Historically speaking, business careers–and the market they represent–consistently resist any doubt concerning financial viability throughout the decades. The reason for this is that business, at least conceptually, is the beating heart of world industry, fueling economies both local and abroad. Business is a cornerstone of any transaction-based system, and thus it plays a crucial role in nearly every industry within the United States economy and the job markets therein. This means that business-oriented careers can act as a universal key to unlocking doors in one’s profession.
On the other hand however, the term ‘business’ is almost a misnomer when referring to any singular career path. Business is such a flexible concept that two people with the exact same qualifications and equivalent schooling might find each other on totally different ends of the spectrum, taking on completely different responsibilities. This can be either a great thing for professionals who appreciate self-driven freedom and flexibility, or it can be detrimental to an individual who might struggle with such open-endedness.
This feature of flexibility in business careers is changing though. With an increased demand for high-end specialization, particular business degrees–and the career paths they lead to–are becoming more focused on specific skill sets and thus offer more linear career progression. These considerations are what contribute to the reality of business degrees and career paths being the most popular option for current and prospective students, as well as for professionals looking to change careers.
Table of Contents
- The Name of the Game: Business Degree Competition and Specializations
- Top 20 Highest Earning Business Careers
The Name of the Game: Business Degree Competition and Specializations
The popularity of business-minded degrees and career paths fuel increasing competition. Roughly half a million business management jobs will enter the fray over the next five years. This growth is attributed to a growing global economy, increased scaling offered by high tech infrastructure, and expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs to target niche markets with strong returns. Each of these factors contributes to increasing competition in the job market, particularly in the areas that require specialization–which may or may not be achievable through work experience alone.
Universities around the world are stepping up to the plate to meet this demand by offering highly targeted programs to prepare students for a specialization in a particular business profession, so that they might stand out from the crowd and achieve their desired results. This means more specialized and well-trained competition is entering the ring than ever before, which contributes to the often lamented scenario where young professionals are taking on job positions normally reserved for more senior staff. In other words, there has never been a better time for professionals to seek upwards mobility through specialization.
Historically business careers have been more accessible to professionals looking to make a horizontal career change, however experts expect that increased market demands for specialization will send many business-minded professionals back to school once a specific path has been chosen. So whether you’re a current student, recent graduate, or prospective professional, two things are undeniable.
First, in order to achieve desired success in a business career, one must decide on a specific profession so that they will not be distracted by all the various paths of development on offer. Second, once a path has been chosen it is crucial to develop specialization within that area. Whether that specialization is achieved through work experience or through an academic program, will depend on the path chosen. To that end, here’s a breakdown of the business careers with the most promising outlook, followed by a list of some of the best online business programs to help you get there.
Top 20 Highest Earning Business Careers
Computer and Information System Management
To understand this field, it’s effect to examine the distinction between computer and information systems management (often referred to as MIS) and the computer information systems (CIS) specialist. What separates these two nearly identical fields is a slight shift of focus. While those working in MIS will focus more on top-down facilitation of organizations and their business strategies, CIS professionals focus more on bottom-up technology.
To put this simply, MIS is a field concerned with assisting companies in departmental efficiencies, such as through providing consultation on data sets regarding sales strategies, suggesting cyber security protocols, or through project management of specific IT-centric tasks. In other words, the key component of the MIS field is management. MIS professionals will often find themselves overseeing a group of workers, or interacting with adjacent groups of MIS teams to accomplish company a wide range of goals. This field is an excellent combination of coding and typical IT work with the social components of traditional business and group oriented tasks.
Architecture and Engineering Managers
These professions differ from the traditional architect or engineer in the responsibility of groups involved. Architect and engineer managers will manage groups of both architects and engineers in order to bring plans to life. These managers consult with contractors, business owners, and construction companies to facilitate the development of buildings or other large facilities such as parks, resorts, and even entire city blocks.
The primary difference between architecture and engineer managers is one of specialization. While these two jobs are nearly identical, the specialized schooling behind the two differs slightly. Engineering managers will focus primarily on the mechanical constraints of particular tasks in the construction process. For instance, it will be the engineer managers job to ensure a building’s weight can be supported by the ground structures, which specific types of building materials are called for in a situation, or what machinery is required to accomplish a task. The architect manager however, will be focused on making sure all the individual components of a project come together in the finished project through planning and directing.
To put it simply, architect managers serve in a role where oversight is their primary function, where as engineer managers will be involved in the more granular aspects of a given project. This career path is an excellent choice for individuals who would like the freedom to choose between more the hands-on measuring and testing of the engineer, or the more top-down plan-oriented approach of the architect.
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers
These business managers are concerned with the spreading the brand of a given company. Depending on the industry the client, these managers might find themselves working in any area from search engine optimization, digital marketing, or even old school physical content marketing. The direction of these tasks will also depend on the unique back and specialization of the manager, as marketing is a field defined by the dynamic of constantly shifting and evolving strategies.
It is this variability in tasks which makes it such a draw to individuals. These managers are often times able to specialize in the industry that appeals to them most. In other words, someone who loves music could become an advertising manager for a music company, or someone who loves rock climbing could specialize in climbing gear promotion.
Like other careers on this list, these managers differ from traditional marketers in that they will be managing a multi-vocational group to accomplish a wide array of tasks associated with the goals of the client. Advertising, promotion, and marketing managers are responsible for the ‘big picture’ planning of an agency’s marketing direction or strategy. As such, many times these managers are the leaders or owners of a marketing agency.
While a financial planner is responsible for the financial wellbeing of an individual, financial managers are responsible for the financial health of an entire organization. As such financial managers often work closely with company executives to develop investment strategies, regulate budgets, and explore market trends in order to secure longevity in the organization.
Here’s a quick rundown of some job titles that a financial manager might hold: financial controller, financial office treasurer, credit manager, cash manager, risk manager, or insurance manager. The different responsibilities implied by these different job titles indicates the flexibility of this career path.
Financial Managers are at the helm of organizational decision-making, and can quite literally determine its fate. This career path is an excellent choice for those who love numbers but do not want to sacrifice the high stakes decision-making of high end business.
A sales manager works in diverse environments to manage and coach a team of salespeople. While the environment in which they work might differ from case to case, their typical set of responsibilities is somewhat universal. Sales managers set quotas, short-term and long-term strategies, and hire or fire personnel according to performance metrics. This in particular contributes to a highly social type of work in sales management where success is intimately related to one’s ability to handle people and their expectations, and perhaps more importantly, the ability to draw out the potential of team members.
Sales teams are often focused on ingratiating clients, and as such they are usually the ones that are required to travel when they pursue a suitor. Sales managers however, can direct their teams anywhere–from the comfort of home, from the office, or they might even join their troops on the ground. This career path will be an excellent choice for anyone who has proven sales experience. The sales industry is riddled with gurus who preach about a crucial instinct. If you have this, then the sales manager position is the natural career progression from the standard sales position.
Natural Science Managers
Natural science management is a position that resists more universal definitions due to the sheer variability in responsibilities of positions, depending on the field of operation. Put simply, natural science managers oversee groups of scientists, which may entail research operations of chemists, physicists, or biologists.
One thing is clear however, natural science management is a career defined by academic involvement. The schooling required by high-end research operations will be defined by successful laboratory research and a portfolio of published work. While the importance of professional experience in these careers is undeniable, to reach the upper-end of earnings in this profession will require a high level of success in the copious years of schooling required.
While there is certainly a high barrier of entry, this profession offers very high levels of self-determination. That is, often times natural science managers are specialized in an area unique to their personal interests and passions. Meaning they are not only empowered to pursue their own direction, but will direct entire groups of scientists to achieve their goals–whether that goal be research, innovation, or something else entirely.
Compensation and Benefits Managers
These managers work in both large and small organizations to decide how much to pay the organization’s employees. While smaller organizations do require these services, the complexity and increased needs of larger organizations means that the largest potential earnings are associated with larger organizations. This is because larger organizations are often able to employ more methods of compensation for more people.
These managers design employee benefits packages such as health insurance plans, retirement packages, and other benefits such as stock options. Compensation and benefits managers are charged with ensuring the effectiveness and legality of pay structures to facilitate employee satisfaction, productivity, and company morals. This work is ultimately designed to work towards organizational longevity, because satisfied employees will be less likely to leave or slack off from work standards.
This profession is defined by risk forecasting and understanding human motivation in relation to work force environments–making it a unique combination of the ‘fast and hard’ focus on mathematics of a profession like financial planning combined with a focus on people. As organizations continue to scale to astronomical proportions, the managers required to compensate their workforce increases in parallel, offering strong metrics of job security.
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers
These managers act as intermediaries between the public and the client, who can be either a single individual or an entire organization that represents millions of people. Public relations managers will focus more on the intentful direction of public image to accomplish certain goals, often taking the form of donations to a certain cause. For this reason these managers often find themselves working in areas of politics.
As more and more individuals around the world seek public recognition in social media however, the demand for these professionals is increasing across countless industries. For this reason there are more career options to work towards than ever before in this industry.
This fact means that public relations and fundraising management offers great upward mobility, since professionals with little experience can usually find a smaller-scale project in an individual such as a local social media influencer to demonstrate their skills and build a portfolio. Degree programs within this field offer more targeted specializations towards things like social media or community engagement to jumpstart careers after graduation.
Human Resources Managers
Human resource managers work in a variety of organizations to ensure that employees are satisfied, working efficiently, and meet company performance standards. It is the human resource managers duty to view an organization’s workforce as a unique resource to be both respected and made use of to the highest degree possible within ethical guidelines.
To this end, human resource managers often oversee teams to enstate company philosophies through actionable programs. These programs are directed towards specific goals such as a sense of community, employee feedback, or mental wellness. Human resource professionals are at the heart of such developments as Google’s notorious meditation room, nap room, etc.
Despite sounding more like a value-based profession, the human resource manager will base these approaches in research and statistics. In other words, it is the human resource manager’s job to not only suggest organizational policy change, but also to demonstrate how or why such a change would be beneficial–and to what degree this benefit can be measured. University programs usually offer this degree in conjunction with a psychology department, and represents an excellent profession for anyone interested in psychology and corporate dynamics.
Training and Development Managers
These managers work in a more specialized area than human resource managers, specifically in the training and development of certain skills in an organization’s employees. These professionals work in nearly every industry and usually spend most of their days working with people in a company office.
These managers explore the behavior of competing organizations and conduct thorough research in order to design training curriculums. These curriculums are designed in order to meet the specific goals of an organization. Much like the human resource manager, these professionals can develop and implement organization-wide programs, making it a position of both great responsibility but also great freedom.
Universities usually offer these degree programs within psychology departments, specifically behaviorist psychology departments that specialize in human and group conditioning. While human resource managers focus more on top-down philosophy implementation, training and development managers focus more on bottom-up facilitation of highly targeted skills such as communications training or stress management.
Industrial Production Manager
Industrial production managers oversee manufacturing operations across countless industries. They design, oversee, and implement plans for the production of a wide variety of goods–anything from food, cars, or kid’s toys. These managers often specialize in specific industries, though that is not always the case. Their responsibilities include designating the right equipment and workforce for the job in order to meet the enormous demands of large scale manufacturing.
Most manufacturing companies source their equipment from other countries, and thus the production manager is often tasked with managing contacts around the world to ensure the production line is kept in motion. Manufacturing plants are all about surgical precision and constant productivity, so these managers take on this high stakes responsibility, always working towards new strategies to increase production.
Degree programs in this field often offer industry or manufacturing-type specialization, which can help jumpstart graduates into their chosen area. This career path is excellent for anyone with a mind for perfectionism and a desire for efficiency.
Medical and Health Services Manager
In America’s 2020, the demand for new and dynamic healthcare strategies is higher than ever. Medical and health services managers work with healthcare providers at the forefront of meeting this demand. They often work in offices within healthcare facilities such as hospitals, group medical practices, or nursing homes. At the end of the day healthcare is a business, and these managers are tasked with facilitating the success of this business.
These managers are often referred to as healthcare executives and can work to manage entire healthcare facilities or may oversee specific tasks within a particular department. For this reason, there is great upward mobility for professionals in this field which can meet the requirements for even the most ambitious.
Degree programs typically focus on specialization in one of the most popular areas of the industry such as: Nursing home administrator, clinical manager, health information manager, assistant administrator. This career path is an excellent choice for anyone interested in healthcare that wishes to maintain a focus on business, rather than the hands-on healthcare practice of something like medical school.
Administration Services Manager
Administration services managers are an organization’s jack of all trades. According to the simple definition offered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these managers “plan, direct, and coordinate supportive services of an organization.” As one might be able to surmise what constitutes the supportive services for an organization can differ drastically from organization to organization.
An administration services manager might oversee the building of a new facility, making sure each job is getting completed by the right person at the right time. Or they might work with a multi vocational group of professionals to make sure certain organizational benchmarks are being met.
These professionals are high energy ‘doers and shakers,’ who should be ready to take on a variety of tasks and work with people–both through closely coordinating with management executives, and though working in a more oversight-oriented capacity where they oversee productivity of large groups of people. Typical daily tasks include a range of activities: From participating in long-range planning, development of goals, strategic plans, and objectives–as well as personnel, company resources, and equipment options; or they may assist senior leaders with any managerial tasks which might require assistance.
Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals
Principals are leaders who specialize in directing the successful operation of educational organizations. Principals may work under the purview of a local, regional, or private school board depending on the scale and location of the operation. Because of this the job of a principal is one of great responsibility, great freedom, but also one that requires unquestioning adherence to certain guidelines, rules, or state mandates.
The positions with the highest earning potential are relegated to educational organizations with exemplary records and reputations. Thus the resume requirements for this job are steep. To excel in this career path one should be heavily involved with their community, and should excel in the academic environment, because ultimately they will be in charge of such an academic environment respectively.
Degree programs on offer typically focus on a specific area of educational management such as that of elementary school, middle school, or high school principal. To develop the necessary experience however, one may need to prepare to move for the right job, as there may not be the right school for your experience level near you.
Postsecondary Education Administrator
These administrators oversee student services, academics, and research faculties in universities around the world. These professionals usually work full-time on site at the university, working with students and faculty alike in order to ensure satisfaction, productivity, and adherence to the particular mission statement of the university.
One might suspect that this position could be under threat with the offerings of online degrees and other factors impacting postsecondary education. Fact is however, that this position is expected to grow at a rate faster than the national average. This is largely due to the fact that as the demand for specialization increases within countless industries, so too does the demand for high-end education programs to teach such specialization.
This career path is an excellent choice for anyone who feels at home within the world of academia, who would love to work with talented students and faculty to achieve the highest levels of individual and group potential alike.
Construction managers work at the forefront of construction operations to make sure the job is done right, and that it is completed on schedule. Specific tasks of the career include planning construction timelines, allocating budgets, overseeing budgets, and supervising the day to day mechanics of the construction itself.
Unfortunately if there are shortcomings within a certain area of construction it will fall on the shoulders of the construction manager to compensate. This can mean stepping up to the plate for a variety of odds and ends tasks such as going on a supply run, operating certain equipment, or hiring and firing personnel if performance benchmarks are not met.
This career path is an excellent option for anyone who loves hands-on working with groups of people, who enjoys the thrill of ambiguity–as anyone who has worked in construction knows that there is always something unexpected happening daily. Degree programs help individualize specialize in a specific type of construction management in order to take high-end positions.
Personal Financial Advisor
If a therapist is someone who helps an individual meet goals of general wellness and health, then a personal financial advisor is someone who works with an individual to meet goals of financial wellbeing. This coaching can be as extensive and complex as the routine offered by any other kind of coach, directing or limiting certain behaviors respectively.
Veterans of the field will cite this coaching aspect as the formative aspect that determines the amateurs from the pros. In other words, the best personal financial advisors are able to divine not only what an individual wants but also how to get there in the most direct course of action with the highest returns on effort.
Personal financial advisors will often work with individuals and their families for years with some even partnering for decades. This profession is ideal for individuals who both have a knack for finance and solving, but also have a knack for building and maintaining long term relationships.
If a personal financial advisor is a coach, then a financial analyst is the playmaker. While the advisor focuses more on building a relationship with an individual and helping them make good financial decisions, the financial analyst focuses more on the nuts and bolts of financial markets to analyze the market trends, forecast risk, and maximize profit on investments.
Financial analysts can certainly build long term relationships through working with the same clients over time, however it is not the focus of the profession to the same degree as it is with personal financial planners. Financial analysts are really the wiz kids of the accounting world; they are able to recognize patterns that others are not, and more than that they are able to then gleen valuable information from these patterns.
Financial analysts are the weather forecasters of the financial world, and their job is just important. This means that the job market is secure and offers excellent prospects for current or prospective students, who can further bolster prospects by earning a degree specialization in a particular the financial data of a specific industry.
Often referred to as management consultants, these professionals have become experts in managerial strategies, and as such they shift their focus from managing themselves to conveying what they have learned to individuals and organizations. This is a data-driven career path where the management analyst is tasked with demonstrating the success of a given strategy either through historical success or real-time performance benchmarks.
This career path is an excellent choice for anyone who would like to combine the life-coaching dynamic with data-driven corporate environments. This position is highly popular due to the personal freedom the management analyst is able to employ. Due to the nature of consultation work, these professionals are able to pursue the particular organizations they are most interested in.
To this point, upwards mobility in management analysis is determined by both reputation and specialization. Some professionals find success become highly specialized in a niche market, while others seek universal strategies for organizations. Degree programs on offer provide clear paths in either direction with some programs offering combinations of both.
Financial examiners work as intermediaries between the consumer and financial institutions. They are the primary force in ensuring the compliance of financial institutions with laws that govern finance and transactions. Specifically these are the individuals that can assist a new couple in securing a loan for their first house, or to secure a new mortgage rate a decade later.
In this way the profession a financial examiner is uniquely personal, as they quite literally help to make dreams come true. These professionals often work at banks or with private financial groups, and can work with teams of individuals to assist in contract-building, or can work in a solo environment similar to private practice.
The two main angles to degree specialization within this profession are risk assessment or consumer compliance. Professionals who specialize in risk assessment will focus more on computational tasks to discern financial strategies. A specialization in compliance however, will denote a focus on ensuring guidelines are met in interactions between an individual and an organization. Thus one represents a more people-focused option, while the path of risk assessment is more for those who prioritize work in statistics.