Business is one of the most popular college majors in the country. In fact, in the 2017-2018 academic year, 19% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded by U.S. colleges were business degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). So you may be wondering what jobs all those business students are destined for.
Business degrees are extremely versatile—that’s one reason why so many people get them. So if you’re pursuing one, or are considering it, know that there are a number of jobs your major lays the groundwork for, including roles in finance, insurance, sales, marketing, HR, and tech.
Even if your goal is to go into business for yourself or make a living as an artist, a business major can help you do that, says Arkadiusz Mironko, a management professor at Indiana University East’s School of Business and Economics who’s advised hundreds of students on their careers. People with business degrees “know how to build a business around their desired work.”
Top Skills Business Majors Bring to the Table
As a business student, you probably focused on a certain area like information systems or management (or maybe you majored in one of these areas at a business college). And you’ve likely come away with a number of soft and hard skills related to that concentration. However, no matter what your specialty, chances are you’ve also gained a few core skills that are highly transferable and valuable to employers across various industries at all types of companies.
One of them is “being agile enough to be a chameleon,” says Nadia Ibrahim-Taney, M.Ed., MA, career coach and lecturer at the University of Cincinnati Carl H. Lindner College of Business. Through a varied curriculum, undergraduate business degrees teach you how business works and how to be a lifelong learner, making you flexible enough to go into any organization or corporate environment and adapt to it. The technology you learn in school “may not exist in 40 years,” Ibrahim says, but the ability to learn new things quickly will be valuable for your entire career.
The communication and interpersonal skills you gained are also vital to any future job or career. “Good business schools combine the technical and the humanistic,” Ibrahim-Taney says. Through your coursework, you learned just not what needs to be done, but how to work well with other people. You also learned the best ways to communicate verbally and in writing as well as how to give presentations on a variety of topics.
Analytical skills, including critical thinking and problem-solving skills, are at the core of most business curriculums. Whether you’re analyzing businesses or investments, writing case studies, or creating business plans, you can apply what you learned in school about how to evaluate a lot of information (both quantitative and qualitative) and use it to draw conclusions and solve problems.
Here are nine jobs to consider if you majored in business—most of them don’t require an MBA to get started—along with salary info from Payscale (note that Payscale’s database is updated regularly; the numbers here reflect the latest as of February 2021).
Average salary: $51,640
Accountants aren’t just the people who do your taxes. They can also prepare, analyze, and maintain financial records for businesses or individuals; advise businesses on cost reductions or other financial decisions; and manage money going in and out of a company. Accountants can work for an accounting firm that has outside clients (either individuals or organizations) or in-house at any type of organization in any industry.
Accountants have to have knowledge of financial and accounting practices, a strong eye for detail, problem solving abilities, and a knack for communicating complex financial topics to a range of audiences—all skills common for business majors. Accountants don’t need a certification to get started, but applicants who have one, or are working toward one, have a better chance of being hired. The most common is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license, but which one is most helpful depends on the type of accounting you’d like to pursue.
Average salary: $61,530
Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals on investment and budget decisions; analyze the performance of investments or different parts of a company; and evaluate financial data. Financial analysts often work for financial institutions like banks and investment firms to evaluate outside companies, individuals, or investments. Or you might become a corporate financial analyst and work in-house to analyze the finances of a single company. “Every company from Fortune 100 to small businesses offers career opportunities,” Mironko says.
Financial analysts must have strong analytical and communication skills and be able to learn a lot about new things in a short amount of time. Many business majors across specialties can excel as financial analysts, but graduating with a finance focus will you help land more competitive positions. It also helps to pursue internships during college at the kind of organization you’d like to work for. Particularly if you’re working for a financial institution, you need to be willing to put in long hours in a role that’s often high-stress—though the salary payoff is usually strong.
Average salary: $57,884
Every business and building you come across has to be insured, Ibrahim-Taney says. And before that can happen, an insurance underwriter needs to evaluate the business or building (or vehicle or even person) to determine the risks involved with issuing an insurance policy and evaluate whether their company should move forward. From there, underwriters might calculate the appropriate amount to insure an entity for and the appropriate premium to charge.
Depending on the size of the company underwriters work for, they might also need to communicate with insurance agents or prospective and current customers. So they’ll need analytical and decision-making skills, financial and business knowledge, and communication and interpersonal skills—making this a great job for business majors.
Though the number of jobs in this field is dropping due to automated programs, Ibrahim-Taney says that many of the workers currently in the field are older and there’s a need for fresh grads and other early-career candidates. You’ll need to get certified as an underwriter to move up in your career, but to get started, you just need a bachelor’s degree. If you’re looking to work for a large insurance company, you might look for roles with risk management in the title as well as underwriter positions, Ibrahim-Taney says.
Human Resources Specialist
Average salary: $51,512
Human resource specialists work with the human aspect of every business. Depending on where they work and the size of the HR team or people department, HR specialists might handle recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding new employees; arranging, managing, and presenting benefits for new and existing employees; mediating or settling employee conflicts or misconduct; and/or facilitating training, learning, and development for staff.
HR specialists need strong communication and interpersonal skills, analysis and presentation abilities, and a familiarity with best practices for businesses and compliance requirements, making it a good choice for business majors who enjoy interacting with people. Some, though not all, organizations will require or prefer candidates with a certification from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) or the HR Certification Institute (HRCI). As an entry-level candidate you might look for HR assistant positions before moving up to a specialist role.
Account Executive, Sales
Average salary: $54,991
Account executives bring in new business and are also known as salespeople, sales representatives, sales agents, and sales engineers, depending on the employer and industry—and they can work at virtually any company with a product or service to sell. Depending on the organization, account executives might be in charge of prospecting new customers, identifying the needs of current and existing clients, explaining how their company’s products or services work, negotiating and closing deals, and upselling and re-signing existing customers.
Account executives need qualities many business majors have: strong communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to learn a lot about a new product or market. They need to know how to construct an argument about why someone should spend money on something. Beyond just base salary, account executives often take home significant commissions and bonuses, meaning there are many high-paying sales roles to work your way into. Entry-level candidates might look for a sales or business development representative role to get started.
Average salary: $66,117
Marketing managers plan and execute promotional campaigns for a company, its products, and/or its services. They also conduct market research and analyze ongoing and past campaigns. Marketing managers can work in any industry for almost any type of organization or company—or they can work for a marketing agency where they might manage the needs of a portfolio of clients. Marketing managers may be generalists or they might be specialists who focus on one area of marketing such as social media, email, search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing (SEM), e-commerce, or events. Depending on the seniority of the role and the size of the company they work for and its marketing budget, marketing managers might also oversee a team of marketers.
People with business degrees—particularly ones who want a career where they can be creative—can excel in these roles using their strong communication, presentation, and analytical skills as well as their ability to learn quickly and adapt. Before becoming a marketing manager, entry-level candidates should look for entry-level marketing coordinator, assistant, or analyst positions.
Average salary: $73,495
Project managers plan, organize, coordinate, and oversee the completion of initiatives at almost every type of company. Project managers need to be able to communicate with and coordinate cross-functional teams while keeping stakeholders informed, so strong interpersonal and communication skills are a must as is a strong understanding of what exactly each colleague’s role entails. They also need to track progress, analyze results, and allocate and manage a budget. For project managers at tech companies, some knowledge of software development is also useful, making this a good job for business majors with an interest in tech (like those with an information systems concentration) and/or some coding chops, Ibrahim-Taney says.
There’s no one way to become a project manager: PMs might start their careers as project coordinators or assistants or as business analysts or consultants, or they might start in another role within an industry where they’d like to eventually oversee projects such as a software engineering or IT help desk role. Some companies will also prefer or recommend candidates with project management certifications.
Average salary: $61,306
Business analysts evaluate and analyze an organization’s practices, processes, opportunities, and related data to make recommendations to improve performance, efficiences, or profit. The role of a business analyst varies greatly depending on industry and company needs. But regardless, a business analyst will need many of the skills business majors have: research and analysis skills; the ability to learn about new technologies, markets, and companies; and the ability to communicate with people in a number of different roles.
Business majors can get a job as an entry-level or junior business analyst with an undergrad degree. As business analysts move up in their careers, they might choose to specialize in a specific area like IT or data.
Average salary: $87,810
Management consultants make recommendations to client companies and organizations to help them solve problems or run their businesses more effectively. Management consultants gather information about a business’ finances, employees, customers, processes, and products; evaluate and analyze their findings; come up with solutions; and communicate them to clients.
These tasks gel with business majors’ core skills and the financial rewards are large. But the hours can be long and entry-level roles at top firms can be highly competitive, Mironko says. Business majors can become associate consultants or analysts right out of school through highly structured recruiting processes that many consultancies hold right on college campuses.