Business degrees are highly popular among students in the United States. This is largely due to the fact that graduates typically possess the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue a wide variety of lucrative careers. Although academic curriculums vary by institution, most programs are designed to help students develop valuable abilities that can be transferred easily between industries. There are also many opportunities for professional advancement and competitive pay. While relevant employment may be available in many different sectors, most professionals hold positions in business services, finance, marketing, and management.
Earning a business degree can be a great solution for individuals who are unsure what career pathway to pursue. As the knowledge and skills gained tend to make graduates highly marketable, graduates typically qualify for a wide variety of positions. Those with advanced degrees and/or many years of professional experience usually have excellent job prospects.
Salary potential varies significantly depending on the occupation sought, as well as location. States with the highest-paying employment options for business and financial operations professionals include California, Colorado, Washington, Minnesota, Illinois, New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. States with the lowest annual mean wages for these occupations include Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Some level of higher education is generally required to obtain a career in business. While a limited number of entry-level opportunities may be available to those with high school diplomas or GEDs, these positions tend to pay significantly less. In most cases, professionals in this field obtain associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degrees.
Business associate degrees are generally offered by community colleges, which is notable because these academic institutions tend to charge lower tuition rates than traditional four-year colleges and universities. These programs often consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that take students approximately two years to complete. Students typically receive instruction in finance, human resources management, and customer service. These topics are usually covered broadly, providing a basic introduction to the field and a good foundation for future learning.
The majority of business professionals possess, at minimum, bachelor’s degrees. These BS in business programs usually consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately four years to complete. Students can expect instruction to delve deeper into many key components in the field, with particular focus placed on marketing, finance (such as how to read financial records and financial statements), business operations, and accounting. Coursework typically helps those enrolled develop skills that can be applied to many different business professions and in other employment settings. Business graduates with a business degree might work as financial managers, marketing managers, as a financial analyst, or in other similar roles.
While bachelor’s degrees in business can lead to jobs as financial analysts, human resource specialists, and management consultants, it’s common for professionals in the field to continue their education by enrolling in further education.
Master’s degrees in business generally consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework, which full-time students can finish within about two years. Prospective students can enroll in either master’s in business or master’s in business administration (MBA) programs. While these options cover similar topics, MBAs tend to place more instructional emphasis on planning and execution. Both programs can lead to more management and supervisory roles in the field. Some of the most common employment opportunities available to graduates include training and development manager, top executives, public relations and fundraising manager, human resource manager, information technology manager, financial manager, industrial production manager, and management analyst.
A PhD and doctorate are the terminal degrees in the field. These programs are highly advanced and may take full-time students four to seven years to complete, but can lead to the most advanced positions available in the business world. These degrees generally consist of between 90 and 120 credit hours, with components of traditional classroom instruction, independent research, and writing. Graduates generally qualify for a number of career opportunities in research and/or academia.
While it may be possible to obtain entry-level employment in business-related professions without a degree, the majority of employers expect candidates to possess some level of higher education. This is because this is the best way to learn about topics such as investment strategies, human resource management, financial theory, supply chain management, how to prepare financial records, leadership skills or management skills, managing cash flow, operations management, analytical skills, how to understand consumer behavior, financial markets, corporate communications, management information systems, marketing strategies, and other various business disciplines. This makes completing academic degree programs an important part of preparing for employment in the business field. And, while an associate degree or bachelor's degree in business can get you an entry-level job, a master's degree is your final goal.
Individuals interested in pursuing jobs in business, management, finance, leadership, and/or marketing will find degrees in business particularly worthwhile. This major offers a significant amount of versatility, with graduates qualifying for positions across almost every industry. The knowledge and skills gained are also useful in a wide variety of different work settings. As a result, degrees of this kind are generally considered a good investment, though you might want to check the highest paying business majors before you complete your education.
Overall, the outlook for business and financial occupations is fair. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), employment for workers in this field is projected to grow by 7% from 2021 to 2031. This is about as fast as the average for all professions in the United States and will result in about 715,100 new job openings nationwide. The median annual wage for this group was $76,570 in May 2021, which is higher than the median annual wage of $45,760 for all occupations in the nation.
It's important to realize that projections vary by job, however. Some professions are expected to perform better than others. While the anticipated growth for labor relations specialists is only 3%, employment for management analysts is expected to increase by 11%. As a result, it’s a good idea to spend time researching your chosen occupation in order to gain a more accurate understanding of employment outlook.
The first step to getting a job in business is identifying your ultimate career goals. As previously mentioned, there are numerous employment opportunities available in this field. With so many options, it’s important to consider which occupation or occupations you are most interested in pursuing.
Once you determine a preferred profession, it’s a good idea to research all associated hiring standards. These vary for every occupation. Becoming familiar with prospective employer expectations ensures you know what additional steps are necessary to obtain the job of your choice. This is particularly important when it comes to picking major and minor areas of study, elective courses, internships positions, extracurricular activities, and/or professional certifications.
After obtaining the necessary degree(s) in business administration, it may be necessary and/or beneficial to pursue associated professional credentials. There are many certifications and licenses that are relevant to this field and there is no single credential that is considered best for business professionals. Instead, you are generally free to work towards those most applicable and/or personally fulfilling.
There are many business careers that offer high salary potential. Pay can vary significantly across the field, however. Some of the best-paying professional opportunities available include the following.
A background in business can lead to many other career options, as well. Even individuals with limited education and experience may be able to find relevant entry-level employment. While these positions may not offer high salaries, they often function as a great means of gaining additional experience in the field. These occupations can also function as a way to obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to qualify for more advanced employment in the future.
It's also important to note that not all opportunities available are exclusively business-centric. Graduates with business degrees often qualify for many jobs that are only tangentially connected to the profession.
Some less lucrative business professions include: