Careers with a Strategic Management Specialization

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn about strategic management careers. Discover strategic management skills, certifications, and degrees you need to get started as a strategic manager.

[Featured image] Product strategist in a blue shirt works in front of a large computer monitor

Strategic management involves developing and implementing plans to help an organization achieve its objectives. This can include formulating strategy, planning organizational structure and resource allocation, leading change initiatives, and controlling processes and resources. 

You need diverse strategic management skills to build a career with a strategic focus. Degrees and certifications can help you to build the competencies to be a valuable strategic thinker, along with gaining experience and honing the relevant skill set.  

What is strategic management?

Work in strategic management is the process of developing and implementing a plan based on an organization's goals and needs. Strategic planning involves:

  • Identifying business challenges

  • Determining an organization's strengths and weaknesses

  • Choosing the best strategy

  • Selecting tactics for successful accomplishment

  • Monitoring progress

  • Making changes when necessary to improve performance 

Strategic management happens at broader levels like organization-wide leadership, departmental, or projects.

Types of strategy in strategic management

Different management philosophies have different conceptualizations of strategic management. Some people see strategic management more as a way of thinking than a set of methodologies. One popular way of thinking about strategic management is classifying the management focus as business strategy, operational strategy, or transformational strategy.

  • A business strategy is a high-level plan where you outline how your organization will achieve its objectives.

  • Operational strategies are much more specific plans where you detail what actions to take to achieve the desired results.

  • Transformational strategies involve making radical changes to your organization to achieve significant improvements.

Two types of approaches to strategic management

When planning and delivering a management strategy, there are different processes to consider. Fundamentally, two approaches are available; prescriptive or descriptive. In reality, the course will be between the deterministic prescriptive and the more Agile, pragmatic descriptive approach. 

1. Prescriptive strategic management

The prescriptive approach to strategic management comes from the idea that you can find a single “best” way to do things and determine this “best” way through careful analysis and study. 

Prescriptive strategic management is a top-down approach involving creating a detailed plan outlining the steps necessary to achieve specific goals. Businesses with a clear hierarchy and centralized decision-making frequently choose this approach. You work based on the assumption that you can form a plan and carry it out based on a prescriptive set of actions.

2. Descriptive strategic management

The descriptive approach to strategic management flows from the belief that there’s no single “best” way for your organization to do things and that you can find success using different methods and learning from experience. 

Descriptive strategic management is a bottom-up approach focusing on understanding the current situation and making decisions based on what’s happening. As a descriptive strategy thinker, you use guiding principles to formulate strategy rather than hard rules.

This strategy is common in businesses with more emphasis on flexibility and creativity. You'll consider what happens as you execute your strategy, adapting plans as you progress in a more Agile-type approach to strategic management.

The cycle of strategic management

You can view the strategic management process as a five-step process. The steps are identification, analysis, formation, execution, and evaluation.

1. Identification and goals

Identification is the initial stage in the strategic management process. This step involves identifying your organization's goals and determining what needs to happen to achieve them.

2. Analysis of the current situation

The second step in the strategic management process is analysis and research. This step involves analyzing the organization's needs and looking at how it can sustain itself. Through this analysis, pay close attention to strengths, weaknesses, and internal and external variables to create a plan to maximize your brand at the next stage.

3. Formulation of a plan of action

Formulation is the third step in the strategic management process. This step involves creating a plan of action to help the organization achieve its goals. The plan should be specific and realistic and consider the information gathered in the previous two steps.

4. Execution of the plan

Execution is the fourth step in the strategic management process. This step involves putting the plan into action and monitoring progress to ensure it’s on track. You may have to adjust the plan as circumstances change, especially if you take a more descriptive approach to strategy.

5. Evaluation of the plan

Evaluation is the fifth and final step in the strategic management process. It involves assessing whether the organization has achieved its goals. If not, you can adjust plans and implement them again. Feedback and analysis are essential.

What you'll do as a strategic management professional

The job of a strategic management professional varies depending on the organization. You’ll discover many diverse aspects of strategic management. However, some typical duties overlap across many strategic management roles:

  • Developing and maintaining business support systems

  • Researching and monitoring the implementation of management processes

  • Applying relevant information systems and technology

  • Helping stakeholders generate revenue

  • Exploring ways to cut costs for clients

  • Managing multiple project management streams.

Career options within strategic management positions

Many management graduates go on to work in management consulting, where they help organizations create and implement strategies. Others work in corporate strategy roles, advising senior leaders on how to grow and compete effectively. Still, others pursue careers in investment banking, venture capital, or private equity, where they use their strategic insights to identify and invest in promising businesses. Here are some jobs that have a strategic focus with their average annual US base salaries listed.

  • Financial analyst: $72,519 [1]

  • Research investigator: $93,026 [2]

  • Business analyst: $81,688 [3]

  • Product strategist: $161,123 [4]

  • Project analyst: $73,407 [5]

  • Project manager: $84,958 [6]

  • Program manager: $101,682 [7]

  • Process coordinator: $58,014 [8]

  • Marketing consultant: $84,600 [9]

  • Business development coordinator: $60,515[10]

  • Compliance officer: $79,832 [11]

  • Strategic initiatives associate: $72,939[12]

  • Consumer insight analyst: $79,738[13]

Places strategic management graduates typically work

Strategic management graduates may work in various fields. Companies seek out these graduates because they understand business, finance, corporate planning, and much more. Strategic managers work in every sector. Some of the sectors you'll see strategic roles are:

  • Finance and insurance

  • Technology

  • Public administration

  • Management of enterprises

  • Manufacturing

  • Health care

  • Government

  • Utilities

How to get started working toward a strategic role

To become a strategic manager, you need a strong understanding of business principles and practices. You must be able to think analytically and creatively to develop strategies to help organizations achieve their goals. If you possess these competencies and qualities, you may be well-suited for a career in strategic management.



Foundations of Business Strategy

Develop your ability to think strategically, analyze the competitive environment, and recommend firm positioning and value creation. In this course, ...


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Average time: 1 month(s)

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Skills you'll build:

Capabilities Analysis, Business Strategy, Competitive Position, Strategic Analysis, Industry Structure

Pursue education and experience.

To get started with a strategic management specialization, employers typically require at least a bachelor’s degree in business or a related field. Secondly, you need at least entry-level experience in business administration, management consulting, or strategic planning. These two elements give you the foundation to specialize in strategic management.

Develop your strategic management capabilities.

Strategic management is a high-level function requiring advanced competencies. To work strategically, you need well-honed skills in the following areas.

  • Business procedures and operations

  • Research and analytical abilities

  • Project management 

  • Management and leadership

  • Oral and written communication 

Consider strategic management advanced degrees and certifications.

A strategic management career can be enriching, both financially and professionally. However, competition for top jobs is fierce. Many companies now require applicants with an advanced degree in business, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA). 

The following learning opportunities can help you gain the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in your chosen field and improve your resume when applying for jobs.

  • Strategic Management - Master

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)

  • Master of Human Resource Management (MHRM)

  • Project Management (PMP) - Certificate

  • Certified Management Consultant (CMC) - Certificate

  • Strategic Management Professional (SMP)

Build your network of contacts.

Building your network if you want to work in strategic management will allow you to converse with people who can help advance your career. These contacts can provide helpful advice, introduce you to new opportunities, and help you develop the skills necessary to succeed in this field. LinkedIn is an exceptional tool for networking with high-level professionals.

Read more: What Is Networking? How to Grow Your Network

Career outlook and strategic management graduate salaries

Strategic management is a rapidly growing field with exciting career prospects. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in management occupations are expected to grow at a rate of 8 percent from 2021 to 2031, which is faster than average. The median salary for management occupations was $102,450 in 2021 [14]. If you hold the right skills and experience, earning a competitive salary in this field is possible.

Next steps

A career in strategic management can be challenging and rewarding, offering a unique perspective on how businesses operate. If you're ready to take the next step in a career in strategic management, you might consider the Strategic Management and Innovation Specialization offered by the Copenhagen Business School on Coursera.



Strategic Management and Innovation

Manage 21st Century Business Strategy. Develop and implement an innovative business approach in just three courses.


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Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Strategic Management, Strategy Implementation, Strategic Thinking, Business Strategy, Strategic Planning, Decision-Making, Performance Management

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Article sources


Glassdoor. “How much does a financial analyst make?,,2_IN1_KO3,20.htm.” Accessed November 4, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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