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A business degree can be beneficial for individuals who seek to change or enter new careers.
In this article, we discuss the two major business degrees – Bachelor’s degree and MBA – and how they can allow you to make a career change.
Bachelor’s Degree in Business
A bachelor’s degree in a business field is generally thought of as a manner of beginning a career.
It can also serve as a career transition.
Many non-traditional students find that seeking a business degree (even if they already possess a degree in an unrelated discipline) to be a good method of changing career paths.
While it is not strictly necessary to have a business degree to land a position in business, the degree and the degree program can provide numerous benefits.
First off, employers realize that nearly anyone is sufficiently intelligent to effectively perform most business-related, job functions within the workplace. The business degree can, however, act as a signaling function to the employer. That is, it tells employers that you have a distinct interest in a particular business career field. It also, signals that you have a level of existing exposure and conceptual knowledge of the field of practice. This makes learning (and ultimately mastering) the procedural undertakings of the job much more efficient and expedient.
Next, undertaking a business degree allows you the opportunity to take part in the school’s on-campus recruiting and career services. These services are often unknown or unavailable to students studying in other career fields.
Lastly, studying business provides you numerous avenues and methods of networking. Whether you are pursuing a business internship for academic credit, taking a course that works directly with local businesses, or simply attending any of the business-related networking events that your college hosts, pursuing a business degree can help to generate an opportunity for you.
That is, in basic terms, why a business degree is highly valuable. It serves to generate opportunities for students. Now, students must still recognize and work to exploit those opportunities; but, simply generating the opportunity is often the first step in changing your career direction.
In other materials, we speak at length about the value of creating opportunities (see our article Opportunity Generation, Recognition, and Exploitation).
Also, take a look at our material on Business School Career Resources for more information on this topic.
In summary, the necessary preparation for an opportunity in a business career field might include: a degree, specialized knowledge, industry experience, and professional connections. A bachelor’s degree in business can help with all of these.
Now, let’s take a look at using the MBA to change career paths.
In a separate article, Understanding the MBA program, we talk in-depth about MBA programs.
Here, I want to talk to you about how it can be used to change career paths.
First off, the MBA is somewhat of a finishing degree. It is designed for individuals making the transition from professional service provider to that of manager of professional service providers. That is why most MBA programs are created for mid-career professionals.
The MBA’s primary function, however, has been a recruiting center for big businesses. Business schools invest a great deal or many in their career development departments to prepare students for the job market and to make connections with employers in various industries. These companies, in turn, host networking events and conduct on-campus interviews to attracted talented new employees to serve in professional roles.
- Note: For this reason, it is not advisable to undertake an MBA program until you have several years of experience in a professional field. A high-quality MBA program is not likely to accept a student (even if the student has outstanding grades in undergraduate) without adequate professional experience.
Because of the heavy company recruiting through MBA programs, it has become a common method or approach to changing career paths. Individuals in one field of professional service will attend an MBA program with the hopes of changing to a separate career path.
While this may be a difficult task, as employers still seek individuals with a given level of skill and experience, many companies are willing to take a chance on individuals changing from one career to another.
Individuals who are considering this approach are well-advised to pursue an MBA program that has very strong industry connections. Also, the student must work very diligently to land an internship in the newly-chosen career field, as most MBA students accept employment with their internship providers.
- Note: Take a look at our articles MBA Programs and Business Internship to learn more about how the internship is worked into the MBA program to provide recruiting and employment opportunities for students.
Employers assume that the skills and knowledge the applicant has acquired through other career experience (together with the knowledge and exposure provided by the business program) makes the applicant a good candidate for employment. This is true, even if those skills are acquired in a different career field of industry. Also, many of the soft skills in one career field readily translate to another. For these reasons, employers are generally open to looking at individuals who are switching career fields for professional services positions.
- Note: If you are switching career fields, it shouldn’t surprise you if you start out at a lower position that other MBA graduates who already have extensive experience in the industry. You will, in many instances, be competing for entry-level professional service positions – the same as for undergraduates who graduate with a major or concentration in a given career field.
As such, the MBA program can be an excellent method of changing one’s career path after gaining a few years of recognizable professional work experience.