High salary potential is probably at least part of the reason you’re considering earning a business degree. The median wage for business and finance occupations was $72,250 as of 2020, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and business professionals who work their way up to management roles enjoyed a much higher median salary of $109,760. Those median salary ranges are well above the $41,950 median wage that the BLS reported for all occupations in 2020.
Business as One of the Highest-Paying Majors
Although you probably won’t be earning anywhere near six figures as a new graduate, you can feel confident in your degree choice. Business is one of the highest-paying college majors at both entry-level and mid-level career stages. Researchers found that only STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects and health beat out business majors when it comes to entry-level pay rates. The entry-level median wages reported in the 2015 survey were $43,000 for STEM majors, $41,000 for health majors and $37,000 for business majors.
By the mid-career point, the median wage for business majors had overtaken that of health majors, making business second only to STEM in terms of earning potential. Business majors who had reached the 25- to 34-year-old age group reported median wages of $52,000. The median wage growth between this age group and the 35- to 44-year-old group was $18,000, raising the median wage for this age group to $70,000. In the 45- to 59-year-old age group, the median growth of an additional $5,000 increased the overall median salary for that age group to $75,000.
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On the opposite end of the spectrum, humanities, arts and liberal arts majors saw a median wage of just $29,000. Of course, the entry-level median wage for the least lucrative majors is still better than the $22,000 entry-level median wage reported for workers with only a high school diploma.
The Highest-Paying Business Jobs
Generally, the business professionals who earn the most money are the ones at the top. Six-figure salaries aren’t uncommon for managers, and the higher you rise up the corporate ladder, the more money you’re likely to earn.
Among opportunities for business majors, chief executive is the most lucrative. C-suite business leaders hold titles like Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and they earned a median wage of $185,950 in 2020, according to the BLS .
Management positions in marketing, advertising and promotions also offer great salaries. The median wage for this occupational group, according to the BLS , was $141,490 in 2020. Financial managers enjoyed a median wage of $134,180, with sales managers just below them, at $132,290. Among managers in the human resources space, compensation and benefits managers report the highest earnings, with a median wage of $125,130, followed by the $121,220 median salary reported for HR managers in general and the $115,640 median salary for training and development managers .
You don’t need to make it all the way to the top rung of the corporate ladder to approach six-figure earning potential. For general and operations managers, the BLS reported a 2020 median wage of $103,650.
Outside of management roles, some of the best-paying business careers include personal financial advisor , management analyst , financial analyst and financial examiner , all of which reported median wages in the $80,000 range. Business careers with median wages in the $70,000 to $80,000 range include budget analysts , logisticians , accountants and auditors , labor relations specialists and insurance underwriters .
If you have a background in another discipline, on top of your business administration and management capabilities, you might be qualified for another type of management role, such as computer and information systems manager, architectural and engineering manager, natural science manager or health services manager.
The Highest-Paying Entry-Level Business Jobs
The problem with the lucrative roles and their corresponding salaries is that they are still far out of reach for recent business graduates. While these high salaries can tell you what you may be able to look forward to in terms of future job compensation, you can’t expect to earn wages in this range when you are just starting out.
What Are Entry-Level Jobs for Business Majors?
Students fresh out of college with no or little professional experience will have to begin their careers in entry-level roles in fields like consulting, analysis and specialist and associate-level positions.
That $37,000 median salary might not sound so impressive, even at the entry-level, but there are certainly job opportunities out there for new business graduates that offer better pay. Consulting roles are among the best-paying options for entry-level workers, according to Business Insider . The median salary for entry-level management consultant roles, as posted on professional networking website LinkedIn, was $74,300 as of 2017, Business Insider reported. For consulting analysts, who have similar job duties, the median wage was $75,000.
An entry-level role in the mid-$70,000 range might seem too good to be true, but in certain industries and geographical locations, it’s not out of the question. The overall median wage for management consultants was $87,660 in 2020, according to the BLS. High-paying industries such as professional, scientific and technical services paid median wages of $93,710, so it’s within the realm of possibility for entry-level roles in this industry to pay as much as $75,000 – especially in regions where demand and wages are exceptionally high.
Location is one factor that affects your earning potential. The highest-paying states for management consultants, also called management analysts, are New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Connecticut, according to the BLS . Median wages for the occupation in these states are much higher, ranging from $108,040 to $113,560 in 2020.
How does a new graduate become a consultant? First of all, you will probably start out in a lower-level role like junior consultant or associate consultant. Through on-the-job training and opportunities to learn from experienced consultants, you will develop your skills. When you apply and interview for entry-level consultant roles, you can draw from the skills you learned in the classroom and any internship or co-op experiences that allowed you to practice those skills in a real-world business setting.
Entry-Level Analyst Roles
Many business roles revolve around analysis. Business professionals analyze everything from financial performance to investment opportunities, from market conditions for new projects to risk involved in extending a loan. Analysts are particularly in high demand in the field of finance.
Among the highest-paying analyst roles in business in 2017 were equity research analyst, with a median wage of $79,500, and investment banking analyst, with a $105,000 median, Business Insider reported. Again, junior analyst roles may be your best bet at getting your foot in the door. Job hunters should know that some of these high-paying entry-level analyst roles expect at least one to two years of full-time work experience, even though they are listed as entry-level opportunities.
In a general sense, the role of a junior business analyst is to create reports of trends in sales and other quantitative aspects of business under the direction of established business analysts. Many analysts work in finance, insurance and professional and technical services .
Specialist and Associate Roles
When starting your job search, looking for roles at the associate level will help you find opportunities that are more in line with your current level of education and experience. Development associate and marketing associate are two common entry-level job titles. You can also look for specialist job opportunities. While specialist doesn’t necessarily imply entry-level, it is a non-managerial role. Many specialist jobs require only a bachelor’s degree to get started and have no precise experience requirements.
Jobs like human resources specialist, communications specialist, marketing specialist, social media specialist and event specialist are all possibilities for new business graduates.
Landing the Highest-Paid Jobs in Business
For most high-paying business jobs, you will face a lot of competition. Everyone wants to earn the best salary they can, and it’s no secret that many business majors, in particular, are ambitious in their career and salary goals. If you want to get the business jobs that pay the most, you’re going to want your resume to stand out – even at the entry-level of employment.
To beat the competition and be selected for the best entry-level jobs, you’re going to want to push yourself to excel both inside and outside the classroom. Not all employers will care about a candidate’s college GPA, but it’s more likely to be a factor when you’re looking for your first job out of school than after you have years of experience under your belt. A high GPA will do more than impress potential employers. Some roles in the field of business – and even some entry-level roles – require a graduate degree like the Master of Business Administration. The better your GPA, the better your chances of getting into the MBA program you want.
Employers in the business world typically value strong technical and practical skills in job candidates, including those for entry-level roles. For example, knowing how to use customer relationship management (CRM) software and databases – as well as the SQL (structure query language) programming language used to manage them – is valuable for certain business roles. Other practical and technical skills in business may include being able to generate financial accounting statements, produce analyses of financial data and conduct job interviews using evidence-based practices.
While you’re developing the technical and practical skills you will use in a business career, don’t neglect your soft skills. Multiple studies have demonstrated that soft skills play a crucial role in predicting success in the workplace. If your technical skills are exceptional but your soft skills are poor, you may have trouble working as part of a team, conveying information to colleagues and clients or even performing well enough in a job interview to get chosen for a job in the first place. For young people joining the workforce, the most important soft skills for success in the workplace, according to the federal Department of Labor , are communication, teamwork and decision-making. For more experienced workers, additional soft skills that are important include problem-solving, critical thinking, professionalism, leadership, work ethic and adaptability and flexibility.
The best way to demonstrate your hard and soft skills, as well as to cultivate those skills, is by putting them to work in the real world. Business majors who acquire considerable work experience in the field through internships, co-op programs and involvement in extracurricular activities generally have an advantage over students with little to no experience to go along with their college education. Not only have they proven their skills, at least to some degree, in a real business environment, but they can also use that experience to build connections with potential employers or references and to draw from when interviewing for their first business role out of college.
Even if you don’t plan to go to graduate school now, keeping your grades up as an undergraduate will also keep your options open for advancing your education later in your career.
What to Look for in the Best Entry-Level Business jobs
Earning potential matters in your business career, but money isn’t everything. What other factors should you take into account when you’re choosing the best entry-level business job for you?
Room for growth is a big one. Ideally, you should look for a position where you will have either opportunities for promotions within your organization or opportunities to gain new skills and advance the skills you have – or, even better, both. A job that doesn’t offer much of a chance to increase your skills or to move up within the company can quickly start to feel like a dead-end job, even if the pay is competitive, because it doesn’t challenge you enough to hold your interests.
For some business majors, it’s also important to think about your quality of life, including things like work-life balance and stress level. Just about all careers, in business and in other fields, have the potential to be stressful at times. However, if you’re constantly feeling a high level of stress, that can affect your health and happiness outside of work, too. Some high-paying roles in the field of business, like Wall Street junior investment banker, are notorious for requiring long workdays and workweeks that are, at times, in excess of 70 to 80 hours. Even after you’ve paid your dues at the junior level, you can expect to spend a lot of time working if you become an investment banking analyst on Wall Street. The high pay rate may or may not be worth it to you when you factor in the amount of your life you will have to dedicate to work.
You should also look at how well a position matches up with your strengths and interests. If the primary job duties in a role are the tasks that you enjoy, you’re likely to be happier and more successful there than in a role where you primarily do tasks that you dislike. Further, the best business job for you may be one in an industry that specifically intrigues you, like technology, health care, real estate, hospitality or construction.
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