The Ins & Outs of Getting a Business Degree in the USA (2023)
Business is a wide-reaching subject which has many specializations within it. It is consistently ranked the most popular subject to study at US universities, and a business degree from a US college or university can pave the way for a plethora of professional roles in any sector globally.
Business graduates are in high demand worldwide, and careers with a business degree are often highly paid.
US universities are recognized globally for their quality, in particular when it comes to Business programs. According to the current Times Higher Education rankings for Business and Economics, 13 of the top 20 Business universities are in the USA.
As a worldwide business hub, the United States is an excellent place to develop your business network, and completing your degree in an English-speaking country will give you additional benefits given that English remains the primary language within the business world globally.
Table of Contents
Business Degree Entry Requirements
6 Schools to Study Business in the USA
Career Opportunities for Business Degree Graduates
Factors to Consider when Choosing a Business Degree Program
Types of Business Degrees
The term ‘business degree’ usually means a bachelor’s degree that provides foundational knowledge across all business functions—such as bachelor programs in business administration, business management, or management and leadership. These are all known for having a broad focus.
Other degrees in business are more specialized —from accounting and finance to marketing and human resources.
Undergraduate business degrees are typically broken down into the two groups: Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS). BA programs and similar programs that offer the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) tend to cover a broad range of facets.
BA programs generally allow students to take good number of electives and interdisciplinary coursework. Students in these programs will most likely study humanities and social science classes along with the math and other business classes.
International students who already have a specific business field in mind are advised to consider BS degree programs. The specializations are similar to those offered in BA programs, but the overall focus is more in-depth. Often BS programs will have a focus on technology and math, emphasizing information systems and mathematical analysis.
When it comes to graduate programs, those considering a master’s degree in business in the USA have three main options available: MA, MSc or MBA.
The core courses of any graduate business degree aim to introduce advanced-level topics in areas of business such as accounting, finance, marketing, human resources and operations management. Many programs then offer a wide range of elective courses, although some are specialized in one particular area of interest right from the start.
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a very popular choice for business-related studies, and it usually requires students to have done a couple of years professional work experience after completing a bachelor’s degree. Some universities also offer the option of an Executive MBA (EMBA) - this is designed for students who are already advanced in their careers and want to continue working full-time while studying. Schedules vary among programs, but most offer part-time formats like weekend classes.
An MSc usually doesn’t require prior work experience and the focus when applying is on previous academic record. The biggest difference between MSc and MBA is that in MSc students focus on one specific topic, for instance, accounting, finance or marketing.
MA generally refers to a wider range of programmes and, as with MSc, it’s not necessarily business related. However, some graduate schools offer programmes leading to an MA degree, with the major topic being management or innovation, for example.
Doctoral programs in business education focus on original research and the creation of new knowledge.
A doctoral degree not only qualifies those who successfully complete one to teach in universities and colleges, but also to work at a high level in a business setting. In order to pursue a doctorate, students must already have a master's degree. However, the master's degree, or undergraduate degree, is not required to have been of a business specialization. Business acumen gained through a master's degree such as an MBA, is preferred, but can also be acquired through significant career experience.
Doctoral degrees include a PhD in business and a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). While PhDs are research-oriented, DBAs are generally practice-oriented.
Business Degree Entry Requirements
Each American university sets its own admission standards and decides which applicants meet those standards. Entry requirements vary according to the degree level, and are different for domestic and international students. Below, we look at requirements for each in more detail.
- US universities will ask for a High School Diploma with good grade point averages (GPAs), in both cases often showing a preference for strong results in mathematics and similar subjects.
- Students applying to universities and colleges in the USA must take certain examinations (SAT, ACT, GMAT etc.) that measure aptitude and achievement.
- Universities may also ask students to demonstrate leadership skills and prove their interest in business, either through an interview or a personal statement.
- It's also worth noting that some business schools are more selective than the larger university or college, and so there are additional steps to take with no guarantee of admission.
- MBAs and other postgraduate business degrees have many similar entry requirements, including GMAT/GRE scores, and academic achievements.
- The most significant difference is that MBA entry requirements also state that applicants must have a minimum amount of professional experience, usually at least two or three years and often more (especially for an Executive MBA).
- Other types of Masters in Business instead focus more on requirements such as a good undergraduate academic degree. Some courses ask for subject-specific degrees (such as a bachelor’s in business administration, business management, economics or finance) while others simply require a good undergraduate degree in any subject.
- Some institutions offer prerequisite or foundational courses in business for students without a strong business background.
To gain admission to a US degree program as an international student, you must meet minimum academic and English level entry requirements.
Good grades in previous academic study are required – high school diploma or undergraduate degree – that are equivalent to the minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) for entry to the degree. GPAs are measured on a 4-point scale.
English language level
To ensure that international students are able to effectively learn and participate in classes on their Business degree, they will need to demonstrate their English language proficiency to apply for admission to a US university. The minimum scores will depend largely on the program and the university.
The most common English language tests are:
- International English Language Testing System exam (IELTS)
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
Each evaluates English reading and writing skills, along with measuring speaking and listening abilities. These tests are usually available to take in students' home countries at centers certified for English language testing.
Other English language tests that are also commonly accepted by US universities are:
- PTE Academic (Pearson Test of English)
- C1 Advanced (formerly known as Cambridge English Advanced)
There is no ‘best’ option for English exams — most US universities accept them all, but it's always best to check before deciding which to take.
6 Schools to Study Business in the USA
When it comes to studying Business, there are many excellent schools to choose from in the USA.
Here, we look at six of those which regularly feature at the top of rankings related to this field of study.
School #1: University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania, often abbreviated simply as Penn or UPenn, is a private Ivy League research university located in Philadelphia.
Image source: University of Pennsylvania - the Wharton School
The University’s prestigious Wharton School is the world’s first collegiate business school, and is renowned for delivering some of the best business programs globally. It was ranked #1 in the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Business Schools category for 2022-23, and also in Niche’s rankings of Best Colleges for Business in America. It also consistently ranks in the top 5 Business Schools in the US by Forbes.
Wharton now comprises 10 academic departments including Accounting, Business Economics and Public Policy, Finance, Healthcare Management, Legal Studies and Business Ethics, Management, Marketing and Statistics.
School #2: Harvard University
Part of the prestigious Ivy League, Harvard University is a highly selective private institution that was founded in 1636. Its top ranked business school is one of the 13 schools and institutes that make up the university as a whole.
Image source: Harvard University Business School
The first MBA program in the world was started at Harvard in 1908, and it has gone on to offer some of the best business programs in the world.
Global research centers affiliated with the school have been established in Japan, Europe, India, and other countries. Harvard has established a vast network of faculty members and alumni around the world that includes over 300,000 alumni in more than 200 countries.
School #3: MIT
Like so many of its schools, MIT’s Sloan School of Management is renowned for academic excellence.
Image source: MIT - Sloan School of Business
It was ranked joint #5 with Harvard in the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Business Schools category for 2022-23.
MIT Sloan boasts 14 Action Learning Laboratories that focus on entrepreneurship, sustainability, and global health. More than 1,300 students, including undergraduates and business executives, participate in 10 academic programs. Classes are taught by approximately 200 experienced professors and lecturers.
School #4: University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
One of the first public universities in the US, the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor is a top ranked university which is particularly recognized for its business programs.
Image source: University of Michigan - Ross School of Business
UM’s Ross School of Business was established in 1924 and currently offers degree programs that include a Bachelor of Business Administration, Management, Supply Chain Management. It was ranked #10 in the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Business Schools category for 2022-23.
Business students are taught by over 150 experienced faculty members. Enrollment figures show over 3,000 students beginning annually and the network includes 45,000 alumni in over 88 countries.
Ann Arbor, Michigan (45 minutes from Detroit)
School #5: University of California, Berkeley
University of California—Berkeley's Haas School of Business is the second-oldest business school in the country, and often recognized as one of the best.
Image source: University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business
It was ranked #2 in the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Undergraduate Business Schools category for 2022-23 and #8 in the Best Business Schools category.
Six degree programs are offered to over 2,200 students who come from around the globe. The programs and research are organized into three institutes: the Institute for Business Innovation, the Institute for Business and Social Impact, and the Energy Institute. Business school graduates make up an alumni network of approximately 40,000, who take up careers all around the world.
School #6: University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin is a large and prestigious public institution that was founded in 1883.
Image source: University of Texas at Austin - McCombs School of Business
The university’s McCombs School of Business was ranked #7 in the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Undergraduate Business Schools category for 2022-23. It ranked #18 in the Best Business Schools category.
It offers the following departments and concentrations: accounting, consulting, entrepreneurship, finance, general management, international business, marketing, management information systems, not-for-profit management, production/operations management, portfolio management, public policy, real estate, and supply chain management/logistics.
Read more about the Best Business Schools in the US
Career Opportunities for Business Degree Graduates
Corporate business careers are available in pretty much every sector you can think of, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of business and financial occupations to grow eight percent from 2020 through 2030, which means 750,800 new jobs.
For many business graduates, the traditional career paths still hold a strong appeal – including those in the banking and financial sectors, consultancy, human resources and marketing.
Photo by Tyler Franta on Unsplash
- There are many opportunities in marketing and advertising for graduates with a business degree. Businesses and organizations need marketing expertise in a variety of areas, including product development, sales, and advertising.
- Graduates from marketing programs are in demand at all professional levels, from entry-level roles such as market research analyst or social media coordinator, to executive roles such as marketing manager or above that, marketing director.
- The median annual salary of a marketing manager in 2021 was $135,030.
- Most business studies degrees will cover aspects of finance, however, for those hoping to pursue a career in finance, there is usually a need to gain further qualifications.
- A common path for business graduates is to apply for a graduate role and complete a specialized finance qualification whilst in employment, the cost of which will often be covered by the firm.
- Working in finance may involve reviewing a company’s financial situation, advising on tax and expenditure, preventing bad practice and fraud, and assisting with mergers and acquisitions.
- Entry-level finance roles can include financial advisor and investment banking analyst, and with more experience (and often an MBA behind you), you can then go on to consider more senior roles such as financial manager, risk manager and investment strategist.
- In 2021, the median annual salary for a financial manager was $131,710.
- Managers can be found across all industries and fields, and their primary role is to provide strategy and structure to a workplace.
- Because of the responsibility of such positions, it's uncommon to take on a managerial role without first gaining a graduate degree or a number of years of mid-level work experience.
- Management consultants or management analysts carry out a process for clients, similar to the case analysis method used in business degrees. They apply analytical and problem-solving skills to their projects and utilize the teamwork and presentation skills developed through their degree.
- The median annual salary for management analysts in 2021 was $93,000.
- In the globalized world of today, many roles within a business context will have an international element.
- For those who are hoping to specialize in international business or hope to join a global business, gaining a business degree in a foreign country (such as the US for those who come from other parts of the world) will be very beneficial for their future career. It is the perfect evidence of an ability to thrive in, and work alongside, other cultures.
- Having completed a degree in an English-speaking country (the global language of Business) will also give business graduates of US universities another distinct advantage.
- International business graduates often join organizations such as banks, management consultancies, recruitment agencies and technology companies, which are often based in large, cosmopolitan cities and may offer opportunities for inter-continental travel and living.
- Recruitment, training and pay are all areas covered by Human Resources. Excellent communication skills are essential for this specialization, but human resource specialists also need to have a good basic understanding of business operations and management as well as detailed and up-to-date knowledge of employment laws and company regulations.
- A human resources specialist's main job is to ensure the well-being of employees within a business or organization. Human resource management involves recruiting potential employees, hiring qualified employees, appropriately training employees, and maintaining those employees within the company.
- The median annual wage for human resources specialists was $62,290 in May 2021.
- Accountants help organizations to finance their operations, abide by government regulations, save money, and maximize their profits.
- Accountants conduct audits and provide consulting and tax planning services. They often move on to leadership positions within the finance division of their organization or client organizations.
- Entry-level job titles within the Accountancy field include accounting associate, accounting representative, staff accountant. Roles undertaken once you have more experience include controller, forensic accountant, management accountant.
- The median annual wage for accountants and auditors was $77,250 in May 2021.
6 Factors to Consider when Choosing a Business Degree Program
Each business school has its own unique qualities. Although it can be tempting to focus primarily on the institution’s overall prestige, through researching the various rankings published, there are many other factors to consider to ensure you’re getting an education that suits your learning (and living) style and fits your long-term goals.
1. Course structure and content
Whilst the first few years of an undergraduate business program are relatively similar, every school is unique in some way. For example, some schools require students to declare their major immediately, while others allow students to wait until their sophomore or junior year. This is an important aspect to consider.
Whether you already know which area of business you would like to focus on, or not, it’s a good idea to research the types of specializations the university might offer. Specializations allow you to tailor your business or business administration degree to meet your career goals and interests, so it’s important to establish what is available.
It’s also worth researching how your prospective bachelor’s degree is accredited (i.e. NEASC, BAC, AMBA, AACSB) – this is especially important to ensure the educational quality and rigor. Additionally, looking into the right type of accreditation will ensure that your degree is properly recognized in your home country, or anywhere you may be interested in working as a graduate.
2. Program cost and financial aid options
Tuition fees at US colleges and universities can range hugely - from around $5,000 to $50,000 per year. Most undergraduate degrees last four years.
The average cost of tuition for out-of-state students at a typical four-year public university (such as Michigan State University) is around $28,000. Private, non-profit universities, such as Stanford University and Ivy League Harvard University, generally charge over $35,000 per year.
Having an idea of your overall budget will certainly inform the final choices you make when it comes to university applications. Bear in mind however, that while the cost of studying may initially seem high, there are a host of options for financial aid and scholarships which can significantly reduce the total cost for students.
Learn more about the cost of study in the USA
3. Faculty expertise
Business degrees differ from other college programs in that they generally have a practical, hands-on approach. As well as solid academic background, it’s very important that faculty have valuable, real-world experience in the business field.
The more business experience professors have, the better will be the learning process for students. With their help, you can also build a network of contacts and benefit from their first-hand experience.
4. Alumni network and career services
It’s always a good idea to research the alumni I network in place at your prospective university. A university’s alumni network is an incredibly valuable resource. It’s common for alumni to organize networking events, publish newsletters or magazines, and support fundraising efforts for their institution. Through a good alumni network, you can build professional connections, organize and take part in reunion activities, and give back to your school.
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash
Equally, it’s a good idea to check out the type of career services offered by the university as this can be integral to your success in finding suitable internships, and becoming ‘employment ready’.
Good Careers Services will have excellent links to local employers and organizations, and will provide a range of campus workshops and one-on-one career advising to complement your studies.
5. Location and campus life
An important factor to consider when it comes to choosing a university for your Business degree is its location, and the lifestyle on campus that it offers. Colleges offer a variety of opportunities for students to be involved on campus. Clubs, organizations, and sports teams, are all ways to be pursue your interests and hobbies, meet new people, and even acquire leadership experience.
The setting is also important - whether you would prefer to be at a city center university, a university with a suburban setting or one which is situated in rural surrounds is most likely a personal preference. It can also however affect the finances required for aspects such as transportation, and housing (large cities such as New York and Washington DC being likely to be more expensive).
A university’s location can also be important in terms of the immediate opportunities for networking and internships. For example, a college with a big-city setting may well have more scope for students to gain work experience with big companies based in the area.
If you have specific goals in terms of the sector you’d like to work in, it may also be worth researching which areas specialize in them - for example, anyone keen on a career in tech may want to explore West Coast universities near Silicon Valley, such as UC Berkeley.
6. Past student success
Looking into student success stories will provide you with good insight into how schools and their programs prepare students for a promising future.
Testimonials, job placement statistics, and who are some of the top hiring companies are a few examples of the indicators to look out for.
Tips for researching and comparing different business degree programs
As experts in university pathways and preparation, Kings are perfectly placed to help you prepare for a US Business degree, and establish which program and which university will be best for you.
English language programs
For anyone who has already decided on their chosen Business degree and college, our range of English language programs can be the ideal preparation for university success. Whether you’re looking for a general English program, an exam preparation course (such as TOEFL or IELTS) or a specialized Business English program, there are a range of options across our locations in the US (Boston, New York and LA) and the UK.
University preparation and pathways
With Kings' Premium Universities programs in the US, international students complete the first two years of their bachelor's degree at one of our partner universities (located in Boston, New York, California, Wisconsin and Oregon), before generally transferring to complete their degree at a top ranked university.
These settings provide the optimum place for international students to start their US university degree, offering small classes, welcoming communities and the opportunity to study — and live — alongside American students from Day One.
The extensive support that we provide ensures students are happy, successful and able to transfer to one of the Top 50 or Top 100 universities in the United States to complete their degree.
Current US universities which have accepted Kings students to major in Business include: Cornell University, Fordham University. UCLA, USC, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UC Davis, Emory University, University of Rochester, Boston University, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, Indiana University Bloomington and University of Miami.
Meet some of our students here
We hope that this article has helped you understand more about the ins and outs of Business degrees in the US, and how Kings Guaranteed Outcome programs and English language courses can help you get there.
If you would like receive more detailed information about the Kings and our programs, please get in touch with us at email@example.com.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Is a business degree worth it in the USA?
A business degree from a US university can increase job prospects, create advancement opportunities, and increase your salary and lifetime income. Choosing your university and degree program carefully is the key to ensuring you graduate with the best possible prospects - make sure to select good universities that offer great opportunities for work experience and networking and specializations suitable to your areas of interest.
2. How many years is a business degree in the USA?
Typically business degrees last three or four years at undergraduate level (depending on the program), and a further one or two years at master’s level. Undergraduate business degrees will typically start with a focus on core business principles, later on allowing students to choose specializations. At master’s level and beyond, even greater specialization is possible.
3. What is the most popular major for a business degree in the USA?
According to a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the most popular major for a business degree in the USA is Finance.
Other popular majors include:
- Business administration/management
- Logistics/supply chain
- Management information systems
4. What is the difference between a BA and a BS?
A Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree offers students a broader education in their major. Students are required to take a variety of liberal art subjects such as humanities, literature, history and social sciences.
A Bachelor of Science (BS) degree offers students a more specialized education in their major, and students have fewer chances to take classes outside of their major. A BS degree is generally offered in technical and scientific topics like engineering, technology, mathematics, computer science.
It's worth noting that Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Sciences are both perceived equally.