What can you do with a business degree? Careers, tips and more
By Elizabeth Exline
September 15, 2021 • 8 minute read
At a glance
Business degrees are one of the most popular options among college students, routinely topping the list of the most conferred degree.
Business degrees can be general or specialized with options, like those at University of Phoenix, which offer the best of both: a general business degree with certificates of specialization in areas like financial planning, leadership and marketing.
Business majors can pursue a variety of careers in industries as diverse as accounting and finance, management, marketing and human resources.
If degrees were children, the business degree would be the golden child. At once versatile and valuable, a business degree can prepare you for a variety of careers in even more industries while providing a solid foundation in concepts like management, operations and leadership.
What’s more, that business degree can translate to a higher salary at work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Wages for many business-related occupations were higher than those for all workers.”
No wonder then that the business degree is a favorite. Offering a bevy of transferrable skills, a business degree can seem like a wise choice when it comes to navigating an educational path. But exactly what jobs are aligned with a business degree? And what’s involved in the degree program? Here, we take a closer look at these and other questions about the business track.
How do I start a career in business?
One answer to this question is to get a bachelor’s degree in business. That is a valuable early step that can provide the necessary foundation to prepare for opportunities in this field. But as with that degree itself, you have to pay attention to the nuances to be successful.
So, before you begin a degree program, consider in which field you might like to apply your knowledge. Do you want to work in business operations and management? Finance? Human resources? Marketing?
If you’re not sure which industry might be the best fit, consider pursuing volunteer or internship opportunities. Hands-on experience in a given field not only boosts your resumé, it pulls back the curtain on what the work is really like, which can help you find the right fit.
Joining a professional group is another good way to make connections and put your leadership skills to good use.
And since there’s nothing quite like doing something in order to learn it, you might consider starting your own small business. Maybe you’re good at IT. Or with kids or pets. Maybe your crafting is Etsy-level good. Starting a small side business that capitalizes on whichever skills you have is an ideal way to implement in the real world what you learn in your degree program about business development, marketing and scalability.
What is a business degree?
Like a career in business, a business degree can be broad and generalized or it can be specialized. A Bachelor of Science in Business, for example, focuses on management skills that can be applied in various organizations. A finance degree, on the other hand, zeroes in on one of a business degree’s key components: fiscal knowledge.
Types of business degrees
All business degrees are not created equal. Here are some of the most common degrees that fall under the business umbrella.
Business management: This degree captures the greatest hits of the field, including marketing, human resources, and organizational and infrastructure management.
Marketing: This specialized degree teaches students how to implement marketing strategies to achieve certain goals. Subjects like market demand, product pricing, and managing products and brands are covered.
Economics: Taking the big-picture approach, this degree track explores the ways production and supply and demand impact global markets. It also examines the effects market conditions have on fields like accounting, finance and management.
Finance: Crunching numbers takes on a new level of importance with this degree, which teaches students how to leverage financial principles to assess and resolve business challenges.
Human resources: Perfect for those who have a knack for working with people, this degree specialization covers topics like conflict management, how to establish performance standards and how to develop a personnel selection process.
Accounting: In addition to understanding how to apply accounting principles in business, this specialized degree covers accounting laws and regulations, how to create financial reports and how to conduct audits.
What can I do with a business degree?
Business majors are a lot like IT majors in at least one regard: Their skills are in demand across a variety of industries. With a strong foundation in skills like operations, finance, leadership, management and accounting, your business degree can serve you well in a number of jobs and fields, including:
Accounting and finance
Retail and sales
Marketing and advertising
Of course, you shouldn’t get a business degree if your ideal media role is as a news anchor or journalist. But if you are interested in the behind-the-scenes roles of business management and operations, you can put your business degree to work in a diverse range of industries outside of traditional corporate roles. It’s the perfect answer, in other words, for people who have multiple interests in otherwise competing fields.
The other ideal field for business majors is entrepreneurship. If starting your own business is something you plan to do someday, a business degree is the smart first step. (And you may even consider an MBA too!)
Is a business degree worth it?
There are plenty of statistics that support the value of earning a bachelor’s degree in business. According to BLS, “Employment in business and financial operations occupations is projected to grow 8% between 2020 and 2030.”
Add to that the fact that the median annual wage for business and financial operations occupations was $72,250 in May 2020, and the outlook for business majors gets even rosier.
(Median incomes are reported by the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics and are not specific to University of Phoenix graduates. Further, these national averages may include earners at all stages of their career and may not accurately reflect entry-level wages or variations by region. Your earning outcome may vary. University of Phoenix does not guarantee salary level.)
Is business a good major?
The better question may be: “Is business a good major for me?”
Just as business is not an easy major, careers in business tend to be demanding. What’s more, because business is one of the most popular degree fields, job competition may be fierce, depending on which career path you take.
But a business degree has much to recommend it as well. Entry-level positions in finance or management may require a business degree, according to Indeed.com, and the skills learned over the course of earning a business degree can be leveraged within many different roles — even if you ultimately decide to pursue a career outside the traditional corporate scope.
At the end of the day, a business degree can offer a host of transferrable skills you can leverage in a business career and beyond. How you decide to use them is up to you.
How to find a job in business
Finding a job in business is much like finding a job in any other sector. It’s helpful to have the right educational background, and you should definitely have some experience, whether that’s an internship or a volunteer role (both are mentioned above).
Even if you don’t know someone in your industry of choice, chances are you know someone who does. Reach out to your network to see if anyone can put you in touch with the right someone. Do this privately and individually, not as an anonymous e-blast or a call-to-action on LinkedIn®. Ask for referrals for roles that seem like a good fit.
Make a short list of companies you’d like to work for and contact them directly. Most major companies list job openings on their websites. If your targeted company doesn’t, or if there isn’t a vacancy in your desired role, contact the human resources manager to introduce yourself and see if your skills match up with upcoming openings.
Scour job-search platforms for good opportunities, and attend job fairs to get acquainted with recruiters and companies that are hiring. Remember — first impressions count. Present yourself professionally, whether in person or email.
Following the social media accounts of companies you like is a great way to get to know each one’s brand and ethos. On the flip side, make sure your social media accounts are authentic to you but appropriate for any professional role you hope to have. Little on the internet is truly private — act accordingly.
Business degree jobs
While job flexibility may be the calling card of a business degree, there are a few career paths open primarily to business graduates. Those earning a Bachelor of Science in Business at University of Phoenix, for example, will find themselves uniquely qualified to pursue the following:
Overview: Business managers plan and oversee measures that help their organizations achieve optimal efficiencies. Areas that may fall under their jurisdiction include budgets, marketing, business strategy and personnel.
National median salary: $98,890 for Facilities Managers in 2020, according to BLS.
Education requirements: A bachelor’s degree and related work experience are customary.
Job outlook: Projected growth of 9% between 2020 and 2030, according to BLS.
Overview: General managers are often responsible for multiple departments and may be required to formulate policies and manage daily operations.
Education requirements: Most management roles require a bachelor’s degree at minimum.
Job outlook: Projected growth of 9% between 2020 and 2030, according to BLS.
How to get a business degree
At University of Phoenix, earning a Bachelor of Science in Business prepares students for management roles in a variety of industries. The program was developed specifically to answer the needs of today’s market as part of the University’s skills-aligned initiative, which delineates the skills that are addressed in each course.
As students complete courses and assignments, they can track their progress on a dashboard, which identifies the skills they’ve learned and which they may need to work on.
This bachelor’s degree also offers the option for specialization. Students can pursue a certificate in any of the following areas:
Earning a bachelor’s degree takes approximately four years, but at University of Phoenix, the online format and sequential nature of the courses make the degree program attainable for busy adults. Each class is 5 weeks long with multiple start dates throughout the year.
The Bachelor of Science in Business degree requires 14 core courses, 12 general education courses and 14 elective courses for a total of 120 credits. Transferrable credits and credits awarded through the University’s Prior Learning Assessment may be available for eligible candidates.
With a strong job outlook for business jobs in general, and the flexibility to work outside the corporate sphere, a business degree is the first step toward a world of opportunity.