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Things Your College Advisor Didn't Tell You About Your Business Degree

At some point in your pursuit of a degree, you'll find yourself sitting in front of an advisor, hoping for a little guidance with the big decisions before you. Advisors, however, don't know everything about every program a university offers, and they know even less about your life and the situation that led you to these options in the first place. This is especially true when it comes to business degrees, as some of the most important benefits of your college experience won't be from courses or seminars. So, just what are these opportunities you should be looking out for as you earn your degree in business?

Business Schools Offer Incredible Networking Opportunities

There will be few points in a person's life where they are surrounded by as many like-minded people as they are when enrolled in a college major. Everyone around you is working to achieve the same goals, learning the same material and eager to put it to the test. Business school is fertile ground for developing relationships that could last decades, bringing lifelong benefits to both parties. Each of your fellow students will have their own network of contacts, potentially increasing your reach to former coworkers, family members, and friends in other majors that you may never have had the chance to meet otherwise. Whether it's potential investors in a start-up, reliable employees, or a business partner with a plan, the value of these contacts shouldn't be underestimated. After all, many of the greatest business success stories throughout history began in a college dorm room.

Beyond your fellow students, you may also find yourself able to rely on the experience and contacts of your professors as well. Business professors are more likely than professors in other departments to have had hands-on, relevant experience in the area in which they're teaching, and will offer up the wisdom they've accrued over the years. Whether it's advice on starting a company, helping you to secure an internship, or just a personal anecdote on their own experiences in the world of business, maintaining a good relationship with your professors can only increase the value of your business degree.

Acquiring Relevant Experience can be Just as Important as a Degree

Experience and education are often bizarrely presented as a dichotomy, where any particular individual can only aim for one or the other. Certainly, there has been some truth to this in the past; a degree could help one obtain a job in lieu of experience, or vice versa. In the modern world of business, however, neither one alone is able to guarantee you can find the career you want. That isn't to say that a degree has lost its value, but rather that employers and investors are looking for individuals who can prove they've taken their education and put it into practice. Universities are beginning to recognize this and increase the amount of practical experience offered through internships, partnerships with local companies, and simulated experiences, but there aren't always enough of these to go around.

As you near the end of your time in college, it's critical to acquire this experience if you want a running start after graduation. Professors, as mentioned above, may have leads on alternatives to school-affiliated internships to offer, such as businesses that had participated in prior years. Summer positions at small businesses are another great option, as you can learn firsthand how a small business is run and what it takes to keep it afloat on a day-to-day basis. Alternatively, starting clubs or other organizations at the university can demonstrate initiative and a willingness to lead, especially if the organization you create leaves a lasting positive impact on the school or the surrounding community. Even positions such as treasurer in a large existing club can offer employers an idea of your potential.

Certification May be the Real Key to Higher Earnings

There are a huge number of different programs that fall under the banner of business degrees, and certification isn't relevant to all of them. But for those professions with certifying organizations, it's often one of the most important things you can do for your career. Accountants, for example, can become Certified Public Accountants, or CPAs, by passing the CPA exam, holding a bachelor's degree, and gaining a few years of experience (the exact number varies from state to state). CPAs often have a higher earning potential than accountants that aren't certified with a similar level of experience, especially late in one's career. The Accounting Institute for Success provides analyzed salary data showing that the average senior accountant would make between $63,000 and $95,000 each year, while a senior-level CPA makes between $66,000 and $110,000.

Certifications exist for other fields as well, where they are often less compulsory than CPA. Project Management Professionals, or PMPs, are individuals certified through the Project Management Institute (PMI) who have demonstrated their skill at handling projects with finite end goals within companies. A 2017 study by PMI indicated that project managers with PMP certification in the US had a median salary of $115,000, while those without certification had a median salary of $92,000. Most of these certifications require a bachelor's degree at minimum, so your degree does act as an important stepping stone in your career, even if it isn't the final stage you may have expected it to be.

In the end, a business degree is worth more than an advisor is likely to be able to tell you, provided you utilize your time in college and your resulting degree properly. Networking at business school can offer connections you'd never have thought possible, while the experience earned through internships or extracurricular activities supplements the formal education found in your degree program. After graduation, your degree will function as a step on the ladder of success, allowing you to reach higher than ever with certifications that affirm your proven ability. A profitable career awaits, so don't wait to get started earning your business degree.