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Undergraduate Business/Finance Major?

eagles36eagles36 Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
edited July 2012 in College Search & Selection
Hey everyone,

I know this topic has probably been debated hundreds of times on this forum already but I would like to get some more feedback so that I can better choose what I want to major in in college.

Here's my dilemma:
I know for sure that I enjoy finance, and that I want to pursue an MBA eventually. My dream is to become a CFO, stock broker, or something related to this field. I am also open to international business, especially dealing with trade in China.

However what I've been reading shows me that a strong liberal arts background may be more beneficial for me if I chose to major in it for undergraduate. Also my research shows me that it might be a good idea to major in something like science which could give me greater understanding of a certain field which I might want to conduct business in in the future.

Lastly, I have read that it might be a good idea to major in something else and then minor in economics in order to provide a simple base for MBA in the future. My fear is that if I major in something else, I won't be able to transition to my desired career path of dealing with finance/international business.

Brief background info (in case it is relevant to which schools I could apply to..etc):
GPA: 4.0, ~4.6 weighted
SAT: 2260, 800 sat math, going to take 2 more
Extra Curricular:
I currently have a job at a company where I do data entry, photoshop, and customer service. Also in various community service clubs... one of which I'm going to an orphanage this summer to start a project.

With that said, I would greatly appreciate any comments, biased or not (hopefully they cancel each other out) in order to help me decide what I wish to major in.

Post edited by eagles36 on

Replies to: Undergraduate Business/Finance Major?

  • B Man 22B Man 22 Registered User Posts: 389 Junior Member
    Do a major you WANT to learn about, not just because you want a job.

    A liberal arts education can give you so much more as an MBA grad than doing business for 6+ years continuously.

    Undergraduate Business Degree

    If You Know You'll Get An MBA...

    Ten Ways to Market Your Liberal Arts Degree
  • vinnylivinnyli Registered User Posts: 408 Member
    B Man 22: a business degree with a solid liberal arts background can be just as good as a liberal arts degree.
    Look into Wharton, Cornell AEM (agribusiness), Boston College, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, and Notre Dame. Also look into schools with two year tracks that are strong in the sciences/engineering, including UMichigan, Uva, UC Berkeley.
  • colboycolboy Registered User Posts: 307 Member
    If you're sure you want to do business then majoring in business will land you in that career. A lot of MBA programs want to admit students who already had experience working in business. By having that undergrad degree, employers will hire you and that's how you gain business experience.

    If you had a liberal arts degree or science degree, once you graduate, you may be stuck in a job you won't enjoy.
  • zapfinozapfino Registered User Posts: 2,832 Senior Member
    The better MBA programs generally want applicants with a strong liberal arts degree rather than an undergraduate business degree. It would be useful, however, to take some basic economics courses (e.g., at least principles of economics 1, 2; and maybe microeconomic theory; macroeconomic theory) as well as courses that develop your analytic and quantitative skills (calculus, statistics, possibly econometrics). If you ended up majoring or minoring in economics, you also might take some courses in corporate finance, international finance, etc. Alternatively, to get some marketable business skills in addition to a liberal arts degree, you could take a principles of economics, some quantitative skills courses, and intro courses in the main business areas: accounting, finance, management, and marketing.

    A liberal arts or science degree will not necessarily be a barrier to getting a business job. Liberal arts graduates have writing, analytic, quantitative skills, a "big picture' perspective, flexibility, etc. that businesses value. Many companies prefer to train their own people anyway.

    You might also consider some combination of a major/minor in economics and East Asian Studies. You could major in either one of those and minor in the other. This would give you some economics background for business, but also a language and area studies background for pursuing interests in international business, especially involving China. You also could study abroad in China for a summer, semester, or a year. The longer period is better for developing language skills.

    I'm not entirely sure where science fits into your plans since you didn't indicate what is the certain field in which you might want to conduct business. For example, if you told me that geology was the science you had i mind, I could well imagine that you had interests in natural resources or energy related business. For other sciences, it's less clear without more specific information. There is no reason, however, why you could not combine a science major or minor with an economics major or minor, or with a core set of business courses.

    Another possibility suggests itself, too. You might consider a law degree. A law degree can be very useful in international business. When you learn to think like a lawyer, you may develop valuable analytic, negotiation, and conflict resolution skills that would serve you well in international business. There are parts of Asia, e.g., Vietnam, that still do not have legal systems fully compatible with expected commercial law practices in the rest of the world. Courses in international and comparative law are useful. While that background is the reason that companies hire lawyers, it is a challenging and interesting role to be the lawyer who gets to negotiate and work out the details of a trade or finance agreement. For this type of face-to-face business interaction, cultural understanding is very important as business in many Asian countries (as elsewhere) often depends on personal relationships. There also are areas of law that figure very importantly in business with China and other countries, e.g., intellectual property law. Needless to say, a strong liberal arts background is the best preparation for law school, if that was a path that interested you. At some universities there are joint degree programs in business and law.

    As a piece of general advice, I also will mention that if you should find yourself attending a university with a College of Agriculture, don't overlook courses in Agricultural Economics just because you might happen to be majoring in the regular economics dept. in a College of Arts & Sciences. Depending on your specific interests, courses in agricultural and resource economics can be very useful in the areas of international business and finance.

    Finally, since one poster mentioned specific schools for you to check out, I'll mention one that has a program I like: Indiana University. Indiana has a special certificate program in Liberal Arts & Management in which you take a series of business-focused seminars in addition to a liberal arts major. The link is here: College of Arts and Sciences 2008-2010 Online Bulletin: Liberal Arts and Management Program.
    Indiana also will allow students in the College of Arts & Sciences to develop an individualized major, or to do up to 3 minors, including a minor in the business school. Indiana's Kelley School of Business is topnotch. It offers a program in international business and also has study abroad programs, including a couple in China. Indiana has strong programs in East Asian Studies.
  • barronsbarrons Registered User Posts: 24,588 Senior Member
    When Wall Street and big consulting firms were hiring small armies you could get any degree at a TOP school and get a job with those firms. But there is no Plan B. Most regular companies did not recruit much at the very top schools because nobody wanted to work for them. Now not so much and even top school liberal arts grads are scrambling to find ANYTHING to do. Meanwhile grads from good to top business undergrads are at least getting shots at some decent business jobs.
  • jim1980jim1980 Registered User Posts: 254 Junior Member
    I agree with barrons. The world is changing. What's true for past eight years during the boom may not hold anymore. The eye opening statement "only 6% of employers want to hire humanities or liberal arts majors, and only 5% seek graduates with social science degree".

    Philosophy Majors: Get a Job - BusinessWeek
  • eagles36eagles36 Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
    thanks for the responses everyone,
    they've been very helpful.
  • TPL09TPL09 Registered User Posts: 260 Junior Member
    I'm actually planning a similar career path (CEO or the ilk doing trade with China) and will major in Entrepreneurship and another business major (Marketing or Finance) at Syracuse U. I think that majoring in business is advantageous towards pursuing an MBA because not only will you be more prepared, you may even have already taken some prerequisite courses. Also, I think the info about MBA programs more easily accepting liberal arts majors is hearsay. There are just more liberal arts majors out there which causes the statistic of more liberal arts majors in graduate business schools. Also, plan on studying abroad in China. Syracuse has a great program in Hong Kong which is one reason why I chose it.
  • bxkxrxxxbxkxrxxx - Posts: 179 Junior Member
    You'll take plenty of liberal arts courses during your business undergrad, so don't worry about not having critical thinking skills they provide. Your best bet is to take business so you'll have more practice and be more prepared for the MBA. No important employer gives a rats behind that you took liberal arts because you like to "learn for the sake of learning". Unlike with liberal arts, with a biz major under your belt you can score an awesome job while doing grad school and make money faster.
  • diontechristmasdiontechristmas Registered User Posts: 2,891 Senior Member
    eagles36 (aka Brian Westbrook), are you a PA resident?
  • boed74boed74 Registered User Posts: 21 New Member
    Eli Broad College of Business
    Michigan State University
    Rankings and Recognitions | Michigan State University

    The Eli Broad College of Business is a great business school. It has it all: great students, exceptional faculty, fancy facilities, and remarkable alumni.
  • TheNextBuffettTheNextBuffett Registered User Posts: 42 Junior Member
    Man i wish i wud get a good curriculum like urs(guess its IB) and APs and GPA and ECs. I wish i was born in USA. But i am stuck in India.
  • Sam LeeSam Lee Registered User Posts: 9,449 Senior Member
    Check out the undergrad certificate programs at the Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern):
    Certificate Program for Undergraduates - Kellogg School of Management - Northwestern University

    Unique features:
    1. the only undergrad programs that consist of GRADUATE courses
    2. build upon liberal arts/engineering education; not an undergrad major or degree
    3. rigorous; more advanced and quantitative than typical undergrad courses (no "business-lite" like you see in other schools)

    Northwestern started these two programs in 2009. Naturally, many are curious how the grads have been doing, given that the programs are relatively new but at the same time Kellogg is a top business school. Beyond what's given in http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/Certificate/career-development/jobs-internships.aspx, I googled LinkedIn profiles and found that pretty much all have been/are with top firms.
This discussion has been closed.