Collegebound Network

Since 1987, America's Trusted Resource on Higher Education

Climb the Career Ladder With Business Degrees

You don't have to own your own business to understand just how important the world of business is to our daily lives. Long before there was a standard currency--and much longer before ATMs and debit cards ruled the banking world-people would trade anything and everything for the goods and services that they needed. The world has changed greatly as far as that types of goods and services are offered, but the very basics of business have not changed. Someone still needs to come up with an idea, someone needs to produce and market it, and then someone (hopefully many someones!) need to be on the receiving end with money on hand.

Supply and demand is a basic business premise, which is why successful businesspeople need to have a healthy dose of common sense. Still, it doesn't hurt to have a classroom education to support that common sense. If you are thinking of how to succeed in business by really trying, then perhaps you should seriously consider a business degree.

Types of Business Degrees

  • An associate degree in business is a two-year program that teaches the fundamentals of business. It covers the basics of accounting, finance, marketing, economics, and other business topics in order to provide a firm grounding for students to finish a four-year degree as a business major.
  • A bachelor's degree in business is a four-year program that gives students an excellent foundation for a career in the business world. Most programs have concentrations in areas such as accounting, finance, and marketing; otherwise, students will often find themselves naturally taking more classes in areas that interest them. An internship is especially vital to any business program, as it not only allows students to see business in action, but it provides the necessary networking opportunities that will lead to potential job offers after graduation.
  • The Master of Business Administration degree, or MBA as it is commonly known, is probably one of the most well-known graduate degree programs. While programs are comprised of advanced studies in business, it does not require that you have completed a business degree at the undergraduate level (though certainly there are many MBA students who have done just this). The MBA program also has a much sharper focus on distinct areas of business, like finance or entrepreneurship, as students at the graduate level usually have specific and distinct goals for their business careers.
  • The MBA is NOT the top degree in businessthat honor is left for the DBA, or Doctor of Business Administration! Grads of b-schools will often look to DBA programs if they wish to pursue academic careers in business, such as becoming business school professors, deans, or other top administrators. Given the advance nature of DBA programs, large corporations also look to graduates for their vast expertise of economics, finance, marketing, and other niches in business so as to help the corporations turn around bad sales or help them to achieve continued success.

Spotlight on Five Business Careers Paths

Administrative Assistant
Unless you've got enough bank to start your business directly out of school, you've got to start somewhere in a company. Administrative assistant is a great place for people who want to get their feet wet in the corporate world. Most positions require a college degree, and employers are especially eager to hire an administrative assistant with a business background, who can dive right into day-to-day tasks and learn all about the workings of a company.

According to the BLS, the median annual salary of administrative assistants in May of 2008 was $29,050.

Marketing a product or service goes hand in hand with successful sales, so marketing and advertising representatives and managers are an integral part of a company. Successful promotion of a product or service requires getting the correct information to the correct audiences so that sales will soar.

According to the BLS, the median annual salaries in 2008 for advertising and promotion managers was $80,220; for marketing managers, $108,580; and $97,260 for sales managers.

Sales Representative
Mary Kay Ash, founder of the world-famous line of cosmetics and skin care that bears her name, once said, "Nothing happens until someone sells something." How true that is in all types of business! That is why the sales team is such a valued part of a company--and it's the reason that they (usually) get paid the big bucks, too, especially since you are directly improving a company's bottom line. You can jump into sales without a degree, but many successful sales people do go to college to master the basic principles of business.

According to the BLS, the median annual salary of sales reps in the technical and scientific fields was $70,200 (including commissions) as of May 2008.

While an interest in number crunching is always a helpful start, most jobs in accounting require a bachelor's degree. Many accountants work further to earn their credentials as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) so that they are able to work for public companies.

According to the BLS, the median annual salary of accountants and auditors in May of 2008 was $59,430.

Combine your analytical skills with your interest in investments with a career in finance. Financial analysts keep track of how well (or poorly) stocks, bonds, commodities, and other investments work for companies or individuals. Wall Street is one of the biggest destinations for finance, but it's not just the stock market that's available to financial wizards. Analysts also work for banks, insurance companies, securities firms, and mutual and pension funds. Large companies keep financial analysts on staff so that they can get a handle on sales, costs, expenses, and other key figures to help increase a company's value.

According to the BLS, the median annual salary of financial analysts in May of 2008 was $73,150, which also happens to be twice as much as the national median salary in general.

Interesting Facts about Business Schools and Programs

  • George W. Bush was the first and only U.S. president to have earned his MBA--he's a Harvard Business School grad.
  • Donald Trump is a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and Donald Jr. and Ivanka followed in his footsteps. Eric (that rebel!) is a Georgetown grad.
  • Feeling entrepreneurial? Don't head off to the Ivy League just yet. According to The Princeton Review, the top three undergraduate schools for entrepreneurship are The University of Houston, Baylor University, and Babson College. For graduate programs, Babson tops the list, followed by University of Chicago and University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
  • Celebrities usually hire business managers to take care of their finances, but for those who are enterprising enough, there's always the new MBA program at George Washington University that was designed just for stars. Aptly named the STAR (Special Talent, Access and Responsibility) executive MBA program, the curriculum is for those with highly specific education needs--or else their bling is just too blinding for students in a regular MBA program.