What Is Business? A Complete Guide to Business Degrees and Careers

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What Is Business Exactly?

Business refers to the running and operating of an organization that buys and/or sells goods or services.

Careers in business encompass various jobs and responsibilities. For example, you can pursue a business career as an accountant for an aerospace company or as an HR professional for a movie studio.

Many people choose to attend business school and tailor their career paths to their unique interests and skills. In fact, business is the most popular college major, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

What Is an MBA?

A master of business administration, or MBA, is the most popular master’s degree for business professionals.

This graduate degree can prepare you to start your own business, lead an existing organization, and advance your career.

MBA students learn about the different parts of running a business, from accounting to marketing and people management. Developing soft skills — such as leadership, communication, and public speaking — is also an essential part of an MBA program.

Most MBA programs allow you to choose a concentration, like finance, entrepreneurship, international business, supply chain management, and leadership. A concentration lets you tailor your degree toward specific career goals.

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10 Types of Business Degrees You Can Get

Students can choose from among many types of business degrees.

Whereas some business degrees can lead to more specialized careers in fields like real estate and human resources, others, like business administration and marketing, can qualify you for a broad array of careers.

  1. 1

    Accounting

    An accounting degree is all about understanding financial data. You’ll learn to manage account information and balance sheets, and how payroll, bookkeeping, taxes, and auditing work.

    With an accounting degree, you can become an accountant, financial manager, auditor, budget analyst, cost estimator, financial advisor, tax examiner, or forensic accountant.

  2. 2

    Business Administration

    A business administration degree, particularly an MBA, is an extremely versatile credential. Graduates can pursue careers like operations manager, HR manager, and financial manager.

    Most programs let you choose a concentration in subfields like international business, entrepreneurship, supply chain management, finance, human resources, and project management.

    You’ll take courses in accounting, marketing, strategic management, leadership, ethics, and data analysis.

  3. 3

    Entrepreneurship

    Majoring in entrepreneurship prepares you to launch new ventures, invent brands, and start your own business.

    With this degree, you can go into business consulting, sales, or research and development. You can also join an existing startup or explore venture capital.

    Common courses in an entrepreneurship program include business model development, venture capital experience, negotiations, leadership, entrepreneurial finance, value creation, and marketing.

  4. 4

    Finance

    As a finance major, you’ll study how to apply financial concepts to business decisions. Programs typically cover economics, financial planning, accounting, investment banking, statistics, and risk management.

    Finance degree-holders can pursue careers in corporate finance, accounting, investment management, finance consulting, banking, and insurance. You can also advance into leadership positions at financial institutions, at fintech companies, and in government finance sectors.

  5. 5

    Human Resources

    Do you like to help employees and find solutions to their problems? Then consider a human resources degree.

    In an HR program, you’ll learn about employment law, recruiting and retaining talent, resolving conflict, compensation and benefits, employee training and development, and project management.

    Nearly every organization has an HR department. If there’s a specific industry you wish to work in, you can specialize your degree. HR professionals can also work at consulting firms and hiring agencies.

  6. 6

    International Business

    With an international business degree, you can pursue jobs that revolve around international relationships.

    Popular international business careers include management analyst, economist, international marketing specialist, trade specialist, foreign exchange consultant, and import/export coordinator.

    You’ll take courses in subjects like global financial strategies, international marketing, international economics, international business law, and managing international employees. International business programs may also include study-abroad opportunities.

  7. 7

    Management

    Students in a management degree program learn about decision-making, administration, budgeting and forecasting, data analysis, marketing, public speaking, culture development, and business management.

    Business management grads can qualify for roles as operations managers, business leaders, project managers, sales representatives, office managers, business analysts, business consultants, and administrators.

  8. 8

    Marketing

    A marketing business degree prepares you for a career in marketing, advertising, sales, public relations, media, and events.

    This versatile degree requires a lot of innovation — marketing strategies constantly shift as consumers do. For example, social media marketing is an ever-changing job that requires an impressive knowledge of current trends.

    Marketing majors take classes like marketing strategy, digital marketing, product development, global marketing techniques, buyer behavior, brand management, and social media management.

  9. 9

    Real Estate

    While you don’t need a real estate degree to become a real estate agent, the credential can go a long way toward helping you build a successful business.

    A degree in real estate can empower you to take on entrepreneurial real estate, explore asset management, and develop investment strategies.

    In this major, you’ll study the economics of real estate, accounting, real estate markets, real estate ethics, and asset management.

  10. 10

    Sales

    A business degree with a sales focus teaches you to understand consumer behavior, market trends, and selling strategies.

    With a sales degree, you can pursue jobs in account management, customer service, retail management, marketing, advertising, customer acquisition, and — naturally — sales.

    Common courses for a business degree in sales include salesmanship, advertising, administration, management, leadership, relationship-building, ethics, and customer service strategy.

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What Do You Need to Get Into Business School?

  • chevron-double-rightApplication
  • chevron-double-rightTranscripts
  • chevron-double-rightResume
  • chevron-double-rightGMAT or GRE scores (some schools may not require either test)
  • chevron-double-rightLetters of recommendation
  • chevron-double-rightEssay(s)

Why Accreditation Matters for a Business Degree

When a school is accredited, it means that one or more independent accrediting agencies have vetted the school and determined that it meets certain educational standards.

Accreditation is essential. Without it, you may be unable to qualify for state licensure or financial aid, attend graduate school, or even land a job.

A legitimate accreditor is one that’s been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Schools can receive institutional accreditation, whereas specific programs can receive programmatic accreditation.

Keep an eye out for these business programmatic accreditors as you research degree options:

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Business Jobs and Salary Outlook

Many careers in business boast high earning potential. And some of the highest-earning jobs on our list only require a bachelor’s degree. For example, financial managers earned a median annual salary of $131,710 in May 2021 — no MBA needed!

Business and finance jobs also have a positive projected growth over the next 10 years. From 2021-2031, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 28% growth for logisticians, 21% growth for financial examiners, and 19% growth for market research analysts.

Lower-earning business careers include training and development specialists, HR specialists, market research analysts, and logisticians. Experience and advanced degrees like an MBA can increase your earning potential.

15 Popular Business Careers
JobMedian Annual Salary (May 2021)Job Growth Rate (2021-2031)Minimum Education Required
Financial Managers$131,71017%Bachelor’s
Compensation and Benefits Managers$127,5302%Bachelor’s
Sales Managers$127,4905%Bachelor’s
Top Executives$98,9806%Bachelor’s
Financial Analysts$95,5709%Bachelor’s
Project Management Specialists$94,5007%Bachelor’s
Personal Financial Advisors$94,17015%Bachelor’s
Management Analysts$93,00011%Bachelor’s
Financial Examiners$81,41021%Bachelor’s
Budget Analysts$79,9403%Bachelor’s
Accountants and Auditors$77,2506%Bachelor’s
Logisticians$77,03028%Bachelor’s
Market Research Analysts$63,92019%Bachelor’s
Human Resources Specialists$62,2908%Bachelor’s
Training and Development Specialists$61,5708%Bachelor’s

Source: BLS

Frequently Asked Questions

question-mark-circleIs a business degree hard?

Compared to medical degrees and advanced science programs, business degrees aren’t often considered the most rigorous. That said, the difficulty of a degree will depend on your individual strengths and interests.

For example, if public speaking, finance mathematics, and group projects intimidate you, a business degree may seem hard. If you enjoy analyzing business trends, giving presentations, and honing your communication skills, a business degree could be a breeze.

question-mark-circleIs business a good career to get into?

A business career is a solid choice for many professionals. You can work in various roles and industries — from supply chain management to fashion — with a business degree.

If you ever want to try something new, you can often pivot to different jobs and apply your business skills to new opportunities. For example, if you’ve spent a year working in public relations for a tech company, you could switch things up and start a marketing career at a beauty brand startup.

question-mark-circleWhat is the best business school?

Some business schools have earned a reputation for excellence, like The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

While prestigious schools are likely to top ranking lists, the best business school for you will depend on your interests, skills, goals, and budget.

For example, you may prefer a business school that offers online courses or an accelerated timeline. Or maybe the best business school for you is one that provides ample financial aid.

question-mark-circleDo business degrees pay well?

Professionals with business degrees typically earn above-average salaries. The average annual salary for all business and financial occupations was $76,570 in May 2021, according to the BLS — that’s about $30,000 more than the median salary for all jobs.

question-mark-circleIs an MBA degree worth it?

For many professionals, an MBA is worth the time, effort, and cost. The average starting salary for an MBA graduate was $82,372 in 2020, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

An MBA can also increase employment opportunities and qualify you for leadership positions.

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