A business management degree can lead to a huge range of careers, from retail and finance to entrepreneurship and consultancy. Here we will take a look at what an undergraduate business degree involves.
In order to help you decide whether a business degree is the right fit for you, we’ll answer:
- What is a business degree like?
- What do you learn in a business degree?
- What skills will I gain?
- Where can the course lead?
What are the different types? What is a business degree like?
The term ‘business degree’ is often used as an umbrella term. Depending on the university or college, courses can be called business studies, business management or business administration.
You’ll usually be taught through a mixture of lectures (professors give a talk to a larger group of people)
and seminars / tutorials (smaller groups of students where you might focus on a more specific task or project; these are more interactive). For instance you might explore a case study in greater depth during a seminar. The amount of ‘contact time’ (meaning the time you spend in lectures and tutorial groups, vs independent study time) varies from university to university. You can expect between six and 16 hours a week.
It’s very important to thoroughly research the university and its business course to see if it’s the right fit for you. As well as the modules, contact time and teaching style –– find out whether the university invites professionals and leaders from business. These networking opportunities and chances to get involved in real-life business projects are crucial for your future career.
It is now possible to get a business degree without going to university by doing an apprenticeship. That’s a scheme where you learn on the job, studying towards your degree while also working in a business role. It’s a way to gain skills and experience – puls the qualification – while earning a salary and not paying for university fees (your employer will cover the costs). Business degree apprenticeship roles include junior management consultant and chartered manager.
What do you learn in a business degree?
Business courses will often cover a fairly wide range of topics in the first year or two years, including marketing, business law, economics, marketing, human resources, and finance.
Business management degrees may have more of a focus on management and how to make sound decisions.
After the first or second year you may be given the option to choose the topics that interest you most, or are related to the career path you’d like to pursue.
For example the BSc Management at the University of Manchester, is flexible. Everyone takes the same modules in first year, and then they specialise from the second year onwards. There you could choose to specialise in accounting and finance, human resources, innovation, sustainability and entrepreneurship, international business economics, international studies or marketing.
Students on the undergraduate course at the University of Oxford, for instance, study economics and management in small tutorial groups.
So depending on the year, the university and the specific nature of your business course, your modules might include:
- Business analytics.
- Fundamentals of financial reporting.
- Work psychology.
- Financial decision making.
- Consumer behaviour.
- Law in a management context.
- Trends in digital business technology.
You’ll develop a deep understanding of businesses and how they operate. You’ll have excellent knowledge of markets, customers, finance, operations, communication, information technology and business policy and strategy.
The particular way you will be assessed on a business undergraduate degree will depend on the institution you attend. Broadly speaking, assessment is carried out through both exams and coursework (which could include essays, presentations, project reports, a final-year project or a dissertation).
Some universities give you the opportunity to work for a year in an ‘industry placement’. This is an excellent way to put the knowledge you’ve been learning on the course into practice in a real workplace. These placements will give you transferable skills that future employers will want to see on your CV. Placements are usually competitive and you’ll have to apply like any job, but good universities will give you support (in your research, make sure to check what support your prospective uni will give). Check the university’s careers service to see about careers fairs, business competitions and anything else that will give practical workplace skills, and therefore an edge when it comes to applying for jobs. Many universities run enterprise hubs to help students get their business ideas off the ground, for instance.
What skills will I gain?
If you study business to degree level you’ll have gained a wide range of skills – from data analysis and commercial awareness, to IT skills and being able to think strategically. You’ll develop an excellent understanding of what makes people tick – both from an HR standpoint as well as a market research perspective – so your interpersonal skills will be top notch.
Skills developed by doing a business management degree include:
- Commercial awareness.
- Critical thinking.
- Lateral thinking.
- Problem solving.
- Decision making.
- Verbal and written communication skills.
- Ability to interpret data.
- Research skills.
- Taking the initiative.
Where can it lead?
A business degree can lead to roles in finance, retail, sales, customer service, management and consultancy. You’ll have the skills and know-how to launch your own business.
But even if you don’t plan to pursue a career that’s strictly business-related, the skills you’ve gained from studying business – particularly critical thinking, people skills and commercial awareness – will make you an excellent job candidate in many roles, from healthcare to engineering.
The biggest destination for graduates of business and management studies is business, human resources and finance, with 24.5% of graduates in 2016 going into those industries. A large number went on to pursue careers in marketing, PR and sales. Roles included events manager, marketing manager, junior transportation coordinator and human resource manager.
This combination of skills and knowledge opens up several career paths beyond business – including engineering, law and IT. Plenty of creatives and digital media pros need solid business skills because many of them tend to freelance.