The phrase “business degree” conjures up images of wealthy men and women dressed in corporate attire. These people may spend their days in meetings, drumming up ideas to better their businesses, and they may be who you want to be in the future. Still, what is a business degree really? What do you learn and do with it? Is it even practical to study? Most of all, is a business degree even worth studying in this modern age?
What is a business degree?
With so many degrees that can be considered as a business degree, it can be difficult to define what it exactly is. Does it need to have the word “business” in its name? Often, anything that is related to the study of business and entrepreneurship can be considered as a business degree. These can range from business management and business administration degrees to advertising and marketing degrees.
From the names themselves, business management and business administration degrees are business degrees that focus on the management and administration sides of businesses. These usually include organization, planning, and other foundational business practices and ideas. Generally, aside from studying how to run a business, management and administration students learn about entrepreneurship in a broad sense.
Other common business degrees include accounting, finance, and economics degrees. Instead of emphasizing management skills, students of these degrees focus on the financial and mathematical sides of businesses. An accounting degree concentrates on how to handle the finances, especially on recording and interpreting monetary affairs. In contrast, a finance degree emphasizes studying about markets, investments, and financial management. Lastly, an economics degree focuses on how markets work and improves one’s understanding about the impact of trade on individuals and groups and vice versa.
Aside from management and financial degrees, there are also degrees that develop the creative skills needed to succeed in business. One of these is a marketing degree. Students of marketing mostly study how to promote products and reach customers. They may learn about psychology, advertising, and other related subjects.
Of course, those are not the only business degrees. As jobs become more and more specialized, more degrees are being developed to cater to certain skills needed in the corporate and business world.
What can you learn and gain with a business degree?
Obviously, what you learn with a business degree depends on the school and on the specific major you choose. You may learn things that range from macroeconomics and microeconomics to how to develop an online presence for your business.
Still, what you learn with a business degree is not limited to what you study in a classroom. Majoring in entrepreneurial courses often helps you develop other skills that can help you in the future.
For example, interpersonal skills are very important inside and outside of the classroom. While you are still studying, you will be able to develop these skills through group assignments and socializing with your classmates and professors. Once you have graduated, these skills are necessary for you to achieve success in whatever field you choose.
Do you have an interview in a Fortune 500 company? Yes, you need interpersonal skills. Are you opening your own business? Well, you need to be able to communicate with your business partners, your employees, and your customers. Do you plan to become an accountant? You must be able to understand your clients and vice versa. After all, miscommunications will decrease your effectiveness in whatever job you have.
Another thing you can learn is the ability to be professional. Business students often need to go through an internship before graduating, and it is one of the ways to develop that ability. During an internship, you will have to interact with people outside of the classroom, and dealing with others professionally is different from how we interact with our friends and relatives. There are unspoken rules when it comes to dealing with customers and colleagues, and interning for a good company is one way to learn them.
Aside from those skills, there are other things to gain from a business degree. Majoring in business means most of your classes will be with other business students. This makes building relationships with them and networking easier, and once you graduate, having these contacts can help you.
What can you do with a business degree?
Since business degrees are very diverse, the occupations you can have after graduating with one also vary.
Firstly, you can teach in business school. As a business teacher, you are responsible for teaching foundational business ideas and practices to middle school and high school students. On the other hand, if you become a professor in a business school, the subjects you teach will vary from the broad and basic ones to the more advanced and technical courses. The specific degree you take and the experiences you have will also affect what and who you will teach.
Secondly, you can manage your own business. The subjects you studied while taking your degree may help you in several areas. For example, if you majored in accountancy, dealing with your financial records and taxes may be easier for you. In contrast, if you studied marketing, you may have a better time getting your product our and communicating with your customers.
Thirdly, you can become a business executive. The path to becoming an executive usually begins by graduating with a bachelor’s degree and then studying again to earn your Master of Business Administration (MBA). After that, most executives spend years to gain the experience needed to climb the corporate ladder.
Fourthly, you can work in the corporate world without becoming a business executive. This means that you might have chosen jobs that are less leadership-oriented. For example, you can become an analyst or a public relations officer.
Finally, there are occupations that may not be traditionally associated with business majors. Some graduates of business schools choose a job that may not be what they originally studied for yet developed the skills necessary for that job.
How much does a business degree cost?
A degree in business may sound appealing right now, especially with the benefits and opportunities it provides, but the costs may outweigh those gains. Majoring in business may be too much on your pocket, especially if you want to go to a well-known school.
For instance, the website for Harvard College states that the tuition fee for the 2020-2021 academic year is nearly $50,000 without room and board. In addition, if you want a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard, you will have to spend an additional two years and an extra $140,000 just for tuition.
Other universities and colleges may offer cheaper business degrees, though. Community colleges are often more affordable with fees that are below $5,000. In Mexico, the tuition fees vary depending on the university.
Additionally, tuition is not the only monetary expense when studying business. Like all other majors, you will also need books, school supplies, and laptops. Libraries and computer shops may be available, but there are still fees associated with these. Travel expenses may also cause a dent in your pocket, and if you decide to stay in a dorm or your own apartment, you will have to spend more.
Are there alternatives to a business degree?
The answer to that question ultimately depends on your goals and plans. There are jobs and companies that require a business degree, and some might even be more stringent with requirements, necessitating applicants to have an MBA or other specializations. Some occupations, though, are very forgiving when it comes to an applicant’s educational background.
One possible alternative is going to college but studying a different degree. For instance, if you want to start a technology-related business, you can major in computer science or software engineering. If you want to own a restaurant, you can study in a culinary school instead of in a business school.
Another alternative is going to trade school. This is a good idea if you plan on starting a business related to a vocational course. Instead of studying the entrepreneurial side, you can study the practical side of your business and then develop your leadership and management skills once you have begun your business.
There are more alternatives to college than just trade school. In fact, you can choose not to go to a post-secondary educational institution at all. While this may seem like a terrible idea, it can be a good substitute for college. There are two possible options when taking this path. First, you can start a business immediately after high school. This does not necessarily mean you need to have a company and hire dozens of employees at once. If you go down this route, this will usually mean you being the sole employee and then building your business and product or service from there. Second, you can get a job immediately after high school. This may be more difficult, though. Your target occupation might require you to be a college graduate, and if that is the case, then this is not an option anymore.
You can succeed with a business degree!
Many business executives are degree holders. One example is Marillyn Hewson. Currently, she is the chairman of a company called Lockheed Martin and once served as its president and chief executive officer. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and a Master of Arts degree in Economics. She began her career as an economist before beginning her work with the Lockheed Corporation. Aside from holding a high position in her workplace, she has also been recognized for her business prowess and achievements by Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and the Chief Executive magazine. Additionally, she was awarded the Edison Achievement Award and the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.
The educational background of Marvin Ellison, the president and chief executive officer of Lowe’s, is quite similar. Like Marillyn Hewson, he has both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, though his degrees are in marketing and business administration respectively. He has worked for several companies before his time with Lowe’s and was an executive for Home Depot and J.C. Penney.
Similar to the two other executives, Doug McMillon, the current president and chief executive officer of Walmart holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in business administration. Unlike the other two, he has worked for Walmart since the beginning of his career, starting out as a summer associate and then becoming a buyer.
Sometimes a business degree is not the key to your success
While there may be many in top positions in the business world who have business degrees, there are also executives who never finished college.
Robert Pittman’s rise as a business executive did not start out as traditionally as most executive’s. He began his career as a radio announcer, and though he did attend several colleges, he never graduated from any of them. He then went on to become the chief executive officer of MTV Networks and AOL Networks is currently the chairman of iHeartMedia. The business executive may not hold a college degree, but he has been granted many awards and honors, including the Henry A. Grunwald Award for Public Service and the American Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award.
On the other hand, Richard Schulze, the founder of Best Buy, never attended college, though he holds honorary doctorates. He began making his mark on the business world by first working as a manufacturer’s representative and later founding his own company. This company was then called the Sound of Music but was later renamed as Best Buy.
So is a business degree worth it?
Well, like all other complicated and complex questions, the answer to that is not as simple and straightforward as one may want. Firstly, it depends on a multitude of factors. Can you afford the time and money needed to get a business degree? Do your plans and goals in life align with going to college or not? How much importance do your future employers place on a business degree?
If you plan on starting a business and already have the necessary skills to succeed in your venture, then it may be more prudent to spend the time and money you set aside for your business. On the other hand, perhaps the company you want to work for requires you to be a degree holder, or maybe you want to learn some business skills and build a network of like-minded business students first. Attending college as a business major may then be your best option.
What may be right for you may be wrong for another person. Ultimately, whether a business degree is worth it or not depends on you and your circumstances.