Someone who is determined to cultivate their leadership skills and who dreams of becoming a business executive should consider obtaining a degree in business management. There are undergraduate and graduate business schools, and many offer majors, specializations or concentrations in management while others simply provide a general management education.
Business management focuses on the art and science of running complex organizations and supervising others. Excellent business managers are versatile individuals with a wide range of skills, including the creativity necessary to dream up outstanding business ideas and the intuition required to foresee and prevent potential disasters for their companies. They need to be precise thinkers and communicators, and they must be able to lay out clear plans for their subordinates.
These individuals should also be strategic to avoid setting unrealistic goals and meticulous to avoid missing key details and making catastrophic decisions. The most effective business managers tend to be highly charismatic people who have a knack for inspiring others and generating goodwill.
Howard Yu, the LEGO Professor of Management and Innovation at IMD Business School in Switzerland, says the mission of a management program is to show students how to make smart decisions and to give them a “holistic point of view” that enables them to appreciate the multifaceted nature of a business enterprise.
“You basically need to integrate all these disciplines to make wise choices as you lead a company,” he says.
“To highlight a few, graduates assume roles within the financial, marketing, supply chain, hospitality, tech, transportation, and energy fields,” Mulvihill wrote in an email. “We also find that many even pursue entrepreneurial options and create their own business or work for start-ups.”
A Wide Array of Job Options for Business Managers
Management faculty at business schools say that a management degree is applicable in every sector of the economy, since neither a for-profit company nor a nonprofit organization can survive long without competent management. They acknowledge that careers within technical business disciplines such as accounting and finance tend to offer better starting salaries to entry-level workers than general management careers do. However, they note that the breadth of skills cultivated via a business management degree tends to be highly beneficial in the long run, since it prepares someone to work within multiple divisions of a company and to collaborate with a variety of coworkers.
Furthermore, in contrast to entrepreneurship programs that focus on how to start companies and expand start-ups, management programs tend to have a broader scope, business school faculty say. Management students typically learn how to lead organizations at various stages of their development, including both embryonic businesses and well-established corporations. Hiring managers sometimes worry that somebody with an entrepreneurship degree is unlikely to stay as a long-term employee, but don’t typically have this concern with someone who has a management credential, according to B-school faculty.
Individuals with economics degrees often have job prospects similar to those of people with management degrees, faculty say, noting that knowledge of how the economy works is useful in all industries. They advise prospective management students to consider taking courses in economics.
The versatility and portability of a management degree is a major selling point for the degree, according to recipients and recruiters.
“Learning general business acumen can open a lot of doors in a lot of different fields,” Sam Olmsted, who majored in both management and finance at Tulane University in Louisiana, wrote in an email.
“I went into search engine optimization and content marketing, but other graduates might just as easily go into finance, accounting, sales, government, entrepreneurship, and project management,” adds Olmsted, who works as director of search and content at Online Optimism, a digital marketing agency in New Orleans.
Experts say that a business management degree is a marketable credential for each of the following positions:
- Business analyst.
- Compensation specialist.
- Financial analyst.
- Financial director.
- Human resources manager.
- Investment banker.
- Management consultant.
- Marketing analyst.
- Marketing director.
- Nonprofit manager.
- Private equity analyst or associate.
- Project manager.
- Sales representative.
- Talent acquisition specialist.
- Venture capital analyst or associate.
- Vice president of finance.
- Vice president of marketing.
Harry Kaiser, associate dean for academic affairs at Cornell University’s Charles Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management in New York, suggests that job options for business management degree recipients is so varied that the “sky is the limit.” Kaiser notes that alumni of Cornell’s undergraduate business program often wind up with prestigious jobs in New York City and sometimes work for renowned companies like Goldman Sachs and Ernst & Young.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment within management occupations will be 5% higher in 2029 than in 2019, which is faster than the 4% anticipated average job growth rate among all occupations during that time frame.
“Employment growth is expected to be driven by the formation of new organizations and expansion of existing ones, which should require more workers to manage these operations,” the bureau states on its website. “The median annual wage for management occupations was $105,660 in May 2019, which was the highest wage of all the major occupational groups.”
Bryce Bowman, who earned his MBA degree from the Carlson School of Management at University of Minnesota—Twin Cities, noted in an email that an advantage of a business management degree is that it doesn’t buttonhole someone into a particular niche within the business world.
“Further, the collaborative nature of work today requires employees to work well with peers in other functional areas,” wrote Bowman, founder of the People First Planning financial consulting firm in Minneapolis.
Bowman explained during a phone interview that business management programs tend to be “more general” than programs in particular business disciplines and that they often include a wide array of business courses, including classes in marketing and human resources.
Jeff Hyman, the CEO of Recruit Rockstars – a Chicago-based executive recruiting company – teaches a course on recruiting at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management in Illinois. Although he has undergraduate and graduate degrees in business, he acknowledges that it is possible to excel in a business leadership role without a business management degree.
However, Hyman says that an upside of obtaining a business management degree is that it provides the business savvy necessary to quickly perform well at a new job.
“One of the key things that an employer is looking for is how long it takes for you to add value and contribute and, frankly, cover your cost,” he says.