No matter where your passion lies—health, sports, art, technology, or anywhere else—there’s a career in business to match it. The demand for business skills cuts across all industries, making this field attractive to many. Whether you’re good with numbers or good with people, there are plenty of ways to leverage your talents. Learn more about career opportunities, educational paths, and salary trends for business professionals.
Exploring Careers in Business
Buyers are responsible for purchasing the products and services an organization needs in the course of its business. People in these positions evaluate suppliers, negotiate prices, and monitor the quality of goods and services.
JOB OUTLOOK (2014 to 2014): 2%
Although growth in this area is slower than average, some sectors—such as wholesale and retail purchasing—have a better outlook. Individuals may also apply their skills to jobs in business operations.
Minimum education requirements:
Most employers require entry-level buyers to have a bachelor’s degree, as well as on-the-job training.
Job duties include recruiting and interviewing potential employees, addressing issues of employee relations, providing orientation and training to new employees, and working on issues involving compensation and benefits.
JOB OUTLOOK (2014 to 2014): 5%
Minimum education requirements:
A bachelor’s degree is usually required, with a preference for coursework in business, industrial relations, human resource management, and related studies.
These professionals coordinate all the details involved with holding professional events, such as selecting locations, arranging transportation, and negotiating appropriate contracts. Travel is an essential part of the job, and long hours during events are the norm.
JOB OUTLOOK (2014 to 2014): 10%
Minimum education requirements:
Bachelor’s degree, with experience in the hospitality industry desired.
Market research analysts gather data on consumers, market conditions and competitors, gauge demand for specific products or services, and help determine pricing models.
JOB OUTLOOK (2014 to 2014): 19%
Minimum education requirements:
Employers generally require a bachelor’s degree and seek candidates with strong math and analytical skills.
Personal financial advisers work with individuals to determine their financial needs, guide them on investment decisions, and help with long-term planning goals such as meeting educational expenses or retirement.
JOB OUTLOOK (2014 to 2014): 30%
Minimum education requirements:
A bachelor’s degree, usually with coursework in economics, accounting, business, as well as financial planning.
Economists work within a variety of fields to analyze data, research trends, and make forecasts relating to specific industries or the economy as a whole. The increasing complexity of the global economy, expanding regulations, and an ever more competitive business environment are helping shape the roles of economists.
JOB OUTLOOK (2014 to 2014): 6%
Minimum education requirements:
Economists generally need either a master’s degree or a PhD. In some instances, specific work experience may also be required.
Medical and health services managers work at the administrative and executive levels to oversee operations at medical facilities and departments, or for individual practices. They work to bridge the clinical, financial, and operational sides of healthcare.
JOB OUTLOOK (2014 to 2014): 17%
Minimum education requirements:
Employers often prefer master’s degrees in health administration, health management, nursing, public health administration, or business administration.
Looking at the big picture, these consultants work with businesses to find ways to cut costs and boost productivity—without sacrificing quality. Duties may include interviewing employees, reviewing financial data, devising alternative approaches and implementing solutions, and monitoring their progress and success rate. Analysts typically work individually, on a contract basis, but may be employed by a consulting firm.
JOB OUTLOOK (2014 to 2014): 14%
Minimum education requirements:
Bachelor’s degree, with designation as a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) a plus.
PROJECTED GROWTH (2014 to 2024): 11%
Minimum Education Requirements:
Most employers require a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Some prefer applicants to hold a master’s degree.
PROJECTED GROWTH (2014 to 2024): 8%
Minimum Education Requirements:
Employers seek candidates with a bachelor’s degree, usually in a field such as business or finance.
PROJECTED GROWTH (2014 to 2024): 7%
Training and Development Specialists
Bachelor’s degree in areas such as training and development, human resources, education, or business administration.
Data Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014
What You’ll Earn in Business
Generally speaking, jobs in business pay better than those in other occupations. Of course, individual pay depends on several factors, including your breadth of experience, skill level, degree of responsibility, and the specific industry you work in. As an example, the graph below highlights salary trends for a range of different business careers:
Data Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015
The Nature of Business: Deciding if it’s the Right Career
Few career fields are as wide in scope as business, which spans multiple industries and, therefore, encompasses even more job options. People may lean toward the financial side of operations or toward its human aspects. Students interested in entering the field should start by evaluating their own strengths and interests—not only to determine what they are, but to determine where they will best fit within this vast field. Here are some steps to take:
- Do some soul-searching Ask yourself about the things you value, such as how much money you want to make, where you want to live, or what you want to work on. From there, you can choose an appropriate job or field within business, or decide if another industry entirely would suit you better. Once you understand what excites you and what you care about, you can start narrowing down options to a job that fits.
- Figure out what you do best Going hand-in-hand with what you want is what you do well—or want to learn. Few things are as satisfying as being able to effectively use and develop your skills.
- Ask around Talking to people in the field is one of the easiest, yet most effective ways to find out what a career in business is really like. No one knows better what it’s like to work in the business world than someone who’s doing it, so don’t be afraid to pick up a phone and ask someone for an informational interview. You can get candid answers to your questions, as well as additional information you may not have considered.
- Get your foot in the door If you are just starting out in your career or still in school, an internship can be a great way to find out if working in a certain industry or job is right for you. Many business internships can also serve as a stepping-stone to a full-time position.
Skills Needed in Business
Though skill requirements in business occupations will vary by the nature of the position, there are some common denominators that link people pursuing these careers. Below are some key skills that employers look for in business professionals:
The need to organize and derive meaning out of data is of growing importance as increasing amounts of data on everything from demographics to buying trends are being used to drive business decisions.
The ability to communicate clearly in writing—and increasingly, to translate technical and specialized information into accessible forms—is vital, especially in positions that have a strong financial component.
Strong negotiators are masters at achieving the “win-win” situation—pleasing both sides in potentially contentious circumstances. This requires finesse with both analytical skills and interpersonal skills, and is particularly critical for buyers, salespeople, human resource professionals, and those in managerial positions.
The ability to not only communicate, but to listen, understand, and work cooperatively is critical in the business environment. Dealing with people may seem straightforward on the surface, but business professionals must be prepared to interact with people who have a wide range of personalities, cultural backgrounds, and priorities.
Even small errors can have big consequences in the business world. Making sure the decimal point is in the right place will ease the accountant’s mind, and following up on email keeps clients happy.
Knowledge of this programming language, used to extract information from a relational database, is a basic skill for some jobs, such as business analysts.
The software from this cloud computing company is a standard for customer relationship management, and has become an essential tool for businesses that need to track and serve customers.
Most people don’t need to move beyond the basic operations of Microsoft’s ubiquitous spreadsheet program, but the ability to tap into its advanced functions is essential to more numbers-driven roles such as economists, financial analysts, and people in similar positions.
As we enter the era of big data, organizations are putting a premium on people who can manage and analyze large, unstructured data sets using tools like Hadoop. This is particularly important for market research analysts, economists, and those in related fields.
Business Degree Options
A degree in business, business administration, or business management is the to-go academic option for gaining the skills and knowledge needed to start a successful business career. Degree paths include:
This program is offered online or on-campus at community colleges. Students get a comprehensive introduction to business principles and practices as well as critical skills in topics such as accounting, human resource management, marketing, and business law. The degree can be used to qualify for entry-level business careers or to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program. It usually consists of about 60 credits, which includes lower division general education courses and core business/business administration courses. Example curriculum includes:
Principles of Macroeconomics
Principles of Microeconomics
A bachelor’s degree in business offers students a well-rounded education and the fundamental skills for a variety of entry-level business careers in the private and public sectors. Some course titles may sound similar to those found in associate degree programs, but students go deeper into the material to gain a better understanding of all aspects of business/business administration. Sample courses are:
Introduction to Business Management
Principles of Accounting I and II
The MBA is one of the most sought-after graduate degrees because of its versatility. The degree can help prepare you for a wide range of business careers in just about any industry and offers both quantitative and qualitative skills that can help you take your career to the next level. Most colleges offer MBA programs in different formats – part-time, full-time, online, or executive – and students often work in teams or cohorts as well as fulfill some out-of-classroom activities, such as an internship, to get hands-on experience. Curriculum includes courses such as:
Data and Decisions
Economics for Business Decision Making
Problem Finding and Problem Solving
Ethics and Responsibilities in Business
Doctoral degrees in business challenge students to analyze and address the most critical issues in today’s business world. With the exception of becoming a tenure-track professor, most business careers don’t require a doctoral degree for employment, though earning the advanced degree doesn’t hurt as it may help with career advancement. At this level, there are typically two options – the Executive DBA which focuses on theories and practical application and the PhD in business which is research-based and more suitable if you want to pursue a career in academia. Both options usually require the completion of a dissertation. Examples of courses are:
Leadership and Change
Innovation Process and Strategy
A degree in business isn’t your only option, however. People in business—particularly the tech world—are increasingly seeing the value of liberal arts degrees, because they find graduates of these programs can write clearly, think critically, and come up with creative solutions to any number of problems. That said, there are plenty of employers who still seek business people with degrees in a variety of disciplines. Here are some other popular degree programs that can lead to a business career:
Promoting a company’s products and services is the job of a sales or marketing professionals. In addition to general business coursework, students who pursue a communications degree often learn about consumer behavior, how to develop marketing strategies, marketing in global environments, and using various forms of media to target potential customers.
Economics majors study macro- and microeconomics, statistics, math, and economic theory. Unlike a business administration degree, economics is a more specific discipline that stresses analytical skills and offers a strong basis for graduate studies.
With a foundation in general business principles, human resources degrees also put special emphasis on handling issues related to managing a company’s employees. Students explore topics such as recruiting and retaining staff, training methods, employment law and labor relations, and financial issues such as compensation and benefits.
Math students study such things as algebra, calculus and statistics. They learn to think analytically and abstractly and then to apply principles to real-world problems. Math majors go on to careers as statisticians, actuaries and researchers.
Students in psychology study such things as interpersonal relationships, industrial or organizational psychology, and cognitive behavior. This can be a useful degree for someone entering fields such as marketing, sales, training, and human resources, where interpersonal skills and understanding human behavior are vital.
People looking for a quicker path into the business world—or who want to acquire a specific skill set—may want to look into certificate programs. These provide concentrated coursework in a relatively narrow area, and can be completed in a fraction of the time of a full degree. Certificate options are available through community colleges, university extension programs, and online colleges.
These programs prepare students for bookkeeping careers in a general business environment. Coursework includes instruction on general and payroll accounting, how to record and analyze transactions, and how to use common accounting software.
Business Administration Certificate
This certificate program is designed to develop quantitative skills and teach business basics. It includes business management, project management, information systems, accounting, finance, and strategic business decision making.
Human Resource Management Certificate
These programs provide the foundation of knowledge and skills needed to work in HR. Coursework includes employee relations, recruitment, employment law, human resources systems and technology, organization development, and other related topics.
A certificate in marketing provides students with tools to develop and implement marketing plans. It includes instruction on the essentials of marketing strategy, the use of strategy and decision making tools, and courses on creating and communicating brand value. Many of these programs today have added coursework on social and new media.
Project Management Certificate
Many of these programs are designed to help candidates prepare for Project Management Professional Certification, a widely recognized certification in the field. These programs teach participants the principles and theories of project management, and how to apply them.
MBA programs have long offered general degrees, but MBA students also have the choice of a wide variety of specializations. Choosing one will depend on your interests, but it can also affect your earnings. For example, PayScale’s 2015-2016 College Salary Report ranked 47 MBA concentrations and found a wide disparity in earnings power. At the top were MBAs with a concentration in strategy, who earned a median salary of $93,100 during the first five years of their careers. In comparison, MBAs with a human resources concentration earned roughly half that—a median $48,600 during their early careers. Below is a sampling of different specializations for MBAs to give you an idea of what’s available.
People who specialize in this area train in broad financial issues, such as raising capital, choosing and organizing the capital structure for a company, and corporate governance. People who specialize in this area often enter careers in investment banking, mergers and acquisitions, and public finance, among other areas.
The rise of the Internet and the digitization of media is creating new opportunities for people with expertise in digital marketing. This specialization provides students with a foundation in marketing basics, as well as specialized courses on the use of social media for brand management, design and development of Web and mobile applications, and new media marketing.
For students pursuing careers as entrepreneurs, this specialization provides an understanding of financing mechanisms such as venture capital and private equity, startup business practices, and techniques for managing and growing a company.
Students interested in a career with multinational companies might consider a specialization in global business. Studies in this area include coursework in global strategy, emerging financial markets, and global banking and capital markets.
For students who want to do well while doing good, specializing in social innovation and impact allows them to combine an interest in business with positive social impact. Coursework includes such things as social venture capital, corporate social responsibility, and social entrepreneurship. People with this specialization pursue careers in economic development, social entrepreneurship, and socially responsible investing.
Other Requirements for Employment
Certain jobs in the field of business will require licenses or certifications. While some are required by law, others are voluntary but in-demand by employers and employees seeking to demonstrate a specific expertise. A sample of credentials for business professionals is listed below:
Federal law requires real estate appraisers to hold a state license if they are working on loans issued by a federally- insured bank or financial institution. The Appraisal Foundation, which sets standards and qualifications authorized by Congress for real estate appraisers, provides information on licensing requirements. Different levels of credentials determine what an appraiser can legally do. For example, a Certified General Real Property Appraiser may appraise real estate of any type and value. Candidates for this certification must have a bachelor’s degree, as well as complete 300 hours of qualifying appraiser coursework, 3,000 hours of work experience, and 15 hours of classroom instruction on the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. An exam is also required.
Financial analysts must be licensed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Candidates must be sponsored by a member firm and pass an exam. Many employers also want analysts to have certification as a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) from the CFA Institute. Certification requires a bachelor’s degree, four years of qualified work experience, and passing three exams.
Human resources professionals are not required to be licensed or certified, but many HR professionals seek certification as a way to build their skills and demonstrate their knowledge. Also, some individual employers may require certification or give preference to employees who have it. The Society for Human Resource Management offers certification programs.
There are no licensing or certification requirements for market research analysts, but certification is often used as a way to establish proficiency and advance in a career. The Marketing Research Association issues the Professional Researcher Certification (PRC) for candidates who have at least three years of related work experience and 20 hours of appropriate continuing education, and who pass an exam.
The Convention Industry Council offers the Certified Meeting Professional credential. This voluntary certification is recognized industry-wide and can help build skills and advance careers. Candidates are required to have at least three years of meeting management experience, recent employment in a meeting management job, and proof of continuing education credits. They must also pass an exam that covers topics such as facilities operations, strategic planning and risk management.
Where You’ll Work
Business jobs are found all over the world, although if you’re interested in working in a niche industry, you may find greater opportunities in areas such as New York (for finance) or the Silicon Valley (for technology and entrepreneurship). Another factor to consider is whether you want to work at a large firm, a smaller, local company, or a startup. Large companies usually have more resources and the potential for advancement within them. Small companies may have fewer resources and opportunities for advancement, but offer the chance to take on greater responsibility and do a greater variety of things. Startups have a different energy than typical businesses – they can be demanding and unstable, but they offer the opportunity to be a part of building something, and can sometimes pay off big.
Finding a Job in Business
The Internet has become the go-to place for job searchers. While there are plenty of general job search sites, there’s also a host of places for listings in specific industries or fields. Many websites also offer additional information and tips for job seekers, as well as places to post your resume. Below are some sites that list business jobs in a variety of industries:
- American Business Women’s Association
ABWA’s mission is to ensure business women have the support and resources necessary to thrive and grow professionally. The association’s site features a Career Connection tab where women can find and apply for business positions and also find articles on resume writing and career coaching.
Often times, the best place to find a business job is directly on a company’s website. Many large companies such as Google hire all kinds of business professionals, from sales and marketing to business strategy and people operations. These kinds of big companies often also have offices all over the country (or world).
- Mashable – Business
Mashable provides tons of resources for those interested in the business world. Get information on major professional events, strategies on how to find job, and up-to-date information on job openings in a range of subindustries such as sales, business development, and marketing. You can also sign up for customized job alerts so that you’re notified when a business job that fits your criteria is posted.
Sales is a large niche within business so it’s not surprising that there are several job sites dedicated to sales positions. This site offers lots of information for sales professionals as well as a job board that allows job seekers to browse postings by title, company, keyword, and location.
- The Muse
This online career resource isn’t specific to just business, but business professionals can still find a wealth of information – and job postings – to help them with their job hunt.
Internships: Getting a Taste for Business
Internships give students and recent graduates a chance to gain work experience, get insight into an industry, and begin building a network of contacts within a field. Several specialized websites, such as internships.com and internmatch.com, list opportunities, and many individual companies post information about available slots as well. Students can further take advantage of their schools’ job placement offices and alumni networks to search for opportunities.
Location: New York, N.Y.
Through their work in finding and developing growth opportunities, interns for the company’s business development and strategy division gain insight into the business aspects of television.
Students are mentored by a BCG consultant during their work on a specific aspect of a client project. Typically lasting several months, internship opportunities are open to undergraduate and graduate students, and may lead to full-time jobs at the firm.
San Jose, Calif.
Interns work on several technological projects for the online auction company, including designing apps and other platforms. Participants must be undergoing master’s-level study in mathematics, statistics or computer science, and have at least two years of experience with SQL or SAS.
San Francisco Bay, Calif.
Aimed at college juniors studying accounting or finance, this internship lets candidates work on projects in one of several of the company’s accounting fields.
Professional Associations & Organizations
Professional organizations—many of which are open to students—help you stay current on developments in your field, provide educational resources to sharpen your skills, network with other people in your field, and find new opportunities as you grow in your career. Below is a list of some of the specialized associations that support people in various business careers.
The association focuses on helping members acquire news skills and knowledge. Individual, student and e-membership plans are available, in addition to its corporate and small business memberships.
The American Marketing Association brings together more than 30,000 marketing professionals and academics from all over the world to share techniques, technology and best practices in marketing.
EO is a global, peer-to-peer network with 157 chapters in 48 countries. Membership is limited to owners, founders, or majority shareholders in businesses that earn a minimum of $1 million a year.
This online community of assessed, certified and non-certified sales professionals offers a way for members to network with each other for increased career exposure and access to expertise.