• Dr. Relax

Does Your Undergraduate Degree Matter for Business?



When students come to me and tell me that they want to study business, my thought is usually the same: they don’t know what they mean.


Let’s look at a different example. What if I told you that I want to study science? Do I mean psychology? Do I mean materials engineering? Do I mean astronomy?


Business, like many other disciplines, is a broad term. We need to learn to break this term down in order to find success for collegebound high school students. According to Indeed, here are the ten most popular business majors, of which students might have one in mind (or, more likely, never heard of):


  1. Accounting

  2. Marketing

  3. Sales

  4. Finance

  5. International business

  6. Human resources

  7. Health services administration

  8. Management information systems

  9. Business administration and management

  10. Master of Business Administration

If we look closely, we’ll see that these majors require a wide variety of skills, ranging from pure mathematical to social management to persuasion. Simply put, there is no single skill that makes someone an ideal business candidate. Instead, it’s important to take a look at where in the business world a student can fit based on their strengths – their skillsets and knowledge domains. This is where a counselor or consultant can be beneficial, someone to assess the student’s potential and capabilities.


If you are familiar with the concept of Type A and Type B personalities, you may have heard Type A and business as synonymous. This is often true, to an extent. Type A personalities find themselves as career-driven, motivated, and passionate about their immediate goals. Meanwhile, Type B personalities may find themselves exploring concepts and ideas, thinking outside of the box. However, both personalities types can find a home in the world of business.


Furthermore, your undergraduate degree may have less of an impact on your future as you’d think, as is true for every single other major.


Case in point, let’s look at popular Fortune 100 CEOs and their academic backgrounds. According to Kimberly Whitler, Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, 53% of F100 CEOs hold a BA degree while 47% hold a BS degree (45% of BS degrees were non-STEM).


However, almost all F100 CEOs in tech-related fields hold an engineering-related undergraduate degree, not business. Some F100 CEOs have degrees that aren’t even directly related to their company’s industry. Overall, Whitler concludes that it isn’t clear whether a business-related undergraduate degree even matters.


Rather, in this day and age, students should focus on the skills that are easily transferable from industry to industry, and the skills that are useful in business are useful everywhere. Here are the top ten business skills according to US News:

  1. Communication

  2. Negotiation

  3. Leadership

  4. Management

  5. Critical thinking

  6. Data analysis

  7. Financial literacy

  8. Emotional intelligence

  9. Organization

  10. Trainability

Education is as much mindset as knowledge. Success in these skills, some of which academic while others social, will translate to success in the business world, no matter what career you decide to pursue.



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