The tech sector grew by 52% in 2020, investment firms like Blackrock are divesting their interests in coal, and the pandemic has demanded that businesses adopt new strategies, which has resulted in the evolution of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI).
If you’re looking to begin a career trajectory into business, you may be wondering which roles in this shifting landscape you should be aiming your sights on.
You want to know what jobs are going to offer the biggest salaries, but also what is going to be challenging, exciting, rewarding, offer a good work-life balance, and is still going to be relevant in five or ten years.
There are a lot of different salary estimates out there, and conflicting ideas on the top jobs, so to make it easy, I’ve taken a look at the latest statistics from the Australian Taxation Office, international companies and recruiters, to narrow the list down to a simple top 5.
Take a look at the Forbes list of billionaires, and you’ll find the names of many intrepid entrepreneurs who made their fortune with one good idea that was taken to market. Some of these ideas grew into a household name like Amazon, Tesla, Louis Vuitton, Microsoft, Facebook, Google or L’Oreal.
In terms of salary, vision, size and potential impact on the lives of millions of people, being the founder and leader of a startup-turned-giant such as Facebook takes the cake when it comes to the best jobs in business.
Entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Henry Ford were innovators who created new sectors, new jobs, new systems and new processes, and reshaped society along the way. With so much at stake, the career path of an entrepreneur naturally had to come in at number one on this list.
Entrepreneurs have the unique experience of creating something huge out of nothing, and the rewards can be literally measured in billions. To lead a new company to this level of reach is a giant, high-risk and high-reward undertaking, worthy of respect.
However, let’s take our eyes away from the dazzle of the billionaires list of giants for a moment, and look at the reality that is the average entrepreneurial career path.
The average entrepreneur in Australia earns a far more modest AU$91,545 annually. When you’re starting out, you can expect to work many hours without pay until you begin getting a return. Even with all your best effort, there is no guarantee of success with between 50-70% of venture-backed startup companies failing within the first five years. Before you give up on your dreams of becoming an entrepreneur however, take note that this is actually normal. Many founders of businesses that fold early go on to find success in their second or third venture.
If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and a good idea that fills a gap in the market, take note of what we’ve learned from studies of what makes a startup succeed or fail.
Many fail because founders did not equip themselves with the skills necessary for bringing the company to market and scaling it up successfully.
Some skills essential to entrepreneurs, such as creativity or empathy, may be more linked to personality type. However, many crucial skills such as planning, developing business models, product testing, strategy, market analysis and even leadership style can be learned.
Make sure you get a thorough education in all the specific skills you will need as a business entrepreneur before you launch your startup, and give yourself the greatest chance for success in your high-risk undertaking.
If this career path excites your interest, take a look at this full guide on “How to Become a Start-up Entrepreneur in 8 Steps”.
2. Be The Boss: MD, CEO, CFO, CTO
Although many things may have changed about the way we do business over the last century, one thing has remained the same. When it comes to executive power, personal responsibility and salary, businesses are still run on a hierarchical model and the boss is still at the top of the pyramid.
In Australia, according to data from the ATO, managing directors (MDs) and chief executive officers (CEOs) earned among the highest average salaries in the business world last year: between AU$164,896 to $190,386.
The Page Personnel Talent Trends 2021 Report shows some different results, listing the top job in Australia as chief financial officer (CFO) with an average salary of $350,000. Other data puts the base salary of a CEO in Australia at a range of AU$97,000 to $300,000, averaging at about $150,000.
Different salary estimates aside, there is one thing you can be sure of: if you’re aiming for the top job in any company, department or organisation, you can be sure that the salary, the workload and the responsibilities will reflect the high position.
As a side note, rising up to become the boss is not for everyone. If you are looking for a more relaxed work-life balance, becoming the boss may not be your perfect job; you may prefer a more junior role with flexible hours. However, if you love being a leader and you have lots of energy and ambition, then the chief officer role might be the perfect career for you to aim for.
Let’s take a quick look at how these roles differ from each other, and what you will need to study to get there.
Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer: These positions are similar and generally refer to the overall most senior manager of a company, who leads and oversees all the departments and makes the most important strategic and management decisions. To become an MD or CEO, you will be best equipped if you get an MBA which will set you up for success in leadership roles.
Chief Financial Officer: The CFO is the senior executive responsible for making all the major financial decisions of a company, tracking financial performance and managing the accounting and finance divisions. To work your way up into the CFO position, you will need to study accounting, finance, commerce or something similar.
Chief Technology Officer: This role is suited to those who want to specialise in tech while also being the most senior tech leader within a company. The CTO oversees all technology infrastructure as well as research and development of new tech solutions. This career path will not surprisingly require a solid educational background in computing and ICT, as well as management skills.
Whether you are aiming for a CEO, CFO or CTO position, you are going to need a certain skill set which are essential to senior roles that will ensure your success as a leader:
- Can innovate and think creatively
- Ability to recognise new challenges and opportunities
- Can make judgement calls and take risks
- Leadership and the ability to inspire others
- Coordination and delegation
- Emotional intelligence
- Effective decision-making process
- Communication and team management
3. Financial Services Expert: Dealers, Brokers and Analysts
Financial analysts, brokers, accountancy experts and traders are a highly skilled and in-demand set of senior professionals who form the backbone of the banking and financial services sector.
According to the ATO, ‘financial dealer’ was the number one highest earning business job in Australia in 2021, with an average salary of AU$275,984. The term financial dealer in this instance refers to traders, investors and market analysts who buy and sell their own investments for profit, and offer advice and services to clients. Brokers and traders are also senior professionals who manage portfolios on behalf of investors, banks and funds.
Financial services companies, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, EY and KPMG, are some of the biggest players in the business world, responsible for funding and investing in huge global projects and managing trillions of dollars each year. Market estimates show that by 2022, the financial services market is expected to reach US$26.5 trillion, growing at a rate of 6%.
If you have a keen interest in international markets and a head for numbers, a career as a financial analyst, trader or broker could be the perfect pathway for you. Senior financial analyst positions are on offer in every large corporation and organisation, with lots of opportunities for market specialisation and professional development in this highly respected field. There are also many different types of opportunities to work as an analyst for government bodies, non-profit organisations and even in finance journalism.
To work in any area of financial services, you need to have a keen interest in markets and an eye for detail, as well as training in essential skills, such as:
- Interpersonal and communication skills
- Problem solving
- Technical and software skills
- Financial literacy
- Critical thinking and analytical skills
- Organisational skills
Commerce, finance, accounting, business and economics are all excellent undergraduate or postgraduate courses for a career path in the financial services sector.
4. IT Systems Architect and ICT Security Specialists
ICT systems now form a crucial role in virtually every sector, from air travel to warehousing, ecommerce, social networks, government services and healthcare. With the digital skills gap already putting pressure on companies across every industry, tech professionals will be assured of jobs for years to come.
According to Linkedin’s annual “Jobs In Demand: Australia” report; digital media and marketing, data management, software developer and cyber security roles were among the most in-demand roles for 2021. Software developer jobs are also projected to grow 18.8% between now and 2024, while computer systems analyst jobs are projected to increase 20.9% by 2024.
Systems architects are the senior staff responsible for the overall design of their organisation's technology system, platform, or program, overseeing its development and maintenance. It’s a big role with a lot of responsibility, requiring years of training. As a result, the job of systems architect is in huge demand at present in Australia, commanding an average base salary of AU$121, 203. See here for a full description of this complex role.
ICT security specialists are also a high growth role, with an average base salary of around AU$90,000. This exciting area is at the forefront of new tech development, as governments and companies race against time to keep their security systems up to date with the tech of potential attackers.
Most ICT security specialists work as consultants, hired by an organisation to design, test or improve the system that protects the institution against cyberattacks and data theft. If you want to work independently and run your own small tech operation, this could also be an ideal career path offering a lot of control over your workload and choice of clients.
Security consultants and systems architects are expected to have at least a bachelor's degree in ICT systems or computing and three to five years of professional experience as well as extensive knowledge of all the relevant programs. To succeed in either of these roles, you will need skills such as:
- Programming and code review
- Envisioning and developing models and designs
- Deep technical knowledge
- Collaborative and team management skills
- Communication skills
- Analytical skills
5. Management Consultant
If you are the kind of person who gets a lot of satisfaction from identifying problems and using your skills and ingenuity to solve them, then the management consultant role might be ideal for you.
Management consultants help businesses improve their performance by solving problems and finding new and better ways of doing things. Many consultants also work with public sector or non-profit organisations to help develop their services, reduce costs and make savings.
Many MBA graduates and business management students go on to work as consultants. You need to have skills and foundational training in:
- Critical thinking
- Analytical and strategic skills
- Creative problem solving
- Leadership and communication
- Emotional intelligence
- Research and writing
- Numerical and financial reasoning
Often, a management consultant will start their career at one of the big consulting firms such as McKinsey, and then may go on to set up their own firm or small niche consulting business after they have gained a reputation and some experience. During your average week, you will conduct analysis and research, write reports and recommendations, and work with clients to implement solutions. The average base salary for a management consultant in Australia is a respectable $88,377.
To read more about Getting an MBA for a Career Change, check out our article: Getting an MBA for a Career Change.
The broad scope and flexibility of a management consultant career is what often draws MBA graduates into this career path. You can specialise in certain areas of business that you feel passionate about, such as marketing, sustainability and climate impact management, human resources development, IT systems or finance, helping other companies to improve their activities in these specific areas.
Having the potential to set up your own small consultancy also makes it a great option for those who prefer to work for themselves, and who want greater control over their working hours. Doing work that helps other organisations improve their performance can be really fulfilling, which is another aspect that adds to the appeal of this career.
A Business degree will set you with many options, no matter what your aspirations are.