What Business Major are You Interested In?
Pursuing a business career can be both lucrative and fulfilling, as most organizations will need to hire at least a few personnel who have an understanding of business principles and can ensure that projects are executed smoothly. Business careers can span several different fields including accounting, business development, economics, finance, human resources, management, marketing, and operations. While most entry-level positions will hire students who have studied a more generalized business degree, certain positions may require students or graduates to have demonstrated academic excellence in particular concentrations or specializations. For students who are looking to apply for business-related jobs, look for job titles that fit these general areas. These can include positions like cost estimators and budget analysts for finance-facing teams, project management and risk management roles, and human resource specialists.
Students looking to pursue a business degree in Alabama should come in with a general idea of which specialized area that they are most interested in. The highest-ranking business programs in Alabama will generally offer many business tracks that allow students to pursue a degree in areas like finance, marketing, or accounting, rather than simply offering just one overarching business degree. Across all the top-ranked Alabama business programs, the most popular type of degree programs are those that focus on business administration, management, and operations. This is followed by accounting specializations, which also see a large number of graduates every year across Alabama’s business programs. Another business concentration that is popular in the state is family and consumer sciences, an area of study that seeks to help students investigate how family and community relationships affect consumer behavior and patterns. Degree pathways that are less popular in Alabama include the organizational leadership, supply chain management, and entrepreneurship concentrations.
Business Education in Alabama
Associate Degree in Business (AS)
Many students can find gainful employment right away after earning an associate degree in business, but career opportunities and advancement will vary depending on the type of concentration the student has chosen to pursue. Students who have completed their associate degree in business administration, for example, will oftentimes be able to land entry-level positions like administrative assistant and customer service representative. Those who have completed their associate degree in marketing are likely to build careers in sales and customer service, as well as working as advertising assistants. Students who choose to pursue an associate degree in accounting, however, will more than likely use this degree as a step towards completing their four-year bachelor’s program in accounting, which is often a prerequisite for jobs in the accounting field. Customer service representatives can expect to earn a median salary of $39,600 a year according to Salary.com and advertising assistants are paid an average of around $38,500 a year according to Glassdoor.com, which would be the expected range for those who have recently graduated with an associate degree in a business-related field. Workers with only an associate degree in business can work their way up to managerial positions over time, but the process is often longer and more difficult than it is for those who graduate with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Bachelor's Degree in Business (BS)
A bachelor’s degree in a business-related field is one of the most popular degree types for this type of career path. Almost all entry-level positions across the operations, finance, accounting, marketing, and human resources fields will be available to students with a bachelor’s degree, and there are usually no other prerequisites. Compared to entry-level positions available to students with associate degrees, jobs hiring for bachelor’s graduates will typically use titles that include “specialist” or “analyst”, compared to wording such as “assistant”. Applicable job titles and responsibilities can vary depending on the field and concentration of the applicant, but according to Indeed.com, popular and lucrative jobs can include positions like human resources specialist (average bachelor’s salary of $51,600 per year), accountant (average salary of $53,800 per year), investment banker (average annual salary of $64,500), and financial advisor (average salary of $65,300). Jobs open to bachelor’s-level applicants will often come with a higher annual salary than those open to applicants with only an associate degree. Most entry-level jobs accepting bachelor’s candidates will have chances for on-the-job training and promotion to managerial positions throughout the course of one’s career, though some people may prefer to pursue a master’s degree in their chosen field later on during their career.
Master's Degree in Business (MS or MC)
A master’s degree in a business field is a nice-to-have but not a requirement for most early-career business professionals. Usually, undertaking a master’s-level business degree can lead to eligibility to apply for more advanced job titles sooner in one’s career, leading to faster promotions and more earning power over time. Pursuing a program of study like the Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) can also lead to faster promotion to managerial positions, with many applicants landing positions with “associate”, “manager”, or “director” in their job title throughout all different business specializations soon after graduating with their MBA. Most individuals operating in the C-suite of companies have also pursued either an MBA or an Executive MBA degree, which allows them to specifically focus on honing their understanding of business management principles. According to MBA.com, in 2020 the median MBA hire had a starting salary of around $115,000 per year, much higher than the median salary for direct-from-industry hires for similar positions ($95,000) and bachelor’s graduates ($65,000), so it can certainly pay off over time to pursue a master’s-level degree in most business specializations. It’s important to note that, for the MBA degree in particular, most universities will require a few years of work experience after college before they accept applicants into their programs. For individuals pursuing specializations like accounting, acquiring a master’s degree in accounting will often allow them to sit for important certifications like the CPA examination, which may be a prerequisite to some job titles.
PhD Degree in Business (PhD)
Those who pursue a Ph.D. in a business-related field are usually more interested in moving forward the scholarly research in this discipline than applying the knowledge in practice. Many will choose to become professors to continue to publish scholarly research in their respective areas of business specialization and teach the next generation of business students. There will seldom be a business position that requires a doctorate-level degree as a prerequisite for application, though there may be some highly specialized teams that prefer to hire candidates with a Ph.D. degree. An example would be in finance, where certain teams focusing on economic research and financial modeling may prefer to hire candidates with a Ph.D. in a related field like math or economics. Some students with a doctorate in a business-related field may never even work in a firm throughout their career, instead spending their entire lives in academia.
Become a Business Specialist in Alabama
Students who have chosen to pursue a business-related degree will have a fairly easy transition into the Alabama business field post-graduation, though the business field is known for its flexibility. While it is helpful for students to have an idea of which area of business they are interested in and pursue a degree with that type of concentration during college, many business disciplines can intersect in the real world, allowing individuals to make career switches later in life. For example, students specializing in operations management may work in the field for a few years and transition later to areas like strategy later on. Students who are interested in rising to a C-suite or upper management position later in their lives should also keep in mind that undertaking an MBA can help accelerate that process.
Below is a quick overview of the different employment options that are available for each of the major business areas:
Marketing and advertising careers will focus on helping an organization launch a product and clarify its brand. Alabama students who are interested in building a career in this field should major in areas like marketing, marketing management, or advertising, which can help them master the knowledge necessary to excel in the field. Many job postings in this field will specify a preference for candidates with this type of training, and pursuing this type of degree at a top-ranked Alabama business program can also come with important networking opportunities with alumni and local businesses. Typical job titles in the marketing and advertising field can include marketing and advertising specialist, marketing analyst, marketing and promotions manager, marketing coordinator, brand manager, director of marketing, vice president of marketing, and chief marketing officer.
- Supply Chain Management and Logistics:
Supply chain management is the aspect of business that ensures that products, components, and goods move efficiently from upstream to downstream facilities. Students interested in working in this field will often pursue a degree focused on supply chain management or logistics analysis. Supply chain management and logistics teams are an incredibly important asset to allowing goods to flow easily between business units and on time. For example, they can help ensure that manufacturers can get their goods efficiently to wholesalers and retailers, as well as help maintain efficient delivery systems necessary for keeping online shopping networks alive. Typical job titles can include logistician, operations research analyst, distribution manager, and supply chain manager.
- Finance and Accounting:
One of the most important parts of the business field is figuring out the flow of funds and ensuring that organizations have the money to pay for goods, services, employee benefits, asset purchases, and expenses like rent. People looking to work in this field will typically major in finance or accounting. In particular, accounting specialists will often be tasked with ensuring that accounts balance out so that expenses and income can be tallied correctly. Finance specialists will analyze trends in income, profitability, and spending to help upper-level management decide on future areas of growth or projects to cut. Typical job titles in this field include accounts payable specialist, payroll specialist, bookkeeper, credit analyst, internal auditor, financial analyst, finance manager, treasury manager, cash manager, accountant, cost accountant, chief financial officer, and more.
- Operations and Management:
Operations and management professionals have the important task of ensuring that different teams within a company work together efficiently to meet important deadlines. Students who have pursued a degree in management, business administration, or operations will generally pursue jobs in this area. Typical job titles include global operations analyst, operations coordinator, business operations manager, office operations manager or supervisor, project manager, operations director, vice president of business operations, and chief operations officer (COO).
Top College Programs in Alabama for Business
Students looking to pursue business college programs in Alabama can consider attending these top-ranked programs in the state:
- The University of Alabama:
The University of Alabama stands out as the top-ranked business program in the state, offering 30 different areas of concentration with more than 2,000 students a year graduating with a business-related degree. Popular degree specializations include accounting, advertising, business administration, family and consumer sciences, finance, management science, marketing, and taxation.
- Samford University:
Samford University’s business degree programs are also highly ranked in the State of Alabama. The school offers 18 different business specializations, with more than 100 students a year attaining a business degree. Top business disciplines at this university include accounting, business administration, entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, and organizational leadership.
- Auburn University:
Auburn University is often considered the third ranked business program in the state of Alabama, offering 23 different business degree programs. More than 1,000 students graduate from this large public university with a business degree every year. Top areas of study include accounting, business administration, economics, finance, human resources management, international business, logistics, and marketing.
- The University of Alabama in Huntsville:
The University of Alabama in Huntsville is a high ranking business program in the state, offering 20 different business-related degree programs. In 2015, nearly 300 students graduated with business degrees from this school. Popular disciplines include accounting, business administration, finance, logistics, marketing, and procurement.
- Tuskegee University:
As another well-known and high ranking business program in Alabama, Tuskegee offers 14 different business degree programs. In 2015, this medium-sized private university graduated 68 students with a business degree, with students focusing on areas like accounting, business administration, economics, finance, logistics, and sales and distribution.
Careers for Business Graduates
- Financial Analyst
Financial analysts leverage company and industry data to better understand financial performance and project future growth potential. They can work in both junior and senior capacities in a firm and form an important part of the financial services industry, providing important numerical insight for managers and C-suite members and managers of firms to make strategic decisions.
- Benefits Specialist
Benefits specialists are part of the human resources department of a company. They take on an important role in determining a company’s employee benefits and retirement programs, which are often an important consideration for an employee’s compensation package, which is used to attract talent to a firm.
- HR Specialist/HR Manager
HR specialists and managers have the important task of working with the different teams and departments within the firm to hire new employees. HR specialists will screen resumes, conduct early round interviews, place workers, and hold networking and recruiting events.
- Project Manager
Project managers are usually part of the operations team in an organization. They are responsible for planning, organizing, directing, and executing designated projects to ensure that all pieces of work are done on time. This work may also include researching specific products and markets to understand competitors and coordinating between teams to bring a product to market.
Accounting professionals are responsible for a company’s bookkeeping and keeping track of important financial documents like profit-and-loss statements and balance sheets. The accounting discipline has varied responsibilities covering areas like audits, tax reporting, expense tracking, and more.
- Supply Chain Manager
Supply chain managers have the important job of ensuring that an organization’s supply chain runs smoothly and at the lowest possible cost. For many businesses, this includes efficiently tracking suppliers and managing shipments, as well as maintaining good relations with warehouses and more.
- Public Relations Specialist/Manager
Public relations specialists and managers have the important role of shaping the public’s impression of a firm and becoming the main point of communication between management and the press when there are important updates. This can include crafting media releases and social media programs to maintain a certain brand image, sharing new product developments, and managing crisis communication.
- Content Marketing Specialist/Manager
Content marketing specialists and managers must bridge storytelling and data analysis throughout their careers. Their main focus is to create, maintain, and improve a firm’s digital marketing footprint. This involves understanding the firm’s customer base, as well as analyzing how to capitalize on any differences in the way that consumers interact with the firm online compared to in-person interactions.
Entrepreneurs are individuals that seek to start their own businesses. Even though images of technology startups come to mind when most people think of entrepreneurs, most small and medium-sized businesses, like restaurants and local grocery stores, are also run by entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs tend to need to master skills from all aspects of business ranging from operations management to finance to marketing.
- Fundraising Specialist
Fundraising specialists focus specifically on helping organizations understand areas where they need to raise extra funds, create tactics to help raise these funds, and identify possible investors and donors as well as maintaining lists of previous donors who may be relied on to help the company in the future.
A chief executive officer (CEO) is the highest-ranking executive personnel in the company. Their primary responsibilities include making major decisions that will impact the resource and financial allocation within the firm and deciding on the future growth strategy of the firm with the help of other C-suite executives.
Business Degrees & Career Paths