Graduating from college with a business degree or grad school with an MBA is quite an accomplishment. However, unlike some other niche degrees, a business degree doesn’t necessarily lead you into a specific career, nevertheless one of the best paying careers out there. If you’re like most college graduates, you’d prefer a fairly lucrative career to get you off on the right financial footing and pay down that student debt.
Even though a business degree is generally thought of as the stepping stone to a big paycheck, that’s not necessarily true. It depends on having the right connections, plenty of self-motivation, and in many cases, a little luck. Sometimes, higher-paying positions require a couple of years of experience, or at least a highly regarded internship in college, to gain a little experience before you can truly garner the big bucks.
However, there are certain fields and career that pay better than others, some of which are just right for a business grad to aim for.
If you’re good with money, consider applying for a financial manager position. In this career, which usually begins with a degree in business administration (or other financial-related majors), you will oversee the finances of a company, working with a team to produce financial reports, cash-flow statements, profit projections, and other financial analysis tools. It takes a detail- and numbers-oriented person who can meet a deadline.
While it’s a difficult job, financial managers are typically well compensated for their efforts. The median annual wages in 2011 were about $107,000; the highest-paid professionals worked in New York City and northern California. Sometimes, where you work can make all the difference in a salary.
This position might require obtaining a master’s degree in business administration, finance, or economics, as well as certifications or licenes. If you can’t obtain a management position right away, get your foot in the door by taking a job in the finance department of a major company.
Many universities offer business degrees with a concentration in marketing, and for good reason – a savvy marketer has both the creative ability to properly market a product or service as well as business sense.
It’s all about getting a product into the consumer’s mindset, making them want it and feeling like it’s relevant to their life. That’s a tough task, so the average earnings of a marketing manager top $116,000, while the top earners near $190,000. To be closer to that top number, move to Massachusetts, San Francisco, or New York City.
If a marketing manager position is out of reach immediately after college, aim for a position within the department, such as social media marketer, communications manager, or marketing analyst.
This is one of the most common-sense career paths for a business major – actually running a business. The operations manager of a company needs to be able to multitask, as he works with multiple departments within the company to achieve the end goal. In order to do this, an operations manager must be a good leader and capable of hiring and communicating with effective team members, think strategically, operate under a budget, and understand the company through and through.
Although this won’t necessarily earn you a triple-digit salary – the average annual earning hovers around $95,000 – you can earn nearly $200,000 in a lucrative position (most often stationed in New Jersey and New York City).
Right out of college, you might work as an assistant operations manager to learn more about the company and the industry.
Although sales jobs don’t always require an employee to have a degree, a business degree can make your step to management much more attainable. In this position, you will focus on distributing a company’s products to their customers, creating long- and short-term sales targets, setting and meeting quotas, and working with sales associates to obtain their goals.
In a sales position, your salary is often based on commission, which means you earn based on how successful you are. On average, you can expect to earn approximately $101,000; the top earners make around $187,000 annually. Highest earners work in New York City and certain areas of Massachusetts.
If you can’t obtain a management position immediately, focus on working as a sales associate or representative and consistently exceeding target goals and quotas.
Although you can’t actually apply for a job as an entrepreneur, that’s the path many graduates with a business degree choose – and it can be incredibly lucrative, if you play your cards right. However, this career path is also incredibly hard work, involving long days, night and weekend work, and a fair amount of support from those around you, as well as being in the right place at the right time.
If you have an idea for a company, your responsibility as an entrepreneur is to develop the business plan, obtain financial support from investors, and then launch the business, assuming complete responsibility for the outcome.
Your salary will depend on the company’s success. It could range from as little as $10,000 to an incredibly lucrative $1 million annually.
Although a business degree doesn’t mean immediate success, it does open up your options to a variety of fields and careers. Once you’ve successfully completed your degree, take it upon yourself to show your employer your drive, talent, and intelligence – and in the end, it might end up being one of the best-paying careers out there.
Kelsey Castle is a freelance writer and editor with a degree from a Big 10 University. She enjoys writing about business and education and profiling the best-paying careers.