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How to Make the Most of an Undergraduate Business Degree

One of the most popular degree paths right now is Business. But how can you optimize your undergraduate degree after graduation? Read on to find out!

To this day, Business regularly sits among—if not at the top of—the most popular undergraduate degrees, and for good reason. Business majors are in high demand in the professional world because so many fields cross over into business, and that makes it a great choice for undergraduate students. It can position you for a career in government agencies, public utilities, insurance companies, banks, brokerage firms, personnel management, finance, retail and sales management, market research, social media management, and much more. Here’s how to set yourself up for the best return on investment on a Business major for success after graduation. 

Align your degree with your interests

You don’t have to pursue conventional paths like selling real estate or providing financial advice if those don’t interest you. Don’t let those lists of typical business jobs pigeonhole you. Business is woven into every field, making it a highly flexible choice that you can tailor to your other interests. Love mountain biking? A bike manufacturer might need your marketing acumen and your enthusiasm for the sport. If you’ve always wanted to live or travel abroad, global businesses want worldly college grads, and travel marketing is a career in its own right. If you’re passionate about social impact, a Business degree can be a powerful tool for mobilizing positive change. Plan strategically with your degree and concentration to align yourself with your career path after college. 

Related: The Best Majors to Pair With a Business Minor

Explore your possibilities

Possible Business major strands include Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Marketing, Information Systems, International Business, Sustainability, and more. Business degrees are typically interdisciplinary, incorporating courses in writing, mathematics, marketing, business statistics, economics, and technology as a foundation for upper-level courses in a particular focus. That’s what makes the majors so versatile. Marketing degrees incorporate economics, sociology, psychology, and statistics to understand consumer behavior, marketing management, product development, social media, and sales management. 

Sustainability Business degrees, specifically, bridge business and economics classes with the environmental, social, and cultural aspects of sustainability. This focus sets you up to work in environmental management such as state and federal environmental regulation compliance, sustainable energy systems, green supply chain analysis, sustainable investing, and other socially and environmentally conscious avenues. You may be able to add a minor for a particular strength within a field as well.

Integrate your electives

Beyond the degree requirements, Christos Kelepouris, PhD, Business professor at Michigan State University, recommends students focus their elective coursework on subjects they’re interested in. Your academic interests can inform your business degree’s focus. “If you’re interested in agriculture, take courses in agriculture. Then you’ll have a leg up in that field because you’ll understand the product or service on the business side of things,” Kelepouris says. Perhaps you’re interested in geology, anthropology, or a foreign language. If you have a penchant for creative writing, English classes lay a solid foundation for marketing and communications. Being a versatile writer benefits you in any field.

Related: 4 Things to Consider When Choosing Electives in College

Get involved with clubs and initiatives

Getting involved beyond the classroom is also critical, Kelepouris says. He encourages students to join clubs and other extracurriculars and apply for their schools’ business initiatives to explore and develop interests and gain relevant experience; college business initiatives partner with businesses in the community to give students connections to the business world. You’ll be invited to attend workshops, meet guest speakers, and learn how business leaders got started. You might get to partner with other Business students to help community business leaders solve real issues. In some cases, applying to a school’s initiative can be competitive, but Kelepouris says the benefits are worth it, going beyond what is offered in the classroom and textbooks. New York University and its Stern Center for Sustainable Business launched a two-year sustainability initiative in 2019 to accelerate the city’s efforts in building a strong, sustainable economy using the United Nation’s sustainable development goals. 

Pursue competitions and a study abroad semester

Some Business schools hold competitions that put students in charge of solving a real-world problem. The University of Washington's Foster School of Business offers several competitions. For the Holloman Health Innovation Challenge, students team up to create new solutions and approaches to health, health care, and related products and services. These opportunities outside the classroom are what give your Business degree teeth when you’re applying for jobs. Kelepouris also recommends taking a semester to study abroad, if it’s feasible. Understanding different perspectives is crucial to providing a good business product. “You have to understand there are different points of view,” he says. “You don’t have to agree with them, but you have to understand, for example, why a certain marketing approach might not work for a specific part of the sector.”

Take on an internship or two

Having an internship gives you a leg up after graduation. Typically, students aim for internships the summer after their junior year, but it never hurts to start applying earlier. If you get one, great! You can work for another company the following summer. Be aware that many students have their summer internships locked up by winter break. Visit your campus career center and talk to your Business professors to learn about opportunities for students. “Try to do one at a place that has a business focus you’re passionate about, if possible,” Kelepouris says. But don’t be discouraged if you land somewhere that doesn’t align with your interests. Any experience is good experience, and you may discover an interest you didn’t know you had.

Related: How to Find Business Internships and Land the Position

One assumption Business students make that can come back to bite them is that they'll be high earners right out of the gate. Those pay raises and increased responsibilities take time. And you likely aren’t going to land a CEO or mid-level manager position within five years, especially if you haven’t completed one or more internships. The downside of the Business degree’s popularity is that you’re competing with many others for jobs. Heed this advice and start laying the groundwork for a strong Business résumé with experiences and involvement while in college. It’s a great career choice. Just be sure to make the most of your time on campus—it can only help you land a great career later.

Find colleges with Business degrees that can help you reach your career goals using our College Search tool.

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