Five Business Careers That Don’t Require An MBA

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These days, it might seem like everyone’s getting an MBA. If you work in a corporate setting, whether you’re in marketing, accounting, or a c-suite executive, you might be surrounded by them. But while earning an MBA is a valuable pursuit, and could teach you a ton about leadership roles in business, it’s not the only path you could take. Strike out on your own path with another non-MBA masters degree, and pursue business careers like the examples listed below!

Accounting

Are you a math whiz? Detail oriented, with a flair for organization? Each of those qualities could become a strength if you pursue business careers in accounting.i Accounting is all about keeping track of current finances. In the workplace, professional accountants perform the tracking and analysis necessary to know where each penny is, and the real-time financial status of an organization. This knowledge could be used to build new strategies and make important business decisions.

Accounting is also an example of a field in which you don’t necessarily need to pursue an MBA! In fact, many accountants instead pursue a Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA). That’s because the MSA tends to focus narrowly on the quantitative and analytical skills you might actually need. And it’s not even your only option!

Depending on the type of accounting you pursue, you may have a number of unique masters degree options. For example, if tax accounting is your jam, you could pursue an online Master of Science in Taxation or MST, or an LLM in Tax Law. Or a masters in internal auditing, if you’d prefer to go that route.

St. John’s University: Master of Science in Accounting Online

St. John’s University, a Catholic university in Queens, New York, offers a fully online Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) program. St. John’s MSA is designed for professionals, to help them become experts in the accounting functions in their organizations, and to give them the tools they need to solve real accounting problems. It typically takes about a year to finish, and is designed to fulfill the prerequisites to sit for the CPA exam in New York.

Topics covered in St. John’s Masters in Accounting Online include tax accounting, auditing, financial reporting, fraud examination, assurance, analytics, and more, as well as a capstone.

The program has been accredited by a number of professional organizations including AACSB, ACFE, and IMA. Additionally, St. John’s has been ranked among the best graduate online business programs in US News & World Report for 2017.

Finance

Another option: business careers in finance.ii

If accounting focuses on financial activity that has already happened, finance is its more forward-thinking cousin. While both disciplines use mathematical and business principles to understand the financial picture of a company, they approach it in unique ways. Generally, finance professionals look at things strategically, analyzing potential financial risk and contributing to strategies to generate additional revenue. They may be responsible for managing debt and liability, mitigating financial risk, and making strategic decisions on how to utilize funds. Financial analysts and managers may look at economic trends, work with IPOs and stock market transactions, determine the value of a company’s holdings, or manage hedge funds.

Earning a Master of Science in Finance or MSF instead of an MBA could be a strategic decision for a few reasons. While both may cover material that’s useful in professional contexts, the MSF might be a somewhat more unique option. It’s also more specialized, focusing more narrowly on economic and financial principles and the technical skills to understand and apply them, compared to the MBA’s broader design. Online Masters of Finance programs may cover topics like financial modeling, accounting skills, valuation, capital structure, tax regulations, securities and derivatives, and more. In many cases, MF and MSF programs may require that applicants demonstrate a certain amount of relevant professional experience.

Southern New Hampshire University: Master of Science in Finance Online

Southern New Hampshire University’s Online MS in Finance offers students training in accounting and finance principles, to help them prepare to flourish in a variety of business settings. The program emphasizes building skills like auditing, budgeting, cost analysis, financial reporting, and tax preparation. It also covers quantitative analysis and compliance.

SNHU’s Masters in Finance program is designed to be flexible, to accommodate your career, your life, and your learning preferences. You also don’t need GREs or GMATs, and can finish in as little as 15 months.

In addition to offering an MS in Finance, SNHU also has a few related masters programs, including an MS in Auditing, MS in Forensic Accounting, and an MS in Taxation (MST).

Market Research

If you’re more interested in data, business careers in market research or business intelligence might be a fascinating option.iii Market research uses statistical and data analysis to understand trends and inform marketing and business strategies. Market research analysts collect, store, and analyze data on any number of topics, from competitor pricing, to consumer adoption of technology, to television and movie viewing preferences, access to broadband… whatever is most relevant to your organization’s interests, that they’re able to collect data on. Similarly, some market research professionals design and conduct surveys to better understand the interests, motivations, and challenges faced by specific demographics.

Students interested in or currently employed in business intelligence or market research related roles may pursue masters degrees in data analytics, business intelligence, statistics, or even social sciences. Skills covered in programs like these may include database management, data analysis, statistical analysis, survey methodology, economics, and more.

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota MS in Business Intelligence and Data Analytics

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota offers an online Masters in Business Intelligence and Data Analytics, or MS BIDA for short. The program focuses on building real-world-relevant data analytics skills. This could help you prepare to use your research expertise to answer the big business questions in your organization. Saint Mary’s MS BIDA program also helps students work on presenting their research findings effectively, not to mention using that information to build new business strategies.

Saint Mary’s works to make their Business Intelligence and Data Analytics program as useful as possible once you graduate. For example, you could get practice working with real-time data sets from actual companies, facing real challenges you’d face in the workplace. You’ll also have the opportunity to work on your programming languages like R or Python, and get a wealth of professional feedback along the way.

Project Management

Have a flair for organization? Business careers in project management could be found in almost any industry.iv Project management is a discipline involved primarily in planning, facilitating, and organizing the completion of complex projects and programs. A project, in this context, is a specific goal—say, for example, to build a bridge. Project managers would oversee each of the teams involved with designing and constructing the bridge in a safe and timely manner.

In this example, a team might include professionals as diverse as bridge engineers, architects, city planners, accounting and finance professionals, construction workers, and more. The project manager would help to build out the plan to finish the bridge, make sure it stays on budget, and ensure all the teams finish their objectives on the correct timeline. If a bunch of projects are put together to achieve a larger, more complex goal—say, the overhaul of the transportation infrastructure in a city, through multiple bridge and road projects—that would be called a program, and be overseen by a program manager.

Professionals interested in project management might go about it a few different ways. Some may get experience on the job up front, and then seek professional certification to demonstrate their competence on project teams. Current and aspiring project managers might also choose to pursue a masters degree in a related field, such as organizational leadership. Some organizational leadership programs may even offer a concentration in project management. If you’re interested in project management in a public or government setting, you may also look into public administration programs.

Northcentral University: Masters Organizational Leadership - Project Management

Northcentral University’s online MS in Organizational Leadership program (or MSOL) aims to help students prepare for leadership roles in a variety of settings. This involves assessing leadership practice, as well as developing fluency with the components of leadership, organizational health, best practices, and self-evaluation. Organizational leadership also touches on topics like organizational psychology, business ethics, and workforce management.

One unique aspect of this program is that students could choose to specialize in Project Management. The project management specialization examines the tools, principles, and techniques to ensure projects are completed effectively. Topics covered include budget management, risk assessment, cost estimation, negotiation and contracts, and more. Combining organizational leadership with project management could help you develop the skills not just to be a great leader for your team, but a leader who gets things done.

Human Resources

Love helping people, and ensuring everyone can coexist in a productive environment? Human resources professionals may focus on exactly that.v A key component of an organization’s administrative processes, human resources could be responsible for recruitment, hiring, training, compensation, conflict resolution, employee relations, and more. Because that’s such a broad spectrum of responsibility, some people may choose to focus on one set of skills—like payroll and benefits, or workforce development, for example.

In lieu of an MBA, some people interested in human resources might opt to pursue a Master of Science or a Master of Arts in Human Resources. The primary difference between MS and MA programs is that an MS in HR might focus more on technical career skills, whereas an MA might emphasize softer skills like communication. Additionally, some Masters in HR programs might offer concentration options. However, each program may vary, so if you’re looking for certain skills or subjects, make sure you follow up with the schools you’re looking at.

American University: Master of Science in Human Resource Analytics & Management

AU’s Master of Science in Human Resources Management aims to help executives solve organizational challenges using a combination of data analytics and management prowess. Learning objectives of the program include the application of data analytics to improve HR activities, using technology to improve performance, using technology to establish fair performance analysis procedures, and improving the overall governance and decision-making process. Overall, AU’s MS in HR Analytics aims to help professionals use technology effectively to create the best possible working environment in their organizations.

AU has been recognized by US News & World Report and the Princeton Review, in categories including Best National University, Colleges for Veterans, Best Value, Northeastern Schools, and even for their green campus. The Masters in Human Resource Analytics is available online, so that current HR professionals can continue helping their organizations grow while they study. A graduate certificate program is also available.

Find Online Programs To Support Your Dream Business Careers

Whether you’re interested in the business careers above, or something else entirely, a world of opportunity could be at your fingertips. Start with eLearners to find the online degree program to help you get started! Just choose the subject area you’re interested in, narrow by degree type, and review the options available.


[i] bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm | bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/tax-examiners-and-collectors-and-revenue-agents.htm | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-analysts.htm#tab-4 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/market-research-analysts.htm | bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/survey-researchers.htm#tab-4 |[iv] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2006/summer/art03.pdf | [v] bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm#tab-4