Earning a business degree is a wise first step toward a successful career. But with so many possible paths to take, it's essential to gain focus while you are in school.

There's good news and there's bad news about earning an online business degree.

The good news is that a bachelor's degree in business administration is a rock solid foundation for a business career. You gain loads of transferable skills and knowledge that you can apply to virtually any business, industry or organization.

The bad news – as any trip down the toothpaste aisle will tell you – is that sometimes too many choices can become overwhelming. The business field is so broad that without some kind of direction, it's easy to get lost.

And with the cost of a college degree these days, no one can afford to wander aimlessly after graduation wondering, "Now what?"

So as you begin your educational journey, you need to set your GPS, realizing that along the way, you may end up recalculating your route.

And that's perfectly okay.

Just get started gaining focus and direction while you are still in school.

Business basics

Begin by knowing what you're getting into. What will you study in a business degree program?

Typically, a business administration program covers topics such as:

  • Accounting: the reporting of an organization's financial activities

  • Finance: interpreting financial data, creating budgets, planning investments

  • Management: leading and directing all or part of an organization to achieve defined objectives

  • Entrepreneurship: developing a business from the ground up

  • Economics: the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services

  • Marketing: the promoting and selling of products and services

  • Consultancy: helping organizations improve performance by analyzing existing conditions and providing a course of action

  • Global markets: buying and selling of goods and services around the world

  • Analytics: studying an organization's data through statistical and operations analysis to drive business planning

General knowledge of all of these fundamental business concepts and functions is essential. Keep in mind, however, that most people are drawn to one area in particular and decide to specialize in that field.

What do most people do?

As you're defining your focus, it's important to think about the companies and corporations that may be near you, particularly if relocating is not an option.

Some of the most common careers with a business degree include: auditing, banking, communications, distribution, energy and utilities, hospitality and leisure, information technology, law, logistics, manufacturing, media administration, production management, retail, sales, public relations, public sector and defense, risk management and tax.

If you're looking for a more creative career with a business degree, options could include: media, marketing, advertising, human resources, fashion and non-profit organizations.

Choose a specialization

At Saint Leo, all students in the Donald R. Tapia School of Business follow a Common Body of Knowledge (CBK) taking core courses that provide broad exposure to general management concepts and functions. Comprising 12 courses (36 credits,) the CBK includes courses in accounting, economics, business law, business information systems and analytics, statistics, management, finance, marketing, and applied decision making.

Saint Leo also offers opportunities for online students to specialize by taking 8 intensive courses (24 credits) in a specific area. Students may earn a bachelor's of business administration degree with a specialization in:

Questions to ask yourself now

As you work through your businesses classes and consider a potential career path, ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I interested in?

  • What am I good at?

  • What am I passionate about?

The industry you decide to move into is likely to be based on your personal interests. If you work for a company, product or service you truly believe in you're more likely to be more motivated and effective in your role and progress your career more rapidly.

Additional considerations to narrow your focus

Still can't decide on which direction to head?

  • Consider pursuing a specialty or management role in the industry you are already in.
    Always be aware of the opportunities available at your current place of employment to move up to the next level.

  • Consider heading in the direction of a class or project you enjoyed in school.
    Think about a course, paper or project that you found particularly interesting.

  • Look at the things you enjoy doing outside of your professional life.
    Do you gravitate toward marketing activities on your church committee? Are you the treasurer of your homeowners association? Do you enjoy doing the family taxes? These interests may indicate a potential career path.

Use job boards as research tools

One of the most helpful things you can do to gain focus and direction for your career while you are still in school is to monitor job boards. Even though you may not be ready to apply for positions, you can use job boards to identify employers in a industry you are interested in and to research the types of jobs that are available.

Begin by identifying several companies or organizations where you would like to work. Include a few general job boards, a few niche job boards and professional association sites such as the National Business Association, The Association of Accountant and Financial Professional in Business (IMA), your local chamber of commerce or business owners association.

Scour these websites and job boards on a regular basis. Look at job titles and departments. Review job descriptions and study details including responsibilities and qualifications. In doing so, you learn about what opportunities are available on the market and what you can expect to be doing in various roles.

Entry-level jobs
If you're launching your career, research entry-level job titles such as:

  • Assistant business analyst

  • Sales representative

  • Junior account executive

  • Claims examiner

  • Insurance agent

  • Customer service representative

  • Administrative assistant

Mid-range business positions
If you are already in business and looking to move up, research these types of positions:

  • Sales manager

  • Senior financial analyst

  • Production supervisor

  • Senior business analyst

  • Project manager

  • Maintenance supervisor

  • Account executive CEO

Always be looking. No matter how satisfying your current position is, spend some time researching the position that would be the next step up the ladder. It will help you assess your worth, and stay current what's happening in your industry and what takes to be competitive in your industry.

Still unsure?

If you're still unsure of exactly which direction to take with your business career, consider the pop saying "Take a chance. You never know how perfect something might turn out to be."

In other words, sometimes you just have to throw a stake in the ground and get started.

You may go down a few paths that may not be completely perfect for you. But that's okay. It's part of the process and contributes to your experience and to your growing awareness of what, ultimately, is the ideal business career for you.

Additional resources

This blog post is based on a webinar presentation given by Saint Leo Career Services Advisor Nancy Cheek to the online student business association. To access an archived version of the webinar, click here.

To assist you in determining the field that is right for you, Saint Leo has created career guides that highlight job, salary and industry information. Click on any of the business guides below that interest you and fill out the form to download these free resources.

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