How an MBA can help with a career change

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Two young professionals in suits working at a desk.

It’s certainly no secret that a higher education degree can open doors to exciting career opportunities. In many instances today, employers won’t give applicants a second look if they don’t have the right educational credentials, despite years of experience working in the field.

What’s more, in recent years, there’s been a rising trend toward working individuals returning to school to grow their skills and knowledge while expanding potential career path options after graduation.

Whatever the motivation, when it comes time for professionals to make a change and invest in themselves for the long term, one of the best ways to do so is by pursuing an MBA. This high-level and flexible degree program provides students with skills and talent applicable across numerous different industries. Even professionals who don’t plan to work in strictly business-related sectors can benefit from the learning objectives taught in a robust MBA program.

Today, we’ll take a closer look at the growing trend of career switchers, and how earning an MBA can help professionals make the jump to new and exciting career paths.

How often are people changing careers?

While one may envision becoming a professional in a specific industry that they’re passionate about and remaining in that sector for an entire career, the truth is that this rarely happens today. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor and Careers Advice Online, the average individual changes careers five times, and 30% of people now change jobs or careers every year.

The reasons motivating career switchers greatly vary, but can include things like:

  • Frustration with their current position and inability to leverage their skills appropriately
  • Lack of need in the industry, causing the business or industry to shutter (i.e., travel agencies)
  • Realizing new personal values or goals later in life
  • Dislike of their employer’s or industry’s overarching culture
  • Needs for higher-paying positions, which often require additional, continuing education

Overall, as TopMBA points out, millennials make up the largest portion of this group of career switchers, changing their career trajectories an average of four times within their first decade after graduation. This trend of career switching among individuals in their mid-20s to late 30s (millennials) is taking place twice as often as for the preceding Gen X generation.

Today’s MBA program: A perfect fit for career switchers

Now that more working professionals are returning to school to support further career success after graduation, MBA programs have adjusted to take the needs of these students into account.

That’s what business school and higher education expert Marcia Annisette told the Toronto Sun, noting that less specialized MBA programs are becoming a thing of the past.

“MBA schools are increasingly differentiating their degree offerings and targeting them to niche markets,” Annisette said. “We’re seeing the demise of the one-size-fits-all or cookie-cutter MBA. There’s an increased number of specialized MBAs and more joint degrees.”

And these more tailored and flexible programs from top business schools provide MBA students with the skills and capabilities they need to pursue leading career paths, in and out of the business world.

The varied offerings of today’s MBA programs

Take, for example, the Online Master of Business Administration offered by the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. This online coursework-based program helps MBA students develop critical skills in leadership, decision-making, data analysis, communication and more. Whether they pursue job functions directly related to business or in another field, MBA graduates will have the knowledge and talent needed to support a successful career.

The MBA is a professional degree and can help graduates in their pursuit of higher-level career paths. However, the varied specializations and encompassing curriculum makes the MBA an ideal for those already working in the business field or a range of other industries.

In fact, the Smith School of Business Online MBA program offers five highly relevant and in-demand areas of specialization, including:

  • Accounting: This specialization delves into advanced, managerial-level accounting, including the ability to analyze, track and present financial information to other stakeholders within an organization. Students also learn how to leverage financial information to develop and support business strategy, and the best ways to manage these financial assets. Selective courses in this specialization explore topics including the impact of taxation on business entities, financial planning and control systems for mergers and consultants, as well as fraud examination, detection and deterrence.
  • Finance: This specialization differs from the Accounting track, and students gain skills including money and financial asset management, financial restructuring and enterprise investments. MBA students also learn about the challenges that can emerge in corporate finance and explore concepts like commercial bank management and applied equity analysis within this specialization’s selective courses.
  • Information Systems and Business Analytics: For those with more data- and technology-focused interests, there is the Information Systems and Business Analytics specialization. This concentration centers on the use of information systems, including to gather, store and analyze data quickly and accurately. As more key working processes inside and outside of the enterprise sector hinge on technology, education in this area becomes increasingly important. Students learn best practices in data management and analysis, as well as the ways to implement and utilize information systems in professional settings. Selective courses expand students’ knowledge in areas including data mining and predictive analytics, managing digital businesses and platforms, and social media and web analytics.
  • Marketing: Organizations in every industry need to engage in marketing to support their public reputations and garner interest for their products and services. In this specialization, students learn skills in data-driven and permission marketing, as well as brand management. Selective courses delve deeper into topics like creating the customer experience, consumer behavior patterns and customer equity management. Best of all, these are skills that can be applied to almost any industry.
  • Supply Chain Management: Today’s supply chains can include numerous organizational links and can be incredibly complex. MBA students learn the best strategies for managing the different parts of the supply chain successfully. This includes identifying, evaluating and mitigating any risks that might impact smooth supply chain operations, as well as the use of current technologies to keep all parties collaborating successfully. Selective courses expand students’ education in areas like global trade logistics, innovative solutions to supply chain challenges and supply chain risk management.

Students looking for a more expansive and comprehensive MBA experience can select the General Track, which provides a look at the key concepts across all five available specializations. MBA graduates in the general track are very well-rounded individuals, with skills and experience in accounting, finance, marketing, supply chain management and information systems.

What’s more, ahead of choosing a specialization area, MBA students take part in comprehensive foundational course curriculum that provides experience in an array of critical concepts. During their foundational courses, students expand their capabilities in areas including data analytics, decision modeling, entrepreneurship, leadership and teamwork, managerial accounting, marketing management, strategic information systems and supply chain management.

As this brief look at the online MBA program curriculum shows, there are ample opportunities for MBA students to gain the skills and expertise they need for a wide variety of careers. From job functions in accounting and finance, to marketing and industrial supply chains, an MBA (alongside career coaching from the Smith School Office of Career Services) can open doors to a range of new career paths. Backed by a professional MBA degree, students can confidently engage in career switching and move to a new job function or industry with experience and tenacity.

Robert H. Smith School of Business graduate survey data supports this point. MBA graduates work in an array of different job functions, including general management, finance and accounting, marketing and sales, consulting, operations and production, and others. These job functions have taken our MBA graduates to a wide variety of industries as well, including government and civil service, health care, banking and financial services, information technology, automotive and transportation, education services, consulting and many others. Check out our graduate survey data here to learn more.

Advice for career switchers: MBA career change

While there is a long list of benefits that come with pursuing an MBA, this educational pursuit is especially advantageous for those considering career switching. The skills and concepts explored through an MBA program from top business schools provide MBA students with comprehensive knowledge and experience. And, as our own Smith School of Business data shows, MBA graduates move on to successful careers in an array of job functions and industries.

Current data also shows that earning an MBA can greatly improve graduates’ earning potential. Poets&Quants reported that, depending on the industry, professionals can expect anywhere from a 40% to 65% or higher salary increase after graduating with an MBA.

If you’re ready to make the switch to a new career and want to learn more about how an MBA can help you, connect with one of our enrollment advisors for more details today.

Recommended Readings:

What you can learn about data mining and predictive analytics

How to become a market research analyst 


Careers Advice Online – Career Change Statistics

Top MBA – Career Change and MBA

Poets and Quants – Where MBAs Make the Largest Salary Leaps

University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business Online MBA

University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business Online MBA Curriculum

University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business Online MBA Careers