Choosing a concentration

If you’re like me, you might be unsure about which industry you want to concentrate in, and therefore, unsure about what type of business concentration you should pursue in undergrad.  Many school catalogs don’t go far beyond simply listing the choices, so I thought I’d create a short guide of concentrations, including skills needed, courses to expect, future careers, and projected salaries.  Don’t forget to factor in your interest in the subject, too.  If you’re great with numbers but are driven mad by working with them, don’t pursue a career in accounting or finance, for example.  Ultimately, use this guide as a starting point for future research, and be sure to further explore functions you’re interested in.


 

Accounting (Data here)

What you’ll do:

  • Prepare and examine financial records
  • Organize and maintain accurate records
  • Ensure that financial statements comply with laws and regulations
  • Compute taxes owed, prepare tax returns and ensure prompt payment
  • Assess financial operations
  • Advise ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues and improve profits

Typical courses:

  • Assets and income determination
  • Equities
  • Auditing
  • Federal and state taxes
  • Fraud examination

Traits and skills:

You are… You should have…
Computer savvy Strong math skills
Good with numbers Attention to details
An analytic thinker Clerical skills
Enterprising The ability to focus
Goal oriented Desire to collaborate
Highly organized

Typical careers and salaries:

Accounting Career Median Annual Salary
Financial Reporting Accountant II $60,942
Cost Accountant II $57,721
Revenue Management Accountant $94,599
Tax Accountant II $60,893

Job satisfaction:

Job satisfaction
Upward mobility High
Stress level Average
Flexibility Above Average

 


 

Finance (data here)

What you’ll do:

  • Prepare financial statements
  • Study and forecast economic trends
  • Monitor financial details to make sure legal requirements are met
  • Review company reports and suggest efficiencies
  • Analyze market trends to improve profit
  • Advise management on financial decisions
  • Research and recommend investments

Typical courses:

  • Investment management
  • Financial reporting and analysis
  • Derivatives
  • Financial institutions

Traits and skills:

You are… You should have…
Technology savvy Strong math skills
Persuasive Attention to details
Enterprising Strong people skills
Goal oriented A desire to collaborate
Highly organized Negotiation skills

Typical careers and salaries:

Finance Career Median Annual Salary
Actuary $93,680
Financial Manager $109,740
Financial Advisor $67,520
Investment Banker $71,720
Financial Analyst $76,950
Securities, Commodities and Financial Services Sales Agents $71,720

Job satisfaction:

Job satisfaction
Upward mobility High
Stress level High
Flexibility Below Average

 


Human Resources (data here)

What you’ll do:

  • Interview and hire qualified job applicants
  • Perform background checks on job applicants
  • Conduct or help with new employee orientation
  • Maintain employment records and process paperwork
  • Advise managers on organizational policies
  • Mediate disputes and direct disciplinary procedures in the workplace

Typical courses:

  • Talent management
  • Performance management and rewards
  • Power and influence in organizations

Traits and skills:

You are… You should have…
A critical thinker Strong people skills
A problem solver Attention to details
A team player Clerical skills
Highly organized Negotiation skills
The desire to collaborate

Typical careers and salaries:

Human Resources Career Median Annual Salary
Human Resources Generalist II $60,294
Human Resources Specialist $55,640
Recruiter II $56,808
Human Resources Manager $99,720

Job satisfaction:

Job satisfaction
Upward mobility Average
Stress level Above Average
Flexibility Below Average

 


International Business (data here)

What you’ll do:

  • Manage imports and exports In multinational corporations
  • Translate for business
  • Travel abroad to facilitate business deals
  • Prepare employees for foreign travel and business dealings
  • Study and implement ethical behavior and standards
  • Practice cultural sensitivity in business
  • Represent your company internationally as a sales representative or consultant

Typical courses:

  • Bases of world commerce
  • International environments and commercial problems
  • International finance management
  • International marketing

Traits and skills:

You are… You should have…
Curious and intuitive Strong communication skills
Adaptable Strong organizational skills
A team player Cultural sensitivity
Resourceful Interest in travel
Flexible The ability to work under pressure
Highly motivated Negotiation skills

Typical careers and salaries:

International Business Career Median Annual Salary
International Finance Management $109,740
Management Consultant $78,600
International Marketing Manager $119,480
Translator / Interpreter $45,430

Job satisfaction:

Job satisfaction
Upward mobility Above Average
Stress level Above Average
Flexibility Average

 


Marketing (data here)

What you’ll do:

  • Meet with clients to provide marketing or technical advice and strategy
  • Initiate market research and analyze findings
  • Plan advertising campaigns
  • Prepare and discuss contracts, advertising media, and products to be promoted
  •  Develop pricing strategies for products and meet the goals and budgets of the customer

Typical courses:

  • Marketing research
  • Selling and sales force management
  • Consumer behavior
  • Product and brand management
  • Advertising and promotion
  • International marketing

Traits and skills:

You are… You should have…
A great negotiator Creativity on demand
A creative and strategic thinker Attention to detail
Enterprising Communication skills
Resourceful Ability to focus
Goal-oriented Desire to collaborate
Highly organized

Typical careers and salaries:

Marketing Career Median Annual Salary
Media Coordinator $34,221
Marketing Specialist $56,167
Brand Manager $93,532
Market Research Analyst $60,300
Advertising Manager $88,590
Public Relations Manager $95,450
Marketing Manager $119,480

Job satisfaction:

Job satisfaction
Upward mobility Above Average
Stress level Above Average
Flexibility  Average

 


Operations (data here)

What you’ll do:

  • Create the infrastructure of a company
  • Help determine where an organization should be based
  • Determine employment policies, accounting practices, distribution channels, and much more
  • Make sure corporate procedures are designed optimally

Typical courses:

  • Supply chain and logistics management
  • Service operations
  • Extreme events management
  • Business forecasting
  • Power and influence in organizations
  • Six sigma quality
  • Quality assurance
  • Lean enterprise and industrial applications

Traits and skills:

You are… You should have…
Able to see the big picture Strong math skills
Able to see beyond the current task Attention to detail
Analytical Communication skills
A team player Desire to collaborate

Typical careers and salaries:

Operations Career Median Annual Salary
Procurement analyst/purchasing manager $65,000
Logistics Analyst $60,000
Process Engineer $103,000
Operations Manager $96,430

Job satisfaction:

Job satisfaction
Upward mobility Above Average
Stress level Average
Flexibility Average

 

 


Management Information Systems (MIS) (data here)

What you’ll do:

  • Apply computer technology, quantitative techniques, and administrative skills to the information processing requirements of organizations
  • Combine computer technology with management decision-making methods – to analyze, design, implement, and manage computerized information systems in an organizational environment

Typical courses:

  • Computer science/computer programming
  • Telecommunications technology
  • Database management systems
  • Systems analysis and design
  • Management of IT projects

Traits and skills:

You are… You should have…
Tech-savvy Technology skills
A problem solver Analytical skills
Good  at communicating with people Interpersonal skills
Curious and willing to learn Managerial aptitudes

Typical careers and salaries:

MIS Career Median Annual Salary
Programmer $80,930
Systems Analyst $81,190
Database Manager $78,520
Network Administrator $66,000

Job satisfaction:

Job satisfaction
Upward mobility Average
Stress level Average
Flexibility Above Average

Before I close the post, I’d like to mention two things:

  1. It is OK to be unsure about which concentration you want to pursue right away.  The courses you’ll take during the beginning of your undergraduate business career will give you a greater insight into what you like.  When you find courses that you enjoy and that truly interest you, you’ll have a good indication as to what concentration you’ll thrive in.
  2. It is also OK to switch your concentration.  If you have to choose a concentration when you enter your college, just choose what you think will be best for you based on your personal research, but you are by no means bound to this choice.  Interests change, and you shouldn’t keep continuing on with a concentration just because you’ve already taken two of the five courses you need to complete it.  Concentrations are like specializations, and they can play important roles in determining what kind of internships you’ll get, which can, in turn, play huge roles in deciding which MBA programs you can get into.  I have changed concentrations at least 5 times between switching, pairing, adding, and dropping, and so can attest to the fact that as long as you pursue the concentration you’re currently in with everything you’ve got, you’ll be fine.
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