Career Options for MBA's

Career Possibilities for MBA Graduates?

We'll only talk about a few of the options here, but broadly defined, the categories may be finance-related jobs, careers managing people, costs, or processes, and jobs where you are running some part of a business. The last one is really a mix of the first categories, but it is useful to think of it on its own because it may really tie the whole thing together.

Accounting Careers

Accountants make sure that all of the numbers add up and that the financial statements of a company accurately reflect the state of the company. You have heard of all of the accounting frauds that have occurred in recent years. Most involve some fast growing company, like Worldcom, that started to slip a little. Next thing you know, the accountant is breaking the rules by claiming that sales happened before they really happened, or that costs didn't happen when they really did. Or, as in the case of Worldcom, money that was supposedly spent on one thing was actually spent on something else.

Being an accountant may also be the first step towards more advanced positions in the finance department of large companies. Accountants may go on to become controllers, then Vice Presidents of finance, then Chief Financial Officers.

Consulting Careers

Many people like to make fun of consultants, claining that they don't actually DO anything, but the consulting business is big business. Careers in consulting may quite frequently be very rewarding. Beyond that, the work may be incredibly interesting and rewarding. You may be tasked with solving a company's problems; you may get to interview all of the involved parties and make recommendations on how to fix the problems. And you might be frequently working on more than one project at a time, so you get to see a wide range of business situations. Large companies see consulting as a training ground that is almost as valuable as the MBA itself.

Commercial Banking Careers

Commercial banking is sometimes seen as less glamorous than investment banking or corporate finance, but it may be more rewarding in many aspects. Commercial banks are the ones who loan money locally and provide a safe place for you to keep your money and earn a fair interest rate. In a small town, everyone loves the owner of the local bank. Certainly everyone remembers how much George was loved in "It's a Wonderful Life." We should all be that lucky.

Commercial banks are usually responsible for building communities - they are the ones who are willing to loan money to people who want to build a new local factory, who want to start a new restaurant, or who simply want to buy their first home. The job entails understanding risk as well as understanding all the financial statements and projections that prospective borrowers bring in when they ask for a loan.

Commercial banking may also a very stable business, since so much of it is regulated by the federal government. The last twenty years have seen a lot of consolidation as the larger banks have bought the smaller ones.

Investment Banking

Investment banking is really two different careers molded into one. The first is Mergers and Acquisitions, commonly known as M&A. Mergers and acquisitions professionals may help companies acquire other companies or help them merge with equals. Most the work that a masters degree holder does may involve valuing companies and looking for other companies that might make a good strategic fit. The key to success may be valuing the companies correctly, and that is where the MBA training may come in. You must be able to estimate what the other company is worth before you make an offer to buy it. You must also be able to forecast how that combined company will do, where there will be cost savings, where you may have to spend extra money, and, of course, whether or not the government will allow the acquisition to occur.

Corporate Finance is very similar to M&A, but you may be acting as a banker, trying to raise money for companies. You get to help young companies like Google and Yahoo raise money so they can continue to grow. You also could help a mature company like Ford raise more money through selling debt, setting up a public stock offering, or creating a private placement. This career is all about helping the Chief Financial Officer manage his assets as efficiently as possible. Most career corporate finance executives may have earned their MBA.

Financial Planning

Ever wish you could help people invest their money better? That is exactly what financial planners may do. The good ones may have an MBA and something called a CFA or a CFP, which is a certification showing they may have taken certain courses and passed certain tests. Financial planners may guide families in their asset allocation so that the families are saving for retirement, for college, and for a rainy day. Financial planners usually work for a brokerage house like Smith Barney or independently. When independent, they can choose to put their clients money in the best possible investments.

This is a sought after career because it typically pays well. Most successful financial planners are really good at selling and at client relationships. It is largely a trust business. Still, the things you learn while earning your MBA may help you manage your relationships and understand how asset allocation works.

Money Management

Money management may be incredibly rewarding financially. Still, it is a very hard job. Your MBA may teach you the basics of money management, althought, in this career, there is no substitute for experience. You may need to know how to analyze financial statements, build financial models, and interview senior management of large companies. More importantly, you'll need to know when to be skeptical and when to be trusting of what people are telling you. One of the most famous money managers is Warren Buffet, know as the Oracle of Omaha. If you have never read one of his annual report letters from Berkshire Hathaway, you owe it to yourself to read one today.


The insurance industry is a stable, slow growth business that rewards those who are willing to work hard and stick with it. Like financial planners, the successful insurance agents are those who may be good at managing relationships and good at sales. The MBA holder may have an advantage in sales because of the prestige of the MBA moniker. The classes you take on the way to your MBA may also help, especially those about prioritization and management. There is not a lot of financial analysis to do; more insurance companies have pre-packaged information that you work from to get answers.

Real Estate

This is another industry where an MBA may be helpful but not required. In most cases, the MBA may add prestige to your position and makes people more likely to work with you. You will use the skills you learned when you put together models of renting versus owning, of potential gains from owning real estate, of tax benefits of owning a home, etc. You may also learn about marketing and presenting homes for sale. You may know what is important to share and what is better left unsaid.

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