Photo of Na Li, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Business at Baker College.
1. Business is such a broad umbrella. How could/should a student determine if a business degree is right for them?
Business has a variety of majors that students can explore based on their passions. First, one should ask him/herself what he/she enjoys doing. Do I like working with people? Do I like working with numbers? Do I like to carry out projects from the beginning to an end? Do I like to solve problems? … For students who love to lead, manage and coordinate, a business degree in management is a great choice. These students will have the opportunity to become generalists -- those who have developed a strong, transferable administrative skills set and thus are well-prepared to work in many sectors or run their own business venture. Alternatively, one can choose to become a specialist by focusing on one major functional area of business such as accounting, finance, human resources, marketing, or logistics.
If a student knows someone who works in the business area he/she is interested in, it would be a good idea to talk with that person. He/she may ask what a typical work day is like and what that person likes/dislikes about the job. It would also be nice if one can find an internship position in the business area he/she is interested, even if it is for a short period and/or unpaid. This way, the student will get the chance to observe and “feel” the job from inside before making career decisions.
2. What are some common myths or misconceptions about earning a business degree?
One of the most common myths is that pursuing a business degree only prepares students for jobs in large corporations. The reality is business graduates are well prepared to build successful careers in many sectors including government, not-for-profit organizations, manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, retail, insurance, tourism, and even professional sports, to name a few. Business graduates are also prepared to create and run their own businesses.
Another common myth is that business degrees are too broad-based and therefore do not focus on any specific skills. The reality is, employers look for people who have skills and talents in critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, effective communication, building and managing teams, planning and leading projects. These are all portable skills that make business graduates marketable.
3. What might today’s business undergraduate student learn or experience differently than a student five or 10 years ago?
Advances in technology has significantly transformed business education. More and more students are taking online classes or completing the entire programs online. Even in face to face classes, Learning Management Systems (LMS, e.g., Canvas) are used for presenting additional materials such as videos and current news, engaging students in discussions, and providing individualized feedback. E-textbooks provide an easy-to-use but less expensive option. Online learning labs from publishers are customized and integrated into classes to help students practice and master problem solving skills in difficult subjects such as statistics, accounting, finance, and economics. Further, virtual team and teleconference technologies (e.g., Zoom, WebEx, Google Drive, Dropbox, Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Sheets) make learning more efficient. On the other hand, using these technologies at school helps students master skills they need at today’s workplace.
4. What industries, careers/job opportunities are most in-demand, or on the rise, right now for business majors?
According to the latest reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 773,800 new jobs in the business and financial operations occupations from 2016 to 2026. The projected job growth rate is 10%, faster than the averaged 7% for all occupations. In May 2018, the median annual wage for business and financial occupations was $68,350, higher than the median for all occupations of $38,640.
Specifically, due to the rise of new marketing strategies and increased usage of customer data, it is predicted that 138,300 new positions for market research analysts are to be created from 2016 to 2026, with an increase rate of 23%. The demand for accountants and auditors is also predicted to be increasing by 10% from 2016 to 2026, with 139,900 new jobs. Management analyst positions are expected to increase by 14% from 2016 to 2026, with 115,200 new jobs. In addition, there are fast-growing demands in financial analysts, personal financial advisors, human resources specialists, training and development specialists, supply chain management and logistics. The 2018 median wages of these occupations range from $60,780 to $88,890.
5. What do you love about teaching business?
I love teaching business because I enjoy helping students to connect course work to the real world. It is rewarding to see them apply what they learn in class in the workplace. In a statistics and research class, for example, students were required to identify a question at work or in life and develop a research proposal to study it. Some students went beyond their proposals and actually completed the research projects after the course was finished. One student analyzed the income data of the restaurant she worked for to determine whether having a live band every Wednesday evening would increase sales. Another student surveyed the customers of the pet store she worked for to identify their needs. For students, going beyond coursework and being able to apply ideas and knowledge in real-world settings is key. They value this type of practical and application-based learning. For me, the reward is seeing students succeed beyond their educational experience.
Further, I love teaching in general because it gives me the opportunity to touch lives. Many of my students are first-generation college students. They have to overcome lots of challenges in order to earn their degrees. As a professor, I teach them, encourage them, and help them in any possible way I can. It is rewarding to see the proud smiles on their faces at graduation ceremonies. My heart melts when they share how they set great examples for their children to pursue higher education and brighter future.
Acknowledgement: I got some great ideas for this blog by discussing with Baker College business program directors and faculty including Dr. Polly Bashore, Mrs. Debra Bechtel, Dr. Amy DeSonia, and Dr. Tomeika Williams.
If you’d like to learn more about Baker College’s College of Business, visit our program page.
Dr. Na “Lina” Li is the Dean of the College of Business at Baker College. She has been sharing her passion in business education with students for more than 10 years. She has published numerous journal papers and book chapters and presented at multiple academic conferences on information system adoption, e-commerce website evaluation and use, group dynamics in virtual teams, teaching and learning, and academic program assessment. She serves as co-chair for numerous conference tracks and associate editor for journals. She is a Past Chair of the Association for Information Systems - Special Interest Group on Human-Computer Interaction (SIGHCI).