Career Guide

Business Career Guide – Jobs, Salary, and Degree Information

Written by College Cliffs Team At, our team, comprising seasoned educators and counselors, is committed to supporting students on their journey through graduate studies. Our advisors, holding advanced degrees in diverse fields, provide tailored guidance, current program details, and pragmatic tips on navigating application procedures.

Reviewed by Linda Weems I got started researching colleges and universities about 10 years ago while exploring a second career. While my second career ended up being exactly what I’m doing now, and I didn’t end up going to college, I try to put myself in your shoes every step of the way as I build out College Cliffs as a user-friendly resource for prospective students.

Updated: January 31, 2024, Reading time: 22 minutes

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Business Career Guide

Choosing a rewarding career path is not always easy. There are numerous factors to consider, from the potential growth as a professional, benefits and compensation, and overall well-being. After all, it is so much better to find a career where you can find fulfillment in the long run.

A business career has a much wider scope than most of its counterparts. Not only does it offer a more flexible path to success, but it is also a lucrative choice for those who are go-getters and risk-takers.

A business career path opens the door to innumerable opportunities, especially since it covers a wide range of subjects and spans various industries.

Some of the fields it encompasses are Marketing, Management, Accounting, Finance, Economics, Media, and Healthcare.

Business and financial occupations have a median annual wage of $76,850, higher than $45,760 – the median annual wage for all occupations.

Why Study Business?

If you are considering a career in specific areas of study, such as Business Administration, Business Law, Economics, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Human Resources, Management, Marketing, Real Estate, and Supply Chain, earning a degree in business is a suitable choice.

Those who study business can enjoy more job security than other majors, mainly because it is widely applicable to nearly every industry and commerce sector. Industries often need someone with business acumen to function and prosper.

Today, Business students enjoy the flexibility of numerous online programs. You do not have to tie it down to one location or region. You can even run your business remotely, to some extent, especially now that the advancements in technology are more apparent than ever.

Business Career Guide

If you think you need a change of environment or a new challenge, it is easy to switch jobs mid-career. The business skills and experiences you’ve acquired can be easily transferred between industries.

Unlike professional careers like engineering and nursing, a business career does not require you to start from scratch if you want to try another industry within your realm of knowledge and experience.

People who have already studied another field or started another career can easily switch to a business career by earning a certificate or advanced degree in business.

There is also a wealth of opportunities when it comes to career growth and advancement. Business graduates’ success ladder is more straightforward, with promotions and salary increases easily achievable over time.

Since business careers have better chances of attaining higher salaries early on, it is much easier for you to retire relatively young. Many companies and industries also offer lucrative benefit packages and other perks that will let you save and put away a good nest egg.

If you prefer to lead and be your boss, deciding on a business career is your first crucial step! You can start your own business armed with your knowledge, skills, and experience.

Of course, while anyone can enter the business world, it is still advantageous to study the ins and outs of this particular field. This way, you have a deeper understanding of business principles, including accounting, marketing, and management.

Business Career Guide

Skills Required for a Career in Business

Aspiring for a career in business means you need to be properly prepared to take on the often challenging world of business. You must be equipped with relevant skills that will help you understand consumer and organizational behavior, which are integral in steering a company to success.

On top of this, you also need to learn and embody the following essential business skills:

Understand How Economics Work. The very foundation of business, baseline knowledge of economics, is imperative in any industry. This means you have to understand pricing strategies and market demand, which will help you make informed decisions in the business realm.

Gather and Analyze Data. Businesses turn to analytics to improve services and operations and, eventually, generate growth. As part of business decisions, you must know how to monitor and analyze data, recognize trends, and conduct tests to usher in the best results.

This will allow you to create a framework that will guide you in dealing with complex business problems. Data can support your arguments and give more weight to your recommendations for vital business decisions.

Master Financial Accounting. Business can sometimes be all about numbers. The concept of cash flow and profitability allows you to interpret the balance sheet and apply your knowledge in drawing out financial results.

These concepts are essential to understanding the performance and potential of your business organization. It will help you build on your technical background, which is integral to your career advancement.

Negotiate and Make Deals. This is not rocket science. Running a business requires a shrewd mind that can hold its own during the negotiation process. This means you have to know how to make deals and negotiate your way to success.

There is no one-size-fits-all formula for business negotiators. You can develop your style, but ultimately, your success relies on your ability to think on your feet and improvise when necessary. You must solve a problem at the drop of a hat or think of a way out when obstacles are on your path.

When met with resistance, you should be able to work your way around the issue and secure your goals on the bargaining table.

Manage the Business and People. Businesses often require good management skills. It is not confined to seeing through the day-to-day operation. It is also integral in driving the team in the right direction, encouraging them to improve productivity and morale.

An organization with a well-managed workforce often enjoys better performance and favorable results. It can be as simple as leading meetings and communicating changes within the organization. More importantly, a good business manager must know how to engage their employees to maximize their potential.

Communicate Effectively. Communication is vital in any organization. It is even more so in business. A lot of coordination takes place, most of which is fundamental in achieving organizational goals.

The absence of communication can be detrimental. Some of the best communication skills you should master include active listening, reading body language, and practicing empathy.

Harness Emotional Intelligence. A good business leader is not only a good decision-maker and a shrewd negotiator. To be truly effective, you must have a modicum of emotional intelligence that helps you assess your emotions in the middle of crucial circumstances.

This knowledge will guide you in recognizing and influencing the emotions of others. It can be useful to control your interactions or inspire your team to accomplish your set goals.

Business Career Guide

Online vs. Traditional Business Degrees – Any Major Differences?

Gone were the days when students’ limited choices confined them to the four corners of a brick-and-mortar classroom. Nowadays, educational institutions are veering away from purely traditional, face-to-face classes.

While campus education allows students a richer experience in social interactions and college culture, modern times have completely changed the playing field.

Students are given more options for online and distance learning. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, degree-granting higher learning institutions have enrolled nearly 7 million students in distance education courses.

This is a great benefit to geographically disadvantaged, working students and adults who can use the flexibility and convenience that online classes offer.

The onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic made this option more accessible than ever, as universities and colleges scrambled to keep the classes going despite the lockdowns and health restrictions. This made online education a viable option for many.

But while online education becomes more popular by the day, does it fit your needs? It is time to look at the pros and cons of traditional and online education so you can weigh your options better:

1. Flexibility

The first point of comparison is flexibility. A business degree requires time and commitment. You must have certain preferences for completing your degree in a particular time frame.

If you want a more straightforward path, a full-time traditional college education will give you just that. But if you want your classes to fit around your busy schedule, then a flexible format might be the best option.

Online education offers flexibility, a primary consideration for those juggling their work and personal responsibilities with their educational pursuit. Some online classes are self-paced, with most of them offered 24/7.

You can choose the time to go through your course materials, watch your video lectures, and work on your assignments. There are options for weekly logins, allowing you more freedom to pace your learning in a way that will suit your other commitments.

2. Self-motivation

Most educational degrees need enough discipline for successful completion, whether it is online or face-to-face. However, the difference in structure means that the traditional option has the edge over the online format when it comes to self-motivation. The flexible online format can be disadvantageous to those who lack self-discipline in seeing through their coursework.

On the other hand, a traditional format offers a structure that compels them to show up to their classes, read their lectures, and participate in class discussions at a particular time. This keeps them on track.

3. Social Connections

A healthy social life can be highly beneficial to most students. This is one area where online education seems to be heavily lacking. If you look closely, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for forming social connections. Interactions take place through video chats or online forums.

Nevertheless, traditional education still offers a complete opportunity to form lasting friendships with classmates and friends. Classroom lectures allow more room for interactions, too.

Business Career Guide

Specializations of Business Degrees

In the US, universities and colleges offer a myriad of specializations for business degree students. As a flexible and widely applicable field, business degrees allow you to gain specialized knowledge that can truly match your passion and interest, whether in Marketing, Finance, Management, or Entrepreneurship. 

Take a peek at the most popular Business specializations:


Specializing in Finance means you need to tackle relevant areas of study, including Capital Planning, Risk Management, Investment, Commercial Banking, International Finance, and Financial Analysis. Business Administration degree programs often offer Finance as an area of specialization.

This concentration teaches students how to assess issues within the business environment through the application of finance principles. They might also explore different quantitative tools to analyze the functions and practices of contemporary business settings.

Business Management

In business management, students are expected to tackle the fundamental business knowledge and skills required to succeed in this industry. You will learn business management-related subjects, business principles, data analytics, organizational effectiveness, and relationship management, among many others.


If you are interested in marketing, then this area of business is a good start. You will be focusing on the key areas of marketing. This includes a thorough look into marketing strategies involving important processes such as planning, implementation, controlling, and evaluating said tactics to reach your organization’s goals.

Another important aspect of this area of specialization is studying the market demand and how to segment it, which can lead to a competitive edge. Some of the skills you can hone include sales forecasting, market research, brand management, pricing, and promotions, as well as effective distribution channels.


This business specialization requires mastery of entrepreneurial tools integral to starting and growing new companies and driving innovation in established business organizations.

You will obtain essential knowledge and understanding to analyze the changing business landscape and leadership skills crucial to the development and implementation of action plans for competitive advantage. It is also a good chance to acquire skills that will allow you to recognize and develop new business opportunities. 

International Business

This business specialization concentrates on mastering international business strategies and methods that are integral to global success.

You are expected to develop a deeper understanding of global business aspects such as trade theories, political and economic systems, ethics, globalization, and international trade law. This major will also cover the different methods used in organizing international logistics and supply chains.

Human Resource Management

The HRM specialization is designed to understand business principles better, focusing on personnel management and retention, diversity management, employee and labor relations, and organizational development. You will also deal with human asset management and conflict resolution.

Operations Management

There are many transformation processes involved in today’s modern business world, especially when it comes to producing goods and providing services, not to mention the often complex management of supply chain networks and personnel.

In operations management specialization, you will be able to learn skills focused on the success of business operations. This will include cost-control management and industrial labor relations.

Project Management

Project Management is a business degree specialization that deals with leading and managing diverse teams in an organization.

You will learn and understand the steps and processes involved in completing projects within the set timeframes and budget. It includes creating project plans that take costs, scheduling, and risk assessment into consideration.

Business Career Guide

Financing Your Business Education

In the US, tuition fees range from $5,000 to $50,000 annually. This does not include potential costs for accommodation and transportation.

It is also important to note that living on campus generally differs from earning a degree online, as it incurs additional costs for dining, books and supplies, and other miscellaneous expenses. A lot of US universities, fortunately, are committed to making education highly accessible.

If you are planning to earn a business degree, it is always important to consider how to finance your education, especially when family support is not enough. Here are some strategies that you can take advantage of:

1. Explore Financial Aid Options at the University

Most universities run financial aid programs that help students obtain affordable education. Many of these are based on students’ demonstrated financial need, often through loans, grants, and work-study funding. Ivy League universities usually do this. Other colleges and universities offer scholarships and merit-based financial assistance.

You can consider applying for grants, with the Pell Grant being the most popular grant from the federal government. FAFSA and private loans are also common options.

2. Check if there are Available Employer Assistance

If you are a working professional, you may also check if there are available programs from your employer that can potentially fund your education or, at the very least, provide you with discounts on tuition fees.

After all, it is far too common for universities to strike partnerships with the business sector, and the latter is also keen on advancing their employees’ college education. This arrangement often takes the form of a tuition reimbursement plan.

3. Consider Taking Part in Work-Study Programs

You may consider taking on a work-study program within your campus that can help you finance your business degree for full-time students.

This may vary from college to college. However, there are also university-wide options. Some of the most common positions include office assistant, marketer, tour guide, tutor, research assistant, and many more.

Business Career Guide

How to Advance Your Career in Business

The field of business is vast and diverse. It is also highly competitive, so it can be challenging to stand out. Business graduates may find themselves becoming general practitioners instead of specializing in a particular field. As a result, they can be stuck and struggle to take their career to another level. 

This is where career advancement comes in. They can actually find a way to position themselves to succeed and advance their career in the world of business. 

Welcome More Responsibilities 

Taking matters into your own hands can help your career advancement plans. You can start by asking for more tasks and taking on more responsibilities. It is an excellent way of enhancing your chances of promotion and gaining recognition for your hard work. You will be able to use this to leverage your salary. 

Make Use of Networking 

Knowing the right connections in the field of business can do wonders for your career. It does not have to be a one-way street, either.

If you expect others to help you succeed, you should be just as willing to lend a hand to those who can use your mentoring. You can schedule coffee or lunch with people you can share your goals with and whose expertise and experiences you value.

Consider Earning an MBA 

Another surefire way to advance your career is going to graduate school. Earning an MBA can help you attain higher-paying positions, especially if you are aiming for leadership and management roles.

You will be able to hone your business acumen and expand your knowledge of all things business. You will also build your leadership skills and explore the latest trends in the business field. 

Take Online Classes 

If you don’t have time to go back to school, you can always brush up on your knowledge by taking online courses. There are a ton of online courses that are both free and paid to choose from.

You may want to explore a new area of knowledge or get a refresher on a certain subject. Some sites provide certifications, which can be quite valuable to your portfolio. 

Business Career Guide

10 Top Business Careers

One of the best perks of a business career is the practicality and versatility it offers. It encompasses a broad range of fields and industries. Every organization needs someone with excellent business acumen to function and operate with success.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, business-related occupations pay high wages. Data from May 2022 reveal that the median yearly wage of business and financial workers was $76,850. This is higher than the median wage for all occupations annually, which is $45,760.

However, the compensation varies. It often depends on your years of experience, geographical location, and the industry you are in. You can find a business-related position in almost any industry, a great advantage offered by a business education.

Financial Analyst

Financial Analyst Salary: $96,220 per year

Financial analysts draw from their knowledge and skills in business assessment and analysis to identify their strengths and weaknesses. They also monitor and analyze the trends across different industries, which is essential in evaluating companies and associated industries.

Their job involves interpreting financial statements, calculating ratios and other metrics, and writing reports along with recommendations. The latter is important to clients considering investing in a particular company and planning on corporate resource allocation.

In a nutshell, a financial analyst’s responsibility is to guide businesses and clients in decision-making, often with the involvement of expending money for profit. Most financial analysts work in offices full-time, with others rendering more than 40 hours’ worth of work per week.

Financial analyst graduates must have strong research, analytical, writing and communication, mathematical, leadership, and decision-making skills.

Management Analysts 

Management Analysts Salary: $95,290 per year

Referred to as management consultants, management analysts recommend methods to improve an organization’s efficiency. They are the primary advisors of managers when it comes to devising innovative ways to obtain more profits, often through reduced costs and increased revenues.

Their typical job description includes gathering and organizing information to solve problems in the business setting and detailing procedures for improvement.

They often interview personnel and conduct onsite observations to identify the organization’s needs in terms of methods, equipment, and personnel. Most management analysts focus on particular areas of industry, including healthcare, telecommunications, government, and many more.

Market Research Analyst

Market Research Analyst Salary: $68,230 per year

The job of market research analysts often involves studying market conditions to determine the potential of a product or service. They are important to companies that wish to understand their target market – what they want, what product they will buy, and what price.

To be effective at what they do, they need to monitor and forecast marketing and sales trends constantly. They also determine the effectiveness and success of marketing programs and strategies.

The data they gather often comes from the demographics, buying habits, behaviors, preferences, and needs of consumers. This is done through interviews, market analyst surveys, public opinion polls, and many more.

When interpreting the data, they often utilize statistical techniques and software. They publish their findings as forecasts, usually using charts, infographics, graphs, and other visual aids.

Human Resources Specialists

Human Resources Specialists Salary: $64,240 per year

Human Resource specialists mostly work in office settings, but their job sometimes requires them to travel extensively to job fairs and applicant meetings.

It is their job to recruit, screen, interview, and place applicants in suitable positions. They are also expected to handle employee relations programs, compensation and benefits, and workforce training.

Employers consult them to identify employment needs, an important consideration for workforce productivity and effectiveness. They also process payroll and handle associated problems and questions. Human resource degree holders have a favorable job outlook, with openings projected at 51,400 annually.

Budget Analyst

Budget Analyst Salary: $87,680 per year

Planning an organization’s finances is a task that budget analysts do. Their tasks often involve preparing budget reports and monitoring organizational spending.

They are often employed full-time by government agencies, private companies, and even universities. They serve as advisors to government and private organizations regarding details of their finances.

Other responsibilities include preparing annual and special reports, evaluating budget proposals, and analyzing data to determine program costs and benefits.

Business Operations Manager 

Business Operations Manager Salary: $122,860 per year

Responsible for planning, directing, or coordinating operations, business operations managers often oversee multiple departments or even locations.

They are tasked to set goals across the organization and ensure that all aspects of the business operation are running smoothly. This includes overseeing the hiring of new employees, allocating budgets, and guiding teams to meet expectations and complete projects. 

Part of their job may also include executing marketing strategies and guaranteeing customer satisfaction. Business operations managers often work with management to manage operations and implement business strategies.

At the very least, a business operation manager must have a bachelor’s degree in business administration or a related major.

Substantial experience in managing complex aspects of the business is often required, especially if it involves human resources, strategies, and finances. 

Data Scientist

Data Scientist Salary: $103,500 per year

While it is not often an obvious career path for many business majors, data science is a huge part of every business. The expertise of data scientists ensures that a business will be able to exploit the potential of big data at its disposal. Only then can they unlock its power and apply the insights they can gain from it.

With the advent of technology, most businesses enjoy an innumerable number of data from their customers. This will give them an idea of the motivations, behaviors, and actions of their target customers, giving them a chance to make better business decisions and identify opportunities for success. 

Data scientists analyze data and come up with valuable insights and information that businesses can use in making sound decisions. It can also aid in ensuring successful and efficient strategic planning, research, and innovations. Most data scientists are knowledgeable in statistics, mathematics, and computer science. 

Finance Manager 

Finance Manager Salary: $166,050 per year

Financial managers are integral to the success of many business organizations. They are responsible for the creation of financial reports, the development of plans for long-term financial goals, and direct investment activities.

In many businesses, financial managers keep an eye on the financial health of an organization and its continued viability. They perform financial reporting and cash management, especially when it comes to large corporations. 

Their roles extend to directing investments and providing sound advice for financial decisions in an organization. To be successful financial managers, they need to have sufficient knowledge of legal and regulatory requirements. This includes the changes in laws and accounting pronouncements.

Qualifications for this profession often require a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or business administration field. Most financial managers go on to work in small businesses, corporations, investment firms, insurance companies, and even healthcare organizations, among others. 

Sales Manager

Sales Manager Salary: $130,600 per year

Every business needs sales. It is the very backbone of its operation. Sales managers ensure that this aspect of the business will run smoothly.

They are expected to provide guidance, training, and mentorship to the sales team. It is also part of their job to set sales goals and quotas along with the creation of sales plans and analyzing data.

It is important that the sales manager manage organizational sales by formulating strategies and business plans, meeting goals, and coordinating with the marketing department. 

The minimum requirement to qualify for the sales manager position includes earning a bachelor’s degree in business or related fields.

They must be knowledgeable in customer relationship management, managing a sales team, and implementing sales strategies. It is common for sales managers to travel and work additional hours in the evenings and even on weekends. 

Top Executive Officer

Top Executive Officer Salary: $100,090 per year

Many organizations rely on top executives to devise strategies and policies that will help them meet their goals. They are mostly responsible for planning, directing, and coordinating operational activities.

Often, they are responsible for directing and overseeing an organization’s financial and budgetary matters. They consult with executives and board members to ensure the smooth operations of the business. Sometimes, they may also be tasked to appoint head departments and managers. 

However, the extent of their responsibilities will often depend on the size of the business organization. In large companies and corporations, top executives are expected to put their focus on strategic planning and policy formulation. A bachelor’s degree and considerable work experience are some of the requirements to qualify for this position. 

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