Business is one of the most popular undergraduate college majors. According to data from the National Center For Education Statistics, a business degree was the most popular undergraduate degree in 2019. A total of 390,000 business majors graduated in the class of 2019, which shakes out to about 1 out of 5 of all graduates.
There may be good reasons for the business major’s popularity. Business is a versatile major that can open more doors than it closes. It also has a relatively high average starting salary, and can be a great option to pair with a double major or minor in a STEM or liberal arts field.
Business also offers a fairly low unemployment rate. In 2019, the unemployment rate for business majors between the ages of 25 and 43 was 2.3 percent, just slightly lower than the average for all majors, which was 2.4 percent.
Business is generally considered on of the easier majors, though the rigor of the program may depend on the school and how well-suited a student is for the subject matter. Business is not a STEM majors, but business majors will most likely be required to take courses in economics, finance, and statistics, so the most successful business majors are competent in math.
At Wharton, University of Pennsylvania’s highly-ranked business school, undergraduate must take 37 units (which translates to about 37 courses); 20 business units 10 liberal arts and sciences units, two leadership units, and five electives. They also need to complete a Leadership Capstone project that applies what they have learned.
Most business majors choose an area of specialization. Popular specializations for business majors include:
When choosing a business program, research the types of majors or specializations offered and make sure the program has courses in the area that is most interesting to you.
Business is also one of the most popular double majors or minors for students. Students who are interested in starting their own businesses that focus on their other areas of interest maybe consider combining business with another major or a minor.
For example, a talented musician who wants to open up their own studio one day may choose to double major in music and business. The music major will provide the industry-specific skills, while the business major prepares them to manage the day-to-day operations of a thriving business.
Business majors have no shortage of career options. Some business majors go on to be entrepreneurs and launch their own small businesses or large companies. Others may work for existing companies as sales, marketing or project managers, business analysts, human resources specialists, or even C-suite executives.
Creative people who are interested in a career in business business may choose to become arts administrators, talent managers, or use their business savvy to promote their own work. Business majors can also pursue careers as athletic directors, product specialists, investment bankers, brand strategists and community organizers.
There are no shortage of options for business majors, and it can be a solid major for anyone who enjoys critical thinking, leadership, and being part of a team.
According to Michigan’s highly-regarded Ross School of Business, you might want to consider a business major if:
However Michigan Ross says you should probably not major in business if:
People who excel in business may be called upon to make big decisions quickly. Less-decisive people may struggle to quickly and confidently make important business decisions.
Ultimately, you know best what major fits you. Before choosing a major make sure you’re clear on what the curriculum really covers, not just what you think it will cover.
Ideally, you’d be able to take a few classes before declaring a major. If you have to declare a major before you apply, try to sit in on a class get a sense of the topic area. Many colleges now offer virtually opportunities to observe a class.
If you can’t take a course, look closely at the courses required for the major. Read the course descriptions, and if possible, look over the syllabuses for a few classes, which are often available online. Get a sense of what topics will covered and the types of reading and assignments you’ll be expected to do.
Business is often thought to be a high-paying major, but the earning potential varies. There are wide-range of salaries for people with business degrees, depending on industry, experience, and role.
High-level executives and successful entrepreneurs can make seven-figure salaries, whereas entry-level salaries start around $40,000 annually. The average salary for a marketing professional is between $42,000 and $92,000 a year. The average salary range for sales jobs is between $40,000 and $140,000.
For the right person, business is an excellent choice for a major. But majoring in business is not a guarantee that you start a multi-million dollar company or land a C-suite job. Operating a successful business takes a lot of hard work, strategic thinking, and business savvy. Working as a manager, analyst, or administrators takes a lot focus, dedication, and specialized knowledge.
If you don't feel excited when reading the course descriptions for the business major, consider choosing a subject with courses that do fire you up, or pair a business minor with a major you're more passionate about. You just may find that following your heart leads you down a more prosperous and joyful path.
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