How an MBA Can Help With Career Change

By Julia Califano · December 26, 2023 · 7 minute read

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How an MBA Can Help With Career Change

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is a popular degree for professionals looking to change their career or industry, move up within their company, and increase their earning potential. An MBA not only opens doors but, during your course of study, you typically have access to a variety of experiential learning opportunities. This can give you a chance to “try on” different jobs and find the industry and role that suits you best.

Reputable business schools also generally have strong job placement rates in multiple industries and tend to attract a wide mix of corporate recruiters. Indeed, MBA graduates frequently enter fields that are dramatically different from the areas they worked in prior to business school.

Whether you’re thinking about going to business school, are in the process of getting your MBA, or already have an MBA, here’s a look at how you can use this degree as a tool for career reinvention.

Exploring Career Change Opportunities

Before pursuing an MBA or using your MBA to change careers, it’s important to fully think through why you want a career change and exactly what you want to do with your MBA degree. Here are some steps that can help you find a career that matches your interest, skills, and core values.

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Identifying Interests and Transferable Skills

When considering a career change, it’s often helpful to look at the areas where you’ve achieved success and satisfaction in the past, including both your academic and professional career. Looking at these highlights can provide clues into what interests you, what you’re good at, as well as how you might use those skills in a new field.

As you brainstorm, you may want to speak with friends, family members, and your professional network to bounce off ideas and get input on where they could envision you working and thriving. It might also be helpful to speak with a recruiter at a staffing agency or a professional career counselor.

Researching Industries and Job Markets

You might next create a list of careers you’d consider outside of your current industry, then research what job prospects look like in each area. You can use the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment projections to discover the fastest-growing jobs, along with sites that track average salaries and list top-paying jobs and companies by industry.

Recommended: Is Getting an MBA Worth It?

Exploring an MBA for a Career Change

An MBA is a comprehensive program that can give you an opportunity to update and enhance your existing knowledge and skills and put them into practice. It can also be ideal for exploring different avenues in business management to identify what works best for you.

While completing your degree, you’ll likely get exposed to a range of different business roles. You may discover that you have a passion for finance, strategy, or analysis, or maybe that you are interested in starting your own business as an entrepreneur.

MBA programs can also offer valuable networking opportunities, since they attract a wide variety of students who will likely go on to have business careers. Most B-schools also offer access to vast alumni networks and career fairs to offer additional chances to connect with potential employers and help build your professional network.

Recommended: Tips on How to Pay for MBA School

Choosing the Right MBA Program

To build a new career path with an MBA, it’s important to find an MBA program that fits your particular interests and goals. You might look for programs that offer specialized concentrations that match your desired career path. You can then take a close look at the curriculum and courses to see if they spark your interest.

Geographical location of the college is also something to consider, since it’s generally easier to explore jobs or pursue internships in the local area while completing your MBA.

It’s also a good idea to check the employment report of the previous years to know how many students have successfully managed career transitions and which companies tend to recruit from the school. Consider reaching out to alumni to obtain feedback about the program and their experiences.

Recommended: Examining the True Cost of An MBA Degree

Leveraging MBA Internships

An internship allows you to gain practical experience in a new field and see if it’s a good fit for you while also earning a stipend. Completing a summer or in-school internship during business school is important for all business school students, but it’s particularly key for those who are looking to make a significant career change.

Completing an internship in your target industry or function can also help connect you with the relevant contacts that can shape your next career and help you pursue and achieve your goals. For some career-switchers, a B-school internship can turn into a full-time job after graduation.

Tips for Using an MBA for a Career Change

Once you’ve been out in the work world, changing careers can feel like a mountain to climb, even if you have an additional degree. Here are some tips that can help you navigate a successful career transition.

Crafting a Compelling Career Change Story

Before you start writing your resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn profile, you’ll want to have a clear idea of what your career change story is. What are the main reasons why you decided to switch careers? What are the skills and qualities that you have developed or transferred from your previous roles? How do they relate to your target industry or position? What are the benefits or outcomes that you can deliver to your potential employer? Your core message should be concise, consistent, and relevant to your career goals.

Your career change story is likely not one-size-fits-all. You may want to tailor it to the specific needs, expectations, and values of your target employer. You can do this by researching the company, the industry, and the job description. Once you discover their main problems, goals, and priorities, you can tailor your story towards how you can help them address those issues or achieve those objectives.

Defining Your Personal Brand

The term “personal brand” refers to who you are professionally, separate from who you are as an employee of a certain company. If you can find a way to market who you are, then you can communicate why you’d be a strong worker for a different type of job and/or field.

It can be easier to pivot in your career if you’ve consistently marketed yourself and the skills you bring to the table. Here are some suggestions for building your personal brand:

•   Create a personal website or portfolio

•   Prepare an “elevator pitch” about what you do

•   Be active on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook

•   Find ways to network

•   Revamp your resume to reflect your brand

Leveraging Your Degree

Once you have an MBA degree, it’s important to highlight your degree and MBA specialization on your resume so it’s easier for an employer to see where you’re most capable. You can also highlight how you have invested in your professional development, not just through your graduate degree but also through attending workshops, reading books, or joining networks.

If you are making a significant career switch, you may want to let potential employers know how you have applied or practiced what you have learned, such as working on projects, volunteering, or freelancing. Showing your learning and growth demonstrates your commitment, curiosity, and adaptability to the new career.

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Covering the Cost of Your Education

Pursuing an MBA program can be a valuable asset for those looking to change careers, but it comes with a significant price tag. The average cost of an MBA in the U.S. is $225,605,which is no small sum.

Fortunately, many business schools award merit-based fellowships, grants and scholarships to help students pay for school. This is funding you typically don’t need to pay back. And, generally, you don’t have to fill out a separate application to be considered for institutional merit aid. Often, you are automatically considered when you apply to a business school.

If you’re working, your employer may offer education benefits that partially or fully sponsor a graduate business degree. Consider reaching out to human resources to see what benefits your company offers and the requirements that come with them.

If you still have gaps in funding, you might consider taking out a federal or private student loan. The federal government offers two types of loans for graduate school students: Unsubsidized Direct Loans and graduate PLUS Loans. You generally want to max out Unsubsidized Direct Loans before turning to graduate PLUS loans, which come with higher interest rates. You might also explore getting an MBA student loan from a private lender. Just remember that, even if you find a private student loan with a lower rate than a grad PLUS Loan, it probably won’t include the same benefits and protections that federal student loans provide.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

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If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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