In a challenging economic climate and in the midst of a boom, graduates of business degrees are in high demand among a wide range of employers. You may be taking a first degree or returning to university to enhance your skills and move your career up a level, looking for a foundation in the core principles of international business or a deeper specialization in one particular market or role. Whatever your situation and career goals, there’s bound to be a business degree to match.
Types of business degrees
The term “business degrees” is often used as an umbrella term covering a wide range of courses, in subjects that include finance, accounting, management and economics. It may be useful to think about two main types of business degrees: those that cover a broad spectrum of business-related subjects, and those which focus more specifically on a narrower strand.
It’s also common to find business degrees that allow students to combine a key field of business (such as human resources management, financial analysis or entrepreneurship) with a second subject, in a combined honors or joint degree option. For example, you could choose to develop your project management skills while also studying computer sciences, or combine international business studies with modern languages.
What to expect during your business degree
Typically business degrees last three or four years at undergraduate level (depending on the country and program), and a further one or two years at master’s level. Undergraduate business degrees will typically start with a focus on core business principles, later on allowing students to choose specializations. At master’s level and beyond, even greater specialization is possible.
Business degrees are usually assessed using a combination of coursework and examinations, and the teaching process often involves a strong focus on case studies. These are descriptions of actual business situations, which students are expected to analyze in depth, and use the information provided to discuss and evaluate various business strategies and theories.
Some business schools offer accelerated programs, allowing students to graduate more quickly by taking on a more intensive workload. Others offer part-time or distance learning options, for those who want to continue working while furthering their education. And some include a “sandwich year” – in which students undertake a work placement for one year of the program.
There is a lot of variety within the world of business careers – in every country, across every industry, and within many different sizes and types of business. Every organization needs effective managers and leaders, with diverse skill sets and specialized knowledge. To strengthen your career prospects, you may choose to pursue additional business courses, either short graduate training courses or full-length graduate-level degrees – either an MBA or a specialized master’s degree.
Common business careers paths include:
Accountancy and finance careers
Although many business degrees require students to learn aspects of these subjects, many accountancy and finance careers require additional specialized qualifications. Many companies also run graduate programs where business graduates can expand on their accountancy and finance skills while working, and pay the costs involved in completing the qualifications. Accountancy and finance careers may involve roles such as reviewing a company’s financial information and systems, advising clients on tax planning and issues, managing accounting records, advising clients on business transactions such as mergers and acquisitions, and detecting and preventing cases of financial fraud, negligence or other misdemeanors (forensic accounting).
Marketing and advertising careers
The skills in analysis and reporting gained from a business degree, combined with industry knowledge and a little creative flair, could also be put to good use in marketing and advertising careers. Here, tasks could include conducting market research, managing client relationships, developing marketing strategies, liaising with copywriters, designers and printers, managing budgets, monitoring competitor activities and evaluating the results of marketing or advertising campaigns.
Industries such as catering and retail are excellent places for business graduates with management knowledge to develop their skills and climb the career ladder. Again, many large companies offering retail careers run graduate training courses and graduate management programs, which often promise to fast-track candidates into management positions by providing them with on-the-job learning and skills development. Places can be competitive and you will usually need high grades on your degree qualification, as well as some existing work experience.
Human resources careers
For business graduates who want to combine their management and interpersonal skills, human resources careers can be both rewarding and lucrative. The role requires a combination of soft skills and a very strong understanding of the inner workings of businesses and the many employment laws that govern companies. Further specializations could be in recruitment, employee training, or employee benefit schemes.
Business consultancy careers
One of the most degree-relevant careers for business degree graduates, business consultancy careers involve using business skills to provide objective advice, expertise and specialist skills to an organization to help improve its business performance. Business consultancy firms range from larger firms that offer end-to-end solutions to smaller or niche firms that specialize in a particular market or challenge. Roles within business consultancy careers could include research, data collection and analysis, team and project management team, preparing business proposals and presentations, and assisting in the implementation of solutions.
Other possible sectors for business graduates include auditing, banking, chartered accountancy, communications, distribution, hospitality and leisure, insurance, industrial companies, journalism, law, manufacturing, media administration, production management, public relations, risk management and tax.
In addition to specialist business skills and knowledge relevant to the field you have chosen to specialize in, you should graduate with the following more general transferable skills, useful across many industries and roles:
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