The global economy is growing, and many corporations are rapidly expanding overseas. A major in international business prepares you with the skills you need to jump-start an international business career. It allows you to take advantage of career opportunities all over the world, working with diverse colleagues in interesting places.
Preparing for your future with an international business degree puts you in a good position to start any number of careers focused on working across cultures. It’s also a great way to prepare for the future as we become more and more connected to the rest of the world.
Reasons to Major in International Business
There are many reasons to major in international business, and they all make you a better entrepreneur or employee. Here are the main reasons why you should consider a major in international business:
International business is necessary for growth.
While some businesses might be content to focus on their local community, any company that hopes to grow needs market reach. Anyone with experience in international business knows that there’s a whole world of potential out there. Businesses that realize this need qualified employees to help them make their mark in international markets.
You get to travel the world.
Some programs have opportunities for you to travel overseas while you’re still a student, gaining international experience while you explore new cultures and their unique approach to business. Later in your career, the travel opportunities are plentiful, and you’ll get to see much more of the world than you would at an ordinary business professional.
You become a better leader.
International study forces you to think about inclusion because you are trained to think globally. When you approach business this way, you’re more likely to see growth because you’re building your brand while considering its place in the world.
You get a better knowledge of the markets.
Someone experienced in international business realizes that there are many markets to explore, and they know each one needs to be approached differently. International marketing campaigns can’t simply put out a single global advertising strategy. Each segment of customers that you’re reaching out to has a different way of speaking with unique customers and experiences.
It makes you more competitive.
Modern technology has allowed many companies that wouldn’t have been able to expand internationally to be competitive worldwide. Business is truly global, and when you know how to handle international transactions, you’re an asset to any company with plans to expand.
There are more options available to you.
Just about every sector needs international business majors. Whether you’re interested in non-profits, private businesses, or the public sector, there are many opportunities available. Whether you’re a cultural advisor to a company that’s going global, working in international trade, or preparing for law school, there are many paths to take as an international business student.
It expands your network.
All business professionals have to be able to network with people in other industries, but with an international business degree, you’re prepared to network with people around the world. While you’re in school, you make global connections with people who may one day run large multinational companies. You’ll also have access to a wide network of alumni and other international business professionals that can act as mentors and maybe even help you find a job.
It pushes you out of your safe zone.
Even if you study at some of the best schools in North America, you don’t get the same experience that you do when traveling the world as an international student. You can meet people that are just as successful and driven as you, and you can use this as a learning opportunity to keep yourself competitive in the global market. Let your successful peers challenge you while working with them, sharing your unique knowledge.
Types of Jobs for International Business Majors
If you’re considering pursuing a degree in international business, there are many directions your career can go. This is one reason why international business is such an attractive degree to people with high career ambitions in the business world.
What kinds of jobs are international business majors qualified for?
Here are some of the most common careers for an IB major:
Budget analysts conduct research and analyze spending for various types of organizations, including businesses and government entities. They are often charged with tracking spending and making sure the company is sticking to its budget. International business degree holders who take on this role should have excellent communication skills and the ability to research and analyze data. Budget analysts often have to present their budget plan to a board or budget committee for approval. The international business major will know global forces affecting budget decisions that those on the committee might not, and they must be able to explain their research and the reasoning for their decisions.
Business Operations Specialist
This role has broad responsibilities as they are charged with optimizing the company’s performance. Specifically, they work on streamlining day-to-day operations to ensure that everything runs smoothly and develop strategies for improving the relationship between the business and its customers. International business majors are often a good fit for this role, especially at larger companies, because they are skilled at seeing the bigger picture.
After working in a professional capacity for a few years, some international business majors choose to teach to share their knowledge. Others also research the university level or write scholarly articles or papers for various textbooks, magazines, and journals that cater to the industry. Depending on the school or institution, a master’s degree or doctorate is required.
Those with a master’s in international business often find themselves as executives, helping to shape and guide business practices to align with the overall mission and goals of the company. In addition to responsibilities like hiring and overseeing managers in overseas locations and analyzing company data, they are also tasked with increasing revenue, reducing costs, and improving overall performance.
Financial analysts with experience in international business work for large multinational companies. They are tasked with maximizing profits by looking at data about consumer spending habits and considering the various regulations that affect the company’s profit in various countries.
Foreign Exchange Consultant
Foreign exchange consultants advise companies about making global investments. They provide information about market trends and exchange rates in foreign markets and use that data to help make investment decisions. Professionals in this role should be skilled in traditional business practices, too, as they have to be great salespeople and communicators. While there may be some in-house roles for someone in this position, most work as independent consultants and may need to find their own clients.
Marketing and Sales Manager
In this role, the international business major typically oversees a team of employees in charge of developing marketing plans to target potential customers. This work is much different when considering the needs of an international company than it is for a regional customer base. The expertise of an international business major makes them an ideal fit for this job as they are familiar with global business trends and have the critical thinking skills needed to grow and adapt marketing campaigns.
This role typically acts as a consultant who is brought in by a business looking to streamline its day-to-day practices to improve efficiency. In some cases, this role may be a permanent in-house position. In addition to analyzing and recommending ways to improve a company’s organizational problems, management analysts may also advise on expansion efforts, which is where their knowledge of the international business world is particularly useful.
Human Resources Manager
International business majors are a great choice to lead human resources departments in international companies because they have a familiarity with many different cultures and traditions. They’re also a great fit for smaller companies that wish to focus on diversity and supporting a global culture, whether or not the ultimate goal is to expand around the globe.
International Sales Representative
International sales is a challenging position that requires a unique mix of skills. Not only does an international sales rep have to be skilled at sales, but they also have to consider the cultures, traditions, and trends in the countries they’re selling to. People in this role must also take care to learn the applicable laws of any government agency requirements of any country they’re selling in.
Policy analysts work in a range of areas, from healthcare to environmental policy. Their primary role is to analyze political trends, laws, and governments and use their research to shape and contribute to public policy. Because of their international expertise, those with an international business degree typically work in areas affecting interactions with other countries, like global business policies, international trade, or international economics.
Qualities of a Successful International Business Person
It takes special skills to be successful in international business. The demands on this profession are constantly changing, so people in this field must be confident in their abilities and ready to adapt when necessary.
What skills and qualifications are demonstrated by an international business degree?
International business not only requires the business knowledge you learn while pursuing your degree, but also some soft skills that make you a good fit for the career.
Some of the qualifications you need to succeed in this field are:
Adaptive thinking is essentially thinking outside of the box. When problems arise, you need to be able to think creatively to work with the resources you have to solve them. Some people are born with this skill, but you can cultivate it and improve it by focusing on curiosity, impulse control, and humility. Adaptive thinking is all about being thoughtful and decisive while avoiding acting on impulse.
Cooperation and collaboration
It doesn’t matter how many people you know or how connected your network is, you still have to know how to work with other people. Cooperation and communication are fundamental in international business. You can practice these skills in school, but they require humility and confidence, which are a little more difficult to teach.
In international business, one of the best ways to build on this skill is to work with team members from around the world. You will not only get an opportunity to practice working with other people, but you expose yourself to new perspectives and learn to see the world differently.
It’s no surprise that someone working in international business needs skills in cross-cultural communication. Many aspects of this job involve communicating with people in different cultures, whether it’s a colleague at an office overseas or a customer on the other side of the globe.
To be skilled in cross-cultural communication, you must have a certain level of respect and sensitivity to other cultures and be willing to make an effort to understand them. Most international business programs will provide you with education on this type of communication to avoid misunderstandings or a communication breakdown.
Influence is an important qualification as it is fundamental to business success. In this profession, you have to persuade others of many things. If you’re in sales, you have to convince them to buy your product. If you’re trying to get a budget passed, you have to persuade the committee to see things your way for approval.
Influence is all about encouraging others to get on board because they see your worth. When you have influence, you can avoid hard sells., sugar coating, and aggression while trying to get people to agree with you.
Strong networking skills are essential for a successful career in international business. Many of these connections are made while still pursuing your degree as you meet students, mentors, and professors who became a part of your network. Many people get jobs through their connections, and they can be helpful when trying to close business deals or negotiate mergers in the future.
Networking is easier than ever thanks to social media. While connecting online is important, being skilled at in-person networking is a valuable skill in international business as building relationships and meeting like-minded people can help you advance your career.
What are soft skills, and why are they important in international business?
Hard skills are the things you learn in school, like accounting, law, or market knowledge. Soft skills can be taught, to an extent, but are more often traits that someone is born with. What are soft skills? They’re the traits that allow someone to work well with others and adapt to changing circumstances. Soft skills are a big deal in international business as they enable people to deal with an ever-changing reality.
A lot of the qualifications mentioned have a soft skill component, though they can also be taught and honed through experience, both in school and when working in a professional capacity. But some other soft skills are necessary for international business, including:
We touched on this with cross-cultural communication above, but effective communication skills are so important, we wanted to mention them again. Knowing how to communicate with your peers, employees, customers, and clients is essential for improving relationships. Not only will this create a better workplace for everyone, but it also makes you better at increasing sales, smoothing over things with upset customers, and dealing with negative press.
Emotional intelligence is highly valued. Like IQ, high emotional intelligence is something that people are born with, but you can also learn how to improve it. Emotional intelligence involves being able to control your emotions to act quickly and decisively in stressful situations. In addition to staying calm in a crisis, people with high emotional intelligence are also skilled at working in groups and communicating.
Leadership is one of those things you either have or you don’t. It’s not necessary to be a manager, per se, but managers with leadership skills can adapt to any scenario, taking over when someone is unskilled or unavailable. Strong leadership skills boil down to having confidence in your ability to guide, supervise, and make important decisions using strong analytical skills and good judgment to delegate, set deadlines, and consider the needs of staff and clients.
Types of International Business Degrees
There are three types of international business degrees: bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate.
It takes about four years to complete a bachelor’s degree in international business, though the fastest degrees are from accelerated programs. These only three years. This degree primarily covers the basics of business theory and how international government and businesses relate. Some jobs are available for people with a bachelor’s in this field, but most people use it as a stepping stone to graduate school.
Most master’s degree programs are completed in two years, but some accelerated programs are available. At this level, the coursework takes a more micro approach, focusing on things like individual decisions and how they relate to both the international market and other cultures. Most management and higher-level positions in international business require a master’s degree.
A doctorate is the most advanced degree available and can take as long as five years to complete. This degree is primarily sought after by people who are particularly interested in performing research and teaching advanced classes at universities and prestigious business schools.
What is the average starting salary of someone with an international business degree?
Average salary depends on the type of degree as well as the job title. According to PayScale, here are some of the job titles and salaries for someone with the following degrees:
- Marketing Assistant: $49,000
- Human Resources (HR) Generalist: $51,000
- Marketing Director: $59,000
- Senior Buyer: $67,000
- Operations Manager: $72,000
- Information Technology (IT) Director: $101,000
- Vice President (VP), General Manager: $115,000
- Vice President (VP), Finance: $124,000
- Project Manager, Information Technology (IT): $128,000
- Senior Business Development Manager: $143,000
- Sales Associate: $46,000
- Project Supervisor: $78,000
- Strategic Sourcing Specialist: $78,000
- Financial Manager: $86,000
- Senior Financial Analyst: $88,000
- Implementation Manager: $92,000
- Regional Human Resources (HR) Manager: $102,000
- Senior Product Manager: $107,000
- Area Sales Manager: $108,000
- Continuous Improvement Manager: $133,000
- Technical Advisor: $138,000
- Sales Support Manager: $60,000
- Logistics Specialist: $66,000
- Vice President (VP), General Manager: $109,000
- Economist: $122,000
- Assistant Professor, Postsecondary/Higher Education: $128,000
- Senior Product Management Director: $128,000
- Functional Analyst: $132,000
- Finance Manager: $137,000
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO): $285,000
As you can see, some of the jobs you can get with a bachelor’s degree have salaries equal to those with a master’s or doctorate. Does this mean it’s not worth getting an advanced degree? Of course not. But it does show just how lucrative international business careers can be at any level. A bachelor’s degree with the right soft skills and connections can be quite lucrative. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is also a great resource for information about salaries and job growth.
Top Schools Offering International Business Degree Programs
Whether you’re considering a bachelor’s or a master’s, choosing the right degree program is essential. Before we take a look at how to choose the right one, here are some of the top schools for international business:
- University of South Carolina
- Florida International University
- New York University
- Georgetown University
- University of Pennsylvania
- George Washington University
- University of California-Berkeley
- San Diego State University
- American University
- Fordham University
- Northeastern University
- University of Southern California
- University of California-Berkeley
- Harvard University
- Stanford University
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of California-Los Angeles
- University of Southern California
- Columbia University
- Duke University
- Yale University
- University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
How to Choose a School for International Business
Whether you’re looking for an undergraduate or graduate program, there are a few things you can do to help you choose the international business school that’s right for you.
1. Consider the location.
When you’re choosing a school, choose the location carefully. Think about how far away from home you want to be and what type of campus you’re interested in. Do you prefer a big school in an urban setting or something a little more rural or suburban? If you want to attend some of the top schools for international business, it’s better if you’re more comfortable with an urban environment as this is the setting for some of the higher-ranked options. You should also keep in mind that international business typically involves a lot of travel, so you may want to get used to being a little farther away from home.
2. What type of activities do you want to participate in?
Socializing is a huge part of college life, and it’s important for international business majors. Look into any groups or clubs you might want to get involved in. If you’re having a hard time narrowing it down to a few choices, this is a great tiebreaker.
3. What type of support do they offer?
Look into things like healthcare and what type of support the school has for mental health. If you have a pre-existing condition, disability, or other special needs, ensure that the school is equipped to handle it. You should also consider things like how much support the school gives you in finding internships and making travel arrangements when you’re a student and if they have career services available to help you find employment after graduation.
4. How much does the program cost?
Some of these programs are expensive, so you have to figure out how much you can afford to pay. Are you eligible for scholarships? Grants? Contact the financial aid office at the schools you’re considering for help. Ultimately, you will have to determine how much money you feel comfortable borrowing.
5. Take your time and do your research.
Sometimes, it’s hard to figure out what program is the best from browsing websites and program rankings. Instead, take a more proactive approach. See if the school you’re interested in has any open days so you can visit the campus and see what it’s like. Talk to current students and see what they think about the school. Look at student groups on Facebook or Twitter to see what real students are saying. Contact admissions officers with any specific questions you have about applying.
International business is a rewarding degree that can take you all over the world. If you have the soft skills necessary and are willing to do the work, this degree offers a wide range of opportunities.
Take your time choosing the program that’s right for you. Not everyone needs a master’s degree, but if you plan to pursue a leadership or management role, it’s worth considering.
An international business degree will help you gain a better appreciation for the customs and cultures around the work. This field is constantly changing as technology brings us all closer