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High school to undergrad..planning ahead

BEKBEK Registered User Posts: 76 Junior Member
edited February 2009 in Business Major
Hi,

I have a freshman in HS who has expressed an interest in business. Any suggestions regarding how to structure his HS curriculum to present a strong candidate for college in a few years? My daughter was a music major and we knew exactly what we had to do - business seems more nebulous to me. So far he's on a track for an advanced regents diploma in New York State. This year he took an intro to business class and is set to do a class in entrepreneurship next year. Strengths also include computer/technology skills, foreign language, and social studies. Any help appreciated as I know nothing about business.

BEK
Post edited by BEK on
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Replies to: High school to undergrad..planning ahead

  • G.P.BurdellG.P.Burdell User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 2,294 Senior Member
    Can I be completely honest? The best thing to do is to tell him to avoid business as an undergraduate. Business degrees are, by their nature, generalist degrees. Business majors don't learn a specific topic in depth, they take a breadth of coursework in different aspects of business. The problem is that without a firm grasp of a specific, marketable skill set, students have difficulty creating a competitive dimension (not to mention the sheer number of business graduates these days). This becomes more pronounced after a few years when those same BBA students have to compete against MBA grads that had a focused technical undergrad (such as engineering) combined with a generalist education in business. Unless your son attends a top undergraduate business school (almost exclusively Wharton), he'll have an unnecessarily difficult time.

    The best thing for someone interested in business is to pursue a technical degree in an area that compliments the business focus (for example, for finance study economics or engineering, for marking study psychology or statistics, etc). Then either pursue a double major in business or, better yet, an MBA. The exception to all this is accounting, where accounting is the specific skill set.

    There's a reason many business schools have done away with their undergraduate program. I wish more would.

    But getting off the soap box, one thing many BBA students seem to lack is a mathematical foundation: Statistics and basic Calculus (he won't need higher level calculus, but Calc AB is a plus when he has to run some derivatives to find profit maximizers). Psychology courses also help (many people don't see the link between Psych and Business, but two business fields are almost entirely based on Psychology techniques). Demonstrate lots of leadership with his EC's, and if he can actually get experience "running" something (like establishing, funding, and operating a charity), that would be a great help, not only in admissions, but to ensure that he actually likes business.

    Other than that, the normal stuff: as high of a GPA and SAT score as possible, diverse ECs, look for national recognition/awards, etc.


    edit: I realize that many business majors may take this personally, but it's not meant that way. It's just practical advice for someone planning ahead. Also, I know there are many industries (i-banks, VC, business consulting, etc) where a BS Engineer + MBA doesn't necessarily have an advantage over someone with a business degree. But really, who goes into these fields? The top half of the Top 10 MBA programs and a the best of the best students from the best of the best BBA programs. The other 99.99% of BBA grads don't
  • hockfan86hockfan86 Registered User Posts: 21 New Member
    I think you are very mistaken. I graduated from University of North Dakota and everybody I know has a job. I had multiple job offers before I graduated, in all different locations. Schools are doing away with general business degrees and making the concentrations more concentrated. I have a BBA in Information Systems, a lot of my friends have BBA's in Accounting, Finance, or Management and no one I know is having trouble finding an entry level job paying 30-55k a year depending on field and location. All the schools in the area are reporting excellent career placement even in the economic recession. As long as the school is AASCB accredited and you get a good concentrated degree your fine.
  • VectorWegaVectorWega Registered User Posts: 1,872 Senior Member
    Can I be completely honest? I would pretty much ignore G.P. Burdell's advice. If this student is interested in business, then it's quite likely that a business major is right for him. Not all business majors are simply "generalist." Accounting, Finance, and MIS are examples of majors that aren't.

    I know way too many successful people with undergraduate degrees in business to simply discount business majors. And it's not simply limited to Wharton. Feel free to check career services at various universities for starting salaries, positions, and hiring companies.

    Personally, if I had gone into engineering rather than business, I would have been bored to tears in the courses, wouldn't have had made a higher starting salary, and frankly wouldn't have gained many skills that I would put to use in my business career (and wouldn't have otherwise learned with a business major). However, this is antecdotal, as was G.P.'s post. One would need to know more about the student and his/her goals to determine whether a business degree is the right fit.
  • creamgethamoneycreamgethamoney Registered User Posts: 589 Member
    I slightly disagree with G.P, although he does have some valid points.

    First off, since you're just a freshman, really focus and work as hard as you can to get into the ivy league, which means start working your @$$ off now! Don't slack off in high school, and do everything within the best of your abilities to get into the best possible school, and so that you will be able to afford it (i.e. get a scholarship) should you be accepted. This is your absolute main concern right now. Know also, however, that if you do your best and things still don't work out, you can make it even from a non-ivy, it just makes your life a helluva lot easier if you go to a good school, since you'll get all the jobs from the state school, plus more.

    In terms of what to study, it can vary. Although I disagree with G.P. about business majors seeming useless, he does make a valid point that it's good to double major (or at the very least show extensive knowledge in) another field that complements business well. For example, finance with math is great for showing quant and business skills and makes you more marketable to employers. Accounting with CS can lead to IT auditing and fields like that, which can be lucrative. Marketing and psychology is another useful double major if one is interested in marketing.

    Going off of what you said about liking computers, social studies, and foreign languages, I'd say maybe something like accounting (or finance depending on what you like better)/CS with a minor in a foreign language would be a good idea. CS is a good quantitative degree, with many applications to real life, and an accounting background gives one the option to still work at a big 4, or virtually any finance related job as well. So maybe try taking some classes in these areas in high school to see whether or not these areas still interest you.

    good luck and hope this helped.
  • G.P.BurdellG.P.Burdell User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 2,294 Senior Member
    I don't dispute that they find plenty of positions at graduation. People need entry level business majors. But look at success rates and salaries 10 years after graduation.

    When a BS Statistics + MBA Marketing is put up against a BBA Marketing graduate, the MBA student has the same business background with a much more developed technical background. These students then use the technical background to solve business problems that the BBA students can't understand. Those problem solvers are the ones who succeed in business.

    Like I've said, it's not personal, it's just an observation from many years of practice, teaching, and studying.
  • JapherJapher Registered User Posts: 1,349 Senior Member
    I met with a councilor at my shools career service office a few weeks ago to discuss my career strategy as I am working towards my MBA. I asked her it was going placing the business undergrads and she told me about the same as any year. I was a little shocked because internships and jobs for MBAs is getting worse, she told me it was because they are cheap.

    I don't ever want to be considered cheap. I am worth something, I can contribute something, and you darn well better pay me well for it.

    With that said, a freshman in HS interested in business is pretty vague. What kind of business (technology, social service, media, entertainment, etc.)? What part of business (sales, business development, operations, accounting, finance, etc.)? What skills does he currently have that he can exploit and develop?

    I don't know your son, but I would help him figure out the question to the first two questions before he gets to college if not sooner. Those will help him decide what undergrad BS to get, yes I said BS, not BA. Though, don't fear, getting a BS doesn't mean he can't go into business, all it is doing is developing his verticle skills. An MBA or experience in a large consulting firm or company following graduation and then an MBA will help him develop his horizontal business skills.

    At the same time you need to focus on skills that will be useful to the industry and sectors he's selected. Pre-college skills would be debate, interviewing skills, social skills (sports), etc. In college these will be more honed towards the specific degree selection and should center around themes like leadership, social service, and ethics. Following college those skills will come as letters at the end of his name like PMP or CFA. Groups like toastmasters or church councils, etc. will also help.

    All this will accumulate into something that can be taught in a classroom or bought online from degrees-r-us; experience.

    So, I guess I agree with GP, but then I too am an engineer.
  • VectorWegaVectorWega Registered User Posts: 1,872 Senior Member
    G.P. your viewpoint is obviously very skewed. For some it may make sense to go engineering, but for a large portion of other students it makes sense to go business. If you look at a school with good undergraduate business & engineering programs, the starting salaries are comparable, with engineering salaries on average being a bit higher. However, the upside is much greater in business than it is in engineering.

    GP your point about BS/MBA combination was not a good one. You should have compared a BS Statistics + MBA (Marketing concentration) with a BBA Marketing and MBA. In that instance, both students would be able to land the same jobs (although, the BBA in marketing would probably know better whether he/she would like it having already worked in marketing).

    BTW, this is really an aside conversation and does nothing to answer the OPs question.

    Cream, you vastly overrated the value of a double major. Sure, there are some cases where a double major is very beneficial (such as Accounting/MIS to do IT Auditing) but in the majority of cases it will not help you land a job or increase your salary.
  • hmom5hmom5 - Posts: 10,882 Senior Member
    Make sure he gets through as much high level math as possible, calc a minimum and college level classes too a plus.
  • G.P.BurdellG.P.Burdell User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 2,294 Senior Member
    G.P. your viewpoint is obviously very skewed. For some it may make sense to go engineering, but for a large portion of other students it makes sense to go business. If you look at a school with good undergraduate business & engineering programs, the starting salaries are comparable, with engineering salaries on average being a bit higher. However, the upside is much greater in business than it is in engineering.

    But who gets that business upside? It's the engineers and technical majors that cross over (less than 20% of engineering grads stay in engineering after 10 years).

    Think of it this way: why do people hire business majors? If you want someone who understands finance, hire an Econ major. If you want someone who can do market analysis, hire a psychology major. If you want someone who understands operations, hire an engineer.

    The value a business major has is that they are cross trained in all aspects of business. They get a "light" version of ever major business field, then get slightly more in-depth view of their concentration (of course, not nearly as in-depth as the technical majors). This allows them to communicate across functional units in an organization and see the "big picture." Engineers, psychologists, etc. have myopic training (necessitated by the depth of their training), which focuses them on their aspect of the business, whether that's operations or marketing, or whatnot. This causes them to make optimal decisions for their area that are suboptimal for the organization. Business majors monitor them and adjust for the organization as a whole.

    That's what a business major does.

    Now, consider a technical major, that really understands their aspect of the business in depth, and give them MBA training that explains breadth. That person has much more value in an organization.

    Imagine a person working in the operations department of a car manufacturer. What happens if you let an engineer run the place? Everything would be completely over designed and complicated, manufacturing costs would go through the roof, customers wouldn't have a clue about the 4 million new features, etc. What happens if you let a business major run it? The business major understands the marketing concept of the car, the budgeting and financial aspects, communicates with accounting to prepare reports and monitor efficiency, etc. But, how well is the car being built? The manager has to rely on the engineers to make sure they're doing what they should (the manager surely has no idea how to build a car). Now, imagine an engineer with an MBA. That engineer knows how to build a car, so he can keep the other engineers honest in their design and work. Plus, he understands budgeting, finance, accounting, etc. It's a no-brainer.

    Do business majors get jobs and make money right out of college? Sure. But are they as successful as they would be with a technical degree as a basis? Doubtful. Look at C-level managers. Other than the accountants (which we mentioned earlier is an exception), how many are business undergrads only or BBA/MBA combos?
    GP your point about BS/MBA combination was not a good one. You should have compared a BS Statistics + MBA (Marketing concentration) with a BBA Marketing and MBA. In that instance, both students would be able to land the same jobs (although, the BBA in marketing would probably know better whether he/she would like it having already worked in marketing).

    An BBA/MBA marketing major learns incrementally very little about marketing or business in the MBA program. Unless you're going into consulting, i-banks, VC, etc. you're in the same boat competitively with a BBA/MBA than with just a BBA.
  • creamgethamoneycreamgethamoney Registered User Posts: 589 Member
    Vector, don't take this the wrong way, and I'm not trying to call you a liar since you're probably more knowledgable than I am, but how can you completely discredit a double major? If you couple it with something related, i.e marketing and psychology, how would that not give you an advantage over just a cookie cutter marketing major? A psych major would recieve greater training in understanding how a persons psyche, learn statistical methods, which would make them much more valuable to a company I think. So why wouldn't a double major help? Yes, business is largely based on intangibles which can't be taught in class, but I feel that performance still is the major factor in terms of what sets people apart, and having a double major in complimentary fields is going to aid ones performance, right?
  • VectorWegaVectorWega Registered User Posts: 1,872 Senior Member
    But who gets that business upside? It's the engineers and technical majors that cross over (less than 20% of engineering grads stay in engineering after 10 years).

    I'm talking about entry level jobs with upside. Most engineers end up in engineering jobs with little to no upside. I'm thinking more along the lines of strategy consulting, ibanking, etc. These types of positions come to campuses to recruit business students. Most engineering students won't even know about these positions, much less have access to them.
    Think of it this way: why do people hire business majors? If you want someone who understands finance, hire an Econ major. If you want someone who can do market analysis, hire a psychology major. If you want someone who understands operations, hire an engineer.

    This pretty much destroys you previous point that this kid should be an engineering/technical major. BTW, you should compare the avg starting salaries, as well as placement statistics of econ majors and psychology majors to that of finance and marketing majors from universities with colleges of business. I don't expect that you will like the results.

    If you go to a school without a college of business, then you major in econ. I have no problem with that. However, from what I've seen if the university has a good/decent business school, then you are generally goin to have more opportunities by majoring in finance.

    As for MBA jobs, the most lucrative positions are those in Venture Capital, Private Equity, Hedge Funds, etc and these positions are filled by students with a finance background. From what I've seen, engineers at MBA schools generally shoot for strategy consulting, which is fine, but those jobs are pretty much open to any of the MBA students at top schools.

    I have engineering majors and former engineering grads ask me all the time "how do I get into commercial real estate?" Well, if you majored in real estate finance, not only would you know how, but you would already be there. Also, good luck at trying to get hired on by a top real estate firm like Trammel Crow Company and telling them the line about "I know how to build the building" In that case, perhaps you should work as a general contractor, because your profile isn't going to stack up well against MBA students who already have real estate finance experience.
    An BBA/MBA marketing major learns incrementally very little about marketing or business in the MBA program. Unless you're going into consulting, i-banks, VC, etc. you're in the same boat competitively with a BBA/MBA than with just a BBA.

    Huh? So the MBA has no value above what the "worthless" BBA major provides Wha?!?
  • VectorWegaVectorWega Registered User Posts: 1,872 Senior Member
    how can you completely discredit a double major?

    I'm not. It's just that many students believe this is the magic potion that will seperate them from other students and generally it is not.
    If you couple it with something related, i.e marketing and psychology, how would that not give you an advantage over just a cookie cutter marketing major?

    It would be a differentiator but I suspect not a very big one. My real point is that you could use that time more valuably. Students often ask if they should spend an extra semester/year to get a double major. Absolutely not. Hopefully, you won't even waste a summer doing so. You can do many other things to differentiate yourself that won't take up that much time. Heck, you could just work harder at your classes and get a higher GPA.
    Yes, business is largely based on intangibles which can't be taught in class, but I feel that performance still is the major factor in terms of what sets people apart, and having a double major in complimentary fields is going to aid ones performance, right?

    It would be very difficult to measure whether that would noticeably help you do your job. In most entry level positions, I would guess that it would not help that much. That being said, being able to understand psychology could help anyone climb the corporate ladder, regardless of their discipline.

    BTW, I agree that psychology is a complementary major to marketing. Students would learn a lot of interesting things that could potentially help them. However, do the double major because you want to learn something and will enjoy it, not because you think it will set you apart from other candidates.
    A psych major would recieve greater training in understanding how a persons psyche, learn statistical methods, which would make them much more valuable to a company I think.

    Most business schools structure their program based on input from hiring firms. If hiring firms felt that the students weren't being taught what they need, this would be voiced to the school and the school would try to address it and may even give students recommendations of psychology courses to take as an elective.
  • creamgethamoneycreamgethamoney Registered User Posts: 589 Member
    OK, perhaps I wasn't clear, but yeah, I agree with you on that part. Double majoring for sure isn't going to automatically get you a job or anything (and I'd agree that certain things such as how you interviewed, the work experience you had in college, etc. are more valuable than just saying you have a double major). But I think, especially in this economy where getting a job is more competitive, pursuing a double major that is not only complimentary to what you're pursuing but is something you enjoy and will perform will in would be fairly beneficial. At the very least, it could put you ahead of people who just have a degree in a particular business concentration (ceterus paribus of course), and it will definitely broaden one's horizons and encourage one to think in a way different from most people, which I think can only help one at least later on in his or her career. Plus, the reason why a lot of consulting firms like engineers is because some of the soft skills that are valuable in business (such as teamwork, work ethic), as well as other skills (such as critical thinking, quant abilities) are developed. Thus, it's a similar situation with a double major, because you develop skills outside of what most people develop, and one learns a new way of thinking and looking at things.

    Thus, I'd think that while getting a double degree isn't something magical, it can only help. The key is to pursue something worthwhile (i.e. complementing your biz degree), that you will enjoy and be good at. If one of those criteria isn't met, and one is pursuing it because one thinks it will automatically get them a job, then yes, it is not worth it.
  • G.P.BurdellG.P.Burdell User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 2,294 Senior Member
    I'm talking about entry level jobs with upside. Most engineers end up in engineering jobs with little to no upside.

    This clearly shows your lack of experience with technical degrees. I have engineering degrees and an MBA. I've worked in technical positions and in management positions. I've worked for Fortune 500 companies, and small businesses. I've taught business students and engineering students, from the bachelor's level all the way to the doctoral level at a school that's Top 20 in both engineering and business. I know what I'm talking about.

    Engineers aren't hired and then pigeon holed into an engineering ladder. Over 50% of engineers leave engineering in 5 years, and that's up to 80% in 10 years. Do you know where they go? To business positions. It's very common for someone to start in plant manufacturing to learn how something is made and the shop-floor challenges out there, then move into product manager or supply chain manager positions at the corporate office. Why do companies do that and not just promote people with supply chain or marketing degrees? Because the engineer knows what's going on at the plant, and can make more informed decisions, understanding not only the business trade offs (which the business majors understand) but also the implication of that decision on the supply chain, the forecasting techniques, or plant operation.
    Most engineering students won't even know about these positions, much less have access to them.

    You are sorely mistaken. The strategy firms and ibanks exclusively hired from the engineering programs at every school I attended, save Harvard. Most of the big firms have deals where they bring in top engineering students, give them two years of experience, send them to a top MBA program, then bring them back as consultants.
    Huh? So the MBA has no value above what the "worthless" BBA major provides Wha?!?

    What did you learn in an MBA that you didn't learn in a BBA program? It's basically a rehash of almost the same material, just taught differently. If you have a BBA in finance, then go for an MBA in finance, you'll incrementally learn very little about course concepts. What you will learn is team work, networking, how to think about a problem differently, how to handle people, etc - the soft skills. So when a psychology major and a marketing major both walk out of an MBA program on marketing, they're pretty equal in terms of "book learning" on marketing. The difference is that the psych major has the psychometric and statistical tools that the marketing person does not. In a business school, that's called a competitive advantage.
  • taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,629 Senior Member
    G.P Burdell is only partially correct in my opinion. Yes, normally, I would NOT recommend that kids major in general business such as business admininstration or management. However, there are numerous exceptions to this.

    First, accounting is an EXCELLENT major these days. Most kids who graduate with a degree in accounting get multiple, good job offers. The field is really expanding these days. It also give the best overall business preparation when compared to all the other business majors plus it usually gives a good mathematical foundation, especially in statistics.

    Second, there are other business majors that have strong employment trends such as actuarial, operations research etc.

    Third, It will also depend on the school as to whether I would be recommending someone for business. For example, majoring in any business major at Carnegie Melon would be a good choice. The same could be said for Wharton , NYU and a number of other top schools.

    I would also agree that all business majors should take certain courses outside of their major in complementary areas such as statistics ( if this isn't required as part of the major), computer science and especially writing and speech courses. In fact, any course that improves either written or oral communication is advisable. I would also recommend a course in philosophy especially one in ethics. I think many business managers need stronger ethical training, not to mention improvement in writing skills.

    I guess the bottom line is that to discourage folks from majoring in business as a carte blanche policy is in my opinion incorrect. There are good reasons for majoring in certain areas of business.
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