A degree in business is consistently the most popular undergraduate degree field, and a degree or concentration in management is a common degree offered at business colleges. A university’s college of business typically consists of at least four main areas: accounting, finance, marketing, and management.
Although there is some overlap, each sector contributes to a specific aspect of business, and the key role of a management degree is to prepare students to supervise and manage other coworkers and employees in a business setting. So, how does what students learn in college prepare them for management, and what types of careers do those students seek?
“I think there are a lot of students that are interested in business careers but either don’t have a particular area of focus within business in mind, or are cognizant of the fact that even if they think they do, they ultimately probably don’t know what they’re going to be doing. So they see management as a way to cover a lot of different topics,” said Chris Meyer, Director of Undergraduate Education in the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Meyer explained that while management is a common major taught as a sub-sector of business schools, it is a very broad major, which allows for flexibility.
“If you get a management degree, you do some coursework in accounting, marketing, operations management, and all these types of things so you have exposure to a broad range of business topics. And then, you can focus in on a certain area or concentration with your electives,” said Meyer.
Students can major in the more broad degree of management, and then concentrate, minor, or even add a second major in more specific areas in which they are interested, such as marketing.
“I think a lot of companies look at students with an undergraduate business degree and are just happy to see they have the degree, and maybe they will look at what kind of activities they’ve done, what sort of internship and things like that to get an indication of where the student’s interests lie as opposed to just the major they have,” said Meyer.
With some exceptions, the flexibility of the management degree allows students to be qualified for a number of careers that students with more specialized degrees seek. Management also teaches students the interpersonal skills required for leadership roles within a company.
“People are hiring for the technical skills, but they all want the soft skills. They want [new hires with] emotional intelligence, passion, courage, the ability to think on your feet. All those soft skills, those are what students are able to get with a management major,” said Jeffrey Kudisch, Clinical Professor of Management at the University of Maryland.
Kudisch explained that management courses focus on teaching students leadership, teamwork, negotiations, strategy, strategic innovation, entrepreneurship, problem solving, and interpersonal skills.
“Our courses are teaching not just the concepts, but what we realize employers are looking for, which is heightened self-awareness. For example, in a leadership and teamwork course, we’re dialing down with assessments the kind of assessments that students would see in the workplace, like 360 feedback, personality assessments, and teaching them about emotional intelligence,” said Kudisch.
As for the main careers that students with a management degree go into after graduating college, Meyer said that the single largest career path for management students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is in the consulting business. Kudisch said that consulting is also popular with management majors at the University of Maryland, but other common post-grad career opportunities include leadership development programs, general management rotation programs, business development, analytics, operations management, and sales.
While some students know early on that they want to go into a specialized business field, such as accounting or marketing, students that want to keep more doors open for themselves and acquire a broad set of business skills can benefit from a management degree.
The college a student chooses also plays a factor, as a school like Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that focuses more on technology will give students more of a tech-based academic lens, and will require more related classes. This will give students more of an edge in the business technology world, while a liberal arts college will provide a different experience.
“It’s useful to think about what a given school has in terms of flexibility and alternatives. If you go into a business program, any business program is going to give you a number of basic courses, but then if you have the flexibility to study and dig into the field you like, I think it’s important for students to know that they have a flexibility and some availability for what they want to do,” said Meyer.
Kudisch explained that many students double major to acquire the technical skills first, and utilize their management degree further down the road.
“We’re helping develop students for either established enterprise or start-up ventures. All these companies are looking for high potential, so I think it’s these management skills that will help students move up the corporate ladder. It’s a longer term proposition, they might not see the immediate hit, but it’s more of a strategic investment to have management as a double major,” said Kudisch.
A management degree teaches students business skills from a broad perspective, and teach leadership skills students will need to manage others in a business setting. The major is also flexible, allowing students to keep many career options available, while still specializing their knowledge through electives, major concentrations, minors, or second majors. If you’re interested in business and want to develop the personality skills needed to lead a team, a management degree will set you up to achieve these professional goals.