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Business Programs 101: Your Guide to Opportunities at Public Colleges

You're interested in studying Business, but is public or private college the better option? Public Business programs have a lot to offer. Here's what to expect!

Many students think they want to pursue business, and many students end up with those careers. Does this mean they all majored in Business as undergraduates? No, not at all. In fact, a strong liberal arts background with some business and economics courses can provide excellent training for the world of business, and often students with this path end up studying Business in greater depth in graduate school, typically in an MBA program. And many private universities encourage this approach, believing that the best preparation for specific careers in business comes at the graduate level. There’s nothing wrong with the above approach; it’s great for students who know an MBA is in their future. But thousands of students either don’t have the luxury of postponing a career until after graduate education or are passionate, about studying and preparing for business during their undergraduate years.

Public colleges for undergraduate Business

Many of America’s public universities offer undergraduate Business majors that are highly regarded. These programs are all grounded in a solid liberal arts foundation, usually through a university’s comprehensive general education programs, ensuring students are exposed to a wide variety of disciplines at the college level, from English composition and literature to the natural sciences to mathematics, history, and the social sciences. And most offer amazing options to also study Business in depth. A few universities you can start looking into that offer programs like this include:

Related: The Best Prep for the Real World: Business or Liberal Arts Degrees?

How Business programs train you

These business programs are not just putting out technicians but seeking to train responsible leaders who will soundly make decisions, who will not seek simply to maximize short-term profits for themselves and the entities for which they work. This is a hallmark of Business education in America, in both private and public institutions. Take for example the mission statement from the College of Business at California State University, East Bay:

The mission of the College of Business and Economics is to prepare students to make ethical choices and succeed in a dynamic business environment shaped by the challenges of a competitive global economy, emerging technologies, and diverse stakeholders.

And you’ll find guiding principles like this not just in the California State University system but at each public university that places an emphasis on teaching students to think critically, be ever mindful, and realize the impact their actions have on others. These schools seek to impart an understanding that to be a successful business leader, one has to be a responsible member of the community—in one’s town, state, country, and the world.

What to expect from your program

Business education in public universities today tends to provide breadth and depth to students, teaching the basic knowledge and skills necessary to understand the national and global business environment. These programs also give students exposure to many different aspects of the field of business. Many students specialize in a Business option that’ll best prepare them for the type of career they wish to have—be it in finance, accounting, international business, or advertising.

Courses you may take

So you may be asking, “What classes am I likely to take?” For starters, they’re amazingly varied! From introductory classes that give you an overview of the field and a sense of the theory behind business practices to very specific courses delving into a certain aspect of the field, students are exposed to the many different facets of this career field. Once you’ve have completed general education and introductory courses, you’ll move on to upper-division courses that really solidify your knowledge of key business areas. Here a just a few course topics examples from a leading public university:

  • Financial Institutions and Markets
  • Investments
  • E-Business
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Brand Management and Strategy

Related: How to Pick a College When You Want to Study Business

Business opportunities beyond the classroom

Many students also take advantage of internships as undergraduates and thus gain critical real-world experience before they graduate. Do those opportunities always come easily? Not necessarily. That’s why it’s important to seek them out: Ask your professors and advisors, and go to your campus career center, if there is one. This is where you’ll typically find most information on internships. But usually, each university also has dedicated faculty and staff in their Business department to help you chart the right path for yourself, but they need to know you’re interested and want to grow.

You might be amazed at the internship opportunities available to you, or you may not be enthralled by many of your options. But you should take advantage of any experiential learning you can get, even if it may not be your perfect fit. Who knows? You may not think you’re interested in banking but after an internship at Citibank or Wells Fargo, you may love it! Or you may decide banking isn’t for you and you want to pursue accounting. Either way, you’ll have experience—experience that’ll help you make up your mind on what you do and don’t want to do. Plus, that experience will count on your résumé regardless of the specific business field you eventually work in,

Related: How to Make the Most of an Undergraduate Business Degree

The first step is to not just pursue some vague Business path—it’s finding why you’re passionate about it. For many students, that starts with applying to a top-notch public university to pursue a Business major. From there, maximize what's offered to you both in and out of the classroom. You’ll graduate with a degree that will help launch yourself on the path to a successful future.

Start searching for the right Business program for you with our featured Business college lists.

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