Business is an ever-evolving field where professionals from different educational backgrounds make the most of opportunities to start their business careers and flourish. According to PayScale (2019), business is among the most common degrees earned by college students; and a business degree is also a great investment for the future (PayScale, 2019). For business major students, career opportunities have grown over the years from being finance and entrepreneurship-focused to having more diverse options, which include business analysis and consultancy, managing social media platforms, and many more.
Despite the wealth of selection and growing opportunities for business majors, students and degree holders are still faced with challenges brought about by the dramatic changes not only in the business education environment but also in the professional setting (Shae, et. al, 2014, p. 137). Some academic institutions struggle to keep up with the rapidly changing business industry, which can affect a student’s level of proficiency and preparedness to survive and thrive in such a competitive world. Meanwhile, in the corporate world, challenges can include job security, higher wages, and better working conditions (Ow, 2019).
What can you do with a business degree? In this business degree guide, we will explore the answers to this question by looking into the current state of business career opportunities. We also will delve into the income possibilities of various specializations, as well as get a glimpse of what awaits business degree holders in the near future by observing trends and using data-driven projections.
A business degree is an umbrella term for a wide range of studies that focus on the learning and application of business concepts across various markets and industries (TBS Staff, 2019). Business degrees touch on a wide range of disciplines, including entrepreneurship, management, communications, marketing, economics, and more to help students prepare for a career in business whether as an entrepreneur or as a corporate employee. According to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics, business was the most sought after degree in the school year 2017-2018.
Business is one of the most popular fields of study among postsecondary students around the world. In the United States, business degrees are the most popular types of degree offered at colleges and universities. Globally, AACSB (Association of Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of business education around the world, conducted a study that showcased the enrollment landscape of accredited academic institutions that offer business degrees across the globe. While the study reveals that undergraduate students dominated the business degree student population, the percentage of students taking postgraduate degrees are significantly lower in the Americas compared to other regions.
Business degrees cover a wide range of programs for undergraduate students, which are more academically focused, and postgraduate studies which focus more on practical professional development (Tucker, 2019). For undergraduates, among the more common business studies are accounting and finance, business management and/or administration, marketing, and economics. Business is also one of the most popular graduate certificate programs, especially for those aiming for certifications in management consulting, strategic leadership, and business analytics.
Depending on the country and the academic institution, entry requirements for undergraduate business degrees vary. In the U.S., for example, universities and colleges require high school diploma, good G.P.A. or grade point average (some universities or colleges require at least 2.5 G.P.A. while others require 3.5 G.P.A.), transcript of records, letters of recommendation, A.C.T. and/or S.A.T. test scores, etc. (Best Colleges, 2018). Some universities and colleges may also invite applicants for an interview or a personal statement. In the United Kingdom, universities require good General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) results. In South Korea, the applicant must pass the eight-hour College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), especially if the applicant is aiming for top universities (Moon, 2018). Bachelor’s degree in business often takes three to four years to complete.
Just like the entry requirements for an undergraduate degree, master’s degree requirements vary depending on the school and it usually takes one to two years to complete. In the U.S., universities require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited academic institution within or outside the country. While it is not required to have an undergraduate degree in business studies to apply for a master’s degree in business, some schools may have particular prerequisites. These prerequisites may include coursework in communication, marketing, etc., depending on the master’s degree program an applicant plans to take (The Best Master’s Degrees, n.d.).
For MBA applicants, professional experience is taken into consideration as admission officials would like to see actual “evidence of growth, discipline and leadership” (Kowarski, 2020). There is no rule that dictates how much work experience is required to qualify for an MBA program, as this varies depending on the assessment of the school admission officials. On rare occasions, a student can get into an MBA program right after completing a four-year degree if the applicant has “exceptional academic credentials” (Kowarski, 2020).
Other requirements are the following (MastersPortal, 2019):
In Europe, business schools require the following:
Below are the master’s degree programs available to applicants (Study.com, 2019):
Master’s degree holders can pursue their studies further by choosing either Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) or PhD programs (Erskine, 2013), which can be completed in a minimum of three years. Entry requirements vary depending on the school and the type of doctorate degree.
The cost of tuition fee varies depending on the program and the type of institution. On top of tuition fees, there are other costs to consider, such as room and board. According to College Board’s Trends in College Pricing for school year 2018-2019, the average annual cost for a four-year bachelor’s degree program was $8,600 if enrolled in a four-year program in a public institution and $34,920 if enrolled in a four-year program in a private, nonprofit institution, excluding room and board.
Master’s degree programs cost an average of $8,850 in public institutions and $30,450 in private nonprofit academies. Tuition fees for doctoral degree programs cost $11,120 in public institutions and $44,020 in private nonprofit schools (College Board, 2018, p. 9).
Source: College Board 2018
Based on the rankings published by QS World University Rankings for 2020, the top three universities when it comes to business and management studies are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, and Harvard University, all of which are located in the United States. Meanwhile, the California Institute of Technology takes the fifth spot and the University of Chicago got the tenth place.
Source: QS World University Rankings 2020
Four universities from the United Kingdom entered the top 10 and they are the University of Oxford (4), University of Cambridge (7), University College London (8), and Imperial College London (9). Among the top 10, only the ETH Zurich—Swiss Federal Institute of Technology from Switzerland—is neither from the U.S. or the U.K. It occupies the sixth spot.
The university rankings are based on several performance indicators, including citations per faculty, international students, international faculty, faculty student, employer reputation, and academic reputation.
According to Buchanan et al., (2007, p. 282), the ability to achieve career growth is a strong motivating factor behind an individual’s decision to pursue a post graduate business degree. Unlike social work students who are more strongly influenced by their desire to gain further knowledge, students taking a master’s degree in business are chasing after professional advancement in both local and international business careers. Previous studies also agreed that high starting salaries and employment opportunities are among the strongest motivations behind a student’s choice to become a business major.
A survey of 1,200 employers from different parts of the world reveals that more companies planned to hire business majors in 2019 compared to the actual hiring in 2018 (GMAC, 2019, p. 11).
The employer respondents were particularly interested in hiring more business talents with master’s degrees (GMAC, 2019, p. 11):
Source: GMAC 2019
The study also reveals that startup up companies prioritized hiring master’s degree holders with marketing specializations in 2019, compared to Fortune Global 100 and 500 companies that were after business talents with master’s degrees in information technology and supply chain management (GMAC, 2019, p. 24).
As for business talents with doctoral degrees, below are some career options:
Median starting salary varies considerably depending on the company, industry, and region. In 2019, the median annual base salary for a new bachelor’s degree hire in the United States was $55,000 and $115,000 for new hires with MBAs (GMAC, 2019, p. 5). PhD holders can earn between $150,000 to $175,000 if they pursue the academic route and become university/college business professors (AACSB, n.d).
According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) among 134 employers in the U.S., the projected average salary for the class of 2020 with bachelor’s degrees in business-related fields is $57,939. For master’s degree holders, the projected average salary is $75,197. No data is provided for PhD and DBA degree holders.
Source: GMAC; Business School Hiring Report: Corporate Recruiters Survey 2019
The field of study being pursued in college usually determines the career path of an individual. This, however, does not translate into reality for everyone. In the list below, you will find well-known and successful individuals who first did not go to college to study business, as well as those who received business degrees but decided to pursue a different career path.
According to Kim, et al., (2002, p. 28), the process of choosing a major is based on “expectations of gainful employment, hope of a more promising career, financial rewards, or personal interest.” Based on these considerations, business degrees can offer a broad base of opportunity in terms of career advancement across a wide range of industries. And while having a bachelor’s degree in business is enough to lay down a good career foundation, broadening your education, especially by pursuing a higher degree or other specializations could give you so much more. Getting more credentials will not only boost your skills and knowledge, but it can also improve your job prospects.
A tried and tested industry for business majors is real estate. You will find an endless opportunity in dealing with property assets of all kinds, including those established around them, like interior design, craftmanship, and more. You will most likely grow into any position in this industry. With your business degree and a master’s degree in real estate. you are well on your way to more success in this industry.
In case you feel like this endeavor is not something you’re not quite prepared for but are looking for something similar, you can also take a look at online administrative assistant degrees which can enable you to learn the ropes at a more basic level.