Best-paying MBA majors
Do you want your MBA to pay off with a high salary? Then choose your MBA concentration carefully. Here's a look at seven high-paying MBA specialties.
If you want your MBA to pay off, choose your area of concentration carefully.
What is an MBA? An MBA is a Master of Business Administration, a graduate-level degree given to a student who graduates from a business school program.
"Getting a higher degree is not always a win, so you really have to be aware of [the difference between] what is common in your field and what is desired in your field,” says Katie Bardaro, lead analyst at PayScale.com.
In some fields, such as finance, an MBA is practically a requirement, even for entry-level jobs. In areas like technology, however, experience in the field may be more important.
Certifications can be almost as valuable, depending on the field. For example, the Chartered Financial Analyst certification—earned by passing a difficult three-part exam—can in some ways set you apart more than an MBA, Bardaro says.
Here’s a look at seven common high-paying MBA specializations ranked by graduates’ typical mid-career earnings. For comparison, the average mid-career pay for all MBAs, regardless of specialty, is $104,000.
Median Mid-Career Pay: $121,000
Finance is known as an MBA-heavy field, even at the junior level. Financial analysts and portfolio managers often either have an MBA or are working on one.
"It's very common," Bardaro says. "If you want to stay in the field and everyone else in that field has an MBA, obviously, you don't want to fall behind."
Common jobs and salaries for MBAs with a finance concentration include:
Median Mid-Career Pay: $116,000
With the relentless pace of globalization, organizations need professionals who know how to conduct business around the globe. That need has increased the demand—even at US-based companies—for graduates with degrees in international business. Salaries vary by industry, but tend to be on the high end of the range.
Popular jobs and pay for MBAs who concentrate in international business include:
Median Mid-Career Pay: $113,000
Unlike finance, marketing is not an area that requires an MBA for low-level jobs. Still, it has become more common for workers to get MBAs in this field, in part due to the economy.
"A lot of people went off to get graduate degrees because they couldn't find jobs," says Bardaro. This is also true, she says, in HR and accounting.
Common jobs and salaries for MBAs who specialize in marketing include:
Median Mid-Career Pay: $106,000
An MBA in information systems can be a path to achieving an executive-level career in IT—provided that you have a passion for computers and on-the-job experience proving that you can solve problems in a real-world environment.
Common jobs and salaries for MBAs who focus on information systems include:
Median Mid-Career Pay: $102,000
Some may be surprised that the technology management MBA isn't higher on the list in terms of salary. This is partly because management jobs in the technology sector don't necessarily require an MBA.
"Usually people who move into technology management positions started off as developers, software engineers [or] software architects, and move into [management] roles because they have a better understanding of the technology," Bardaro says.
Typical jobs and pay for MBAs with a technology management concentration include:
Median Mid-Career Pay: $96,900
There are pros and cons to doing a general MBA concentration like business management. On the plus side, you won't be pigeonholed into a specific job. People with MBAs in business management often go into consulting, which can be lucrative. On the downside, a general-degree holder might lose out to a candidate with a specific concentration. A company searching for a marketing director, for example, may prefer someone with an MBA in marketing.
Common jobs and pay for MBAs who specialize in business management include:
Median Mid-Career Pay: $84,000
The MBA in accounting—a popular advanced degree among professional number crunchers—can lead to jobs from staff accountant to CFO.
Common jobs and salary levels for MBA graduates who concentrate in accounting include:
Source: All salary data and pay comparisons provided by online salary database PayScale.com. Median mid-career pay is defined as the national median (50th percentile) annual total cash compensation at 10 or more years of experience for MBA graduates. Total cash compensation includes base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions and other forms of cash earnings, as applicable. It does not include equity (stock) compensation, cash value of retirement benefits or value of other noncash benefits (e.g., health insurance).