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What Can You Do With a Business Management Degree?

Business has become one of the most popular majors for undergraduate students in recent years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, business made up nearly 20% of undergraduate degrees in the 2018-19 school year. Many colleges offer business management programs, which can prepare students for a variety of career paths. Let’s talk about what to expect from business management, and how to decide if it’s right for you.

What is business management?

The business management major equips students with the know-how to lead a team and run an organization. In addition to technical knowledge, students will also often develop soft skills like communication and leadership. The program’s lessons apply to a variety of settings and industries, opening students up to a range of opportunities post-graduation.

Also see: What is a STEM degree (And why you should study one)

Business management vs. business administration

Some schools may offer business management whereas others have business administration. Oftentimes, the two programs are pretty much interchangeable. In addition to their coursework heavily overlapping, graduates will be equally qualified for the same entry-level positions.

However, if you’re choosing between the two majors, there are a few key differences. While business management focuses more on interpersonal skills, business administration centers on more operational responsibilities.

For example, a business management student may practice how to recognize employees’ strengths and weaknesses. A business administration student, on the other hand, may work on analyzing a company’s balance sheets to figure out if it’s performing optimally.

In other words, if you’re interested in working with people, a business management degree may be the best choice for you. On the other hand, if you’d like to focus on the back-office responsibilities, you’ll probably want to pursue business administration.

Typical coursework for business management majors

The business management program combines several areas of study. While the classes may vary depending on school, they typically include a mix of technical and liberal arts courses. For example, required classes may include:

  • Finance
  • Economics
  • Statistics
  • Human resource management
  • Business ethics
  • Marketing
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Communication
  • Business policy

Top 5 career paths for business management majors

Business management majors typically graduate with the skills to succeed in a multitude of positions. However, having so many options can make it difficult to decide on a single one. Let’s dive deeper into five of the best jobs to pursue with a business management degree.

1. Sales associate

Average base pay: $48,973

Whether it’s because of the sleazy salesman caricature or the stereotypical cutthroat sales environment, many sales jobs get a bad rap. However, many business management graduates find success in sales.

As a sales associate, you’ll work as the main point of contact between the customer and the business. Many sales professionals collaborate with other departments including customer success, implementation and product development.

Entry-level sales associates are often tasked with making cold calls, meeting with customers and taking orders. Many are also expected to compile daily or weekly reports and analyses to keep management updated. Some sales positions are compensated with commission on top of the base salary, meaning that you can earn a lot based on performance.

Even if you don’t want to work in sales long-term, it can still be a great first step. Sales associates often learn about psychology through hands-on communication and marketing experience. Additionally, many can gain exposure to other parts of the business, preparing them for future career moves.

2. Business analyst

Average base pay: $75,969

If you’re interested in diving headfirst into business strategy, you’ll want to look into the business analyst position. Responsibilities for the job may vary depending on the company, but business analysts are typically in charge of figuring out what changes to implement to make an organization perform better.

Business analysts may be assigned with communicating with the clients through interviews and meetings. Many also perform quantitative tasks like analyzing feedback and mapping out strategies to maximize revenue. You’ll need to use a combination of logic and creativity to brainstorm potential business solutions.

While many business analysts will start with a small sphere of influence, there’s plenty of room for growth. Oftentimes, business analysts will be promoted into supervisor or product management positions. Long term, some may even achieve C-suite positions like chief executive officer (CEO) or chief operating officer (COO).

3. Financial advisor

Average base pay: $57,623

Financial advising is a great career path for those who enjoy crunching numbers. Similar to sales associates, financial advisors often have the potential to make commission and bonuses. You’ll also get the satisfaction of helping your clients navigate a stressful area of life.

Financial advisors work with organizations or individuals to help them manage their budgeting. You may help clients plan for both short-term and long-term financial goals, including buying a house, paying tuition and retiring. It’s important to conduct thorough market research and to be diligent in monitoring your clients’ accounts.

While being a financial advisor requires a lot of up-to-date knowledge and quantitative skills, communication is also key. Successful financial advisors should be confident in approaching potential clients to get them on board. You’ll also need to be able to translate complex financial concepts into simple explanations that your clients will understand.

Keep in mind that some financial advisor positions require specialized certifications in addition to a bachelor’s degree. If you’re interested in pursuing financial advising after college, talk to your career counselor to discuss the requirements for each option.

4. Consultant

Average base pay: $89,082

Consulting can be ideal for students who are still figuring out what to pursue long-term. Whether working independently or for a firm, consultants will be assigned to short-term individual projects, one after another. This fast-paced work structure can keep your days fresh while also giving you exposure to a variety of industries. Many consulting contracts span two years on average, setting up program graduates with valuable skills for future positions.

Being a consultant also requires a combination of technical and people skills. On one hand, you’ll have to evaluate business operations using data analysis to figure out where they can improve. You’ll also have to draft up a comprehensive strategy, along with concrete evidence of why it’ll work.

However, what’s equally important is building relationships and explaining your work. You should be confident in delivering your findings through meetings and presentations. Additionally, you’ll need to use communication skills to answer the client’s questions and convince them why they should implement your solution.

5. Account manager

Average base pay: $55,096

For those who enjoy working with clients but don’t like the pressure of selling, account management can be a good in-between. While they may share some responsibilities with sales associates, account managers focus mainly on fulfilling the needs of current clients. They work as the bridge between the customer and the other teams at the company.

Account managers are responsible for building relationships with clients and working to understand their needs. Their job is to improve the customer experience to strengthen loyalty and potentially boost sales. In addition to setting up client meetings, they’ll often conduct research through user data and industry trends. Therefore, it’s important to exercise a combination of data analysis, problem-solving and communication skills.

Read more: What is the average starting salary out of college?

Final thoughts

Business management is a great program that can equip you with a wide range of marketable skills. However, you’ll want to think about whether it’s the right fit for you, from the coursework to potential career paths. Good luck!

Struggling to decide what to study? Check out How To Pick a Major.

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