5 Business Administration Careers for Future Leaders

July 30, 2021

The most sought-after degrees in America are in business and business administration. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), nearly a quarter of all master’s degrees conferred in the 2018-2019 school year were in business, more than any other major. 

These degrees can open up a diverse set of career paths in fields with a lot of potential for growth. An advanced degree in business, such as a master’s in strategic leadership and business analytics, may also create opportunities for advancement and provide a fast track to a leadership role. 

The comprehensive education that an advanced degree in business offers can pave the way to various business administration careers in fields such as sales, data analytics, and market research. 

Sales Manager

Sales is a fundamental part of the U.S. economy and employs a significant segment of the U.S. working population. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 13 million people worked in sales or a related occupation in 2020.

Sales managers can work in various settings, from wholesale and retail trade to manufacturing, and play a critical role in a company’s success. 

Job Description

A sales manager leads an organization’s sales team. The responsibilities of the role may vary depending on the size of the organization and the industry, but they typically focus on the following:

  • Setting sales goals
  • Assigning sales territories
  • Hiring and training sales staff

Sales managers also analyze sales figures to track consumer preferences and buying habits, identify potential new markets, and develop sales strategies. They also work alongside managers in other departments, such as marketing or research and design, to further these goals.


Sales management is one of the more accessible business administration careers. Though it has no formal education requirements, most sales managers have at least a bachelor’s degree. Courses in management, economics, mathematics, marketing, and statistics are beneficial.

Because complex concepts, such as data analysis, have become an increasingly vital component of sales management, an advanced degree is also valuable and can lead to advancement and higher compensation.

Most sales managers also have previous work experience in a sales role. Previous experience in sales or a related job is typically required to become a sales manager, with employers generally preferring candidates with one to five years’ experience. 

The right combination of education and experience can help aspiring sales managers develop the following essential skills:

  • Communication 
  • Leadership
  • Customer service
  • Analytical

Salary and Job Growth

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for sales managers was $132,290 in 2020. However, a sales manager’s salary may vary considerably depending on the industry, the size of the organization, and other factors. Compensation methods also vary, with some sales managers earning a combination of a base salary plus commissions or bonuses.

The job market for sales managers is relatively stable, with employment projected to grow by 4% from 2019 to 2029, according to the BLS. Job opportunities largely depend on the growth or decline of the respective industries that employ them. 

A particular factor that could impact the employment outlook for retail sales managers is the rise of online shopping. Online shopping effectively eliminates sales professionals from the transaction. However, brick-and-mortar retail stores are expected to place a greater emphasis on customer service to compete with online shopping. These companies will need sales managers’ expertise to navigate the mix between online and in-person sales. 

What Does a Business Consultant Do?

Business consultancy is another option for those interested in a business administration career. In a competitive market, the services of a business consultant can be crucial for many companies to succeed. 

Job Description

What does a business consultant do? Consultants advise organizations on how to operate more efficiently, making recommendations on how to cut costs, increase revenue, and improve systems and processes. They typically work on a contractual basis and are often hired during the startup phase of a business. Established companies may also bring in a consultant to help improve the performance of a particular aspect of the business. 

Consultants can work in various industries, such as accounting or advertising. Their responsibilities vary but generally involve the following duties:

  • Gathering information about issues to be solved or processes to be improved
  • Analyzing data, including revenue, expenditures, and employment information
  • Developing solutions and recommending new systems, processes, or organizational changes 


Business consultants typically need at least a bachelor’s degree and, in some cases, may need a master’s in business administration or business management. Consultants should possess a comprehensive understanding of how businesses operate, with proficiency in subjects such as business law, accounting, and marketing. 

Work experience is also critical. Successful consultants are extremely knowledgeable about their area of focus, and experience can help them cultivate this expertise. Companies that specialize in a particular field generally look for individuals who have experience in those areas. 

Consultants should possess a diverse skill set, including analytical and problem-solving skills, along with an ability to effectively communicate and collaborate with various stakeholders in an organization. Additionally, employers in today’s market prize business strategy, project management, and data analysis skills, according to PayScale. 

Salary and Job Growth

As of June 2021, the salary range for business consultants is between $50,000 and $116,000, according to PayScale. Several factors can influence how much business consultants earn, including experience, location, and the nature of the industries or companies they’re consulting for.

The median annual salary for management analysts, a role very similar to that of business consultants, was $87,660 in May 2020, according to the BLS. 

The BLS projects employment of management analysts to grow by 11% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the projected average for all other occupations. Demand for consulting services is expected to increase as businesses look for more efficient and cost-effective ways to operate, with the strongest growth occurring at smaller consulting companies that specialize in specific industries.

According to the BLS, consultants with an advanced degree or certification will likely have a competitive advantage in the job market.

Market Research Analyst

One of the more data-focused business administration careers, a market research analyst studies the market to help businesses better understand their customers and which products or services will sell. 

Job Description

Market research analysts have a host of responsibilities, including the following:

  • Researching and gathering data on consumer demographics, needs, and buying habits to help businesses understand their customers and better market their products or services. They use several different methods to gather this data, including surveys, interviews, focus groups, and literature review. 
  • Studying a business’s competitors and analyzing their pricing, sales, and marketing methods, so the business can determine its own marketing strategy, including moving into new markets or adjusting pricing.
  • Employing various statistical techniques and software to help businesses interpret and evaluate data. They present their findings to stakeholders using charts, infographics, and other visual aids and may forecast future trends.


Most analysts require a bachelor’s degree in market research or a similar field, such as communication, statistics, or computer and information technology (IT). A background in statistics, research methods, and marketing is essential for aspiring market research analysts, while coursework in social sciences (economics, consumer behavior) can also be beneficial.

Some market research analyst jobs require a master’s degree, particularly those that involve a leadership role or that perform highly technical research. The BLS reports that individuals with a master’s degree will have better job prospects, particularly those with a quantitative background in statistical or data analysis or those with related work experience. 

Market research analysts can also pursue certification to demonstrate a level of professional competency and boost their job prospects. The Insights Association (formerly the Marketing Research Association) offers the Professional Researcher Certification for market research analysts. To qualify, candidates need to pass an exam, have at least three years’ experience working in opinion and marketing research, and complete 12 hours of industry-related coursework.

Salary and Job Growth

As of May 2020, the median annual salary for market research analysts was $65,810, according to the BLS. The top-earning industries included publishing, finance and insurance, and wholesale trade.

The job market for analysts looks very promising, with employment projected to grow by 18% between 2019 and 2029. By comparison, employment is projected to grow by an average of 4% for  all other occupations, according to the BLS. The growth is driven by many industries  increasingly relying on data and market research.

What Does a Financial Analyst Do?

Financial analysts advise businesses and individuals on various financial matters, primarily providing guidance on ways to increase profits through investments. 

Job Description

The simplest way to answer the question, “What does a financial analyst do?” is that they help businesses and individuals make more money. Within that context, they perform various  functions, including the following:

  • Developing investment strategies and recommending individual investments and portfolios
  • Assessing the performance of investments, such as stocks and bonds
  • Analyzing current and past financial data
  • Determining a business’s value from its financial statements 
  • Studying economic and business trends

Compared with some business administration careers, the role of a financial analyst offers considerable variety. Many different kinds of financial analyst positions with different specialties exist, such as investment analyst, portfolio manager, fund manager, and ratings analyst.


Entry-level financial analysts typically need a bachelor’s degree, with a background in fields such as  accounting, business, economics, mathematics, and statistics. A master’s degree may also be required for higher-level positions, such as fund manager or portfolio manager.

In addition to an education, financial analysts may need to be certified. Anyone who sells financial products — which may include some analyst positions — is required to be certified by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the main licensing organization for the securities industry.

Even if it isn’t required, certification is often recommended for financial analysts looking to advance their careers. The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) charter, which the CFA Institute offers, is one such certification. 

Salary and Job Growth

The median annual salary for financial analysts was $83,660 in May 2020, according to the BLS. Salaries can vary considerably, partly due to the different compensation methods for financial analysts. For example, fund managers are typically compensated by fees, which are often structured as a percentage of both the assets they manage and the fund’s annual return.

The job market for financial analysts is expected to be fairly stable, with the BLS projecting growth of 5% between 2019 and 2029. The overall performance of the economy tends to dictate demand for financial analysts. When new businesses are created or existing ones expand, they often hire analysts to evaluate investment opportunities. 

Additionally, the growth of data analytics and other technological improvements could also lead to more opportunities for financial analysts, as these analytical tools can help businesses manage their finances and grow their investments.

According to the BLS, competition for financial analyst positions is expected to be high, with the number of people looking to enter the profession outpacing the number of open positions. Holding a master’s degree or certification may give applicants a competitive advantage in their job search.

Chief Data Officer

Individuals seeking a high-level career in business administration may be interested in the chief data officer (CDO) position. A relatively new role in business, a CDO is an executive-level professional who oversees the use of data for an organization. 

Job Description

CDOs understand how to employ data to support a business’s goals. In this regard, they oversee a wide range of data-related functions, including the following: 

  • Developing and managing data collection strategy
  • Ensuring legal compliance in data collection
  • Developing data storage protocols
  • Performing and supervising data analysis functions
  • Providing data-informed guidance on business strategy 
  • Collaborating with executives to develop goals and adjust business operations

A chief data officer may share some responsibilities with a company’s IT team or its chief analytics officer, a role that’s sometimes interchangeable with the CDO’s role. 

The use of data to drive business outcomes is widespread. As a result, chief data officers can work in many different industries, including retail, healthcare, media, insurance, higher education, and government. 


In addition to having an undergraduate education, most chief data officers have a master’s degree, such as a master’s in business administration or a technology degree. Their education background should include coursework in analytics, mathematics, computer and IT, and related fields. 

CDOs also typically need executive or leadership experience. This could include management and supervisory roles. How much and what type of experience is needed varies by company, but most chief executive positions require considerable work experience. 

A chief data officer should possess a diverse skill set, with a combination of technical and soft skills, such as:

  • Leadership. CDOs oversee a company’s data operations and lead both technical and nontechnical teams, so leadership skills are essential.
  • Data analysis. As with any leadership role, CDOs often delegate. However, they also need to be experts in data collection and analysis themselves.
  • Project management. CDOs typically oversee data collection and analysis functions from start to finish; therefore, strong project management skills are vital.

Salary and Job Growth

Similar to other C-suite positions, chief data officers typically earn six figures, though salaries can range considerably based on a number of factors, such as location and industry. According to PayScale, the median annual salary for CDOs is between $117,000 and $250,000 as of June 2021.

Employment of other top executives was projected to grow by 4% between 2019 and 2029, the same pace as all other occupations, according to the BLS. However, the prominence of big data and data analytics in business has led to an increased demand for the CDO role at many companies. The Big Data and AI Executive Survey 2021 from NewVantage Partners found that from 2018 to 2021, the percentage of companies employing a chief data officer climbed nearly 10%, from 55.6% to 65%.

As the reliance on data to drive business decisions grows, so too could employment opportunities for individuals who have the expertise to manage and interpret it. 

Many Paths to Business Leadership

An advanced degree in business can prepare you for business administration careers, from sales manager to chief data officer. These positions are often lucrative and highly coveted in today’s competitive job market.

A master’s degree, such as Athens State University’s online Master of Science in Strategic Leadership and Business Analytics, can teach new skills and open the door to career opportunities. The program’s small class sizes provide a more personalized learning experience, with courses like Influential Leadership and Business Analytics for Decision Making taught by faculty with industry experience. Flexible scheduling allows students to balance their education with their busy lives.

Discover how Athens State University can help you become a future business leader. 


CIO, “What Is a Chief Data Officer? A Leader Who Creates Business Value from Data”Entrepreneur, How to Start a Consulting Business
Indeed, What Is a Chief Data Officer?
National Center for Education Statistics, Graduate Degree Fields
NewVantage Partners, Big Data and AI Executive Survey 2021
PayScale, Average Business Consultant Salary
PayScale, Average Chief Data Officer Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Analysts
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Management Analysts
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Market Research Analysts
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sales Managers