Earning your degree with a business major opens countless doors for your career. You're now qualified for many roles that put your skills and education to good use. The question is: which door should you choose? In this guide, we'll explore the opportunities available to business degree graduates, from accounting to project management. We'll also talk with one recent graduate to see how she is forging her way in the business world.
How does a business degree prepare me for a career?
A business degree sets you up for success in fields like accounting, management and sales. According to business consultant Terry H. Hill on Business.com, here are some of the skills you need to succeed:
- Analytical thinking
- Sales and marketing
- Strategic planning
Likewise, specific experiences related to your business degree coursework should be highlighted in your resume and cover letter to help you stand out as you apply to jobs:
- Details of how you worked with a team on a group project
- Studied business ethics
- Created a marketing plan
- Examples of research papers you've written
- Took on or studied leadership and management roles
- Analyzed case studies
Highlight these accomplishments, as well as any mathematical or technical skills, in an easy-to-read resume. Pair that with a well-written cover letter that details your career ambitions and your specific motivation to work for the company you're applying at.
Business majors are popular for a reason: In addition to creating a lot of job opportunities, companies compensate business graduates well for their problem-solving and management abilities. According to Glassdoor, the average marketing major earns a starting salary of almost $46,000. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that finance, accounting and business management majors will start their careers earning closer to $60,000.
Should I earn an advanced degree?
Some business majors go on to earn an MBA, but you won't need one to succeed in many sectors. The Princeton Review offers a helpful quiz to help you figure out if an MBA is the right choice for you. Here are a couple of common types of business jobs and whether an MBA is needed:
- Career goal: CPA. If you want to become a CPA, finish your coursework in accounting and then go on to pass the CPA exam. You won't need an MBA to perform the duties of a CPA.
- Career goal: marketing executive. If you want to work in marketing, your degree and work experience, including internships, and a solid portfolio will likely be enough to land an entry-level job.
- Career goal: banking or management. For some fields, like certain types of banking or management, students often choose to pursue an MBA after graduation or after gaining a few years of job experience. Having an MBA will help you rise further and faster in these sectors.
Ali's Story: How to start your career with a business degree
"When I first started college, I was undecided," says Ali Miller, a 2016 graduate of Duquesne University. Miller graduated with a bachelor's degree in public relations and advertising, as well as a certificate in general business. "After taking a lot of different classes, I narrowed it down to public relations. I was more of a people-to-people person, so I went with PR, but I also decided to get a business certificate with it, just so I could get another side of the major."
Just three years after graduating, Miller earned a promotion to the position of community lead at WeWork, the fast-growing office space and coworking company. Here's how she went from an undeclared undergraduate to a budding leader who is bringing solutions to members and businesses around her.
- Load up on internships. Miller stayed busy while in college and held an internship nearly every semester of college to get as much practical experience as possible. Many of her internships were in event planning, where she worked with big names in sports, like Heinz Field, the Steelers and the Penguins. In addition to getting hands-on training in event planning, she gained experience in the professional world earlier than some of her peers. Her experience proved to be a boon after graduating. "I think my experience was actually the biggest selling point when I was interviewing," she says.
- Take a broad range of courses. Before graduation, Miller took classes like event planning, PR and business analysis. "Take all the classes you possibly can," she says. "If you just try to do the minimum, you're doing yourself a disservice. Anything you can add to your knowledge is going to be helpful."
- Build relationships with professors. Miller took classes with a Public Relations professor who was especially helpful. "She had been working in the field for a long time and had a lot of first-hand experience working for big companies, including real-life examples of what she had done." Instead of just giving a lecture, her professor would show the students samples of press releases she had written, and then task the students with writing something similar.
Miller's combination of practical and classroom experience made her a valuable prospect upon graduation. After working at a nonprofit, she took a position at Framebridge, a startup in Washington, DC. The startup culture appealed to her because she knew that her work could have a direct impact on the company. "You can introduce ideas that are going to help change systems and how we work," she explains.
Even though she was a recent graduate, Miller was able to make a difference right away. "I helped create a lot of systems and procedures for dealing with customers," Miller says, adding that the experience prepared her for her job at WeWork. "Now, I'm working with a lot of other companies that are start-ups, too. I like having an impact on the people that I work with and feeling that connection to my work."
In her current role, Miller is steeped in the world of building management and start-ups. Right now, she's focused on talking one-on-one with companies and members to see what other value WeWork can bring to them.
Her advice for those on the hunt for a job? "Explore what you think you're going to enjoy doing and be conscious of how you're interviewing. Read over the job description, ask the right questions and don't jump into jobs. It's okay if you don't have that first professional job right out of college, as long as you're still doing things that are going to be helping your career."
What jobs can you get with a business degree?
Business degree jobs are versatile, though many business majors choose to specialize within the field, in their coursework or internships. Depending on your skills and experience, here are just some of the many business jobs you can pursue with your degree:
- Financial Analyst
- Human Resources Manager
- Marketing Coordinator
- Operations Manager
- Sales Manager
What about networking?
Building your network is critical as a business major, so — right now, if you haven't already — start a LinkedIn account and begin connecting with your college peers and professors.
Mary Lou Moffat, the director of the Albers Placement Center at Seattle University's Albers School of Business and Economics, works to help students navigate their careers with a business degree. She suggests getting in touch with real people with experience in business areas of interest. "Go out and talk to people," she emphasizes.
Don't worry about inconveniencing your future peers; most people love sharing about how they got where they are. They may have practical advice you never considered in your own career explorations. Make sure to clarify you're not asking them for a job — you're just hoping to hear about how they got where they are and their impressions of their business sector.
"I'm big on the networking side of things, or what I call the informational interview piece," Moffat says. "[You're] asking for advice and finding out from folks what they do and what they like about their jobs, versus just going to people because [you] need a job." The career services office at your alma mater might also have suggestions of who you should talk to about what you can do with your business degree. You can also always draw from your own circles, including:
- Former internship bosses
- Alumni from your school
- Friends of the family
Once you have an interview lined up, keep calm and read through some sample interview questions. These are the same types of inquiries you'll give an honest, off-the-cuff answer to during the networking phase, so hone your replies now, away from the pressure of an official interview.
Business majors should be able to demonstrate that they're able to lead and learn on the job. While an interview might seem daunting, know that your classes, internships, and previous work experience have put you in a great position to land a full-time job in the field. Prepare now by following these steps:
Build Your Resume
- How to write your first resume for recent business grads
- Check out the top skills to include in a business resume
- Read other outstanding business resumes
Refine Your Cover Letter
- How to write your first cover letter
- Take a look at the best business cover letters
- Get top-to-bottom help with your cover letter
Prepare to be Interviewed
- Study up on how to prepare for an interview
- Common interview questions for business majors
- How to have a successful video job interview
- Prepare for a case interview