How to Become a Business Professional in Illinois

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What Business Major are You Interested In?


Many industries depend on and utilize the expertise of business professionals, and the skills gains can be easily applied to almost any job. As a result, graduates tend to look for employment that aligns with their personal interests.

While the options are nearly endless, some of the most prominent career paths for business professionals include positions in:
  • Accounting
  • Business Development
  • Economics
  • Sales
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Global Business
  • Human Resources
  • Operations
  • Management
  • Entrepreneurship

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to identify the daily tasks and responsibilities of business professionals because every industry has different needs and expectations. Company and organization size can also impact specific job parameters, as can employer objectives. This means that responsibilities can even vary significantly among positions with the same titles.

In order to prepare students for a wide variety of workplace settings, academic programs typically focus instruction in high-value areas such as analytics, leadership, and research. This ensures graduates are prepared for and capable of thriving in almost any workplace. The most successful professionals in business have exceptional critical thinking and problem solving abilities. They also demonstrate excellent interpersonal, leadership, communication, and social perceptiveness skills.


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Business Education in Illinois


Are you considering enrolling in a business degree program in Illinois? This particular major can lead to a wide variety of employment opportunities, making it a wildly popular choice for incoming students. While specific course expectations vary, most colleges and universities focus on developing management, finance, leadership, and marketing abilities. As one of the most sought-after academic disciplines in the United States, business degree graduates can anticipate acquiring a wide variety of knowledge and skills than can be easily transferred to almost any industry. This can make the prospect of finding and maintaining employment a lot less daunting.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in business and financial occupations is expected to increase by 8% from 2020 to 2030. This it is faster than the average for all occupations in the country and is anticipated to add approximately 750,800 new positions in the field. There are several factors impacting this growth, but the primary contributors include continued globalization, overall economic growth, and the use of market research to understand customer demand more clearly.

As there are numerous business-related jobs that fall under this employment category, it’s important to note that the outlook will vary depending on the occupation pursued. Some career fields are expected to perform better than others. Employment of market research analysts, for example, is projected to grow by 22% in the next ten years. Overall employment of purchasing managers, buyers, and agents, on the other hand, is projected to decline 4% over the same time period.

Professional and business services are the highest ranking industry in Illinois, accounting for $118.4 billion in revenue each year. Additionally, it’s important to note that almost all of the top ten industries in the state benefit from or depend on business professionals to some extent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, business and financial operations occupations accounted for 345,970 of the state’s jobs in May 2020. The annual mean wage for people in these jobs in Illinois was $80,390 that same year, which is well above the national median.

Prospective business professionals can find degree options at every level in Illinois. While colleges and universities around the world offer programs and online learning makes is possible to take classes anywhere where internet access is available, it’ is often recommended that students attend institutions near their intended workplace. Local schools are most familiar with industry norms in the area and often have established relationships with top employers. Additionally, these programs will better prepare graduates seeking state credentials or who plan to open their own businesses.

Earning a business degree in Illinois does not mean you are restricted to applying for one type of position afterward. In fact, there are many different employment opportunities available, with business professionals of all kinds in the field. Job titles and descriptions will vary, but many who perform this type of work focus their efforts on analyzing and improving the performance of companies and/or organizations. Career options can vary significantly, however, with business professionals performing various tasks in all sorts of different work environments, from office cubicles to client’s homes.

Business professionals require some level of advanced education. While programs are available at every level - associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate – most professionals opt to earn bachelor’s degrees. This is because the mass majority of entry positions in the field have established this as the standard. As a general rule, the more education completed, the more employment options become available, though there is some question of return on investment for anything beyond a master’s degree. Additionally, professionals with advanced degrees tend to enjoy more job security and higher pay. Ultimately, you will need to select the degree type that will allow you to achieve your personal and career goals best.

Associate Degree in Business (AS)

Associate degrees in business are ideal for students seeking an introduction to the field. Programs tend to cover several important topics, but only in broad terms that are appropriate for entry-level jobs. Employment options will, however, be somewhat limited. Graduates are likely to be competing for work as administrative assistants, executive assistants, food service managers, bookkeepers, office managers, human resources employees, and office clerks. It’s worth noting that candidates with bachelor’s degrees are likely to be selected first for these positions.

Graduates may also choose to transfer credits earned to a four-year institution. This can be particularly effective, as community colleges tend to be less expensive and offer more flexible scheduling options. You should always verify that the institution is properly accredited prior to enrolling, though, as transferring credits from unaccredited schools can be difficult, if not impossible.

Most associate degree programs in business consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. While every institution is different, some of the most common instructional topics include finance, human resources management, and customer service.

Bachelor's Degree in Business (BS)

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the minimum education requirement for most business and finance occupations is a bachelor’s degree. Graduates at this level are trained in most major business disciplines and qualify to apply for jobs as financial analysts, human resource specialists, and management consultants.

Most bachelor degree programs in business consist of 120 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately four years to complete. Program specifics vary, but most provide a more comprehensive exploration of marketing, finance, and accounting. Instructors also help students develop various business-related skills that can be applied in almost every employment setting. Additionally, students may have opportunities to tailor their coursework by selecting a concentration.

While satisfactory for many jobs, bachelor’s degrees are insufficient preparation for most advanced supervisory positions. Those interested in pursuing this type of employment will need to continue their educations by earning master’s or doctorate degrees. Years of professional experience and on-the-job training may also be necessary.

Master's Degree in Business (MS or MC)

Professionals who want to obtain high-level leadership positions will need to enroll in business programs at the master’s level. Graduates are generally perceived as experts in business, management, and leadership, making them ideal candidates for jobs with higher expectations and more responsibilities. They also tend to receive larger salaries and promote faster.

Most master’s programs in business consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework, which full-time students can finish within about two years. Prospective students will need to choose between enrolling in master’s in business or master’s in business administration (MBA) programs. Both are valid options and cover similar topics, but the business administration degree places more instructional emphasis on planning and execution than a standard business program does. In either case, graduates will be prepared to take on supervisory roles as training and development managers, top executives, public relations and fundraising managers, human resource managers, information technology managers, financial managers, industrial production managers, and management analysts.

PhD Degree in Business (PhD)

A doctorate degree is the highest level of education available in the field. While rarely required for entry and mid-level positions in the field, it can lead to a number of great opportunities in research and/or academia.

Doctorates in business typically consist of between 90 and 120 credit hours and take full-time students four to seven years to complete. Most programs incorporate independent research requirements, as well as the submission of a written dissertation prior to graduation.

Another option is a doctorate in business administration (DBA) or management. DBAs are designed to enhance theoretical knowledge in business and business management. Graduates tend to pursue employment in upper management and executive positions such as top executive, postsecondary business professor, postsecondary, education administrator, and economist. It generally takes students at least six years to complete a DBA program.

Become a Business Development Specialist in Illinois


As previously mentioned, there are many different types of business professionals in Illinois. This means the steps you take will ultimately depend on your career goals. Once you have identified the kind of work you want to perform, it becomes easier to determine the type and amount of education necessary to succeed.

Most colleges and universities structure their programs so that students are exposed to a variety of business-related topics early. This allows them to explore various aspects of the field, gauging their personal interest in and aptitude for them. Students are then often given opportunities to select concentrations, or take courses that cover special topics for more targeted learning experiences. Tailoring the remainder of instruction to focus more on a subsection of the field can prepare you for more specialized positions.

Some of the most common business concentrations include:

  • Finance
  • Sales
  • Human Resources
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Global Business
  • Entrepreneurship

After completing the education requirements necessary to qualify for your intended career, it may be beneficial to obtain one or more certifications and/or licensures. Business professions rarely require formal licensure, but obtaining additional credentials can increase marketability, improve job prospects, and result in higher earning potential. Additionally, some employers expect candidates to acquire certain credentials, making it important to verify expectations prior to submitting applications. Choosing to join one or more professional organizations may also prove beneficial. Members tend to have exclusive access to educational materials, conferences, and networking opportunities.

Those planning to open their own businesses in Illinois will need to meet other requirements. In addition to providing a name for your company and a comprehensive business plan, you will need to select an ownership structure. Options include sole proprietorship, limited partnership, limited liability company, limited liability partnership, “C” corporation, and “S” corporation. Illinois also requires that all business names are registered with the state and most businesses are required to be registered and/or licensed by the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR). Local tax registration regulations apply, and owners are responsible for obtaining any other necessary licenses and permits through the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).

Careers for Business Graduates


Earning a business degree can lead to a number of great career opportunities in Illinois. While the level of your degree will dictate which positions you are most qualified for, the state supports a wide variety of business positions.

Salaries and daily duties will also vary, but some of the most common career options include:

  • Vice President of Operations
  • Operations Manager
  • Business Development Director
  • Team Leader
  • Account Manager
  • Information Technology (IT) Director
  • Office Manager
  • Data Analyst
  • Public Relations Specialist / Manager
  • Content Marketing Specialist / Manager
  • Entrepreneur
  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
  • C-Suite Professional
  • Project Manager
    Project managers are primarily responsible for project oversight. These professionals establish goals and set timelines for meeting them. They also manage associated budgets and resources, sharing important information about their projects to other teams. According to PayScale, project managers make an average base salary of $75,000 per year.
  • Administrative Assistant
    Administrative assistants are primarily responsible for performing a wide variety of administrative support tasks for other employees. These professionals may be asked to file paperwork, sort files, conduct minor research, and complete personal errands for other individuals in the workplace. They must be proficient with data entry, billing, inventory, correspondence, and record-keeping as well. According to PayScale, administrative assistants make an average base hourly rate of $16.25, or approximately $40,100 per year.
  • Marketing Manager
    Marketing managers are primarily responsible for creating advertising and merchandising sales campaigns for the businesses and organizations that employ them. These professionals may oversee marketing for an entire company, one or more brands, or a single product. They may also conduct market research studies, monitor program performance, and collaborate with product managers. According to PayScale, marketing managers make an average base salary of $66,600 per year.
  • Human Resources (HR) Specialist
    Human resources managers are primarily responsible for managing employee policies, procedures, and compliance for the companies or organizations they work for. They achieve this by ensuring that all activities are documented and legal. These professionals may also manage employee benefits and initiative programs. They are experts in regulations related to employment at both the state and federal levels. According to PayScale, human resources managers make an average base salary of $68,750 per year.
  • Supply Chain Specialist / Manager
    Supply chain managers are primarily responsible for overseeing franchise supply chains for the companies and organizations that employ them. These professionals achieve this by coordinating between sales and customer service teams, and ensuring the necessary logistical and procedural policies are in place and followed. They may also manage inventories based on demand. According to PayScale, supply chain managers make an average base salary of $83,950 per year.
  • Financial / Business Analyst
    Financial analysts are primarily responsible for studying marketplace trends, demographics, and microeconomic factors related to the corporations and businesses they work for and reporting relevant findings. These professionals often achieve this by projecting growth over time and recommending the best resource investments possible. They may also provide advice regarding bonds and stock splitting. According to PayScale, financial analysts make an average base salary of $61,950 per year.

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