Planning Your Management Career

Management career opportunities depend upon education, experience and expertise. Typically successful managers are experts in their specialty, they have a business degree on the undergraduate or graduate level, and they have experience in their industry, or field of expertise. While it is possible to compensate for a lack of experience, formal business education, or certain areas of expertise, it is much more challenging. An undergraduate management degree offers students the basic skills they need for entry-level positions in a variety of sectors:

Most managerial opportunities will be found in the private sector, which includes everything from small, family-owned start-up shops to multi-national corporations. In general, successful careers in larger organizations require graduate education for personal knowledge and expertise to match the sophistication of these state-of-the-art managerial systems. Given differences between major industries in the private sector (agriculture, manufacturing, health care, high technology, retail, service, etc.), successful career paths vary, and are often industry specific. Consult a working professional in industries you might be interested in pursuing to understand what kinds of education, experience and expertise will be required for a promising future career.

Some managerial opportunities will be found in the public sector, which includes federal, state and local government offices and agencies, the military, and public education. In general, advancement in non-political government jobs is based on documented qualifications, such as degrees, certifications, training programs, or years of experience. Government administration lacks the income potential of the private sector, but provides a level of long-term career stability and benefits packages, which are rare in for-profit businesses.

Other managerial opportunities will also be found in the not-for-profit sector, which includes charities, foundations, religious groups, health service providers, public interest groups, and service organizations. While non-profit jobs are harder to find and usually do not offer the same level of compensation as for-profit or government organizations, advancement often hinges on expertise and attitude, over educational qualifications and experience.

You can explore your career interests by interviewing family and friends who are familiar with those kinds of management positions. They can help you understand how to customize your selection of management electives, and can advise you on what kind of internship would be most advantageous. They can also point out if a successful career in your area of interest requires graduate studies. For example, those intending to become professional managers in large organizations usually choose to go on for an MBA. In many large organizations, an MBA is increasingly becoming an expected prerequisite -- you are at a distinct disadvantage in some career tracks without an MBA on your resume. Interviewing working professionals in your field of interest helps you set realistic expectations -- forewarned is forearmed.