Business degrees and careers
One in five undergraduate degrees awarded in the United States each year are earned by business majors. Studying business in college can mean specializing in any of the key business functions, including management, finance, marketing, and human resource management (HRM). Accounting is also grouped with business degrees at the undergraduate level.
Majoring in business can lead to relatively high early-career starting salaries, depending on the specialization. Finance and accounting majors can, for instance, except to earn about $7,000-$10,000 more than the average bachelor’s degree holder 3 year after graduation.
What is a business degree?
‘Getting a business degree’ usually means getting a bachelor’s in business administration or earning your MBA, but many also refer to specialized business degrees in marketing, HRM, or finance.
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Are business degrees worth it?
The highest paying business degrees tend to be in business administration and finance. The earnings premium over a generic bachelor’s degree becomes particularly apparent at the master’s level.
The table below outlines common types of business degrees and salaries. These salaries are drawn from government data on earnings 3 years after graduation. With more experience in the field and additional qualifications, salaries can be significantly higher. While accounting, HRM, and marketing students earning a master’s may have little job experience at the point of graduation, many individuals working towards an MBA or finance master’s already have extensive professional experience.
For example, an accountant with a bachelor’s degree may expect to earn around $57,000 3 years after graduation, but can look forward to a net salary of $77,250 with more experience in the field. Accountants also fare better on the job market if they complete specialized certification programs, such as becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Thus, for roles that require specialized certification, 3 years after graduation may not accurately reflect the full earning potential with these degrees.
» Read: Differences between certificate programs, certifications, and licenses
|Bachelor’s degree||Master’s degree|
|Human Resource management||$54,265||$71,909|
The above table shows the weighted average earnings 3 years after graduation for public university alumni
Types of business degrees
Choosing between different business degrees and business majors comes down to your career goals. There is no definitive list of best business majors. Instead, be clear on the field you wish to specialize in and where you want to be in 5 years.
From there, choose whether or not to pursue further schooling in business based on how you plan to fund your education. Many large companies, including Deloitte, BP, Wells Fargo, and Oracle, offer tuition reimbursement as part of their employee benefits package, usually covering a portion or total of tuition costs for college courses.
Some employers may even sponsor an entire degree (like an MBA), particularly if they already offer some type of tuition reimbursement. A fully sponsored degree may require some negotiating and usually comes with the stipulation that you remain with the company for at least 2 years after graduation.
The bachelor of business administration and master of business administration (MBA) are among the most common degrees in business. These programs offer training in management and business operations, as well as providing opportunities for specialization in finance, HRM, and entrepreneurship, among other fields.
Finance professionals monitor cash flow, determine profitability, direct investments, manage expenses, produce accurate financial reports, and create strategies to ensure the long-term financial goals of an organization. To work in finance, you’ll need a 4-year undergraduate degree in accounting, finance, or economics.
Human resource management
HRM professionals serve the entire lifecycle of an employee – from hiring and onboarding, providing benefits and salaries, through to termination or retirement. Companies use various creative names for HR: human capital management, people operations, talent management, employee experience, people resources, employee success, and many variations thereof.
Marketers focus on creating value propositions for customers through products, services, and other market offerings, primarily using advertising and sales strategies. Marketing departments can either be integrated into an organization, or appointed as external consultants.
Accountants ensure a business, organization, or government agency’s financial information is accurate and current. Bookkeeping, generating financial reports, performing internal audits, and preparing taxes are among the most common accounting tasks.
How to choose a business major
Still unsure which business field is right for you? Remember that there is a lot of overlap between business functions. Also, it is possible to rise to the top of your field in any of the key business areas, meaning C-suite jobs are available across business specializations. In addition to CEOs, CFOs, and COOs, many organizations employ Chief Human Resources Managers, Chief Marketing Officers, Chief Compliance Officers, and more.
» Read: Studying business abroad
Best MBA programs by state
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
How to choose the best business degrees
Once you have narrowed down the field and degree format that’s right for you, the next step is to choose the best business school and program. We rank degrees in business using a methodology that prioritizes long-term payback to help you make the wisest investment in your education.