There’s been a lot of talks lately about whether getting a degree in business management is worth it in this new economy. Detractors argue that degrees become obsolete quickly, that many jobs in the field can be had without a degree and that student debt can cripple any salary advantage you’d get as a result of your degree.
However, for the majority of students who want to get into business, a business management degree is still worth it. Here we’ll look at why that’s true and some of the things you can do to mitigate the risks.
An Undergraduate Degree in Business Management is a Must
While some might argue over the merits of a master’s or a doctoral degree in business management, an undergraduate degree is practically a necessity to land a job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the vast majority of careers in business and management require (at the very least) a bachelor’s degree in business management or a related field. This includes job titles like administrative services managers, advertising, promotions, and marketing managers, financial managers and human resource managers.
In addition to being a prerequisite for most careers, getting a bachelor’s can increase your salary significantly compared to the cost of the degree. In 2016-17, the last year for which the BLS has data, the average total tuition for a 4-year public university was $26,593. In 2018, the median salary for some of the careers mentioned above was as follows:
- Administrative services managers – $96,180
- Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers – $132,620
- Financial managers – $127,990
- Human resource managers – $113,300
The BLS also reported that, across all fields, those with a bachelor’s degree earned $24,336 more per year than those with a high school diploma.
An Associate’s Degree Can Also Be a Worthy Investment
There are also a number of careers you can pursue with an associate’s degree in business management including administrative assistant, office manager, assistant store managers, and sales representatives. According to the BLS’s numbers, you can get a 2-year degree at a public community college for around $10,000. According to Study.com, careers in business management can bring down average annual salaries like:
- Office manager – $46,257
- Sales representative – $44,420
- Administrative assistant – $37,870
Graduates with an associate’s degree in any field earned $6,864 more per year than high school graduates according to the BLS.
What About a Master’s in Business Management?
The graduate-level is often where pundits start to argue about the return on investment. That’s because there’s often a pretty sizeable jump intuition and not as sizeable a jump in median salaries.
While the average cost of a master’s in business management isn’t available, a Master of Business Administration (a more common, yet similar degree) might have tuition costs of anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 a year. When you add in fees and ancillary costs, an MBA can set you back $100,000 or more, especially at more prestigious business schools.
To compare tuition with potential salaries, let’s look at Study.com’s typical careers for this degree:
- Management analyst – $82,450
- Senior project manager – $104,028
- Director of operations – $183,270
As you can see, the potential salary bump isn’t quite as high as degrees at the undergraduate level. However, salary is just one factor to consider. There are many benefits a degree like this can give you aside from money.
What Business Management Degrees Can Teach You
Those who argue that a business management degree isn’t worth the investment might say that you can learn the same things in the real world. This may be true, but the consequences in the real world are a far cry from those in business school.
B-schools give you a chance to strap on training wheels and get fundamental classroom knowledge, soft skills and real world experience without risking everything. Let’s look at some of the most valuable skills a degree in business management can teach you:
1. Leadership. Becoming a leader takes time and practice. Business management degrees help you understand how to motivate people, communicate effectively and resolve conflicts while steering the ship in the right direction.
2. Failure. Failure may be the best teacher we have in life, but failing out there in the world of business can mean a complete disaster and you may never get another chance. B-schools let you fall on your face (and you will), dust yourself off and learn from the experience.
3. Self-Awareness. One of the biggest reasons business managers fail is by not knowing themselves. Management degrees will help you identify strengths and, perhaps more importantly, find out your weaknesses. Knowing these things can help you choose the right career and excel in it.
4. Decision-Making. When you’re managing an operation, your decisions will have a huge influence over success and failure. Honing your instincts within the safer confines of a business management program can help you analyze the facts, project potential consequences and make critical decisions.
How to Make a Business Management Degree Worthwhile
Getting a degree represents a huge investment of both time and money. However, there are some steps you can take to make the most of your program and come out ahead:
- Connect with students and faculty. The business world is all about networking and making connections and that starts in college. Take the chance while you’re in school to attend networking events, forge bonds with fellow students and make connections with local businesses in the community. You never know — someone you meet might be the key to the career of your dreams.
- You don’t have to go to a prestigious school. Many aspiring business people plunk down tens of thousands more dollars so their degrees are stamped with the name of a big business school. But price and quality don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. Do your research and find a good balance between price and prestige.
- Do extracurriculars. Get involved with extracurricular activities both on-campus and in the local community. These will not only help you make connections, but they’ll also help you relax, give you a chance to learn valuable skills and let you put some attractive experiences on your resume.