Of all the reasons to pursue an MBA, changing careers remains one of the top motivations for earning a business degree. In 2022, nearly one-third of MBA applicants reported that they wanted to switch careers, according to the Graduate Management Admissions Council.
BY Sydney LakeNovember 29, 2022, 3:01 PM
General view of the campus of Purdue Boilermakers, as seen in October 2018 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management, which Fortune ranks as having some of the best MBA programs in the U.S., makes it straightforward for business school candidates to chase a new career. The business school offers an online MBA program with four options for specializations: business analytics, innovation and technology commercialization, global supply chain management, and leadership, negotiation, and change management.
Not only are these four specializations in high-demand areas, but they’re also the bread and butter of Purdue, which is well-regarded as a STEM-focused university. The innovation and technology commercialization specialization is targeted to students who want to work in tech or start a new company, Dilip Chhajed, Krannert’s associate dean of online programs and strategic innovations, tells Fortune. Plus, the school is recognized for its business analytics and supply chain curriculum, he adds.
“We naturally attract students with engineering, science, and technology backgrounds,” he says. “We can leverage resources across campus—from the College of Engineering to the Brain Lamb School of Communication to the Burton Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship—to increase the options for our students.”
Purdue online MBA students can also use their specialization courses to earn a graduate certificate or as credit toward a second master’s degree in the same area as their concentration. The online MBA program requires 48 credit hours to complete, 16 of which are in elective coursework. This means there are about eight courses that students choose from to customize their degree, Chhajed explains. With more than 40 elective courses to choose from, specializations can help students further focus their studies.
“While this flexibility is great, it can sometimes challenge a student on what to take,” Chhajed says. “By creating specializations, we have provided guidance to students on a set of courses that go well together and help in developing deeper skills.”
Fortune took a deeper look at the specializations offered as part of Purdue’s online MBA program to see what the demand for related jobs looks like—and how much students can earn. Purdue has limited salary data for its MBA grads, but a sample shows that students who specialized their MBA earned an average salary of $179,700, while those without earned $129,167.
1. Business analytics
The demand for business analysts continues to grow as companies grapple with the increasing amount of data to which they have access. Between 2021 and 2031, demand for business analysts is expected to grow 11%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Currently, the median base salary for these positions is $93,000. However, business analysts with a master’s degree have higher earning potential. In fact, business analysts in North America who have a master’s or doctorate degree earn 17% more than those people in the same roles who hold only undergraduate degrees, according to Skillsoft.
While Christian Coakley hasn’t yet completed his MBA from Purdue, he’s already started to see the benefit of specializing in business analytics. Coakley, who’s currently in his penultimate semester of Purdue’s online MBA program, was recently promoted to a management-level position at United Airlines, where he’s worked for about a decade.
“I remember looking at the job description saying, ‘Okay, I know how to do this,” he tells Fortune. “Before I started my MBA, I would look at job descriptions and kind-of count myself out.”
Using his business analytics specialization, Coakley landed a promotion, moving from a senior analyst of fleet strategy and configurations to a role as a manager of inventory performance. These workers can make six-figure salaries, according to Glassdoor. Coakley earned his bachelor’s degree in aerospace, aeronautical, and astronautical engineering from Purdue.
The opportunity to take a specialization in Purdue’s MBA program and earn a graduate certificate in business analytics is what Coakley credits for landing his job with United.
“It was definitely the business analytics courses that helped me realize that the role that I’m doing now, I’ll be able to do, and succeed at it,” he says. “Take advantage of it. It gives you an opportunity to focus in on something and then also achieve recognition at the end.”
2. Leadership, negotiation, and change management
During the past few years, organizations have undergone major operational changes both due to COVID-19 and its consequences. Pushes for racial and social equity are also at the forefront of big transitions necessary at organizations both large and small. For that reason, change management and negotiation positions have become more in-demand.
Purdue developed the leadership, negotiation, and change management specialization to train students to help organizations plan and execute major change. Some common job titles associated with this specialization include business transformation manager, change management consultant, and change realization leader. All of these positions report average salaries between $115,000 and $130,000.
Ryan Melvin, an alum of Purdue’s online MBA program, chose to specialize in leadership, negotiation, and change management because he felt it gave him a better focus on what he wanted to do after graduation and more opportunities to advance his career in manufacturing. Before start his MBA program, he says he’d stalled at a smaller manufacturing company, where he had become director of manufacturing. At that point, there weren’t any further career advancements there, Melvin tells Fortune.
Melvin started applying for jobs and was hired even before completing his online MBA from Purdue. He’s now a plant manager for Stephen Gould, a major logistics company, and became the “change agent” for a new material requirements planning system almost as soon as he started his job. Stephen Gould is now rolling out the new system company-wide and Melvin is a “big part of that effort,” he adds.
“My company was very open and honest about the change that I would have to help undertake,” he says. “I was able to show through my specialization and previous experience [that I could] help them through the changes the company was going through. The specialization gave me an edge over my competition while on the job search.”
3. Innovation and technology commercialization
Among the most popular positions available to Purdue online MBA students studying innovation and technology commercialization include data scientists, product managers, and business intelligence engineers. These three roles are in high demand, and will continue to be during the next decade, according to BLS estimates.
Data scientists with a master’s degree can earn 17% more than those with just an undergraduate degree, according to a Skillsoft report. Data scientists who earn a master’s degree or Ph.D. earn about $100,000 right after graduation, according to the BLS.
“Companies are looking for patterns in how customers behave, how their sales channels sell, how their products and services are used, and how they perform versus their competitors,” Michael Yoo, Skillsoft’s general manager of technology and developer portfolio, previously told Fortune. “All of this means nearly every company on the planet needs data scientists and data analysts—it’s no longer just the province of what we think of as ‘traditional’ technology providers.”
Product managers—professionals who help organizations identify customer needs and develop plans to launch new products—also can bring in big paychecks. These workers earn nearly $130,000 on average in the U.S. Business intelligence engineers also make more than six figures helping to design, implement and maintain business intelligence data systems.
4. Global supply chain management
The COVID-19 pandemic caused major backlogs and disruptions to global supply chains. Logisticians, or supply chain managers, are expected to be in high demand during the next decade. In fact, the occupation is expected to grow by 28%, which is much faster than all other jobs, according to the BLS.
Supply chain managers can make up to $136,000, on average. These professionals help coordinate and manage logistics during the production and distribution process.
Despite challenges presented by the Great Resignation and COVID-19, salaries for these professions are also rising, with a 9% year-over-year increase between 2021 and 2022, according to the Association for Supply Chain Management. Supply chain workers with an undergraduate degree earn a median salary of $84,000, according to ASCM, while those with a master’s degree make $108,000.
“This past year brought continued uncertainty across all industries and supply chain professionals were once again under tremendous pressure to keep pace with a never-ending stream of disruptions,” ASCM CEO Abe Eshkenazi said in a statement. “Amid all these global challenges, it’s reassuring to see supply chain professionals remaining resilient and continuing to love the vital work they do while remaining loyal to this critical industry.”
Check out all of Fortune’s rankings of degree programs, and learn more about specific career paths.