Career With A Business Degree, Advice On A Business Career
Q: I'm in NZ, have finished a year of college (mostly science), and am thinking
of majoring in some kind of business. I've found it difficult to find good
knowledgable advice on the area though, so I hope someone will be able to
help me here. I post here because I've read many past threads, and the
moderators clearly have a great deal of knowledge, the correctness of which
I can trust. Anyway, I'm basically looking for some general information on
1. The Degree.
a) I gather the knowledge gained won't mean an awful lot, but I wonder what
area is good to focus in. I am thinking of moving into management. Is it
best to do a wide range of business subjects, with focus on marketing and
b) Is a business degree even the best degree for management? I have the
option of a conjoint (double major) degree in computer science/business, or
perhaps an engineering degree. People I know (with technical bias) say it
would be best to get a technical degree, and then move into management.
They say the most common qualification of a person on a board of directors
(?) is an engineering degree (in NZ and UK). Is this true in general?
c) What would the computer science part of the business/compsci degree add?
2. Entering the workforce.
What kind of position could I expect upon graduating with a business degree?
In the interests of future and salary, what kind of company would it be best
to join? With business degree? Or engineering degree?
3. Future prospects.
Where would I move up to during the years? With business degree?
Engineering degree? How does one get into top management positions? Is it
mostly networking? How much is competence based? What kind of salary range
might I expect to move into (US situation is fine)? In 5 years, 10, 20?
What might differing jobs involve?
A:This is long and complicated question. I am going to take a stab at answering a little of it. But first, I am a middle manager in oil and gas marketing. My BA degree is in English, and my minor subject was Physics. I held previous jobs in the securities industry, technical writing, and bookkeeping. I think you will hear many different answers here. Personally, I think it is better to have a technical degree first. If you are ambitious in business, you will likely want or need a graduate degree, which could be in business or law or something else. I think it depends on how far you want to go. I know some very successful people in my industry that have only an undergraduate Bus. degree. They have interesting jobs and make good money (my definition anyway), let's say 100,000/y CDN. The most successful people I know, however, in my industry, got a technical degree first: eng. or geol. or geophys. or bus/acctg. and then got an MBA or law or equiv. later on, or they have *only* the tech. degree and run their own business. There are, of course, exceptions. I know one extremely successful gentleman who didn't finish 8th grade (age 14). He has (again) his own business, using heavy equipment, excavators, etc., and started with one backhoe when he was 19. He is passionate, however, about what he does, and I don't hear that in your voice. I think that really depends on a lot of factors. When you say you are in NZ is that New Zealand? I only know North America. Are the principles the same everywhere? Sometimes working for a small company has the advantage of wearing a lot of different hats. You get to try lots of different things, and the sky's the limit. Large companies, however, tend to have better structured training programs. There is something to be said for working for a larger company at least to start. I have found that these people gain a certain polish, that people who have never worked for a large company never gain. I find that large company employees learn something about meetings, presentations, and office theatre. In a large company, how you move up can be mapped out and strategized. This is unknown in a small company. Starting out salary? Gee, it's hard to say, and it's going to vary by industry. I'd say with a business degree or tech. degree and the possibility of going back to school later for an MBA, you'd start in the 30-40K range. If you get the MBA first, you could start at 60K-80K coming out of business school. A geophys. in my industry, can come out of univ. with a 4 years Bachelor's and start at 50K-60K. Large companies: Airlines don't pay great (unless you're a pilot) but you get the flight benefits. The airlines aren't doing well right now overall. Banks don't pay great unless you're at the top. Oil and Gas tends to pamper their employees. You can generally make more money if you're willing to work overseas (or on an offshore rig or out in the bush). What concerns me most about your post, is the overall lack of passion. I would like to see you working in an industry that *interests* you. Only you can know what that is. Agriculture? Manufacturing? Banking? Software? If I could do it over again, I would have gotten a technical degree first. Then while I was deciding what I wanted to be and trying on different hats, I could have had something to fall back on that I was *certified* in. I would have gotten certified to teach grade school or be a nurse or as an accountant, rather then just get a degree in English. Yes, it's true that most MBA's require work experience first. However, in my experience many large companies will hire you on some kind of "executive track" with the understanding that eventually you will get a more advanced degree. If all things were equal, I think the MBA would take you further, but all things generally aren't equal. If you want to be senior management in a large company, or run a company, then it's probably useful. If you want to work for a small company or your own, you can probably do fine without it. I'm a great believer in education. Education is the one thing that no one can ever take away from you. Many things can be self-taught, but there is some benefit to studying a structured program, and having some certification to show people. I think it depends on how you define success. I think in general the technical people make more money faster if they are good at what they do. Engineers, computer people, etc. I know a doctor and a dentist who each make about $300,000/y. I know a guy who sells oil/gas pipe and makes the same. He has no degrees at all. There is no doubt that all things being equal, people make more money in the US than in Canada, and they pay less in taxes. Some people think Canada has other better things to offer that compensate for the $$.
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