Ultimate Guide to Business Degrees and Careers


Admission Criteria and Requirements for a Business Degree

As business continues to be one of the most popular majors in college, due to degree versatility and return on investment, it is important to understand what’s required in order to get started. Admission requirements vary by degree level, school, and program. Below we explore the different admission requirements for business degrees at different levels. Degrees include bachelor’s in business (often referred to as the BBA), master’s in business (MBA), and doctoral or Ph.D. in business.

Bachelor’s in Business Administration (BBA)

Earning a bachelor’s in business administration (BBA) is often the first step in a career in business. Due to the popularity of the degree, admission to a BBA program ranges from selective to extremely selective. In fact, top-tier business programs require stellar GPAs, high standardized test scores, and the completion of internships during the high school years.

Students intending to major in business should do their best to satisfy any prerequisites before applying. College-level math courses, such as calculus and statistics, are helpful. In addition to math courses, taking business courses in high school helps. These courses may include accounting, finance, macro- and micro-economics, and marketing. If your high school does not offer business courses, you might consider taking a class online or in-person from a community college. Most business programs require a competitive GPA of 3.0 or better, but some schools will accept a minimum GPA of 2.5.

Master’s in Business Administration (MBA)

Master’s in business administration (MBA) programs offer a deeper knowledge of business than undergraduate programs. MBA programs are selective and require certain criteria be met prior to applying. The application process for an accredited MBA program requires students to hold a bachelor’s degree in business (BBA). Many programs also require graduate exams from the GMAT or GRE. Top-ranked programs may stipulate minimum test scores. If an applicant’s score falls below the threshold, they won’t be eligible for admission.

Doctoral Degree or Ph.D. in Business

By earning a doctorate in business administration (DBA) or another area of business, you establish yourself as a leader in the field. Ph.D. business programs prepare students for careers in academia, while DBA programs prepare students for leadership and executive positions. Doctoral programs typically take three to six years to complete and require a master’s degree in business, such as an MBA. Doctoral programs require GRE or GMAT test scores, recommendation letters, personal statements, and competitive GPAs. Top-ranked programs are highly selective, typically only considering candidates with GPAs of 3.5 or better and competitive test scores.


Career Options in Business

Business degrees offer versatility and career-readiness. The skills earned at various degree levels adequately serve students, no matter which career path they take. Gaining knowledge in accounting, business, management, or marketing helps students transition seamlessly from college to a successful career. Below are several business career options.

Accounting Careers

The Journal of Accountancy wrote in 1912 that an accountant is “looked upon as a business physician.” Over one hundred years later, the profession is a highly-valued area of practice. Sample accounting careers include accounting clerks, budget analysts, certified financial planners, cost accountants, enrolled agents, financial analysts, fund accountancy, payroll accountants, real estate appraisers, tax preparers, and tax consultants.

Finance Careers

Careers in finance have always been lucrative. Good pay, combined with a favorable job outlook, makes finance one of the most sought-after business careers. With a degree in finance, you may qualify for jobs such as a financial analyst or financial manager. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial analyst jobs should see a 5% employment growth and financial manager jobs should see a 15% employment growth over the next 10 years.

Human Resource Careers

Careers in human resources are plentiful. BLS projects that employment of human resource managers will grow 6% through 2029. Human resource managers and staff are employed in nearly every industry, making a degree in business with a focus on human resources a versatile one. To work as an HR manager, one typically needs a bachelor’s degree or higher. Candidates may also be required to have completed three to five years of management work, or show consecutive years of increased responsibility while on the job. Other HR jobs, beyond HR managers, include compensation & benefits managers, human resource specialists, labor relations specialists, and training & development specialists.

Management Careers

Careers in management cover a wide spectrum of industries and occupations. Earning a business degree with a specialization in management opens doors to the many occupations that managers fill. Career choices include management positions in fields like education, finance, human resources, information systems, project management, sales, and systems management. Top-level leadership and executive positions require an MBA or master’s in management degree. However, with enough experience and leadership potential, a bachelor’s degree can get you on the right track for a lucrative management career.

Marketing Careers

Whether it’s advertising or promotions, marketing professionals plan programs to generate interest in people, products, and services. Some are brand experts, while others generate social media buzz. Many marketing professionals are employed in advertising agencies, and others work in corporate and regional offices. The job outlook for the marketing profession, particularly advertising, promotions, or marketing managers, is favorable for the next decade. In fact, BLS reports an employment growth of 6% through 2029, faster than the average for other occupations. Occupations in marketing include advertising sales agents, market research analysts, public relations managers, fundraising managers, public relations specialists, and sales managers.


Cost of Degree

The average cost of tuition and fees at a ranked in-state public college or university, according to U.S. News & World Report data, is $9,687. This number is approximately 72% less than the average price at a private college, which is about $35,000 per year. Out-of-state students at public institutions pay an average cost of $21,184 per year. These numbers are true of any major, and should give you a broad picture of the costs involved in earning an undergraduate business degree. Financial aid packages vary by student and are based on need, so it is important to evaluate costs based on personal financial need.

Earning a Graduate Degree

Graduate degrees in business include the MBA, master’s degree in a specialized area of business, and doctoral degree (Ph.D. or DBA). A recent survey published by Vox.com revealed that approximately 8% of more than 16 million people in the United States have a master’s degree. Over the last twenty years, there has been a 43% increase in the number of people acquiring graduate degrees.


An MBA is a master’s in business administration. It is a general graduate business degree that teaches students leadership, managerial, and technical skills. An MBA program typically builds upon a bachelor’s in business administration (BBA) program, focusing on business acumen. Earning an MBA can expand your professional network, create new job opportunities, and allow you to advance in your current career.

So, what can you expect from an MBA degree? Depending on the program and curriculum you choose, an MBA will prepare you for an advanced leadership role in business. MBA programs come in all shapes and sizes. Enrollment may be completed on a part-time or full-time basis. Some programs are offered entirely or partially online, while others take place in the traditional classroom.

The MBA generalist degree covers advanced business principles in accounting, economics, finance, and marketing. Students often complete an advanced project or internship near the end of the program. If you’re looking for a flexible, advanced business degree that can help elevate your career, the MBA is a favorable option.


The Doctor of Business Administration is the highest postgraduate degree in business management. According to U.S. News & World Report, a DBA program allows students to gain greater expertise in business, building upon the MBA degree. DBA programs are typically designed for business professionals or “accomplished executives,” as stated by U.S. News. These individuals hold MBA degrees or closely related master’s degrees.

Coursework is comprehensive and rigorous. Students focus on qualitative and quantitative research methods and contemporary business theories. Most DBA programs emphasize decision-making, global change, and leadership. Students also hone their research skills by combining research methods and defending a dissertation.

The DBA is different from a Ph.D. in business in that is a terminal degree. Traditionally, a Ph.D. leads to an academic career, while a DBA is more focused on the working professional with hands-on, practical experience in the field. People pursuing a DBA have plans to apply a working knowledge of theories and practice to current business issues.

So, how do you choose the right DBA program? Faculty members suggest that prospective students do their research. This means investigating whether certain DBA programs are accredited by governing bodies. Reputable DBA accrediting agencies include the AACSB International (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), the ACBSP (the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs), or the IACBE (the International Accreditation Council for Business Education).


Job Outlook

The job outlook varies by business career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in business and financial operations occupations is projected to grow 5% over the next decade. This projected growth is faster than the average for all occupations. In business and financial occupations, there may be over 476,000 new jobs added to the industry. Thanks to a growing economy, globalization, and changes in taxes and regulations, accountant and auditor jobs will be especially in demand.

BLS projects the following employment growth over the next eight to ten years in specific business occupations:

Compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists: 8%

Financial examiners: 7%

Human resources specialists: 7%

Logisticians: 4%

Management analysts: 11%

Personal financial advisors: 4%

Top executives: 4%

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives: 2%

Possible Business Majors

Majoring in a business discipline ranges across many areas of study. Some of the most popular business majors include accounting, business administration, finance, human resource management, international business, marketing, and project management. According to data compiled from indeed.com, choosing a high-paying business major can maximize your investment. Below are several possible business majors that can make you the most money.


One of the fastest growing fields of business is e-commerce. In a nutshell, e-commerce combines all major market segments, such as business to business, business to consumer, and consumer to business. Students majoring in e-commerce typically earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a specialization in e-commerce. In these programs, students learn the complexities of business management and information systems. Upon graduation, students are prepared with knowledge and skills that prove useful in areas like advertising, customer service, marketing, and developing websites for stores & businesses. As online shopping continues to expand in popularity, e-commerce experts are needed to develop strategies for a smooth shopping experience.


An economics degree, or a specialization in economics alongside a bachelor’s in business degree, showcases marketable skills to potential employers. As an economics major, you will develop skills in evaluating data and research. This major prepares you for careers in business, as well as other industries, such as government, healthcare, and law. An economics degree also offers flexibility when changing careers. Graduates with economics degrees often work as economists, investment bankers, and market analysts. The average salary of an economist, according to BLS, is $105,020 per year.


If you’re independent by nature, are looking to gain a competitive edge over your peers, and have creative business ideas, a business degree with an entrepreneurship specialization might suit you. Entrepreneurship students are equipped to lead daily business operations. In school, courses are taken in areas of business like finance, human resources, marketing, and public relations.



Finance majors may explore different areas while earning a bachelor’s degree. For example, finance programs may offer specializations that allow students to tailor their degree toward an area of interest. The degree emphasizes conveying skills and knowledge of financial management and educating students on how to manage financial matters in business. Graduates with a finance degree may work as financial advisors, financial analysts, insurance agents, and stockbrokers. The average salary of a financial analyst, as reported by BLS, is $81,590 per year.

Healthcare Management

A healthcare management major offers a solid return on investment. According to BLS, the median annual pay for medical and health services managers is $100,980 per year. Also, the job outlook for healthcare management is one of the highest for all occupations. Employment for this career is expected to grow 32% through 2029, much faster than the average for all other occupations. In college, students have the option of earning a business degree (BBA or MBA) with a specialization in healthcare management, or earning a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management.

Organizational Leadership

A degree in organizational leadership consists of studies in evidence-based decision-making, group dynamics, and organizational change. The degree focuses on preparing students for leadership roles within an organization. Graduates who majored in organizational leadership often find jobs as corporate communicators, human resource managers, management analyzers, project managers, and strategic planners. They may also work as business consultants and employee trainers. According to BLS, the median pay for a training and development manager is $113,250 per year, making organizational leadership one of the top-paying business majors.


One of the most popular business majors in recent years is marketing. Marketing is a well-known industry and a critical component for the success of any business. As a marketing major, or a business major earning a marketing specialization, you will learn what it takes to attract customers or clients and retain them by meeting their wants and needs. Marketing majors take classes in business like business law & ethics, business management, digital media, economics, and statistics. Potential options for marketing professionals include jobs as marketing managers, public relations managers, sales managers, and advertising & promotions managers.

Project Management

Earning a degree in project management, or a business degree with a specialization in project management, prepares you for various careers in business. As a project management major, you will take courses such as project leadership, project management teamwork, and project risk management. With a bachelor’s degree, you will be qualified for entry-level jobs as a business analyst, program manager, or project manager. The major is ideal for students who enjoy working with costs, supplies, people, and workflow. The average salary for a project manager is approximately $82,000 per year.


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BDP Staff
April 2021

This concludes our article providing information about business degrees.

Brenda Rufener

Julie McCaulley

Carrie Sealey-Morris