A Closer Look at 5 Common Business Concentrations
By Anjali Stenquist on 03/09/2020
Were you the kid with the lemonade stand that actually turned a profit? Or have you been told more than once you have “a real head for business?” In the school cafeteria growing up were you an ace at accumulating pudding cups through freewheeling trades and salesmanship? If any of these fit the bill, your industrious nature might have you leaning toward earning a business degree.
A business degree could be the next step in pursuing a successful and fulfilling career that draws on your natural skills and interests. But the word “business” also covers a lot of ground with several concentrations and focus areas found under that umbrella. Often, students focus in a particular area within business in order to of business focus their education on the most relevant subjects which prepare them to enter the workforce.
This segmented approach makes good sense—the business world is vast and draws from people with all types of backgrounds and skillsets. While all roles within a business structure aim to make their organization as efficient and profitable as possible, there are definitely differences between these concentrations. For instance, an accounting professional could find the work of a salesperson unappealing (and vice versa)—so it takes some reflection to figure out where you best fit.
Depending on your interests, work style and goals, you may choose to focus on the more analytical side of business such as finance or accounting, a more creative path such as marketing, or the interpersonal roles in human resources or management. In order to further develop your strengths and enter the workforce with a focused educational background, choosing a particular business concentration could be the right move for you.
To help you get a start on sorting some of this out, we’ve taken a closer look at five of the most common business degree concentrations.
Why go to school for business?
Before we explore common business concentrations, let’s take a minute to look at some of the advantages of pursing a college education in a business-related field.
It’s no secret that employers frequently look for candidates with education beyond a high school diploma for many positions—even for relatively simple entry-level roles. Often, a big part of that is because employers are risk-averse and would prefer to hire from a pool of candidates that have at least a fundamental understanding of business practices. That knowledge, coupled with a demonstrated ability to navigate the challenges of college, helps employers know they’re hiring from a group who has shown a level of adaptability and critical thinking ability above what many high school graduates possess.
Though an investment in time and resources, a degree in business has tangible applications within the real world. Your first job in the field after completing a business degree will likely draw directly on the material covered in your courses. Even without work experience, you’ll be familiar with many of the concepts and requirements of your job and should be able to quickly adapt to the new role.
A business-focused degree helps beyond just getting your foot in the door for entry-level positions—the training and education you receive will serve you throughout your career and will help you navigate the transition to new roles as your career progresses.
Excited to learn more about where that could take you? Let’s dig into the details of some common business concentrations.
5 Business concentrations to consider
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but these five fields makes up some of the most common business concentrations out there. Learn more about the skills, job titles and courses associated with each.
Accountants use their skills to manage financial information for organizations or individuals. They maintain and analyze records for things such as assets, tax liability, profits and losses, and payroll. Accountants are employed in many different settings, meaning the day to day work of an accountant depends on the needs of their employer. All accountants work with computer systems and need to stay current with technological advancements.
These professionals have a unique perspective on a business’ operations—they get to see where the money is flowing and their work influences the overall plans of a business. The people best suited for these roles are highly organized, enjoy piecing bits of information together and get a kick out of resolving complicated problems.
Top accounting skills:1
- Account reconciliation
- General ledger
Common accounting job titles:1
- Staff accountant
- Tax manager
Sample accounting courses:
- Risk Management
- Corporate and International Accounting
- Advanced Principles of Financial Management
2. Human Resources
Human resources is the oft-unseen backbone of the business world. Professionals in human resources maintain employment standards including compliance with labor laws, employee benefits, employee records such as references and performance evaluations, recruitment and exit interviews. People in human resources ensure that employees are able to contribute to a workplace without fear of discrimination or exploitation.
To excel in human resources it helps to have a strong sense of empathy, an inclination to help people with issues and a comfort with communicating authoritatively. This focus area relies on professionals with an interesting mix of business acumen, people skills and nurturing ability.
Top human resources skills:2
- Employee relations
- Performance management
Common human resources job titles:2
- Human resources generalist
- Compensation analyst
Sample human resources courses:
- Managing a Diverse Workforce
- Organizational Development
- Workforce Performance and Talent Management
Professionals in the field of finance create financial strategies. Through the use of financial models and theories, they find solutions to an organization’s financial problems. While this field may make you think of Hollywood’s slick win-at-all-costs stock market sharks, the reality of their work is slightly less dramatic and much more about helping people and organizations achieve their financial goals. In fact, when we spoke to finance workers, we found one of the most commonly noted perks of working in finance was helping people.
This field requires analytical candidates who can objectively evaluate financial plans and investments and present the case for or against an investment to key decision makers—whether that’s to a CFO or to a couple making retirement plans.
Top finance skills:3
- Financial reporting
Common finance job titles:3
- Financial analyst
- Credit analyst
Sample finance courses:
- Investment Portfolio Management
- International Finance
- Principles of Financial Management
4. Business management
Business management students are prepared to go on to leadership roles within a variety of organizations. To prepare for these positions, business management degree programs offer training in a broad swath of key business operations activities—this can include courses covering data analytics, human resources, marketing, organizational leadership and more. This focus area provides a strong business-generalist foundation to mold as you progress throughout your career.
This concentration is an excellent option for anyone who values versatility, enjoys strategic thinking, and strives to manage and guide others.
Top business management skills:4
- Business administration
- Project management
Common business management job titles:4
- Business analyst
- Account manager
- Sales representative
Sample business management courses:
- Business Law and Ethical Behavior
- Dynamic Team Development
- Operations Management
Professionals in marketing create the relationship between a business and its customers. An education in marketing provides an understanding of social psychology, research and data analysis. A concentration in marketing might lead to a career in sales, research analysis, digital advertising or even public relations. With new media and technology, the field of marketing is constantly evolving, requiring marketing professionals to stay ahead of cultural trends and advancements.
The people best suited for marketing careers are those who are analytical, strategic thinkers that love learning more about what motivates people.
Top marketing skills:5
- Social media
- Digital marketing
Common marketing job titles:5
- Marketing specialist
- Account manager
- Sales manager
Sample marketing courses:
- Consumer Behavior
- Marketing Research
- Strategic Sales and Sales Management
Learn more about business degree concentrations
There are many exciting roles within business, each offering unique challenges and opportunities. You may find that a particular area of business most aligned with your career goals. If you are interested in learning more about the different concentrations available for business students take a look at Rasmussen College School of Business page.
1Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 754,821 accounting job postings, February 1, 2019 –January 31, 2020)
2Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 21,868 human resources job postings, February 1, 2019 –January 31, 2020)
3Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 597,630 finance job postings, February 1, 2019 –January 31, 2020)
4Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 1,690,382 business management job postings, February 1, 2019 –January 31, 2020)
5Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 345,458 marketing job postings, February 1, 2019 –January 31, 2020)