In a nutshell: There are many business concentrations to consider as you earn your degree. Here are four options: accounting, finance, economics, marketing.

Deciding to earn a business degree is really just the first step on the road to landing a job in a career that provides challenges, stability and the opportunity to move up the organizational ladder.

Making the decision of which business career to pursue is even more important.

Fortunately, for students with an interest in business, the job marketplace provides many options.  While no two jobs are exactly alike, four common areas of concentration for business students are accounting, finance, marketing and economics.

Each provides its own unique set of challenges and rewards.

Accounting

The accounting profession is especially attractive to those with strong math skills and a great eye for the most minute of details. Accounting also requires a great deal of flexibility and dedication to continuous learning and improvement.

There are many specialties within accounting, such as auditing, tax preparation and accounting information systems. In all cases, problem-solving – the ability to research data on an issue and find the root problem – is a key skill.

Finance

Unlike accountants, who tend to look at how money was earned and spent, those who work in finance attempt to look forward.

Financial professionals plan how to invest and spend a company’s assets. They may invest in securities and develop an exit strategy to ensure each investment makes a profit. Finance also includes planning payments on debt used to fund business operations and growth. A high-level of proficiency with computer software, as well as a keen understanding of the marketplace are critical skills to succeed in finance.

Marketing

Marketing has traditionally concerned itself with the marketing mix, better known as the four P’s – product, price, promotion and place (i.e., distribution). However, as the industry has matured, experts say there are additional P’s to consider, such as people and process.

Technology has revolutionized marketing. Successful marketers now need to have expert-level understanding in the collection and analysis of large datasets. Courses of action based on this type of analysis now drive the marketing departments in most large businesses. Marketers need the ability to leverage data analysis for a better understanding of sales, pricing and branding. Most marketers now work hand in hand with those on the data analytics team within a company.

Economics

Economists are needed across every industry as well as in government agencies and nonprofit organizations. For a successful career, they will need a firm grasp of both macroeconomics (big picture of the economy as a whole) and microeconomics (economic decisions made by people and organizations).

They’ll know the history of economic theory. When someone mentions ideas such as “supply side economics” or “trickle-down theory,” economists are the people in the room who can explain what those mean. They’ll understand John Maynard Keynes’ ideas on spending to “prime the pump” and the Chicago school’s theory on how free markets best allocate resources.

All of these traits prepare economists for teaching at the college level. But they also help identify emerging economic trends for both private industry and government. (Some even write very interesting books.)

What All Business Careers Have in Common

No matter what career a business student chooses to focus on, certain common traits and skills are needed to succeed.

Ethics: Anyone working in business needs to bring a strong sense of ethics to the table. While all the skills listed below are important, nothing will impact profitability, employee morale and a company’s reputation in the community as much as ethics.

Organization: People who work in business deal with multiple issues in different areas on a daily basis. Strong organizational skills are critical to business success.

Time management: Bad time management leads to poor, rushed decisions and also signals to others that a person is not on top of their game. Proper time management leads to better decisions, getting more done in less time and higher quality work.

Communication: Excellent communications skills help professionals in every career. This includes the ability to be clear and concise in all kinds of settings, from written reports to boardroom meetings. It also involves the ability to actively listen to others.

Adaptability: The business world, thanks primarily to technology innovations, continues to evolve rapidly. It’s important to have the ability to learn and adapt quickly.

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