10 High-Paying Jobs Bringing MBA Holders to the Midwest

Jun 04, 2015 | By Maryalene LaPonsie
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  1. Interview with L. Todd Thomas, Associate Professor of Leadership, DeVos Graduate School of Management, Northwood University
  2. Interview with Dr. Eric Goodman, National Director, College of Business, Western Governor's University
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition
  4. Industry Sectors that Define the Midwest, EMSI,
  5. 2015 Corporate Recruiters Salary Survey Report, Graduate Management Admission Council,
  6. Do MBAs Make Better CEOs? Francesca Di Meglio, BloombergBusiness, December 28, 2012,
  7. 6 Hot Jobs for MBA Graduates, U.S. News and World Report,
  8. Hospital mergers continued to create bigger systems in 2014, Ellen Jean Hirst, Chicago Tribune, February 10, 2015,

10 High-Paying Jobs Bringing MBA Holders to the Midwest

The Midwest is home to major health systems, manufacturing plants and a robust financial services and insurance industry. While these may operate in distinct sectors of the economy, they all share a common need for qualified managers.

In fact, an analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found 10 of the 80 top jobs in the Midwest are in the field of management. The analysis took into consideration average salaries as well as job availability, and those who are familiar with the region aren't surprised by the results. Here are some key takeaways from our investigation:

An MBA could open doors to Midwest management jobs

"Over a quarter of the Fortune 500 companies are here in the Midwest," says L. Todd Thomas, associate professor of leadership at the DeVos Graduate School of Management at Northwood University. He explains that's one reason management is such a hot field in the region. Some of these Fortune 500 companies include Cardinal Health, Proctor & Gamble, and Progressive in Ohio (see: Online Colleges in Ohio); and General Motors Company in Michigan (see: Online Colleges in Michigan).

As a former executive with Daimler Chrysler, Thomas knows firsthand how much Midwest businesses rely on skilled managers. While management jobs are available to those with a bachelor's degree, an MBA may be a good choice for those who want to expand their career options.

"Entry-level positions are pretty plentiful," Thomas says, "but mid to large-size companies may require an MBA."

Eric Goodman, national director of the College of Business at Western Governors University, adds that those who are switching careers to business may want to consider an MBA. "For people who don't have an undergraduate business degree, an MBA is a great degree to pursue," he explains.

MBAs may mean more money

The 2015 Corporate Recruiters Survey, conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council, found 84 percent of nearly 750 surveyed employers say they plan to hire MBA graduates in the coming year. Management skills are particularly in demand, with 51 percent of respondents saying they look for those with their master's in management.

An MBA could result in a pay bump of up to 30 percent for some managers.

Beyond opening doors to jobs, an MBA can also significantly increase salary potential. Thomas says MBA managers start with incomes that have a 13 percent premium compared to workers with lesser degrees, while Goodman says an MBA could result in a pay bump of up to 30 percent for some managers.

Featured Management Jobs in the Midwest

For those who have earned their MBA and are planning to work in the Midwest, there are a number of career possibilities. Looking at 2014 salary and employment data for the Midwest as reported by the BLS, found the following 10 occupations particularly noteworthy — for wages, for employment or both. Note that the BLS reports the national annual mean wage for all occupations was $47,230 in 2014.

#1 - Chief executives

  • Average annual wage: $203,740
  • Employment per 1,000 jobs: 4.068

The buck stops on the desk of the chief executive. As the head of an organization, these professionals are typically responsible for the success, or lack thereof, of their company.

Although a business degree isn't a prerequisite for a successful career as a CEO, at least one study suggests top executives do better with an advanced degree. In 2012, research conducted by Chief Executive magazine and Applied Finance Group found CEOs with MBAs were less likely to find themselves on the "naughty list" of executives who were performing poorly.

Chief Executive

#2 - Architectural and engineering managers

  • Average annual wage: $139,860
  • Employment per 1,000 jobs: 2.523

Like computer and information systems managers, architectural and engineering managers need a mix of business and technical skills. Most managers in this field earned work experience as an architect or engineer before they moved into a management role.

According to the BLS website, the majority of architectural and engineering managers have a bachelor's degree at a minimum, but this may not provide enough of the skills necessary to manage a team effectively. "Many also gain business management skills by completing a master's degree in engineering management (MEM or MsEM) or technology management (MSTM) or a master's in business administration (MBA), either before or after advancing to management positions," the BLS says.

Architecture Managers

#3 - Financial managers

  • Average annual wage: $135,140
  • Employment per 1,000 jobs: 5.454

Businesses rely on financial managers to help them keep their organization financially healthy. These professionals may oversee a finance department, prepare statements and forecast future expenses and revenues. "This [occupation] is the bread and butter of MBAs," Thomas says.

Financial Manager

#4 - Computer and information systems managers

  • Average annual wage: $127,330
  • Employment per 1,000 jobs: 3.596

Also known as IT managers or IT project managers, computer and information systems managers review a company's technology, make recommendations and oversee IT-related projects. As a result, employers may prefer job candidates who have both computer and management skills.

To get the right combination of skills, students may want to start with an undergraduate degree in computer science or information technology to gain the technical knowledge needed for this career. Then, an MBA can be used to provide the management and business skills required to effectively lead a team. According to the BLS website, "Many organizations require their computer and information systems managers to have a graduate degree… A master of business administration (MBA) is common and takes 2 years beyond the undergraduate level to complete."

Information Systems Manager

#5 - General and operations managers

  • Average annual wage: $112,570
  • Employment per 1,000 jobs: 18.296

Thomas notes general and operations managers represent a catch-all category of managers who don't fall into a different, more specific category. "I suspect that growth [in this category] is probably where it is because of growth in larger companies in manufacturing," he says.

Manufacturing in the Midwest could include anything from making cars to windmills to robots, but Thomas says these managers are also found in practically every industry. They are responsible for implementing policies and overseeing daily operations. As for education, Goodman says advanced degrees are increasingly prevalent in the field. "The master's is almost the new bachelor's," he says.

General and Operations Managers

#6 - Human resources managers

  • Average annual wage: $111,950
  • Employment per 1,000 jobs: 1.452

As manufacturing plants expand and health care systems merge, it makes sense human resources managers would be in demand as well. These professionals direct a company's staffing decisions and administer employee services and other workplace initiatives.

Entry-level positions may go to those with a bachelor's degree, but larger organizations may look for more highly-trained managers with an MBA. "Some higher-level jobs require a master's degree in human resources, labor relations, or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree," the BLS states.

Human Resources Managers

#7 - Purchasing managers

  • Average annual wage: $110,370
  • Employment per 1,000 jobs: 0.883

According to the BLS, one quarter of purchasing managers work in the manufacturing sector which may be one reason this career is a top job in the Midwest. These professionals play a critical role in ensuring a company has the supplies it needs to do business. Because of their important role, the BLS notes top-level purchasing management positions may be limited to those with MBAs.

Goodman says the biggest mistake people make when it comes to getting an MBA is waiting too long to start. "There's never going to be a perfect time to go back to school," he says.

Purchasing Manager

#8 - Medical and health services managers

  • Average annual wage: $105,880
  • Employment per 1,000 jobs: 3.37

As in other parts of the country, health care plays a significant role in the Midwest. Large medical systems not only help millions of people stay healthy and fight disease, but they also represent big business. Medical and health services managers are responsible for ensuring the business side of health care operates smoothly. The BLS states on their website: "Medical and health services managers typically need at least a bachelor's degree to enter the occupation. However, master's degrees in health services, long-term care administration, public health, public administration, or business administration also are common."

Recent acquisitions and mergers have potentially increased the need for skilled medical and health services managers in the Midwest. For example, Advocate Health Care, the largest hospital system in Illinois, has announced plans to merge with NorthShore University HealthSystem. If approved by the Federal Trade Commission, the merger would bring together two organizations that had $6.8 billion in total revenue in 2013.

Medical Manager

#9 - Industrial production managers

  • Average annual wage: $105,300
  • Employment per 1,000 jobs: 2.644

As their name suggests, industrial production managers are responsible for overseeing manufacturing plants. Like general and operations managers, growth in this career may be tied to a resurgence of manufacturing in the Midwest. Jobs may be particularly concentrated in the areas surrounding cities such as Detroit, Cincinnati and St. Louis.

Large plants that want managers to have extensive responsibilities may prefer those with an MBA. Some schools also offer a dual degree option that allows managers to earn their MBA alongside a related degree, such as the master of industrial engineering. According to the BLS, "At large plants, where managers have more oversight responsibilities, employers may look for managers who have a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a graduate degree in industrial management."

Industrial Production Managers

#10 - Management analysts

  • Average annual wage: $96,860
  • Employment per 1,000 jobs: 5.246

Management analysts often work as consultants to address a specific problem or goal within an organization. They may gather data, interview employees and review current policies as they work to develop procedures to increase business efficiency and productivity.

The BLS notes entry-level jobs can be open to those with a bachelor's degree, but a 2015 study by U.S. News & World Report included management analysts on its list of "6 Hot Jobs for MBA Graduates".

While not all management jobs require an MBA, getting an advanced degree may be a smart move for Midwest business professionals. Thomas says graduates should find plenty of businesses seeking people with management experience who can help their business grow during these boom years.

Management Analyst

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