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What is International Business?

The field of international business is very broad and deep. If you have an interest in working with foreign businesses and governments, there is surely a niche for you. There are opportunities in the world of business where you can work in international sales, marketing, import/export, law, and more. The world of international business also applies to work in government and some non-profit organizations, as well.

This is because governments often have non-military projects overseas that require contracts, operations diligence, visas, and more. Non-profit organizations often need to cooperate with foreign governments and businesses to ensure that their workers and volunteers are able to carry out their projects effectively. A deep knowledge of the various cultures and laws will help all this proceed smoothly.

Students can start their international business journey with a standard business degree, such as a bachelor’s degree in international business. However, some begin with a degree in international or global studies instead. Others might even leverage a political science background to work with an international firm. Essentially, students can pair a wide variety of skills with a deep knowledge of culture to forge a career that is nothing short of brilliant.

Alabama's online colleges and universities offer students many opportunities to prepare for a career in international business. While only a few schools have bachelor’s degree programs that are specific to international business, other opportunities abound. Students who enter into a global studies or international studies program will learn much about how different cultures and nations interact for commerce and other business interests.

The State of Alabama has already proven that it's able to attract large international business in the form of automobile plants, but its growth needs even more experts in this field. Its ports are also importing and exporting goods to customers worldwide. Furthermore, as Alabama becomes more multicultural, the demand for foreign goods continue to rise. New residents may also want to conduct business with friends and family back home, thus creating even more demand for international business experts.

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International Business Education in Alabama

Associate Degree in International Business (AS)

A two-year associate degree is a terrific way to get your feet wet in the field of international business. However, it’s unlikely that you will be able to get a foothold in the profession with only a two-year degree. If you would like to start your path in a community college, seek out one that offers an associate of international business degree. Discuss your options with your academic adviser and also look for programs that have direct ties to bachelor’s degree programs.

If your local community college doesn't offer an international business degree, you might start with a two-year degree in business management, accounting, or economics. Then you can transfer your credits to a university that offers a full four-year degree in international business or global studies.

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Bachelor's Degree in International Business (BS)

A four-year degree in international business should be your first goal before you start applying for that all-important entry-level position. The reason that a four-year degree is nearly required for this field is that international business is such a broad and interdisciplinary field. As such you may want to add a minor in a field such as economics, finance, supply chain management, or political science. Make sure that whatever minor or second major you pair with your international business degree includes as many international courses as possible. For example, look for opportunities to take courses such as: International Finance, International Relations, or Global Economics.

With this in mind, you could also bolster your resume by learning a second language such as Chinese, Spanish, French, or German. However, if you have a special desire to do business with a particular country, by all means, learn that language.

Master's Degree in International Business (MS or MC)

If you are driven to succeed, you will want to start or boost your career with an MBA in International Business or a Master of International Business. The choice between these two degrees can be difficult, but if you choose an MIB you will spend your entire degree focused on your specific field. This is perhaps the optimal choice if your undergraduate studies included ample coursework that focused on business administration instead of international business.

While an MBA is also a terrific option, and many go on to achieve amazing things with this degree, the first year will likely be spent learning the fundamentals of business in general. Your second year will focus on your chosen concentration: international business. If you are coming to the degree program with a bachelor’s degree in, say, political science, language, or economics, this might be the best option for you. If you have a non-business degree you may want to review the admission requirements, as well as the program's curriculum, prior to applying.

PhD Degree in International Business (PhD)

A doctoral degree in international business is the absolute highest degree you can achieve in this field. While most any firm will be thrilled to hire a PhD in International Business, this level of degree is by no means required and may not provide the benefit you want for a career in the business world. In fact, some businesspeople may see this degree as being too academic and not rooted enough in the practical day-to-day business community.

However, if you have a master’s degree in International Business, either an MIB or an MBA, and loads of experience, this could be a great choice for you. This level of academic achievement can take your career in a new direction. Some PhDs might join a think-tank that does in-depth research into the international business environment. Others might shift their career focus into academia and choose to teach. While a master’s degree is sufficient to teach at the college level, a PhD is more likely to land you a full-time and even tenure-track position. Keep in mind that years of practical experience can also help with an academic career.

Become an International Business Professional in Alabama

As Alabama's economy develops, so does its standing in the global marketplace. Already, Alabama has entered the world of the global automotive industry and their ties to international businesses are sure to increase as they move forward. This makes an Alabama international business degree all the more valuable.

With your degree in international business, you can join an Alabama business that makes its trade in shipping, logistics, or transportation. After all, the ports along Alabama's shores of the Gulf of Mexico bring in goods from all over the globe. Then, as the world becomes an ever-smaller place, Alabama firms will need experts who can forge alliances in Asia, Europe, and South America. They may also need an expert in international finance to help diversifying their holdings or to help lure international investors.

With all of this in mind, students who are eager to take part in the Global Marketplace will need to assess Alabama's needs, as well as their own personal goals. Some may have special talents that are best expressed in economics, logistics, financial analysis, or international law. On the other hand, some students will want to address these international issues from a governmental perspective. For them, public policy, international relations, and law will come in handy.

Thus, it's clear to see that Alabama students can apply their degrees in international business in a variety of ways. A wide and growing field of industries need skilled professionals to manage their overseas contracts, shipments, transactions, and even mergers and acquisitions. Simultaneously, state agencies and towns will need experts to help lure international firms to the state. This can require a great deal of diplomacy including language skills, knowledge of international law, familiarity with international banking, and more.

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Given all of these options, it's important to start off a career by narrowing down one's scope. That is, those who have strong mathematical ability might consider focusing more on international finance. On the other hand, those whose talents are mostly verbal might consider pursuing international relations or international law. Those who are somewhere in the middle might seek a focus in economics.

Top College Programs in Alabama for International Business

  • University of South Alabama:
    The Mitchell College of Business at the University of South Alabama offers a major degree program in international business. The program has a hands-on focus that sends students abroad to live in specific markets and thus gain literacy in their language and culture. After all, cultural nuance can make or break any deal.
  • Samford University:
    Students in Samford's Howard College of Arts and Sciences are able to take advantage of a Global Studies Major that provides a well-rounded approach to our interconnected world. This interdisciplinary degree is grounded in the humanities and addresses global cultures, languages, and economies. When paired with a minor from the AACSB accredited business school, students will have a leg up in the global economy.
  • Auburn University:
    While the esteemed Raymond J. Harbert School of Business, located on Auburn's historic campus, does not have a degree in international business, students still have some great options. The College of Liberal Arts offers a degree in international studies that helps form a foundation in global business and government. Students graduate from this program and pursue law, public policy, and other graduate degrees..
  • University of Alabama:
    Business students at the University of Alabama's Culverhouse College of Business can add a minor in international business to their chosen degree. They might consider a major degree in international studies with the IB minor to help launch a graduate degree in international business, a law degree, or even an MBA with a concentration in international business.
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham:
    Students who desire a career that spans the globe should look into UAB's B.A. in International Studies. This humanities degree provides students with a global perspective on business, economics, and policy that they will need in their careers. Many students also pair this degree with a minor in political science or business. There are many options so students can create a future they want to live in.

Careers for International Business Graduates

  • International Import/Export Specialist:
    This career option requires that students not only understand international markets, but they should also be attuned to other cultures and geographies. That is, some regions are particularly good at producing certain goods, such as tea, so it's valuable to know where to seek them. Other factors such as relative currency valuations, shipping costs, and a host of other concerns need to be weighed in every transaction. Meanwhile, an international businessperson should also understand the culture of those regions and be sensitive to their customs.
  • Business Analyst Manager:
    This position involves evaluating various management systems with an eye to improving their overall efficiency. Many management analysts work as consultants and thus travel around the nation and globe to help firms tighten their ships with regards to payroll, scheduling, and other management concerns. Management analysts should also be aware of the information systems that provide the best outcomes for the least up-front investment.

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  • Marketing Manager:
    Professionals who pursue marketing may eventually end up managing a marketing department. Many who attain this level have earned an MBA in Marketing or else they will need that degree in order to rise into the C-suites. This position requires not only managerial skills but a deep background in marketing, including creative campaigns and in-depth analysis of market data.
  • C-suite Executive:
    No matter what specific position you hold in the C-suites, whether it be CFO, CIO, CEO, or CSO, you will probably need an MBA. Even those who built a career in international business will need to have the fundamental skills needed to guide their department as a domestic organization. They will also inform their decisions with a deep understanding of international business.
  • HR Manager:
    Those with a degree in international business can help lead the HR initiatives of a global organization. They will understand how to create compensation packages that are amenable to certain cultures while also managing interpersonal policies that have cultural sensitivities built in.
  • Economist:
    Whether you work for a bank, a hedge fund, or an economic think-tank, a master’s degree will help you in this position. Professional economists evaluate data relative to their specific business and the wider economy. There are also economists whose scope is global, and they not only evaluate overseas economies, but they look at how each economy interacts with the other and how a confluence of factors impacts those value relationships.
  • Policy Analyst:
    Government policy can dictate so much in the business world. Taxation, safety regulations, transportation issues, and more are all part and parcel of policy analysis. A policy analyst can weigh in on how their state, Alabama for instance, can amend their policies to help attract certain international businesses and industries. Their models might show how a tax incentive pays off for Alabama in terms of employment, for instance.

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