The International Guide to Studying Business

Encompassing a wide range of specialisms, Business is one of the most popular subjects for international students. Here's our guide to studying business around the world.

What words come into your head when you hear the phrase ‘studying business at university?’

Do you instantly picture a career where the salary is high and the perks are great? Or do you perhaps think of those young, precocious and dynamic CEOs and entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs (fun fact: neither of them actually studied business).

We’d be willing to bet that at least one of these thoughts or preconceptions has passed through the minds of some of your students too.

You could almost say there’s a romantic quality about studying a business-related degree. The study of business is one that lends itself to an image of success and instant employability. And this is often a perception that’s at least partially rooted in reality!

Perhaps that’s why business-related programmes and disciplines are so popular with so many international students, including the students who use our platform to make those crucial higher education decisions!

One of the great things about business-related degrees is that they encompass such a large and diverse family of other qualifications and specialisms. We couldn’t possibly list them all here, but a few notable examples include:

  • Business and Management
  • International Business
  • Economics
  • Business and Marketing
  • Accounting and Finance
  • Human Resource Management

In the final instalment of our international careers series, we’ll explore business-related degrees and qualifications in a bit more detail and give you all the info you need to help those aspiring entrepreneurs and business-minded students at your school.

Free eBook: The International Careers Handbook

Help your students navigate different international careers pathways with our free handbook spanning the six major subject families.

What can students do with a business qualification?

Undertaking a business degree is a great way for your students to develop the transferable skills needed for working in a corporate environment. And because there are corporate jobs available in almost every sector, when it comes to career options the whole world is open to students who opt for this subject!

That being said, the most common career pathways for business graduates include banking, accounting and finance, management, and retail and sales.

Because of the variety of pathways a business degree can lead to, it can be a good option for students who want to develop skills and competencies for a wide range of jobs, instead of specialising right away.

It may also be a subject worth recommending to any students who have ambitions to start their own company, as it can help them learn the necessary skills, and find out whether they are (or aren’t!) cut out to be a business owner.

What does studying business typically look like?

Content

As we mentioned above, business degrees often focus on helping students develop transferable skills, including communication, decision-making and numeracy. For students who prefer a practical outlook, much of the learning is related to real-world examples and case studies.

But, though we’re treating it as one discipline for the purposes of this article, “business” isn’t a catch-all term, and on the whole, these degrees are very flexible.

Business degrees may be combined with another discipline or specialism and can range broadly from a more creative course such as Business and Marketing to a more numerical course such as Business, Finance and Accounting. Which route your students choose to take is up to them!

Length

A business undergraduate degree is usually the standard length of 3-4 years, but qualification may take longer if a student opts for a postgraduate qualification (we’ll share more information on this later).

Assessment

For the most part, a business degree will be assessed via a mixture of exams, coursework, and group presentations. Many institutions will also encourage students to undertake work experience or an internship at some point during their course.

Postgraduate options

In order to develop the skills they learned in their undergraduate degree, and to help them stand out from other applicants when job-searching, many business students choose to take a postgraduate qualification - the most popular being the Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Many graduate jobs and schemes in this discipline will also offer the chance to study for a professional qualification while working - which can be a fantastic opportunity for students who may not be able to afford further full-time study.

Studying Business: Hear from Bocconi University & University of Exeter

Where should students apply for a business qualification?

For your students who are interested in a business degree, there is no wrong option! From France to Singapore, there are great Business Schools all over the world.

Many countries have a range of specialist business institutions, where the majority of students will study business and related disciplines. Students may find themselves drawn to this option as they will be able to mix with people with similar interests and aspirations.

But even without going to a specialist institution, many prestigious global universities have an attached business school - for example, Columbia Business School in the USA or Warwick Business School in the UK.

So, when they are considering where to apply, you should encourage your students to consider which universities might be the best fit for them in other areas besides academics - e.g. distance from home and campus life.

Which subjects should students take at high school level?

It will help their application if students take subjects that showcase their knowledge of business and current affairs - a few options are economics, business studies, history or politics. And it’s also worth bearing in mind that if your students are interested in the more numerical pathways of business (like accounting and finance), then maths is a must!

How can students make their applications stand out?

Many students will have business experience without even realising it! Any part-time job can equip them with practical skills such as resilience, time-management, people management and customer relations, as well as giving them insight into the corporate world.

Other skills students may find it useful to showcase when applying include:

  • Entrepreneurship: Have they attempted a small business venture in the past (even if it failed)?
  • Leadership: Have they led a club or organisation? Have they taken on a role of responsibility at school?
  • An interest in current affairs and the financial market: Students should prepare to back this up with examples.

Other routes into business

It’s an oft-quoted fact that many of the world’s richest businessmen don’t have university degrees (think: Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg). However, unless your students have a million-dollar idea under their belt, it’s likely that to pursue a career in business they will need some form of education!

For students who don’t think a university degree is for them, many countries offer vocational courses and apprenticeships in business and its related disciplines. For example, Universities of Applied Sciences in Germany/the Netherlands or Colleges of Technology in Japan offer a more practical, work-based approach to learning.

In some countries, the range of vocational courses available will be quite limited, so it’s worth students researching the options available to them in their chosen country/countries.
Don’t forget, our whole International Careers Handbook is still available for you to download if you haven’t already. As well as business-related degrees, we cover a whole range of other subjects and disciplines and explain how your students can plan a truly international career path.

Download it below!

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