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December 21, 2020

6 Things the Best Undergraduate Business Programs Have in Common

Given the lucrative opportunities available to business school graduates, it’s no wonder you’re interested in pursuing disciplines like accounting and marketing during college. But how can you ensure you’re only considering the best schools offering bachelor’s degrees in business?

We enlisted the help of Dr. Joyce Heames, Dean of the Campbell School of Business at Berry College, to help us identify some common traits among the best undergraduate business programs.

Features you’ll find at the best undergraduate business programs

You’ll eventually want to visit campuses to determine which schools meet your personal preferences. For example, Dr. Heames shares that Berry College’s 27,000-acre campus is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts. But before you look into those specifics, you’d be wise to ensure the business programs you’re considering meet the following criteria:

1. Above-and-beyond accreditation

Many colleges like to tout their regional accreditation — indicating the education quality has been assessed and approved by an independent party — as a distinguishing factor. But this credential is relatively routine for this field in particular.

For business programs, you should really look into accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Less than 5 percent of business degree-granting programs have earned AACSB accreditation because the standards are strict.

“Having AACSB accreditation says a lot,” Dr. Heames explains. “That’s the brass ring for accreditation.”

2. Time to explore what you really want to do

It can be hard to know what type of career you want to pursue if you’re interested in the multi-disciplinary world of business. There’s a certain amount of wisdom in attending a program like the one at Berry College, which encourages students to find their path as an undecided business major.

“Students can come in and explore,” Dr. Heames says. “They’re going to take classes in accounting, economics, management and marketing. And then they might say, ‘Hey, that resonates with me. I think I’ll declare.’”

The benefit of attending a business school that encourages industry exploration is that those programs typically know how to keep you on track to graduate in four years. If you select your major a bit late, for instance, the faculty can ensure you know that you may need to take a course over the summer.

3. Abundant professional development opportunities

Becoming a business professional requires learning a variety of disciplines — it’s not enough to ace one particular subject. “Entrepreneurs need to know how to market their business, how to put a business plan together, how to approach a bank about a loan and how to find investors,” Dr. Heames explains. And classroom instruction only scratches the surface.

There’s a growing body of research indicating experiential learning helps students translate their competencies to work environments. When comparing undergraduate business programs, look into whether they include opportunities to help business students develop their practical skills. For example, Berry College has a work program that offers an extensive number of positions, some at student-run businesses.

“We have 15 student-operated enterprises,” Dr. Heames notes. “So if students are interested in running a small business, they can learn how to create a profit and loss (P&L) statement, do strategic planning for their next years and so on.”

4. High-quality faculty members

Your education is only as good as your instructors, so it’s worth researching them. “Students have to be savvy enough to check credentials,” Dr. Heames advises.

Knowing that an undergraduate business program is AACSB-accredited can help. The requirements for this credential include a number of faculty expectations related to educational attainment and continued professional development.

5. Individualized instruction

It’s worth considering how classroom size can impact your learning experience. At a large university, you’ll likely attend many classes run by a graduate teaching assistant. That’s not to say you can’t receive individualized instruction at a larger school, but the onus is on you to seek it out.

“What distinguishes a small school is being able to have a connection with the faculty members in a way that’s really going to help students develop their skills,” Dr. Heames offers.

6. A history of graduate success

Studying business is a smart move for students hoping to secure employment soon after graduating. A recent study from CareerCast indicates business concentrations are among the majors with the best job prospects. To learn how a specific program’s graduates fare, Dr. Heames says you should ask faculty members.

“Just sit down with them and ask, ‘Where are your graduates going and how much are they making?’” she suggests. Dr. Heames adds that exit interview data indicates 94 percent of Berry College’s business students secure placement by graduation. Note that placement can also include graduate school and alternatives to traditional employment like volunteering for the Peace Corps.

Pick the best undergraduate business program for you

Living in the dorms isn’t why you’re pursuing a degree. You’re motivated to attend one of the best undergraduate business programs to ensure you receive a quality education and set yourself up for success after graduation.

Whether you aspire to be a standout CEO or a go-to financial advisor, attending a quality school that incorporates real-life work experience is a smart first step. To learn more about how you can start on your career path, head over to the Berry College’s Business program page.



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