Do most professional business careers require you to go to college?
I am interested in the business field but not sure what area specifically. I am taking a gap year and deciding whether it would be better to go straight into the work force or apply to a university.
I believe there are two main benefits of attending college: learning how to think abstractly and critically and having access to networking opportunities. I graduated from Georgia Tech with a Bachelor’s degree in Management and a certificate in Marketing. Like you, I hadn’t decided on a specific career path when I applied for college. Throughout the four years I spent in college, I considered various career paths, ranging from wedding planning to digital marketing. Majoring in Management was a good choice for me, because it was broad enough that I never felt the need to switch my major when my career interests changed.
If you are hoping to get an entry level job that pays well with room for progression, having a Bachelor’s degree from a reputable college is likely the easiest path. Colleges will often connect you with internship opportunities, giving you exposure to different types of jobs and expanding your network, which may help with your future full-time job search. When exploring different colleges and programs, you will want to make sure the price of tuition aligns with the earning potential of your degree.
Should you decide against getting a college degree, I suggest enrolling in another type of continuing education program. This can help you learn relevant skills and make you more marketable when you search for a job. Some options include online institutions like Udemy or Udacity or even a program with a traditional university like Georgia Tech’s online data science boot camp. I got a nanodegree from Udacity in Business Analysis a few years ago, and it was a great way to learn new skills. To succeed in an online program, you will have to be disciplined and able to complete deliverables without much instruction.
As you mentioned, another option is to go straight into the workforce after your gap year. I have several coworkers who have achieved great success in their careers without any formal education after high school. In some cases, their paths may have been a bit tougher than those of colleagues with a formal education, but once you are more established in your career, your education will matter a lot less than your work ethic and the results you produce.
Some companies may provide tuition reimbursement for undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees or other degree programs (like nanodegrees) that provide skills relevant to your career path. I believe this is more common at bigger companies. At AT&T, for example, tuition reimbursement is offered if you pursue an approved program, get sign-off from your leadership team and complete the coursework outside of your working hours. Depending on the program and school chosen, reimbursement may not cover the full cost of tuition.
I hope this helps, and good luck on your journey!
Katherine recommends the following next steps:
These are all great answers above. Another way of learning for you to consider as a non-traditional path, is building your skills in the technology industry by self-study. As technology continues to be on the leading edge of many industries, it is a great place for some people to start their career. At Salesforce, we've created an online learning platform for people to learn new skills, check it out at https://trailhead.salesforce.com/ and explore some different opportunities have for you to build new skills in technology!
Shaun recommends the following next steps:
In the universities, you can learn not only the knowledge of the major subject you choose, it also trains your analysis skills and critical thinking. And, you can establish good people network which is beneficial for your future career.
Since you have planned to have a gap year, you can start your working life. You can find out how you feel and what areas you have interested on. Then, you can decided whether you will continue your study and what subjects you have interest on.
Alternatively, you can also consider to work for a few years and return to the university to continue your study. There is no limitation that you must finish the tertiary education before joining the workforce. It is really subject to your own choice.
On the other hand, the university life is one of my enjoyable moments in my life. Other than studying, I have joined a lot of extra curriculum activities and had a lot of memorable moments with my university friends. You should not miss these chances.
Hope this helps! Good Luck!
Another option you may want to consider is beginning school at a community or state college while also starting a job. Community colleges can offer great educational opportunities at lower costs than traditional universities; usually, you would be able to earn a two-year/Associates degree. Some state colleges do offer four-year/Bachelors degrees as well, particularly in popular majors such as business. I attended community college when I began my college career and it had two specific benefits that I think might appeal to you:
1) The "target audience" of the classes is usually working adults, so scheduling can be much more flexible if you are starting a career in parallel or just working your way through school.
2) You meet a much wider variety of people in community college. At my university, for the most part, everyone was 18-25, had started college out of high school, and were busy choosing their careers with little to no job experience (big exception here was veterans using GI bill or other military college programs). At community college, people in my classes ranged from 16 year old dual enrollment students to 65+ year olds looking to keep their minds sharp, not to mention everyone in between. People were much more likely to be working their way through school, and I learned some great insights from them on what different careers might look like and what might be transferable skills.
Looking back, I gained a lot out of my time at both community college and university, but my community college time felt really unique and special. It made me more prepared to relate to people very different than me, which is a great skill no matter what career you choose! It's worth considering.
It has been my personal experience that no, you don't need a degree in most professional business careers. I did not get my first college degree until I was 33. In business, it is often about your skills and talents as well as willingness to learn. In business, earning a college degree, any degree, can help with how you are paid or what jobs that you are considered for. In other words, not having a degree can create a ceiling for you in some roles that you may want to pursue. For example, I am in Learning and Development. When I was a trainer, having a college degree would not have been required but there is a value in learning deeply about what you want to do for a career. You can get a lot of information from courses in LinkedIn or certifications and those can achieve over time what a college degree gives you in a more fixed period of time. I actually found it was valuable to have done the job before I got my college degree. It informed the classes that I took and the way that I applied what I learned since I knew how training worked. I did end up getting two diplomas. This was mostly a reaction to the time in my life. I had been laid off and all companies at the time wanted trainers with diplomas. I had to do a job that I didn't like for two years as I completed my degree. I then continued my education to get a Masters degree so that I would not have a barrier to the job that I love ever again.
On the flip side, find a field you love and go to college and go from there!
Adam Ek, MBA, MS
There are a lot of different ways to think about your professional business career. One of the potentially most challenging thing that you will need to do is determine what success looks like for you and what kind of activities you want to do.
There are a variety of interest profilers out there such as ONET Online's Career Interest Profiler: https://www.mynextmove.org/explore/ip
Based upon your results, it will provide you with some careers based upon your potential education and experience. That will give you some ideas of what kind of education and experience you need based upon those career options.
For instance, if you know that you want to be a CPA, you will definitely need a bachelor's degree and a lot of accounting classes to be qualified for that certification/licensure. The more specific the role and level of expertise will typically drive the explicit need for education.
As others have indicated, there are a variety of ways that many students grow their critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills through a college education which will help in any profession you end up in. Whether or not you can afford to pursue that full time right now or if you need to start working in order to pay the bills is something that you will want to reflect on.
To echo what others have said, community college is an affordable way to start a college education or looking at organizations that offer support to go back to school. Several programs exist now that help pay for a college education as a fringe benefit to employment at many organizations.
Final words of advice:
Make a goal, find a way to start working toward that goal, and course correct along the way. Your career and life is a journey, enjoy the ride the best that you can!