Requirements for a Career in Business

Many business careers pay high salaries and are in demand. Learn more about the career requirements for roles in the business and management sector.

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published September 20, 2022

Edited by Jennifer Cuellar
Share this Article
Requirements for a Career in Business
Image Credit: Marko Geber / DigitalVision / Getty Images


Business is one of the most popular majors among college students. And it's easy to see why. Many business positions are in demand and pay above-average salaries.

With options like finance, marketing, and human resources, you might be left wondering "What business career is right for me?" Our guide walks you through common business careers, popular business degrees, and other requirements for a business career.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

What Are Some Common Business Careers?

The business sector includes in-demand fields like marketing, finance, accounting, and human resources. Business majors work as analysts, consultants, managers, and executives. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports high salaries for these professionals. Business and financial occupations paid a median annual wage of $76,570 in May 2021. That represents a significantly higher wage than the median for all occupations of $45,760.

Business offers many opportunities for career advancement. With experience or a graduate degree, business professionals can move into higher-paying roles like marketing manager and financial managersr. According to the BLS, these workers earned median salaries of over $130,000 per year in May 2021.

The organization projects positions for business professionals will increase by 715,100 from 2021-2031. The careers with strong job growth projections include management analyst and market research analyst.

What are the average salaries for business majors? Business career salaries vary depending on job title, degree, and experience. Location also affects earning potential. However, many popular business careers report median salaries of $75,000 or higher, as the following table of common business job titles shows.

Job Title Median Pay (2021) Projected Job Growth (2021-2031)
Accountants and Auditors $77,250 6%
Financial Analysts $81,410 9%
Human Resources Specialists $62,290 8%
Management Analysts $93,000 11%
Market Research Analysts $63,920 19%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Which Degree Should You Get to Work in the Business Industry?

Business schools offer degrees and certificates at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Which degree will you need? A bachelor's in business is the most common educational requirement. Some roles benefit from a graduate-level degree.

Your earning potential and career options depend on your degree and specialization within your business program. This section introduces the most popular degrees for business careers, including common career paths with each degree.

Associate Degree

An associate degree in business provides foundational training. Students take classes in business administration, management, accounting, marketing, and finance. These programs also include general education courses that build transferable skills like writing and communication.

Earning an associate degree generally takes two years for full-time students. After earning the degree, graduates pursue entry-level careers or transfer into a bachelor's program. At most four-year colleges, an associate degree meets the general education requirements.

Career paths with an associate degree in business include:

  • Claims Adjuster or Appraiser: Claims adjusters and appraisers work closely with insurance claims. An associate degree in business meets the requirement for these roles.
  • Financial Clerk: An associate degree in business or finance can prepare graduates for roles like financial clerk. Related positions include accounting clerk.
  • Administrative Assistant: A two-year business degree leads to administrative and executive assistant roles, which provide business experience.

Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in business meets the minimum education requirement for most business occupations. At the bachelor's level, undergraduates can specialize in areas like accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, or healthcare administration. Most business programs also offer a general business or management focus.

During a bachelor's degree, which typically takes four years, majors complete foundational business courses and upper-division classes in their focus area. Students can also pursue a minor or electives to specialize their skills

Common career paths with a bachelor's in business include:

  • Budget Analyst: A business degree with classes in accounting, finance, economics, or statistics helps graduates become business analysts.
  • Market Research Analyst: Marketing majors can pursue opportunities as market research analysts after earning a bachelor's degree.
  • Training and Development Specialist: A business degree with courses in operations management, organizational behavior, and human resources prepares graduates for roles like training and development specialist.

Master's Degree

A master's in business offers focused, graduate-level training in a specific business area. Popular business master's programs include accounting, marketing, human resources, and finance. Graduate students can earn a master's degree in management, business analytics, or supply chain management.

Most business master's programs take two years. Some business schools offer accelerated one-year business master's programs. During these programs, grad students take advanced courses. Many programs also incorporate an internship.

Common career paths with a master's in business include:

  • Certified Public Accountant: CPAs must complete at least 150 postsecondary credits to qualify for their license, so many complete a master's in accounting.
  • Financial Manager: A master's in finance helps graduates move into high-demand management roles in this field.
  • Human Resources Manager: A master's in human resources prepares graduates for roles like human resources manager, compensation and benefits manager, or training and development manager.

MBA

An MBA, or master's in business administration, leads to many high-paying business careers. The degree blends management-focused training in leadership, organizational behavior, and business administration with concentration options in marketing, healthcare administration, finance, and other areas.

How long does it take to get an MBA? Traditional MBA programs take two years, though some business schools offer accelerated one-year programs. Grad students can also earn an MBA online. Most MBA programs incorporate an internship with a company in their field, which prepares graduates for focused career paths.

Common career paths with an MBA include:

  • Top Executive: An MBA trains graduates for careers as general managers, operations managers, and chief executives.
  • Marketing Manager: An MBA with a concentration in marketing provides focused training for marketing manager roles.
  • Healthcare Executive: An MBA with a healthcare administration concentration prepares graduates for roles like healthcare executive.

Business Certificate

A business certificate offers focused training in a specific area of business. Students can earn an undergraduate business certificate if they do not have a bachelor's degree. Those with a bachelor's degree can enroll in a graduate business certificate.

Popular business certificates include marketing, business analytics, and project management. A business certificate takes less time than a degree — most programs require less than one year. And unlike a degree, certificate students do not need general education courses. The focused training in a business certificate can add specific skills and strengths to your resume.

Common career paths with a business certificate include:

  • Sales Manager: A certificate in tech sales, sales growth, or leadership can help launch a sales manager career.
  • Operations Manager: A certificate in operations management, business strategy, or business management can lead to operations manager roles.
  • Office Manager: Some colleges offer specialized business office manager certificates to prepare for these careers.

Internships and Portfolios

Completing an internship during your business degree can help you land a job after graduation. An internship gives you hands-on business training. It also expands your professional network. And an internship demonstrates your business skills and soft skills to hiring managers.

Many schools offer internship programs that connect students with opportunities. You can also seek internships in your chosen field by looking on job and internship boards. Early-career professionals should list specific duties and responsibilities during their internship on their resumes.

In some fields, you might also need a portfolio. Generally, fields like advertising, marketing, and promotions may ask for a portfolio. Careers in public relations or business writing may also request sample materials. Showcase your work by choosing presentations, products, and even class assignments demonstrating your strengths. You can include your portfolio on your professional website and include a link on your resume.

What to Include in Your Business Resume

What should you include on your business resume? Your resume should briefly introduce your degree, experience, relevant skills, and other information.

Start building your resume early. Modify it based on the job postings. For example, incorporate specific skills or tools mentioned in the job listing into your resume for that position.

  • Degree: It's a good idea to list your degree, including your major, on your business resume. Generally, recent graduates can list the year of their degree, while those with a decade or more of experience can leave off the year.
  • Experience: Include your prior jobs and other relevant experience. Recent grads with a short work history should list internships and volunteering experience. If you're making a career change, it's a good idea to list experience with transferable skills.
  • Skills: Business resumes often include a section listing career-relevant skills. You can modify this section based on the job posting.
  • Achievements: List professional and academic achievements on your resume if they're relevant to the role. For example, you can list awards, merit-based scholarships, or other performance-based achievements.

Your resume is also an opportunity to link to your LinkedIn page and your portfolio. These resources can provide additional context and information for hiring managers.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Career in Business

What's the highest paid career in business?

The business sector includes many high-paying careers. For entry-level roles, business occupations like personal financial advisor, management analyst, and financial analyst report the highest business career salaries.

According to the BLS, these professionals earned a median annual salary of over $80,000 in May 2021. With experience or a master's degree, business professionals take on higher-paying management roles. The best-paying management roles include tech manager, marketing manager, financial manager, and human resources manager. These titles paid median annual salaries of over $125,000 in 2021. Several factors influence salaries, including job title, degree, experience, and location.

What's the difference between a Master's and MBA?

A master's and an MBA are both graduate degrees. When comparing an MBA vs. a master's, the two options may look similar. Grad students can earn a master's in marketing or an MBA with a concentration in marketing. However, the programs differ in their emphasis.

Business master's programs provide focused training in a particular area of business. MBA programs include broader management courses with the option to specialize. The length of an MBA vs. master's is roughly the same, with many business schools offering accelerated one-year or traditional two-year programs. Grad students can also earn an MBA or a master's in business online.

Is going into business a good career?

The business sector is a solid career path for college graduates. Most business occupations require a bachelor's degree. They also report above-average salaries. Business professionals earned a median wage of over $75,000 per year in May 2021, according to BLS data.

Business offers multiple paths to career advancement and a higher earning potential. For example, professionals can pursue a graduate degree to strengthen their leadership and management skills. With experience, business professionals can also apply for managerial positions. In May 2021, management professionals reported a median salary of over $102,000 annually.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.