies, and suggest improvements.
One of the best ways to acquire business skills is through an MBA program. But getting a degree isn’t an easy feat, especially with a limiting work schedule. Online master’s programs often offer more convenient and flexible education models. Designed to accommodate full-time workers, online MBA programs at schools like Howard University and the University of Tennessee - Knoxville provide anytime study opportunities for students at every stage of their career. Online MBA programs are likely to provide opportunities to learn specialized skills while giving students the competitive edge to succeed in the business world.
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