How Does an MBA Prepare You for the C-Suite?

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Collegues gathered around a table in a meeting with CEO.

How does one climb the ranks within the business world? A qualified mix of intuition, leadership experience and advanced education.

Below we discuss how a Master of Business Administration prepares you for executive roles as well as what you can expect from life in the c-suite.

Becoming an expert in your field

To be an effective member of the c-suite, you need the right knowledge to oversee a successful operation. From management principles and strategic planning to industry trends and technology, c-suite executives are often the brightest of the bunch.

As such, these executive positions come with necessary educational requirements. An MBA degree can not only enhance your overall business expertise, professional intelligence, and management skills but also tailor your studies to a particular industry or business practice. With specialized expertise, you can qualify for more specific c-suite roles, like chief operational officer or chief marketing officer. After completing your degree, you’ll walk away with the ability to see corporations at the macro level, while also understanding the nuances of particular areas of the business world.

The Smith Online MBA degree program, for instance, broadens your overall perspective of the business world but also offers detailed examinations of various business areas. That way you can choose the specialization that best suits your interests and career pursuits. Select from the General Track or one of five specializations, including:

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Information Systems and Business Analytics
  • Marketing
  • Supply Chain Management

With focused learning, you can acquire the advanced knowledge necessary to excel your career to the highest ranks.

Heading to the top with advanced skills

Advanced degree programs are designed to enhance the skills that you’ll need to apply in a c-suite role. Executives are responsible for providing overall direction for employees and determining appropriate policies and procedures. Strategic decision making, critical thinking, and complex problem solving are vital skills for success in these executive positions.

An MBA further prepares you to manage budgets with confidence, negotiate deals with finesse, leverage industry trends for effective strategic planning, lead with applied skill, and use industry-leading tools and technology. Coursework and collaboration with peers can also help you communicate clearly and concisely, earning respect and understanding from employees and the rest of the c-suite for your ideas. The Smith online MBA program especially focuses on strategic data analysis for informed, forward-thinking decision making. Experiential learning and collaborative online tools also apply and enhance business skills in ways that mimic real-world application.

From the classroom to c-suite, you’ll also apply skills such as:

  • Systems analysis and evaluation
  • Strategic planning and development
  • Team and department management
  • Operations management
  • Personal time management
  • Active listening
  • Proactive application of client and employee feedback

The experiential learning opportunities integrated within the program’s curriculum allow you to practice and master these essential skills before showing the c-suite all you have to offer.

Earning top titles

While the CEO remains the biggest fish in the sea, there are a variety of roles that make up the c-suite. Most require more than just business acumen, especially when leading a specific department, such as technology or marketing. As such, depending on your particular brand of expertise and degree focus, you can pursue c-suite job titles and roles such as:

  • Chief Diversity Officer
  • Chief Data Officer
  • Chief Analytics Officer
  • Chief Creative Officer
  • Chief Brand Officer
  • Chief Privacy Officer
  • Chief Human Resources Officer
  • Chief Technology Officer
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Chief Marketing Officer
  • Chief Information Officer
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Executive Director
  • Executive Vice President
  • Chief Executive Officer

Of course, there are top executives in every industry, and job outlook will depend on the companies and focus areas on which you choose to center your attention. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, top executive roles should grow about as fast as the national average, with about 193,100 roles added to the workforce between 2016 and 2026. However, the Bureau noted that employment growth varies by occupation as well as industry-specific growth. For instance, the data suggests a greater increase in general and operation manager positions than in chief executive officer roles.

Regardless of the position they hold, those with advanced degrees and extensive leadership experience can expect to have higher chances of obtaining the best job prospects.

Securing executive income

With a master’s degree and relevant experience on your resume, you may have higher earning potential. The average salary for top executive roles is $104,980, according to the most recent data from the BLS. However, that average jumps to $189,600 when considering only chief executive salaries.

Salary potential in the c-suite also varies depending on the industry. The BLS reported that average chief executive in top industries are as follows:

  • Professional, scientific and technical services: $208,000
  • Manufacturing: $208,000
  • Health care and social assistance: $173,770
  • Government: $110,830

The same industry variance applies to general and operations managers. The BLS compiled average earnings, including:

  • Professional, scientific and technical services: $138,520
  • Manufacturing: $116,650
  • Wholesale trade: $107,160
  • Construction: $101,380
  • Retail trade: $72,890

As with job titles, level of education and expertise can also influence salary potential. Added to that, years of experience can help increase your pay. According to data from PayScale, chief executives with less than five years of experience earn an average of $113,580 per year, while those late in their careers can earn closer to $192,355.

Opening up priceless professional doors

When you pursue an advanced degree, you can prepare for the executive roles of your dreams. The Smith Online MBA program makes it easy for you to continue gaining the necessary professional experience while completing your coursework, further accelerating your journey to the top. Reach out to an advisor to learn more about the online MBA degree program offered at Maryland Smith—and make your first step toward the c-suite.


Recommended Readings:

4 ways an MBA can help with an entrepreneurial career

How to take your management skills to the next level



Online Master of Business Administration by the University of Maryland

Summary Report for Chief Executives by ONET Online

Top Executives by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Chief Executive Officer Salary by PayScale