Flip Side: Why A Business Degree Is Not A Guarantee for Success

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Let’s get something straight—we are incredibly supportive of the choice to pursue a degree in business, whether it is a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree, at any of the hundreds of colleges and universities across the U.S. As it is one of the most popular college degrees in the U.S., it is right to assume that there is an association between business degrees and success in later professional and higher education endeavors.

In this article, we challenge ourselves to look beyond this common association and ask why simply obtaining a business degree is not a guarantee for this so-called success. 

Jeffrey J. Selingo, author of There Is Life After College, former editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education, and a professor of practice at Arizona State University recounts an experience he had in 2017 shortly after giving a talk about his book that had been recently published that year. A young woman in her mid-20s shared that she was unemployed despite having applied for several jobs and taking on multiple unpaid internships. 

“I majored in business marketing,” she told him, “because everyone said it would lead to a job after graduation.”

It’s true that business degrees are some of the most popular choice for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the U.S. If one looks at the stats, business administration graduates receive an extremely high salary after graduation. The idea is that a degree in business administration from a reputable college or university will set you up to ace the complexities of critical thinking within a business. This should help you work in an assortment of professions, from managerial positions to business support positions. While average, mid-career salary rates are decently high at $70,695, Selingo reminds us that “not all business majors are created equal in the job.”

According to Selingo, research shows that college students who major in general business and marketing are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed. They tend to earn less than business majors who have math-focused concentrations, such as finance or accounting. This may be because math-focused business majors have the need to work harder. According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, students who study business tend to spend less time studying than anyone else on college campuses. They also spend less time reading and writing than other majors. Results of national standardized tests such as the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus, given to freshmen and seniors, demonstrate that students who major in business made significantly fewer advancements in critical thinking, writing and communication, and analytical reasoning than those who studied degrees such as mathematics, science, and engineering, or the traditional liberal arts such as philosophy, history, and literature.

The key here is to recognize that simply choosing a business major does not illicit automatic success in one’s future. College and university students cannot allow the promises of “guaranteed” success to keep them from putting in their best effort in school. Go to any college campus in the U.S. and ask a university student about the stereotypes that exist regarding business majors. Many will say that their main concern is earning a profit and that they spend more time with a beer or a vodka in their hand than with textbooks and notebooks. We suppose that this applies for any type of major a student chooses but one must always work to ensure that they stand out later when applying for future job and higher education prospects. Your university performance will be a higher determinant of your success in the future. 

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