Kick-start your brilliant career with a business degree
Posted October 13, 2011, by Josie Chun
For anyone aspiring to a career in management, wishing to climb the corporate ladder or dreaming about running their own business, a business qualification is one of the best places to start. So where can business degrees take you, and which kind of business degree is most appropriate for you? Here are some things you need to consider when choosing between courses.
The foundation for a successful career
Armed with a business degree, you can take your qualification anywhere and go into almost any area of business – the world is your oyster.
‘Business is a broad area of study and business skills are being applied in increasingly diverse settings such as not-for-profit, government, health, corporate organisations and even academia,’ says Michael Crock, General Manager, Academic Products and Services, Open Universities Australia (OUA).
And once you get your foot in the door, you’ll have a competitive edge in the workplace.
‘A business degree can give students a competitive advantage within business compared to those who don’t have one. Gaining a business qualification enables students to develop not only entrepreneurial skills but also capabilities in specific professional areas, so they can operate effectively in work and community situations with the ability to adapt and manage change in their future career,’ says Crock.
Freelance accountant Irene Giorgianni’s opportunities blossomed after she graduated from business at UTS. ‘I would definitely recommend studying business, especially if you are still unsure of what profession you want to practise. A Bachelor of Business is not just numbers – I got a taste of subjects like marketing, law and statistics as well. Big companies respect the degree and if you chose to run your own small home-based business it would assist you in that too,’ says Giorgianni.
Professor Robert Brooks, Associate Dean, Undergraduate, Faculty of Business and Economics at Monash University, agrees that business degrees are remarkably versatile. ‘They provide students with essential strategy skills and a broad knowledge of disciplines that provide a framework for problem-solving in any industry.’
Generalist or specialist?
If you’re looking for maximum flexibility and the widest range of options, then a more general qualification is the way to go. General degrees cover a broad base of foundational subjects in core business disciplines (such as economics, marketing, management), with a choice of majors which students can choose later in the program. This gives you time to find your area of interest and aptitude.
Starting off with a general Bachelor of Business worked well for Irene Giorgianni. ‘I still wasn’t sure what type of work I wanted to do or what industry I wanted to be involved in. Doing a general business degree gave me more options as it would eventually allow me to enter any industry I chose. The general business degree gave me a taste of different areas which subsequently helped me to decide.’ Giorgianni eventually decided on a double major in finance and accounting.
If you know from the outset what industry you want to target, for example accounting or business information systems, financial planning or logistics, then a more specialised business degree can work better for you. It will provide the basic business foundations, as well as specialised knowledge for your industry.
Giorgianni is happy with her specialisations in finance and accounting. ‘I couldn’t decide between finance and accounting, which were the two areas I was doing really well in. I found a level of comfort with accounting and job-wise it would provide stability as all businesses, whether large or small, public or private, need accountants – but I found finance more interesting and so I did both.’
Choose your level
Whether you choose to study a bachelor’s, master’s, diploma or certificate will depend on your previous education and working experience, what you wish to do with the qualification and your circumstances. The length and cost of the course can also be a factor.
Bachelor degrees provide the building blocks of business knowledge and prepare students for long-term business careers. For those who already have undergraduate degrees, there are many postgrad qualifications on offer, from MBAs to graduate certificates and postgraduate diplomas. Postgrad courses tend to emphasise leadership and strategic management, and complement real-life work experience with high-level and practical learning.
Stephen Scheeler, Director of Strategy and Innovation for Inchcape Australia, has had a stellar corporate career since completing his MBA. He notes that corporate recruiters often place high value on formal qualifications, especially postgraduate study. ‘Increasingly, postgrad qualifications are becoming mandatory for most C-level (corporate title) and director-level positions in major companies.’
Diplomas such as a Diploma of Business, on the other hand, are usually designed for those seeking better career prospects, but with little or no business experience. They can also be useful for small business owners or those seeking to formalise their knowledge and skills.
Business certificates can help people gain skills in specific areas of business, such as business administration or small business management. Your employment prospects and responsibilities will grow as you progress up the levels.
Studying business certainly helped Cathryn Hibbert, a stay-at-home mum who undertook a Certificate III in Business Administration through SEEK Learning, to gain the skills to run her own business, as well as prepare for future employment. ‘Iâ€™ve just started running my own business from home, and lots of what I learned is coming into it: admin, policies and procedures – that sort of thing. Iâ€™ve also helped out a bit at my husbandâ€™s business with some HR policies and advice,’ says Hibbert.
On campus or online
The decision to study on campus or with an online course depends on your circumstances. If getting to classes is an issue because of location or mobility issues, or you need to fit your study in-between work and family commitments, then online study is your best option – and it’s a convenient one.
Charmaine Tham completed a Bachelor of Business Studies through OUA, which offers courses by correspondence: ‘The flexibility of OUA was the biggest drawcard. Instead of having to commit to a rigid set time every week, I had the flexibility to organise my own study schedule. I needed this flexibility as I needed my studies to fit around my work and social life, which is often hectic and changing.’
But for some, immersion in full-time study in a classroom with other students is the best and most effective way to learn and get the most out of your studies. What works best for you will depend on your needs and learning style.
Breaking into the market
Having a formal business qualification under your belt can make the difference between a job offer and a rejection letter. ‘Thereâ€™s no doubt that recognised qualifications help get you through the gate, especially in a competitive job market where there might be lots of applicants for a single job. Qualifications can serve an important purpose,’ says Kate Tregaskis, Group Manager Leadership Development, Skilled Group.
‘For entry-level positions especially, a formal qualification like a TAFE certificate demonstrates that the candidate has got the discipline to put themselves through study and that they’re investing in their own development. Thatâ€™s important for a recruiter to see,’ says Tregaskis.