When you think about a Master of Business Administration (MBA), what's the first career path that comes to mind? More than likely, it’s some kind of executive position (like CEO) or possibly even an entrepreneurial role. And while there's certainly some appeal to these kinds of jobs, there's much more you can do with an MBA degree than you might realize.

Understanding the Core Skills Gained From an MBA

An MBA program can teach you the practical skills needed to thrive in a variety of industries, ranging from health care and education to government, media, sustainability, and more. Some essential skills you acquire in an MBA program that are versatile enough to apply to nearly any field include:

  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Leadership and management strategy
  • Innovation and problem-solving skills
  • Decision-making abilities
  • Project management skills

Careers in the Nonprofit Sector

Just like running a business, operating a successful nonprofit organization requires a great deal of knowledge and experience in financial management, resource allocation, leadership, and program planning. With this in mind, a number of careers in the nonprofit sector can be particularly appealing to MBA graduates.

1. Program Management

Nonprofit organizations frequently need program managers to help keep their operations running as smoothly as possible. If you're interested in a role that allows you to put your program planning and management skills to use while furthering a cause that's important to you, this can be an excellent career prospect to consider with your MBA.

2. Fundraising and Development

Nonprofits rely on donations, fundraising, grants, and other forms of funding to help them further their missions. As such, they often hire directors of fundraising and development (or similar roles) to help them achieve fundraising goals throughout the year. This type of work can be an ideal opportunity for MBA graduates to use their financial planning and acumen skills.

3. Policy Analysis

Policy analysis is another potential career path in the nonprofit sector that can be a natural progression for those with MBA degrees. Policy analysts are responsible for drafting, planning, writing, and implementing new policies to keep organizations running smoothly. This type of work involves not just project management and planning skills but also negotiation, leadership, and collaboration.

Careers in Health Care

The health care industry and an MBA might not seem compatible on the surface, but the reality is that health care facilities often need professionals with business acumen to help them best serve patients while running efficiently. From hospital administration to health care consulting and more, there's a lot you can do with an MBA degree—especially if you pursue a medical industry specialization or hospital administration MBA.

4. Hospital Administration

Hospitals need experienced and knowledgeable administration in the form of program directors, health service managers, and the like. Many schools actually offer MBAs with a concentration or specialization in health care administration for this exact purpose. Graduates with this specialization gain the leadership and decision-making skills needed to run medical facilities as well as the precise industry knowledge for success in the health care field.

5. Pharmaceutical Product Management

Large pharmaceutical companies hire product managers to help them market and manage new medications and other products. From the earliest stages of development to release and ongoing research, product managers can assist with everything from audience research and marketing to advertising, regulations, and more.

6. Health Care Consulting

Health care consultants play a critical role in helping providers and medical facilities develop their services for the greater good of patients and growth of the facility itself. Often, these consultants must work closely with other members of the facility while taking other factors into careful consideration, such as patient needs and budgets. This kind of field is best suited for those with an MBA and health care management or medical industry specialization.

Careers in Education

If health care isn't quite your speed, perhaps a career in education could be right for you. Individual schools, districts, and institutions rely on experts with MBA degrees to help with various aspects of their operations.

7. Educational Leadership

Colleges, universities, and even athletics departments need leaders to help them operate their programs as efficiently and effectively as possible. Some examples of leadership roles in education you may be able to explore with an MBA include:

  • Department chairs/directors
  • Academic deans
  • Athletic directors

Those working in these positions need strong leadership skills as well as the ability to think quickly on their feet to make decisions that affect students, staff, and faculty alike.

8. Curriculum Design

School curriculum designers have a vital role in designing the blueprints of a program, class, or other learning objective. These professionals work alongside department directors, deans, and other educational leaders to develop curricula that improve student outcomes. Meanwhile, they must also collaborate with instructors and other educators—so this type of work requires considerable skill when it comes to communication, negotiation, and strategic planning in education.

9. Higher Education Administration

Higher education institutions, including colleges and universities, frequently turn to administrators with MBAs to help with everything from strategic planning and overseeing budgets to completing payroll and managing records. These types of roles can be a great way to combine your interest in business administration with a desire to make a notable impact on students' lives.

Careers in Government and Public Sector

Interested in using your MBA to work in a government or public sector role? There is no shortage of options, from urban planning to finance to diplomacy and international relations. Many of these positions allow you to apply management and leadership skills from your MBA program directly to a government or public sector role.

10. City and Urban Planning

Urban planning and design are essential to how we live and function in our own spaces. Specifically, urban planners and city planners are responsible for making decisions based on predictions of population growth, mapping, zoning, natural resources, and more. In addition to these technical skills, urban planners often serve in management and leadership roles; they can use skills acquired from their MBAs to better communicate and negotiate with other stakeholders during the planning process.

11. Public Finance

Cities, towns, counties, and governmental agencies also need public finance officers to manage their revenue, debt, expenditures, and other aspects of their finances. These professionals should have a strong business background, which is why MBA graduates are often hired for this type of work.

12. Diplomacy and International Relations

If you dream of making a difference with your MBA, consider relevant roles in diplomacy and international relations. Some examples of positions you could qualify for include interpreter, intelligence specialist, political consultant, and international marketing specialist. Generally, people in these roles need to have strong business backgrounds along with business school skills such as communication, negotiation, and leadership.

Careers in Media and Entertainment

Media and entertainment probably aren't the first industries that come to mind when you think about a business degree—but in reality, these fields are constantly hiring business professionals for roles in talent management, production management, and more.

13. Talent Management

Actors and other entertainers often hire talent managers to help them find new work. These managers can represent one or multiple clients at once, working with them to identify their strengths and find applicable work opportunities as they arise. A strong business background is valuable as a talent manager, as you need to help represent your clients' best financial interests.

14. Production Management

Film sets, television shows, and other productions also hire MBAs to assist with the logistics of planning, filming, and related activities surrounding these productions. This involves some substantial project management experience as well as the ability to collaborate and work well with others. Many times, professionals with an MBA in media management are the first ones considered for this kind of work.

15. Content Strategy

From the smallest projects to the largest productions, the media and entertainment industry relies heavily on content strategists to keep things filming and on schedule. Content strategists manage and touch many steps of the creation process, including creating and sticking to a schedule, assigning projects, delegating tasks, and working with all production crew members to ensure everything is running smoothly. These individuals might also be copywriters, editors, or marketers for particular organizations.

Careers in the Environment and Sustainability

If you'd like to put your business skills to use for the sake of our planet, then careers in the environment and sustainability may be a good fit. From environmental policy to renewable energy management and more, there are plenty of post-MBA opportunities in this rewarding field.

16. Sustainable Business Consulting

These days, more businesses are seeking to optimize sustainability within their operations. Many times, they turn to sustainable business consultants to help them do just that. This type of work allows MBA graduates to apply their skills in planning, financing, budgeting, and management to make a real difference.

17. Environmental Policy

Additionally, those with MBAs make excellent candidates for positions in environmental policy, such as policy analysts and specialists. These professionals play a key role in drafting, writing, editing, and advocating for environmental policies that help to reduce air pollution, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions.

18. Renewable Energy Management

More businesses are also turning to renewable energy as a means of reducing their own carbon footprints and helping the environment. Thus, they may hire renewable energy managers to help them plan and implement more efficient and environmentally friendly energy practices. This could include moving to solar power or wind energy in a way that suits their budget and operational needs. Renewable energy managers should demonstrate business acumen with a finance background.

Learn More, Today

As you can see, the possibilities for nontraditional MBA paths with this degree are nearly limitless. Whether you're interested in urban planning, marketing, or working to save the environment, the ideal MBA program could supply you with the necessary skills to take advantage of post-MBA opportunities that come your way.

Still looking for the right MBA program to suit your career goals and aspirations? The University of Minnesota is proud to provide a fully online Master of Business Administration program through our Carlson School of Management. This 52-credit program blends components of business fundamentals with a range of industry-specific electives that help custom-tailor your education.

Learn more about our MBA program by requesting more information—or start your online application today.