Highest Paying Jobs with a Business Degree

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Business degrees are highly popular among students in the United States. This is largely due to the fact that graduates typically possess the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue a wide variety of lucrative careers. Although academic curriculums vary by institution, most programs are designed to help students develop valuable abilities that can be transferred easily between industries. There are also many opportunities for professional advancement and competitive pay. While relevant employment may be available in many different sectors, most professionals hold positions in business services, finance, marketing, and management.

Earning a business degree can be a great solution for individuals who are unsure what career pathway to pursue. As the knowledge and skills gained tend to make graduates highly marketable, graduates typically qualify for a wide variety of positions. Those with advanced degrees and/or many years of professional experience usually have excellent job prospects.

Salary potential varies significantly depending on the occupation sought, as well as location. States with the highest-paying employment options for business and financial operations professionals include California, Colorado, Washington, Minnesota, Illinois, New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. States with the lowest annual mean wages for these occupations include Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

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How to Prepare for a Business Career

Some level of higher education is generally required to obtain a career in business. While a limited number of entry-level opportunities may be available to those with high school diplomas or GEDs, these positions tend to pay significantly less. In most cases, professionals in this field obtain associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degrees.

Business associate degrees are generally offered by community colleges, which is notable because these academic institutions tend to charge lower tuition rates than traditional four-year colleges and universities. These programs often consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that take students approximately two years to complete. Students typically receive instruction in finance, human resources management, and customer service. These topics are usually covered broadly, providing a basic introduction to the field and a good foundation for future learning.

The majority of business professionals possess, at minimum, bachelor’s degrees. These BS in business programs usually consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately four years to complete. Students can expect instruction to delve deeper into many key components in the field, with particular focus placed on marketing, finance (such as how to read financial records and financial statements), business operations, and accounting. Coursework typically helps those enrolled develop skills that can be applied to many different business professions and in other employment settings. Business graduates with a business degree might work as financial managers, marketing managers, as a financial analyst, or in other similar roles.

While bachelor’s degrees in business can lead to jobs as financial analysts, human resource specialists, and management consultants, it’s common for professionals in the field to continue their education by enrolling in further education.

Master’s degrees in business generally consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework, which full-time students can finish within about two years. Prospective students can enroll in either master’s in business or master’s in business administration (MBA) programs. While these options cover similar topics, MBAs tend to place more instructional emphasis on planning and execution. Both programs can lead to more management and supervisory roles in the field. Some of the most common employment opportunities available to graduates include training and development manager, top executives, public relations and fundraising manager, human resource manager, information technology manager, financial manager, industrial production manager, and management analyst.

A PhD and doctorate are the terminal degrees in the field. These programs are highly advanced and may take full-time students four to seven years to complete, but can lead to the most advanced positions available in the business world. These degrees generally consist of between 90 and 120 credit hours, with components of traditional classroom instruction, independent research, and writing. Graduates generally qualify for a number of career opportunities in research and/or academia.

Is a Degree in Business Worth It?

While it may be possible to obtain entry-level employment in business-related professions without a degree, the majority of employers expect candidates to possess some level of higher education. This is because this is the best way to learn about topics such as investment strategies, human resource management, financial theory, supply chain management, how to prepare financial records, leadership skills or management skills, managing cash flow, operations management, analytical skills, how to understand consumer behavior, financial markets, corporate communications, management information systems, marketing strategies, and other various business disciplines. This makes completing academic degree programs an important part of preparing for employment in the business field. And, while an associate degree or bachelor's degree in business can get you an entry-level job, a master's degree is your final goal.

Individuals interested in pursuing jobs in business, management, finance, leadership, and/or marketing will find degrees in business particularly worthwhile. This major offers a significant amount of versatility, with graduates qualifying for positions across almost every industry. The knowledge and skills gained are also useful in a wide variety of different work settings. As a result, degrees of this kind are generally considered a good investment, though you might want to check the highest paying business majors before you complete your education.

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Job Outlook in Business

Overall, the outlook for business and financial occupations is fair. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), employment for workers in this field is projected to grow by 7% from 2021 to 2031. This is about as fast as the average for all professions in the United States and will result in about 715,100 new job openings nationwide. The median annual wage for this group was $76,570 in May 2021, which is higher than the median annual wage of $45,760 for all occupations in the nation.

It's important to realize that projections vary by job, however. Some professions are expected to perform better than others. While the anticipated growth for labor relations specialists is only 3%, employment for management analysts is expected to increase by 11%. As a result, it’s a good idea to spend time researching your chosen occupation in order to gain a more accurate understanding of employment outlook.

How to Get a Job in Business

The first step to getting a job in business is identifying your ultimate career goals. As previously mentioned, there are numerous employment opportunities available in this field. With so many options, it’s important to consider which occupation or occupations you are most interested in pursuing.

Once you determine a preferred profession, it’s a good idea to research all associated hiring standards. These vary for every occupation. Becoming familiar with prospective employer expectations ensures you know what additional steps are necessary to obtain the job of your choice. This is particularly important when it comes to picking major and minor areas of study, elective courses, internships positions, extracurricular activities, and/or professional certifications.

After obtaining the necessary degree(s) in business administration, it may be necessary and/or beneficial to pursue associated professional credentials. There are many certifications and licenses that are relevant to this field and there is no single credential that is considered best for business professionals. Instead, you are generally free to work towards those most applicable and/or personally fulfilling.

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Top Paying Business Careers

There are many business careers that offer high salary potential. Pay can vary significantly across the field, however. Some of the best-paying professional opportunities available include the following.

  • Chief Accounting Officer (CAO) - $195,437
    Chief accounting officers (CAOs) are generally responsible for overseeing entire accounting departments. These professionals are in charge of all accounting operations and financial reporting functions. They also supervise all accounting and administrative staff, ensure procedures are followed correctly, and verify activities adhere to various regulatory rules and regulations.
  • Chief Investment Officer (CIO) - $187,874
    Chief investment officers (CIOs) work to raise capital for companies and organizations. These professionals often spend time negotiating investment deals on behalf of their employers. They also manage fund portfolios with the goal of increasing overall profits. Other common responsibilities include researching investment options, providing advice regarding spending actions, sharing important financial knowledge, developing investment objectives, establishing new policies, and reviewing internal investment operations staff and procedures.
  • Accounting Firm Partner - $175,134
    Accounting firm partners are the highest executives at their companies. They direct and determine the final decisions on all projects and activities, as well as establishing various policies and procedures. These professionals also manage accounting staff members, evaluate worker performance, oversee office operations, and ensure profits are made.
  • Emergency Management Director - $161,105
    Emergency management directors are paid to develop and oversee emergency response plans for companies and organizations. These professionals spend most of their time completing tasks associated with hazard assessment, policy development, employee training, facility maintenance, and emergency response leadership. They also take steps to calculate the likelihood of various situations. This often entails studying prevention techniques, creating evacuation maps, demonstrating how to use safety equipment, completing inspections, and distributing informative resources.
  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO) - $159,900
    Chief executive officers are responsible for overseeing entire companies and organizations. In addition to making the vast majority of business-related decisions, these professionals spend time leading, guiding, and managing the job performance of other high-ranking employees. They may also formulate strategic plans, address the direction of the company, and ensure worker activities align with the overall company vision.
  • Tax Director - $155,378
    Tax directors create, plan, and implement cohesive tax strategies for companies and organizations. These professionals spend a lot of time preparing and completing tax reports, which often entails verifying that all tax documents are organized and accurate. They are also responsible for helping to resolve any tax issues that arise.
  • Chief Operating Officer (COO) - $146,420
    Chief operating officers (COOs) are responsible for overseeing the daily operations of the companies and organizations they work for. They are often second in command, setting standards and ensuring processes, training, and output quality properly reflect them. They uphold their employer’s vision, as well as verify departments have sufficient resources to meet established expectations.
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO) - $145,060
    Chief financial officers (CFOs) are responsible for managing various financial operations for companies and organizations. These professionals often oversee accounting and finance departments, ensuring all activities in these areas are completed accurately and efficiently in compliance with all applicable laws and business standards. They also work to project favorable images of their employers while saving money whenever possible.
  • Chief Credit Officer - $144,186
    Chief credit officers are paid by companies and organization to develop and manage credit strategies. Responsibilities vary, but often include developing credit risk assessments and overseeing loan portfolios with the goal of maintaining high-quality borrowing standards. They may also be expected to implement various risk-management strategies, supervise subordinates, and maintain relationships with key financial entities.
  • Vice President of Finance - $143,458
    Vice presidents of finance are responsible for keeping companies and organizations profitable, as well as ensuring that all activities are in compliance with government regulations. These professionals coordinate budgets, set financial goals, and determine ways to keep spending low. In addition to managing financial reporting, accounting, daily operations, and monthly results, they are also likely to oversee finance department workers.
  • Internal Audit Director - $136,582
    Internal audit directors use internal company resources and employees to evaluate and optimize financial functions. These professionals spend most of their time creating departmental risk reports, conducting internal audits, coordinating interdepartmental strategies, and establishing quality assurance standards. In most cases, they work directly with employees and business management professionals.
  • Director of Accounting and Financial Reporting - $127,095
    Directors of accounting and financial reporting oversee teams of financial professionals responsible for completing various accounting and finance-related tasks. These professionals are generally responsible for ensuring accounts receivable and deposits are correctly reported. They also verify all tax-related requirements are completed on time.
  • Computer and Information Systems Manager - $127,060
    Computer and information systems managers are hired by companies and organizations to plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities. These professionals are responsible for developing information technology goals, and then taking the necessary steps to meet them. The may also tasked with analyzing computer needs, recommending possible upgrades, ensuring network security, performing cost and benefits analysis, overseeing the work of other professionals, and negotiating prices with vendors.
  • Investment Banker - $118,769
    Investment bankers coordinate relationships between companies and organizations seeking funding and investors with capital. They are primarily responsible for helping businesses secure the finances needed to grow, but help clients purchase and sell securities as well. They may focus their efforts on corporate finance or industry coverage.
  • Finance Director - $118,385
    Finance directors are responsible for analyzing data, determining risk, and allocating resources for their employers. They spend a lot of time conducting financial reviews, as well as monitoring departmental budgets. These professionals also create and implement accounting and finance policies, provide executives with financial advice, and oversee compliance.
  • Investment Fund Manager - $115,586
    Investment fund managers are paid by companies and organizations to handle various activities related to financial planning, investment, and portfolio management. These professionals are often responsible for buying and selling securities and assets, as well as overseeing transaction settlements and overall performance measurement. As financial representatives for their clients, they also devise growth strategies and provide portfolio updates.
  • Lodging Manager - $114,006
    Lodging managers ensure guests have pleasant experiences while staying at hotels, motels, and other forms of accommodation. These professionals are typically responsible for planning, directing, and/or coordinating various activities, as well as establishing procedures that make facilities more efficient and profitable. They may also spend time inspecting guest rooms, answering questions, hiring staff members, setting budgets, and resolving problems.
  • Accounting Director - $110,635
    Accounting directors oversee the creation and implementation of accounting policies and procedures for companies and organizations. They are often responsible for all associated operations and systems, as well as staff selection, training, and evaluation. These professionals typically report directly to chief financial officers (CFOs), providing updates and addressing broaching concerns.
  • Regulatory Affairs Manager - $108,879
    Regulatory affairs managers review policies associated with manufacturing, testing, and marketing, ensuring they are efficient and safe. These professionals also verify all associated activities comply with regulatory statues at the state, national, and/or international levels. They may also manage audits, agency inspections, and product recalls, as well as communicating with regulatory agencies about product information and/or issues.
  • Corporate Controller - $108,803
    Corporate controllers oversee various accounting and financial functions for companies and organizations. They perform financial planning services, as well as manage financial processes and coordinate budgets. These professionals may also supervise accounting staff members, ensure compliance with financial regulations, and perform risk assessments.

Other Career Options

A background in business can lead to many other career options, as well. Even individuals with limited education and experience may be able to find relevant entry-level employment. While these positions may not offer high salaries, they often function as a great means of gaining additional experience in the field. These occupations can also function as a way to obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to qualify for more advanced employment in the future.

It's also important to note that not all opportunities available are exclusively business-centric. Graduates with business degrees often qualify for many jobs that are only tangentially connected to the profession.

Some less lucrative business professions include:

  • Finance Manager - $89,169
    Finance managers help ensure the financial health of the companies and organizations they work for. They do this by creating financial records, directing investment activities, and developing plans based on long-term financial goals. These professionals may also monitor financial details relevant to legal requirements, supervise employees, and analyze market trends to maximize profits.
  • Natural Science Manager - $93,320
    Natural science managers are generally responsible for supervising the work of scientists such as chemists, physicists, and biologists. These professionals often direct the various activities related to research and development, as well as coordinate testing, quality control, and production. They may also be expected to budget resources for projects, hire staff members, supervise and evaluate scientists, monitor progress, provide technical assistance, and establish administrative procedures.
  • Compensation and Benefits Manager - $90,222
    Compensation and benefits managers are responsible for planning, developing, and overseeing programs that pay workers. They typically set pay and benefits structures, monitor wage rates, and oversee the distribution of pay and benefits. These professionals may also choose and manage which outside partners companies and organizations work with, from benefits vendors to insurance brokers.
  • Training and Development Manager - $80,873
    Training and development managers spend time planning, coordinating, and directing skills and knowledge-enhancement programs. They are typically responsible for assessing employee training needs, evaluating the effectiveness of training programs, and ensuring training aligns well with employer goals. These professionals also create and manage budgets, develop new trainings, review instructional materials, and evaluate program effectiveness.
  • Logistician - $77,030
    Logisticians are employed by companies and organizations to analyze and coordinate supply chains. They generally manage the entire life cycle of products, from acquisition to delivery. These professionals also develop business relationships with suppliers and clients, identify areas of logistical improvement, and propose strategies to minimize cost and time requirements.
  • Industrial Production Manager - $75,847
    Industrial production managers oversee the operations of manufacturing plants. This typically entails coordinating, planning, and directing all activities involved in the creation of certain goods. These professionals often hire, train, and evaluate workers, as well as decide how best to use employees and equipment in order to meet production goals.
  • Project Management Specialist - $74,278
    Project management specialists are responsible for coordinating budgets, schedules, and other project details for their employers. These professionals often lead and guide the work performed by technical staff members, as well as serving as a point of contact for clients. They may also develop project plans, select vendors, monitor project costs, and approve modifications.
  • Medical and Health Services Manager - $72,702
    Medical and health services managers are responsible for planning, directing, and coordinating medical and health services offered by healthcare facilities. They spend a lot of time monitoring budgets, recruiting staff, providing training, creating work schedules, and organizing service records. These professionals also ensure all healthcare laws, regulations, and technology standards are properly met.
  • Purchasing Manager - $72,194
    Purchasing managers work for companies and organizations, buying products and services for use and/or resell. These professionals spend a lot of time evaluating suppliers, negotiating contracts, and reviewing product quality. They may also interview new vendors, attend trade shows, analyze price proposals, monitor contract compliance, and maintain item records.
  • Human Resources (HR) Manager - $71,612
    HR managers plan, coordinate, and direct various administrative functions for companies and organizations. This often entails overseeing recruitment, potential staff interviews, and worker onboarding. These professionals also consult with top executives regarding strategic planning, as well as handle staffing issues as they arise.