How to Narrow Down a Career with an MBA

A Master of Business Administration degree can take students in a variety of directions after graduation. The management-specific skills and knowledge cultivated by program participants can be applied to a wide variety of contexts, from health services and marketing to an untold number of other industries and positions. Beyond the MBA program’s focus on leadership, there’s no specific career path or industry that graduates are expected to enter. Instead, they have a wide range of potential opportunities.

The many different opportunities associated with an online MBA degree are certainly an advantage for students pursuing this path, but many learners enter the program with specific career options in mind or develop them as they take courses. How can those in the MBA program narrow down their choices and focus on the areas of the economy and roles that are the most relevant, interesting, and potentially rewarding? Narrowing down your career path is an important part of making the most of an MBA degree.

Below, we’ve highlighted some of the potential career opportunities you can pursue, plus the steps you can take to channel your career focus.

Team of MBA students working together on a project.

What are my potential career options?

Graduating with an MBA opens up a sea of opportunity in the career department — where you’ll end up may depend on your industry of interest, the present job outlook, and a role’s potential salary. Here are some prospective career paths to consider as you narrow down your search after earning your master’s degree:

Chief Executive Officer

As a CEO, you would take responsibility for planning strategies and policies in your organization in an effort to meet bottom-line goals, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In this position, you would direct and oversee budget activities, negotiate contracts and agreements, and consult with other executives and staff members to ensure a steady workflow. You can pursue this career in any industry, as CEOs are essential to the success of both small and large companies.

The job outlook for CEOs is expected to grow 8% between 2020 and 2030 according to the BLS, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Additionally, the median salary for chief executives as of May 2020 was $185,950, making for a comfortable wage. 

Logistics Director

As a logistician or logistics director, you would be responsible for coordinating a plan to organize and maintain a business’s supply chain. This would involve managing the lifecycle of a specific product or service from design to market, allocating and devising plans for everything from materials to goods transportation. While the BLS reports the median salary for a logistics professional is on the lower end in comparison to these other positions (coming in at $76,270 as of May 2020), the job outlook is very promising, with an expected increase of 30% over the next decade.

Medical and Health Services Managers

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in health care, you can earn a median salary of $104,280 as a medical or health services manager, according to the BLS. Responsibilities fall under the umbrella of coordinating medical services — developing departmental goals, ensuring compliance standards, managing finances and budgets, creating work schedules, and organizing medical records. It’s expected that over 50,000 job openings will arise every year from now until 2030 — with a 32% projected growth rate, there are a lot of opportunities to pursue this career.

Financial Manager

Financial managers are responsible for creating financial statements and reports, assisting with investments, and creating game plans for helping an organization reach its financial goals over a long period of time. With this career, you would generally work for a bank, investment firm, or insurance company, according to the BLS. The job outlook is very promising: Employment for financial managers is anticipated to grow nearly 17% from 2020 to 2030, at a much faster pace than average, and the median annual wage is $134,180.

Marketing Manager

As a marketing manager, you would work directly with one or more businesses to plan strategies and campaigns to better promote products or services for an organization. This may involve developing contests and giveaways, building advertising plans, revamping the company’s social media presence and website, and initiating market research studies to analyze the potential for business growth and success. The job outlook is set to expand about as fast as the average of all other occupations at 10% growth, and the median salary is $141,490, according to the BLS.

Management positions are generally the route graduates seek to take after earning an MBA degree, and earning an MBA, as well as having years of professional experience, are essential gateways to gaining one of these high-earning leadership positions.

Young MBA professional working on a computer.

Strategies for narrowing a career path with an MBA

Draw on past experiences

There are a variety of different strategies for prospective and current students to consider as they determine what their post-graduation career plans will be. One of the simplest and most direct is to consider past work experiences and research career paths and topics connected to past roles.

For example, an especially enjoyable previous role in a specific field — whether information technology, life sciences, marketing, or something entirely different — can help students choose where to focus their job search upon graduation. Although the specific roles being sought by MBA holders will be more advanced than the positions held before earning a master’s-level education.

Engage in self-led research

Independent research is also important to consider. It’s impossible to gain firsthand exposure to all industries and roles, so learning more about the basics of a given role through online searches and conversations with contacts in a specific industry can go a long way toward steering graduates. It’s a simple enough task to seek more information, but it’s a vital first step for narrowing potential career choices and finding an option that makes the most sense for individual skill sets, desires, and competencies.

Leverage new and existing contacts

One of the strengths of an MBA program is the networking opportunities participants enjoy as they form relationships with educators and fellow students. Current program participants can turn to their professors as well as students who have already graduated. Students can also consider the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s broader alumni network and the school’s Career Center as resources for learning more about potential positions and the specifics of a variety of career roles.

Consider career path assessments

Outside testing can help students and graduates alike determine their specific interests, abilities, and priorities in a way that self-reflection can’t. While reaching a decision from one’s perspective is always a critical consideration for students and graduates, a dependable testing protocol can reveal reasons why a certain career path would be a great fit. That’s true even when a specific field might not have ever been a consideration.

Certain testing programs are widely used by institutions offering MBA degrees to help students gain more perspective on potential career paths. Investing the relatively small amount of time required, often just a few hours or less, pays off by providing a new and insightful perspective on possible employment options.

Utilize the concentrations in the UAB MBA program

With a potential career path in mind, students can use the UAB MBA program to further define their preferred area of focus and develop relevant skills. The curriculum includes four concentrations, along with the more basic general track. Students can choose to learn more about finance, marketing, management information systems, and health services.

This quartet of specializations ties into a far greater number of specific careers and roles. Whether a program participant wants to take a leadership role in a highly technical aspect of IT or focus on general leadership and business-focused decision-making in the health care world, opportunities to learn more about these fields are a key component of the overall MBA experience offered by UAB.

Students who choose to participate in a concentration benefit from an additional nine credit hours of courses targeted squarely at their chosen field. That includes traditional classes as well as directed study options in both the marketing and health services concentrations that allow students to choose a relevant topic not covered in an existing course. The benefits of combining a strong, general MBA education with more targeted learning produce students who have a grasp of broadly applicable management principles as well as more unique skills and knowledge tied to their chosen professions.

Graduating from UAB with your career-focused MBA

An MBA degree that gives students relevant industry experience is a major asset, no matter their specific post-graduation plans or first role. This kind of focused learning is beneficial on its own. Combined with the asynchronous learning environment offered by UAB’s online MBA degree program, the high-quality faculty and the ability to structure higher education around an existing schedule, students realize a variety of advantages that help them do the most with their degrees. To learn more, get in touch with an enrollment advisor today.

Recommended Readings:

What sets the online program at UAB apart from the rest?

What is the general industry outlook for MBA graduates?


Bureau of Labor Statistics: Top Executives

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Financial Managers

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Marketing Managers

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Logistics Director

Bureau of Labor Statistics: Medical and Health Services Managers

UAB Student Affairs: Career and Professional Development Decide on Your Career Path

UAB Collat School of Business: Course Descriptions MBA

UAB Collat School of Business: Online MBA Degree Program

UAB Collat School of Business: Brochure