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In regards to the entry-level job market, a business major may well be the most marketable undergraduate degree available. At once fashioning broad but highly pertinent set of skills and touching upon the areas of study that can land you in one of many potential industries, business majors enjoy a broad range of entry-level opportunities to choose from and as such the major is regarded as one of the most practical available. Whether looking to break into an industry or begin their own business venture, business majors are equipped with a skill set that can be directly applied to many fields. In addition, many business majors offer the potential to specialize within a given field, such as marketing, finance, HR, management, and more. If you’re reading this, you might be a potential business major curious about the post-grad opportunities to be had, or a current business major unsure of where to apply his or her broadly applicable skill set. Whatever the case, read on:
According to the National Center for Education statistics, business is by far the most popular undergraduate major: in the 2010-11 academic year, over 365,000 business degrees were awarded out of the 1.7 million given in total, making business majors about 21% – one fifth! – of all college graduates. While this does necessarily imply that, to some extent, business majors will find themselves competing against many other graduates with similar attributes, the aforementioned flexibility of a business degree means that these formidable numbers of graduates find themselves in a wide array of occupations (in short, just because there are a lot of other people with business degrees doesn’t necessarily mean that they will all be vying for the same positions).
In kind, most undergraduate business programs are largely interdisciplinary, often involving courses in statistics, economics, mathematics, marketing, technology, and more. The first few years of an undergraduate business major will largely stress the development of these skills in order to establish a firm working knowledge of the principles that drive upper-level, applied courses in business management, strategy, and more.
Exposed to the numerous disciplines necessary to understand and manage a business, those who study business as undergraduates develop great all-around analytical thinking and problem-solving skills. With backgrounds in everything from economics to marketing and beyond, business majors are equipped with a notably well-rounded skill set (no wonder it’s one of the most popular majors) that can allow them to view problems through multiple lenses and, as a result, invent creative and efficient solutions to the problems that might come up in an entry-level position and beyond.
Studying business at the university level with almost certainly involve a certain degree of real-world, hands-on exposure to the types of work environments you might find after graduating. After building a solid foundation in the related subjects, business majors will be forced to tackle real-life business problems – likely theoretically based in the classroom as well as direct exposure outside. This kind of experience is not only hugely valuable in landing the entry-level job you’ve been searching for, but will definitely come in handy when those same problems present themselves and there’s more at stake than a letter grade.
The idea of a one-man business is a hard sell (pun intended). With so many individual parts needing to work in concert for a business to be successful, a tangential skill stressed in business programs is the ability to work well and cooperate with others. This involves not only interpersonal skills behind the scenes (whether you’re managing employees or an employee yourself), but also the level of comfort necessary to interact capably with clientele.
Median Pay: $60,000
Your background in economics and marketing, coupled with the great cooperative skills you’ve developed over the last few years can make you a perfect candidate for a position as a sales manager. Sales managers essentially make sure that the sales function of a business – quite an important aspect, we’d say – runs smoothly. This might involve managing employee goals and training, facilitating and maintaining customer relationships, and being responsible for the sales portion of a business, reporting to the higher-ups.
Median Pay: $66,000
What should we buy and what should we sell? This is a question that’s at the root of all business, from the mom and pop shops stocking orange soda to large corporations moving millions of dollars worth of capital. As a financial analyst, you’ll pull on your knowledge of economics and statistics to predict market behaviors from previous years businesses understand how to adapt to a changing market. It sounds like an important role to play within an organization because it is. Without devoted financial analysts who have studied and seen the way that specific market segments work, companies would likely net huge losses on bad investments. However, when they win, you win as a financial analyst.
Median Pay: $72,000
Whereas a financial analyst educates a company about when and what to buy and sell, management analysts turn their gaze back on the company itself and work to design procedures and policies to help businesses run as efficiently as possible. The work of a management analyst might be specific – helping to devise a plan of action for clearing inventory of a specific product, for example – or more general, engineering greater overarching strategies for an entire company.
Because the business major essentially works in two stages: development of skills and then application, most business programs stress – and sometimes even facilitate – internship opportunities. Do not take these lightly. There is, of course, the resume building and hands-on experience that is derived from these opportunities, but for more important is the networking involved. Business is all about knowing the right people – whether it’s business professionals teaching your courses or an intimidating boss at your first internship, make sure that people remember your name (and that you remember theirs!).
If there’s still time, a great additional skill that business majors can develop as undergraduates is the ability to speak multiple languages if you can. This doesn’t even necessarily mean that you need to take Spanish every semester that you’re in college, but if you have any interest at all in working in an international setting (or even the US market, which is increasingly multicultural and, as a result, multilingual), being able to at least speak a bit – and show that you’re interested in getting to know a client or employer across language barriers – is a huge plus to finding new opportunities. Even if you’re on the brink of graduation, picking up a new language can be a great and rewarding hobby, both within and outside of the business setting.