Is Math for Business Difficult? An Inside Look at What to Expect

illustration of business studnet imagining a professor teaching math for business on a chalkboard

Students with all sorts of interests and talents are attracted to the field of business. A Business degree can provide a versatile educational foundation to build a career upon—and that’s certainly something you’re considering pursuing.

Whether you like the subject or not, a piece of that educational foundation is made out of mathematics. If math courses weren’t your strongest subject or you’re just feeling a bit rusty, it’s understandable if you’re feeling a little anxious about pursuing a Business degree. So does that mean you’re out of luck and better off focusing on another field? Not necessarily. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what you can expect for mathematics in a Business program.

Which math subjects can be difficult for Business students?

There’s no two ways around it—if you’re currently not strong in math skills and competencies, you’re likely going to need to push yourself to succeed in certain subjects. We’ve asked those who’ve earned a Business degree to share which subjects tripped them up.

As you might expect, courses related to finance and accounting were often the culprit for those averse to number-crunching.

“My degree required two accounting credits,” says Jamie Hejna, owner of Ollie Marketing. “I struggled to develop a strong understanding of financial and managerial accounting.”

Nathan Murphy, cofounder and co-owner of QuizBreaker, agrees. “The biggest hurdles I had to overcome in terms of material were any topics having to do with finance and accounting,” Murphy says. “I was a natural when it came to the more communicative side of business, such as marketing and sales, but the back end was tough to wrap my head around.”

That said, these subjects are still grounded in real-world applications that can get a little easier to understand with enough practice.

Additionally, courses focused on data analysis and statistics can offer a challenge. “I was surprised at how thoroughly my Business degree program dove into topics such as analytics, data and statistics,” says Kristaps Brencans, chief marketing officer of On The Map Marketing. “These are areas that would normally seem to be in the STEM category rather than business, but in retrospect, they’re extremely important skill sets to have in any actual business-oriented career.”

What kinds of math problems and calculations can I expect in a Business degree program?

Dr. Jennifer Trout, department chair of the Human Resources and Organization Leadership and Business Management programs at Rasmussen University, shares that while subjects like accounting and finance can be a stumbling point for some students, there’s a good reason these courses are included in Business degree programs.

“You still need to understand the terms and the basics for both of these if running or working in any business,” Trout explains.

The good news? The types of calculations Business majors can expect are fairly straightforward. “You need to be able to do simple algebraic calculations as well as basic math,” Trout says.

The challenge often centers on determining which inputs to use, what these numbers mean and how to make sense of the calculations in context. Trout offers this example of how students must interpret numbers: “50 percent market growth rate and 50 percent debt ratio of a company—is this good? Bad?”

“With big data penetrating everywhere in business, you will still need to have that understanding of numbers,” Trout says. “It’s like those word problems in grade-school math. Except, instead of trying to figure out the answer from a story, you are given the answer, and you have to create the story.”

Where can I turn for help?

No matter your current comfort level with math-related subjects, it’s important to know that it’s not too late to improve. Being an effective student—and business professional—requires you to take stock of yourself and find ways to shore up your weaknesses. The good news is that you’re currently living in an age where information and help flows freely, so take advantage of it!

The internet is practically overflowing with useful resources and materials for brushing up on math concepts you may have struggled with in the past. Additionally, your instructors and classroom peers can provide a huge lift—you don’t have to take it on all by yourself.

Hejna says he turned to tutors to help him with math courses he needed extra assistance with, but he also turned to fellow classmates for study sessions and accountability. “My main support came from finding peers in each class who were as determined to succeed as myself,” Hejna remembers.

Dr. Trout believes it’s important for Business students to keep a balanced perspective as the progress through their courses. “You are going to have classes you really connect with and others maybe not right away,” Trout advises. “However, you will have faculty and your fellow students available to help you along the way.”

Dr. Trout says some of her favorite moments as an educator are when she’s able to guide struggling students to those “Ah-ha!” moments where the material starts to click. But instructors and faculty aren’t the only people who can help you at Rasmussen University. Dr. Trout advises students to explore the help provided by the Library and Learning Services team and look into the peer tutoring and mentorship program.

“Everyone will have their own challenges,” Trout explains. “Stay focused, committed and, most importantly, ask for help when you need it.”

Step forward with confidence

Earning a degree isn’t always going to be easy—but it can be achievable. Now that you know more about what to expect for math courses in a Business degree program and what you can do to stay on track, are you ready to learn more about your options? Start your search at the Business degrees page. If you want more information on how we can help you in your educational journey, be sure to check out our article “11 Surprising Student Resources You Didn't Know Rasmussen University Offered.”

Carrie Mesrobian

Carrie is a freelance copywriter at Collegis Education. She researches and writes articles, on behalf of Rasmussen University, to help empower students to achieve their career dreams through higher education.

Carrie Mesrobian

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