While hot degrees come and go, the classic MBA is here to stay. Since the first program was offered by Harvard University back in 1908, the Masters of Business Administration degree has remained the most-respected business credential today.1

Like a Swiss Army knife, MBA programs provide students many different business ‘tools’, all under one program. This broader curriculum prepares students not only for finance and banking, but also roles in consulting, government, technology and more.

Typical MBA programs include a diverse offering of core courses such as finance, accounting, management, marketing, investments, ethics and economics. This curriculum provides a knowledge base many employers covet for positions ranging from corporate finance and asset management to compliance and operations.

Benefits of an MBA

Higher Pay

An MBA has several benefits for aspiring business professionals. Degree holders enjoy the increased compensation and job security that generally accompanies the credential.

The average professional simply earns more money with an MBA. According to Payscale, the average salary for Masters of Business Administration degree holders is $84,000 versus $61,000 for the undergraduate Bachelors in Business Administration (BBA) degree.2,3

A 2017 Financial Times study painted an even rosier picture. Participants reported an average salary of $142,000, three years after completing an MBA program.4 More remarkable, this represented a 100% increase in salary since beginning the MBA program (roughly a 5-year time frame).5 Of course, the MBA decision needs to be weighed against the program’s tuition cost.

As you can see, employers clearly reward the initiative, especially when also working full-time. While difficult to do, the flexibility of an online MBA program makes it possible to earn the degree while working. Some of these programs can be completed online in just over a year, increasing the value proposition by reducing the opportunity cost associated with a lengthy commitment.

Career Development

But the benefits of earning an MBA go beyond just compensation-there’s substantial career development as well. Depending on the school, MBA students can land internships, make valuable connections and apply their studies in real world scenarios.

Finding a program with the right faculty is also important when selecting an MBA program. Consider programs where faculty serves on corporate boards or professional organizations. This could provide students with further development and networking opportunities.

Some programs will end with an inclusive Capstone project which draws upon all the skills learned in the program. Often, these projects assist local businesses via strategic analysis or consulting.

Finally, MBA programs prepare students for the workplace. In addition to the knowledge learned, the group structure of grad school coursework, students get a preview of what future work projects are like.

MBA Concentrations

While MBAs, by design, offer expansive learning, certain “specializations” have emerged to complement the base curriculum. Known as concentrations or majors, they afford students the opportunity to explore a particular niche without committing an entire degree to it.

Certain employers are looking for candidates with this more specialized understanding. For example, an entrepreneurship concentration might appeal to a venture capital firm, a bank may seek out compliance insight, marketing know-how might appeal to a mutual fund company while a private equity firm might require a finance emphasis.

Finance is the most popular concentration, so the degree would technically be called an MBA with a Concentration in Finance or simple an ‘MBA in Finance’.6 Other concentrations include, compliance, accounting, entrepreneurship, and marketing.

The way concentrations are structured is as follows-the core courses stay the same, while three or four additional elective courses are completed in the ‘specialized’ subject. For example, John’s Hopkins University’s Flex MBA in Financial Business program requires students to complete classes from the following sample of electives:

Hopkins MBA graduates have been employed at many top firms including Accenture, Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte, Lockheed Martin and Morgan Stanley.

Competition for the MBA Program

Other Masters Degrees

MBA programs have no shortage of competitors, including other Masters programs and financial designations. These Masters programs offer the latest contemporary themes like Big Data Analytics, Fraud Management, Compliance and Risk Management. These disciplines are all great-if you know you want to enter that specific niche.

Additionally, the mass adoption of financial designations has provided another alternative to MBAs. Many of these designations have shorter completion times than MBAs with less cost. But they generally don’t command the same compensation as an MBA and lack many of the softer skills like networking and teamwork.

Some designations, such as the CFA or CFP are a serious consideration for financial planning or investment management paths. Keep in mind, these programs can take three or four years to complete. With some MBA programs taking as little as 15 months to complete, there is a real opportunity cost to consider.

MBA Opportunities

As a testament how versatile the degree has become, we found two examples of MBAs being actively recruited by non-financial companies-one in full-time roles and the other through a summer internship program.

Technology Firms Recruiting MBAs

We’ve reported on the push by tech companies to hire finance professionals-here’s another example. There’s an active MBA recruitment campaign by Ft. Lauderdale-based Ultimate Software. Their ‘MBA Rotation Program” offers talented MBA graduates a 15-month development program with the company-the main purpose being to groom these professionals for leadership roles.

These MBA graduates will rotate between several of Ultimate’s business units-product, relationship management, development, information services, sales, global delivery and customer success and service. Upon completion of the training program, they will be asked to join the Product, Information Services or Development units.

Even though the technology firm was created through technical prowess, they realize that further development will be guided through broader business skills. It’s a great opportunity for professionals who want a financial position without the traditional environment, such as a bank. Ultimate Software is a vibrant, fast-growing tech company, consistently ranked atop various ‘Best Places to Work’ lists. In fact, Fortune ranked Ultimate Software the #1 on the 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials for 2018.7

Summer Internships

Following past success, the consumer staple giant announced another summer internship program where MBA candidates contribute to projects in various departments and participate in meaningful volunteer work.

Reynolds American International recognizes the skills offered MBA candidates and uses the talent pool to find their future leaders. All candidates must currently be enrolled in an MBA program and completed one year of full-time curriculum.8

Previous RAI interns have researched the company’s working capital position. This is a key liquidity metric followed by analysts to assess how easily a company can meet short-term expenses. ‘Current’ means able to be converted into cash within one year. It is calculated as the difference between current assets and current liabilities on the company’s balance sheet.

This aids RAI management in optimizing revenue without threatening liquidity. The results might translate into tangible strategies such as new payment policies with suppliers and vendors. A deficient working capital position often leads to higher costs of capital.

The internship is located at corporate offices in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and housing is included. When weighing financial career options, consider this opportunity.

An MBA program is a smart path to pursuing a career in financial, regardless of the industry. And with the many online and accelerated programs, now is a great time to get the ball rolling on your financial future.