With an increasingly global economy, many students are turning to international business as a degree to prepare them for the global context of doing business in a complex economy. The advancement of technology has removed geographic barriers, and it allows organizations and individuals to engage in business at the click of a mouse. However, it often still requires large amounts of travel and strong cultural communication skills. While a general business degree is still a valuable tool, an international business degree can give graduates a competitive advantage through providing specialized skills and knowledge.
Before beginning an international business degree, candidates should possess qualities such as openness to other cultures, willingness to travel, adaptability to change, quantitative reasoning, and strong verbal & written communication. Working in a position that includes international travel is both dynamic and stressful. Being open to various cultural practices and having a love of travel is certainly required, especially after the initial novelty of it has worn off. Moreover, being good with quantitative analysis is important, as data is a universal language that can bridge communication and cultural differences.
Being an international business major seeking to complete a college degree and continue on to a successful career is an exciting and challenging position. It’s a unique one, too, due to the combination of people skills and analytical thinking required to thrive.
Below we look at 10 reasons to major in international business.
1. A Competitive Edge in the Job Market
General business continues to be the most popular degree nearly every year, according to tracking data that measures degrees conferred by major. While this shows the utility of a general business degree, it does nothing to help the candidate’s education stand out from the crowd. General business graduates are ubiquitous and offer very little in the way of uniqueness when it comes to education.
An international business graduate not only has a unique degree that looks good on paper, they also possess the business acumen to operate in a global economy. As organizations increasingly do business with foreign partners, firms are looking for people who know how to navigate these complex business and relational transactions. And it’s not just about traditional business know-how like marketing, accounting, and finance. International transactions require cultural and social understanding as well. International business students are taught how to effectively communicate with current or potential foreign clients and business partners.
Now, more than ever, possessing the cultural competency to effectively communicate with diverse individuals and communities is critical to business success. International business students have the opportunity to learn these critical communication skills in detail as part of their coursework.
An international business graduate can go into a foreign market and see the difference between how collective societies and individualistic societies engage in business. Collective societies value strong relational bonds and high levels of trust before doing business, compared to individualistic cultures like the United States that require far less relational nurturing. An international business major can recognize these types of differences and deftly navigate the situation to increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. Someone without the cultural training could make a critical mistake and lose current and future opportunities.
2. An Opportunity to Travel the World
As an international business major, there are plenty of opportunities to travel the globe – even before graduating. Many international business programs integrate travel opportunities abroad to countries all over the world. Whether it is a full semester or a couple of weeks, students can expect to travel far and wide during their program.
Once a job is secured, international placements and assignments can be expected as normal. As firms attempt to open up business through expansion in foreign markets or strengthen existing relationships, individuals with international business degrees will be highly valued.
A little-discussed perk of traveling the world is the elevated social status that comes from international travel. International travel has always been associated with important social metrics including the perception of power, money, and success. International business comes with a sense of intrigue, excitement, and importance. International travelers also have great stories to tell at social functions like dinner parties with friends and family.
3. Expanded Career Options
International business programs prepare graduates for a wide range of jobs outside of private business. Graduates have gone on to successful careers in the public sector and non-profit agencies across a wide range of industries. Because of the global nature of the current economy, an individual with the kind of training that can help them understand the nuance and subtleties of operating in an international space, whether it be with private business or otherwise, is going to be desired by potential employers of all kinds.
Additionally, a bachelor’s degree in international business works well as preparation for graduate studies in disciplines such as law, public policy, economics, and business. Transferable skills such as problem-solving, emotional intelligence, communication, and leadership have always been important, but in today’s job market they are even more critical than ever. These characteristics have long been staples of the curriculum that one may find in an international business program.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), business management and consulting occupations are expected to grow 7% through 2029, which is more than double the rate for all other occupations tracked by the BLS. Those with a master’s degree in international business as well as those who speak a second language should experience excellent employment opportunities. In addition, the BLS states that major metro areas such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are expected to experience even higher rates of growth, due to increased job openings driven by more business activity and people retiring from current positions.
4. A Global Worldview
Even those individuals who do not end up working for a large international organization should benefit greatly from the expanded worldview and global perspective that an international business major can provide. Individuals with general business training may have blind spots in their thinking and may not be able to have the big-picture perspective that someone with international business experience and training can. Cultural and geographical blind spots are a real issue. Someone with a global perspective can bring their unique problem solving skills to whatever organization they are in and offer creative and innovative solutions. The experience of traveling the globe and interacting with people from all over the world is something that cannot be replicated in a business textbook or a classroom.
5. Increased Business Acumen and Skills
General business degree programs focus on fundamental business principles in accounting, economics, finance, marketing, and the like. International business degree courses also cover these concepts, ensuring they have the same background as their general business peers. However, because international business students take more specialized courses, they often graduate with a higher level of acumen, due to taking courses that focus on these essential concepts within the context of a global economy. Such classes are often titled international marketing, international finance, and international business negotiations. Simply put, non-international business students do not take these types of classes and miss out on courses that offer these perspectives.
6. Improved Cultural Awareness
Effective communication is critical when it comes to engaging with international stakeholders, clients, and customers from a variety of cultures. Culture refers to a community’s customs, beliefs, social norms, and artifacts. These vary greatly and impact communication at both the mass and interpersonal levels. The ability to effectively navigate the cultural norms of an unfamiliar society is important in international business, and it can mean the difference between failure and success. At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, students are able to travel abroad and immerse themselves in the culture and business dealings of international organizations. The first-hand experience provides invaluable cultural awareness and training.
7. Complex Problem-Solving Skills
International business is complex. From international logistics and foreign policy to cultural and ethical issues, there are a lot of moving parts that must be considered. As an international business major, students learn to deal with these complexities, and they gain an understanding of how to solve problems and approach issues from different perspectives. With increasingly difficult problems comes the ability to innovate and see plausible solutions that could have otherwise been missed. Much of the coursework in international business programs focuses on case studies involving individuals and teams tackling real-world international business scenarios. At the graduate level, students often assist real clients by offering consulting services that increase student learning and help organizations who are looking for business solutions.
8. Personal Fulfillment
A fulfilling career and the ability to travel can be two of the most important factors when it comes to personal fulfillment. International business graduates have the opportunity to travel to exotic and exciting locations as part of their jobs, which means little to no personal cost for travel, meals, and accommodations. Whether it’s a long-term placement or a short stint, there is always the opportunity to soak up the cuisine and culture of the location and meet interesting people along the way.
In addition to travel, a fulfilling career can be one of the main drivers of happiness. Career experts state that meaningful work and fair compensation are two of the biggest factors contributing to career satisfaction. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salaries for international financial managers and international marketing managers are $147,530 and $149,200 respectively. Compared to the average salary of $39,480 for all other occupations combined, it’s easy to see that an international business degree offers a handsome return on investment.
When it comes to meaningful work, these professionals spend their time solving complex problems, working together in teams, and developing business strategies that facilitate growth. These high-level tasks give the work meaning and purpose, which an be just as important as financial gain.
9. Learning a Second Language
Whether it is part of an international business program or something completed post-graduation, learning a second language has several career and personal benefits. In an ever-increasing tight job market, having the ability to communicate fluently in another language is a very useful skill that is attractive to potential employers. And as neuroscientists have discovered, learning a second language actually promotes the growth of new grey matter in the brain and helps form additional neural pathways that increase intelligence. Moreover, bilingual individuals also experience an increase in their ability to read and write effectively in their native language. As people learn another language, they become more aware of the structure and uses of their first language and become better at it.
In addition to increasing intelligence, learning a second language improves memory and slows cognitive decline. A recent study showed that bilingual individuals suffer less from cognitive impairments like Dementia and Alzheimer’s than their monolingual peers.
10. International Network
While opportunities can arise from hard work and persistence, many arise through personal networks formed by the development of interpersonal relationships. Sometimes referred to as social capital, those with a global network are often offered jobs and various opportunities through their list of professional contacts that develops over the course of their career. Most job openings never make it to an internet job board. The vast majority of hires come from a personal recommendation or referral. Those with strong networks that include both a domestic and international base are bound to have opportunities come their way – even without actively seeking them. And for those who perform well on the job, it’s even more commonplace for them to be constantly solicited by business partners, clients, and even their competition.
Final Thoughts on Majoring in International Business
Deciding to be an international business student is a serious decision. It’s a challenging degree to complete at any level. But in an uncertain job market, the degree offers several defining factors that help graduates stand out from the competition and make their way into successful and enriching careers.
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