From the classroom to the C-suite: Five ways an MBA can prepare you for an executive role

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It’s no secret that earning an MBA can open a number of professional doors and increase earning potential. According to the 2016 Alumni Perspectives Study from the Graduate Management Admissions Council, around 92 percent of MBA graduates surveyed were employed, with almost 20 percent of those individuals working in executive-level roles.

The statistics speak for themselves: MBA programs prepare students for career success in a number of ways, and although graduates are unlikely to land a C-suite position immediately upon graduation, it is clear that the degree can set candidates on the right path to executive success.

If you are eager to climb the career ladder to the C-suite, but are unsure if an MBA is the right starting point, review the following guide about the ways this fantastic degree can ready you for the challenges of upper management:

1. The ability to take a macroscale look

Whether you opt to pursue a role as a chief executive officer, chief financial officer or any other C-suite position, you will need to be able to understand how a corporation functions on a macroscale. C-suite professionals are charged with making decisions that could impact every facet of a company, and therefore should have a nuanced understanding of how every component of an operation comes together and affects the other in terms of finance, sales and marketing. This is why an MBA provides optimum training for senior-level roles, as MBA programs instruct students on every vital component of business practice. For example, the online MBA program from Villanova University requires students to take core credits in subjects such as finance, business operations in the 21st century, and—particularly pertinent for a career in upper management—team leadership.

2. Expertise in your chosen field

If you are looking to pursue a business career in a particular industry, many MBA programs, including the online MBA program from Villanova University, allow you to tailor your studies and business expertise to particular industries, such as marketing. Therefore, in addition to a nuanced education in core business practice, an MBA program can provide you with the specialized expertise you need to access the C-suite in certain industries.

3. Clarity and concision

As Business Insider stressed, one of the key skills that any successful C-suite executive must have is the ability to communicate clearly and concisely. Executives will be required to deliver presentations, write reports and deliver instructions on a continual basis, which is why proficient communication skills—both written and verbal—are so key to C-suite success. Studying for an MBA can improve your communication skills markedly, thanks to the written assignments, presentations and group work you will have to complete.

Additionally, as CIO explained, as an MBA student you will learn and become comfortable using the kind of business-specific language and terminology that executives use every day. Examples include terms such as synergy, convergence and data-mining. CIO noted that this kind of language is particularly prevalent in information technology companies.

4. Leadership skills

An article published in the Harvard Business Review interviewed several consultants, all of whom indicated that exceptional leadership skills are absolutely integral to achievement within the C-suite. The term “leadership skills” denotes the capacity to make important decisions and lead a team forward in the quest to attain shared goals. The consultants interviewed, however, noted several forms of leadership that are crucial, including visionary leadership, ethical leadership and leadership in a non-authoritarian manner. Visionary leadership prioritizes looking forward to the development of new strategies and inspiring staff to follow, while ethical and non-authoritarian leadership encompass the kind of leadership that treats subordinates with respect and trust while adhering to appropriate business practices.

5. Understanding of trends in technology

Technology is impacting virtually every aspect of life, and business is no exception. To be a truly adept C-suite executive it is important to stay abreast and have knowledge of new digital technologies that can be harnessed to improve business operations and drive a company forward.

This is particularly important in terms of the movement toward data analytics, which is the practice of mining and interpreting data to gain insights into a company. The information gleaned from data analytics can be used to develop strategies that can improve a company. While it is not crucial to be a data analytics expert to work in the C-suite—data scientists are responsible for that—it is necessary to have at least a basic understanding of what data analysis is and the kinds of platforms that can be used to make sense of large amounts of information. This kind of information is provided in most MBA courses, with the online Villanova University MBA program offering a core course on analyzing and leveraging data, and another on using information technology as a strategic lever.

In summation

An executive role demands exceptional business acumen and a multitude of skills. To prepare for a career path toward such a role, an MBA is an important step to consider. MBA programs are designed to provide students with the tools they need to become effective leaders.

It has never been easier to study for an MBA. Villanova University’s online program allows students to balance study with other work and and life commitments at a time that suits them best. Learn more about Villanova University’s online MBA program.