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Few graduate programs provide a return on investment quite like an MBA. This rigorous degree thoroughly prepares students for the realities of the business world. Through challenging coursework and real-world application, students gain detailed insight into the skills, knowledge, and attitude it takes to succeed in a competitive industry. Upon graduation, the simple term ‘MBA’ serves as a major status marker, providing a competitive edge proof point when hunting for the most exciting jobs.

While MBA graduates commonly move into management positions, this program prepares students for a wide array of career possibilities. MBAs play a key role in virtually every industry and business imaginable. They work in conventional 9-to-5 offices, as consultants, and as ambitious entrepreneurs.

With an MBA and an impressive work ethic, aspiring management professionals can accomplish a great deal. The following are just a few of the many exciting opportunities available to MBA graduates:

Sales Manager

MBAs and sales go hand-in-hand. Skilled management professionals play a critical role in setting and achieving ambitious sales goals. As sales managers, they develop and approve budgets, determine product profitability, analyze pricing plans, and coordinate training programs for sales team members.

If successful, sales managers can expect impressive earnings. In 2018, for example, the BLS reported median annual wages of $124,220. Earnings vary dramatically between niches, however, with MBA credentials granting professionals a leg up in the most profitable areas. Sales managers employed in the fields of finance and insurance, for example, earned a median annual $153,940, compared to $90,110 for sales managers involved in retail trade.

Senior Financial Analyst

Responsible for analyzing statements and implementing budgeting processes, senior financial analysts supervise teams of skilled professionals. Many begin as junior analysts and move up the ranks as they demonstrate competence—or when they obtain graduate-level credentials. Often, MBAs prove necessary for financial analysts determined to move into more challenging and lucrative senior positions. PayScale reports average annual earnings of just under $80,000 for senior financial analysts, but the potential for wage growth is considered as senior analysts gain additional experience.

Financial Manager

Financial managers hold a huge responsibility: achieving and maintaining exceptional financial health for the organizations they serve. This typically involves preparing financial statements and activity reports, analyzing market trends, monitoring business activities for legal compliance, and assisting other management professionals as they make key financial decisions. Their role may change significantly in the coming years, as technological advances have reduced the time and effort required to produce accurate financial reports.

Despite notable changes in the role of technology, financial managers remain indispensable. BLS experts predict a job outlook of 16 percent before 2028. Due to this growing demand, financial managers receive impressive compensation. In 2018, the BLS cited median annual pay of $127,990, with those involved with scientific and technical services earning a median annual $151,610.

IT Project Manager

IT project managers plan and execute a variety of corporate projects in the interest of achieving the greatest return on investment possible. They transform big ideas into actionable plans. Most are responsible for assembling and managing the skilled IT teams required to achieve ambitious project goals.

In addition to supervising team members, project managers employed in information technology also work closely with key stakeholders to ensure that initiatives are completed according to strict stipulations. While income varies dramatically across this field, data from PayScale suggests that the average IT project manager earns $87,658.

IT Director

Management professionals proficient in information technology can quickly make their mark as IT directors. This path is notoriously demanding, especially given the fast pace of technological development. Responsible for managing IT operations, these proactive professionals develop detailed strategies for deploying software and preventing security breaches.

Many IT directors work closely with other management professionals to ensure seamless strategies that prove beneficial across several departments. IT directors may also be tasked with developing close relationships with key vendors. According to PayScale, the average IT director earns an annual $118,685.

Business Owner

An MBA may seem like a key tool for entry into the corporate world, but this program also offers inherent value for aspiring entrepreneurs. While many business owners learn by experience, this can be a risky approach. With an MBA, future entrepreneurs can learn tough lessons upfront, thereby avoiding the devastating mistakes commonly made by those new to the world of business.

Earnings vary dramatically between business owners. A lot depends on the size of the business, the industry it occupies, and whether owners are able to secure funding from investors. Many initially struggle to break even. After a few years of hard work, however, six-figure incomes are not out of the question. More importantly, business owners enjoy calling the shots. They appreciate the greater degree of control granted by their work as entrepreneurs.

Management Consultant

There’s a lot to be said for entrepreneurial endeavors, but they’re not right for everybody. Many MBA graduates, however, desire greater control than they can hope to achieve in conventional management positions. Therein lies the value of management consulting. It serves as the ultimate middle ground.

Often referred to as management analysts, consultants prioritize efficiency above all else. They analyze financial reports, conduct personnel interviews, and collect additional data to determine where, exactly, organizations could stand to improve operations—and how this can be best accomplished. Because they do not serve as long-term employees for the companies they serve, consultants are able to deliver a valuable outside perspective.

According to BLS data, management analysts and consultants earned a median of $83,610 in 2018. The field is growing quickly, especially when compared to other management occupations. BLS projections point to an outlook of 14 percent growth by 2028.

Whether you dream of climbing the corporate ladder or building your own business, you’ll quickly find that an MBA opens doors. If you’re ready to take a step up in your career, don’t hesitate to enroll in a respected MBA program.