Many students hope that they will eventually work in a business; they hope to get jobs right out of college. Many also believe that they have to study business in order to get that first job. Yet of the roughly 3,000 people who graduate from the University of Michigan every year, many more than the approximately 330 BBA graduates have fulfilling, gainful employment. So the study of Business differs from the practice of business. What does the study of Business involve? What if you want to get an MBA? What should you concentrate in if you don't go to the Business School? What does it take to get into the Business School? How can you learn more about liberal arts and careers? Click on the links below to discover answers to these questions, and more.
Susan J. Doyle, Ph.D. Coordinator of Outreach Programs, LSA Academic Advising
Graduate Business Study
Accounting is the study of how institutions record and report their income and expenses. There's no alternative to the study of Accounting in any other school except the Business School. However, if you have a passion to be a Certified Public Accountant, you need graduate work. You can get that through the Masters of Accounting (MAcc) program, which doesn't require an undergraduate business degree. Check out more about the program at the Accounting web site (http://www.bus.umich.edu/Academics/Departments/Accounting/Accounting/Macc.htm). Don't make the MAcc decision without at least taking ACC 271 and 272, which will give you a good idea of how Accounting is taught at Michigan, and whether or not you want to pursue another (roughly) 24 credits in this area. Note that you need to take the GMAT (www.mba.com) for admission to this program.
The study of Finance involves learning about how money moves through an economy, and how it's applied and used in that economy, in both the public and private, profit, non-profit and governmental sectors. As such, it requires some quantitative skill. The most direct equivalent to Finance in LSA is Economics (www.lsa.umich.edu/econ), where you will study the theory behind many of the decisions you would study in the more case-based finance classes of the Business School. But also consider these majors:
Math: Mathematics has various tracks that its majors can pursue, and two of those are Actuarial Math and Financial Math. Although the two programs are similar, Actuarial Math is the more statistics-based of the two, and leads to a little more specificity in career choices (you're aiming at taking the exam to be an actuary). Financial Math is aimed at the study of risk management. Risk management is the theory behind (and models for) many of the decisions made by portfolio managers, equity specialists, market analysts, etc. Learn more about these two tracks at the web site (www.lsa.umich.edu/math/undergrad/majorandminorprograms/infinmajorprograms).
Statistics: Statistics is the study of data collection and analysis, and the reporting of data analysis outcomes. Since you're doing so much quantitative analysis, it can be useful for all kinds of financial analysis. You'll be conversant with large amounts of quantitative data, and you'll know how to interpret existing data sets. And they have two minors, too. Get more information on their web site (www.lsa.umich.edu/stats/undergraduate).
Sociology: Sociology has sub-majors, and one of those is Economy, Business and Society. To quote their web site, (www.lsa.umich.edu/soc/undergraduateprogram) "it focuses on economic development, complex organizations, bureaucracies, industry, corporations, professions and occupations and the sociology of work." In other words, it's a nice synergy of the (mildly) quantitative and the human interactions that help define the daily and long-term functions of business systems. As such, it combines analysis (crucial for finance) with a long view of system development (crucial for an understanding of financial systems).
Computer Science: It's one you wouldn't think of, but it's very quantitative, and it requires persistence, and enormous problem-solving skills. Not only does it involve a thorough grounding in the minutiae of source code, it also requires the ability to conceptualize an outcome and achieve that outcome through the application of that source code. It entails extensive trial and error ("what-if" analysis in the financial trade), an understanding of formulas and rendering those formulas as programs, and a lot of creative thought and analysis. For more info, consult their web site (www.eecs.umich.edu/eecs/undergraduate/).
Marketing has many parts, but as approached by Michigan's Business School, it focuses on product development and brand management. This can mean anything from analyzing the best market for a specific product, to doing follow-up analysis about product efficacy, to planning a marketing campaign, to selling product, to assessing a customer base, to designing market research-- it's a broad array of possibilities that require a broad array of skills. Much of this work will be done as part of a marketing team. Given this background, it's fairly apparent that you can major in just about anything in LSA and end up in a marketing position.
So thinking about marketing involves thinking about the kinds of skills you'll need to develop through your LSA coursework and extra-curricular activities. Here are just a few.
Audience awareness: Good marketers need the ability to put themselves in the place of both prospective consumers and corporate clients. They need an awareness of audience. They also need to be able to analyze what the corporate customer needs, what the consumer might want to buy, and what would be the best way to sell the company's product or service to that audience.
Critical thinking and analysis: It follows then that good marketers must be able to see both the 'big picture' and the details, and put the details into that picture. They need the ability to ask good questions, and to put the answers to those questions into a context for both corporations and their clients. They must be able to make cogent arguments based on accurate knowledge, and an understanding of market needs. And they must be prepared to asses the aftermath of any marketing campaign.
Communication: Good marketers, therefore, need to be able to talk, write and present to a variety of audiences. But they also need to be able to put together networks of people with disparate interests and goals, and help those groups to build consensus, and come to agreement. They need to build networks of contacts to whom they will sell, and who will give them sales leads. Any LSA major asks you to both speak and write about its subject content. But this skill can also be developed through your extra-curricular activities, as well. Whether you're fund raising for your community service project, set designing for a theatre production, writing ad copy for the Daily, chairing a committee for MSA or LSA Student Government, developing excellent time management skills by working and going to school, talking to the media after an important athletic win or loss, or any number of the many ways students involve themselves, you're gaining important ability to present yourself, and your knowledge, to a variety of audiences, and in a variety of ways.
Subject Knowledge: Good marketers need to be conversant enough in a subject that they can carry on a conversation with experts in a field. This is the major, and why you want to choose one that you enjoy. It's also why agencies hire Chemistry majors-- they can talk to Pharmaceutical companies, for example.
An understanding of popular culture, and the culture to which you are trying to sell products. While it's important to be conversant in a subject, it's also important to understand the culture of the target audience for any marketing campaign. Campaigns that target a youth market, for example, are very different from those targeting senior citizens. Being conversant in issues related to various marketing niches is a valuable skill.
So you can see that many majors prepare you to work in the field of marketing. But you are the sum of your parts, and the other parts of your life also contribute to the total picture of who you are, and the skills you bring to any job. Be prepared to speak about all aspects of your life when you go for job interviews with marketing firms, because it's all of those parts that make you compelling and interesting, and a great employee.
Management and Organizations: the People Side of Business
Behind the products and services of business entities are the decisions that determine how employees spend their time, how they are rewarded, and how their jobs are defined. Business entities are organized in many different ways, but all require a set of top-level decision makers, and a department that oversees the human resources (HR) of the entity. This is the people side of the business world.
Most recent graduates do not end up in high-level decision making positions immediately upon graduation. But it is entirely possible to work in the human resources or training end of an organization, and it is possible to gain the skills that can place you in future management positions.
Human resources personnel are frequently responsible for these functions:
- Recruiting and hiring, and determining the best uses of personnel
- Determining the reporting lines and organizational structure
- Managing change
- Drawing up, implementing and managing performance standards
- Managing industrial and employee relations
- Analyzing personnel resources
- Negotiating and managing compensation, rewards, and benefits
- Training and development
Therefore, you need to have, or cultivate, these traits:
- The ability to see connections
- Active listening
- The ability to make decisions based on a good hypothesis but without having all the information
- The ability to take a quantitative and qualitative look at the methodology of work
- The ability to mediate between two opposing parties with different goals
- The ability to put together a network of contacts
- The ability to research competing interests and present your findings to decision-makers
Some Majors and Areas to Consider
In short, both the social sciences and the humanities stress the kinds of skills that can help you hone your people skills.
Operations Management: How Goods and Services Move through System
Operations Management is a broad field that examines the movement of information, products, services, and goods both within and between companies, agencies, or any other entity that has a need for such a managed flow. This field also encompasses the domain of quality control. It requires a deep understanding of how systems work, and a willingness to apply scientific methodology to key decisions. Good supply chain (as this field is also known) managers appreciate the importance of excellent time management, the ability to be flexible, and the need to understand all levels of the entities that are exchanging key parts of the stream. The ability to have not only a "big picture" approach, but also to connect and integrate details, is crucial in this field.
Some Majors to Consider
- Computer Science. This major has the most comprehensive look at systems of any at the University. Designing and building large-scale program modules prepares you for the "big picture" approach. At the same time, writing and debugging programs allows repeated practice of the "what-if" analysis that can be crucial in business.
- Organizational Studies. A "big picture" major that examines the intersection of three different areas of social science. With its emphasis on the way organizations function, both as systems and as structures, it can help you hone a systematic approach to problem-solving.
- Mathematics. Math is a system of logic and quantitative understanding that requires problem solving at both the micro and macro levels. The very quantitative nature of Math can help prepare you for high-level analysis of difficult issues inherent in exchange of components of supply chains.
- Science. Any of the sciences involve an understanding and application of the scientific method. Being able to hypothesize based on good data and good intuitive use of scientific understanding can strengthen your analytical skills and prepare you for taking the calculated risks that are so important in any business setting.
- Economics. The systematic approach applied by economists can lend itself to the study of the flow of goods, materials and services through any business entity. The additional bonus is an informed understanding of financial decisions that can help you in conversations about corporate (or other) finances and their impact upon the flow of goods and services necessary to do business.
- Statistics. Studying analytical methodology can help you make sense of both large and small-scale operations. You hone your analytical skills, and practice application of statistical models, which is excellent preparation for both the sometimes complex models necessary for internal or global flow of materials, personnel and finances.
- Informatics. Supply chains are complex and interconnected, and Informatics majors, because of their focus on management of complex systems, lend themselves well to Supply Chain Management. The systematic approach to both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of large quantities of data can produce graduates who are uniquely prepared to understand the broad scope and the minutiae of the day-to-day challenges of this fascinating field.
- Linguistics. The study of language, which can be quite mathematical, can reveal trends and connections. This is excellent practice for observing and analyzing the connections that are necessary for efficient movement of all phases of a supply chain.
It should be apparent that those who work with supply chains need excellent "big picture" skills as well as the ability to focus on details within large networks. Negotiation skills are crucial, as well as the ability to make decisions quickly and correctly. There is a need for excellent communication, both within and without the organization, so the ability to correspond with persons who possess a variety of levels of skills and communication styles is very important, as well.