There are those among us who aspire to a highly elite career path.
While some who attend college or university are content to earn a degree that should land them a decently paying job that can help them pursue the life they want post-college, some have their sights set on lofty positions and dream of taking on prestigious leadership and management roles someday.
For those individuals, questions abound as to what would be the most strategic pathway to achieving those goals.
In this article, we hope to shed some light on what degrees and routes can be most advantageous when pursuing those types of career pathways.
Climbing the Ladder: What Are the Possibilities?
Chief Executive Officer
Prestigious career goals can come in a variety of different flavors. The one most people probably think of first is that of becoming a corporate Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
CEOs direct entities that range from small businesses to vast corporate empires or conglomerates. CEOs lead a company’s executive team and often work in conjunction with a board or group of stakeholder representatives as well.
Tellingly, just under half of the top 30 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have obtained an MBA.
MBA degrees aren’t necessarily required for pursuing positions of this caliber, but many who end up in CEO positions have obtained a postgraduate business degree in the form of an MBA or similar.
Investment or Fund Management
However, becoming a CEO doesn’t represent the only elite career option that someone might pursue.
There are many other forms of prestigious roles in or adjacent to the business and corporate landscape that someone who is interested in an elite career might consider. One example is the world of investing.
Managing investment portfolios, or becoming an angel investor and investing your own funds in startups or enterprises, is an opportunity to leverage business acumen, savvy market awareness, or corporate experience to propel the forefront of innovation and new endeavors.
Those that enter investment roles often benefit from postgraduate business education such as an MBA and likewise can benefit from former firsthand experience in business.
Alternatively, some may be more interested in delving into policy and governance. Senior government positions differ from both military and political careers.
They often involve a melding of business and management expertise with an interest in policy and the public sector.
Taking on high governmental positions usually requires a large investment of time to ascend the ranks. These careers can often be aided by business education and having postgraduate degrees.
Entrepreneurship and Startup Management
Others may be interested in joining the ranks of entrepreneurial founders.
These individuals are often innovative, persuasive, vision-driven, and passionate about solving problems or creating new versions of what they see around them. They often earn MBAs or similar to help navigate the complexities of business.
Entrepreneurial founders often need to have an understanding of virtually every element of business operation.
They need the ability to see the bigger picture and bring people on board that can effectively manage aspects of the process while they maintain an overall understanding of what needs to be done to accomplish the audacious goal they set before their teams and organizations.
There are certainly other elite careers available, but these are some of the broad-stroke categories of upper-level careers that one might need higher business education to pursue.
What an MBA Program Is Designed to Teach You
It’s easier to plan strategically and decide what postgraduate degrees (if any) could aid you and prove most strategic in helping you achieve your goals once you’ve identified the direction you’re interested in taking your career.
A Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree is a common postgraduate undertaking that many tout as a must-have for anyone who is interested in pursuing an elite role within the business world or similar.
But is that actually true? And is an MBA sufficient for pursuing the types of positions you might be interested in?
Good MBA programs, both those taught in-person and MBA online programs that are delivered virtually, should instill in you the following skillsets.
Strategic Ability and Agility
MBAs should develop your strategic ability and agility. They help you build decision-making frameworks that will allow you to direct organizations under your leadership.
They should equip you with analytical reasoning skills. Elite leadership positions will require you to effectively understand and analyze large amounts of information and from it perceive patterns, predict potential problems, and find creative solutions to overcome sometimes significant organizational challenges.
They should instill effective tools for change management. As an elite leader you will be called upon to facilitate internal change and cultural improvement, react to market shifts, weather significant difficulties and adversity, and help your organization move through an increasingly turbulent and dynamic world.
Global Awareness and Perspective
MBA programs should also instill you with global awareness and perspective. Our world is increasingly international and connected. You’ll likely work with global entities and partners in whatever career path you choose.
Additionally, being exposed to business trends and principles used around the world broadens your knowledge and increases your capacity for problem-solving and innovation.
Finally, MBAs should solidify your business fundamentals. One will always benefit from improving their skills and knowledge in areas such as communication, operations management, business law, trends in business technology, and other fundamental subjects that relate to your career field.
If you choose to pursue an MBA, when deciding between the many programs out there it’s important to research a program’s subject matter. This will ensure that it includes the specific skill sets you’ll need most in the career you’d like to pursue.
Options Beyond Earning an MBA
For some, an MBA may not be the most strategic degree to obtain. For others, it may be an intermediate step into further schooling or credentialing.
A few options exist beyond earning an MBA but are usually only necessary for highly specialized careers:
If your interest delves into the academic world, you’ll likely need further schooling after an MBA to do research or teach in undergraduate or graduate settings. Earning a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) or a Ph.D. in Business Administration – both versions of research Ph.D.’s – will allow you to become a professor of business or operate in higher academia.
Some business professionals earn multiple postgraduate degrees throughout their careers. For instance, earning a Master of Science (MSc) in business or a related area will provide different emphases and training than an MBA would.
This can often aid those who want to advance in a particular area of business administration or operations.
The best way to strategically pursue an elite career is to identify what direction or career pathway interests you first or determine the industry or field of your choice.
This can inform the types of degrees and academic undertakings you’ll likely need to succeed.
Whatever direction you decide on, MBA degrees can provide a significant leg up in your pursuit of a wide variety of elite careers and provide a foundation for any further study you may need to undertake as you advance.