Definition of Business Study

by Annie Sisk - Updated June 11, 2018
Student working on laptop in library

A business study is an area of focus within an academic program taught at an educational institution, which centers around some aspect of the conduct of business in the local, national or global marketplace. The term “business studies” generally refers to a specific series of classes at the undergraduate level that students follow to achieve a degree. However, business studies are offered at all levels, and may not always be pursued by students seeking degrees.

Within the business studies programs in most American institutions of higher learning, students may select from one of several areas of specialization or in-depth focus. As a result, there’s a lot of variety between various business study programs across the United States. However, most business study programs share a common goal of preparing students at all levels for careers in business as managers, marketers and entrepreneurs.

What Is Business Study?

The Collins Dictionary defines “business studies” as “an academic subject that embraces areas such as accounting, marketing and economics.” Mostly, business study is the study at an academic level of how businesses operate in the various global marketplaces, both at a practical and theoretical level.

Business study may be undertaken at a college or university, as part of an accredited program of study or as part of an independent course of learning. Students may take business study courses in pursuit of an undergraduate or a postgraduate degree, or as part of a less rigorous certification process. Additionally, some school districts may also make general business classes available at the high school level.

To earn an undergraduate bachelor’s degree in the U.S., a business student generally must complete a little over 120 hours of coursework. Most full-time students complete the degree requirements for a bachelor’s degree in four years.

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Requirements for earning a master’s degree in business administration vary from school-to-school. However, most programs are designed to be completed in two years of full-time study. For example, the top-rated Columbia School of Business states that students are expected to complete around 60 hours of coursework.

MBA programs may also require a certain number of hours of practical experience, which can be completed with companies in the student’s field of interest. These internships provide another opportunity for students to develop their resumes and skills.

Types of Business Studies

As a concept, “business” is quite broad and nonspecific. Most colleges and universities reflect this fact in the way their business study programs are devised across several key disciplines, or subject areas, built around a common core of necessary coursework.

Business studies programs are carefully structured to provide the best all-around educational foundation for future business leaders, owners and managers. A basic understanding of the fundamental structures and disciplines that enable companies to do business is the core of most curricula.

This core includes the common functions inherent in most companies. These functions include accounting and finance, marketing, management and human resources. After all, it’s crucial to understand how a company is financed and how to account for both its revenues and expenditures to increase its profits. It’s important to know how to market a business effectively in today’s global digital marketplace to gain new customers and develop a stronger market position.

However, business studies cannot just “cover the basics” if students are to be well-prepared for careers in the current business climate. The globalization of the economy has expanded opportunities for attentive companies of all sizes. By the same token, the rapid pace of technology development in the last few decades has created new challenges for those companies.

The combination of technological growth and globalization, along with other factors, have created a business atmosphere that requires specialization. Even within a single discipline, specialization is increasing in both education and in practice.

For example, within marketing, specialists may focus on social media, or they may develop expertise in paid digital advertising platforms. Marketing professionals may alternatively choose to become experts in data collection and analysis.

Consequently, it’s important for business study programs to reflect that reality. Specialization begins at the undergraduate level, but increases in finer levels of detail at postgraduate and skills-based programs.

For example, in most of the larger programs, students can generally elect to focus on marketing or in business finance. Within those specific areas, students may also further elect to pursue a concentration, sometimes through a certification program. For example, marketing students may want to focus on social media marketing or data and analytics.

Certification programs are generally much shorter in duration, with many taking a few months to a year to complete successfully. They are often more “hands-on” oriented, offering students the valuable opportunity to gain practical experience using industry-standard tools.

Other areas of study in business study programs also exist. For example, advertising is often separately treated from marketing, since its focus is more targeted and includes the creation of very specific types of content. Economics is also included in business studies since it concerns how goods and services are produced, distributed and consumed on both the macro and micro levels. Business finance looks at budgets of money and time, and how they create and mitigate risk in the corporate context. Management looks at how businesses can make the most out of their human capital – that is, their workforce – while maximizing profits and minimizing risk.

Of course, this isn’t a complete list. There are lots of subjects included within the broader label of “business study.”

Approaches to Business Studies

The exact content of business studies will vary, depending on the level of the student. However, generally speaking, the topics covered will include multiple aspects of business ownership and management.

In many educational institutions, the focus is to create a combination of topics that together help students learn every aspect of modern business. By combining both practical, skills-oriented courses with classes that focus on more theoretical aspects, students get the most comprehensive business education.

At the high school level, business classes are generally more introductory in nature and tailored to the age of the students. For example, students can generally expect general introductory courses, such as introductions to business management, marketing and entrepreneurship.

Other courses may also be categorized as “business studies” in high schools. Specific subjects may include accounting and economics, as well as more specialized topics such as consumer math and business law. Practical skills courses, such as keyboarding or computer classes, may also be considered part of the high school business curriculum.

At the undergraduate level, business students also learn both theoretical and practical aspects of business. College coursework generally includes business management and formation, marketing, supply chain management, finance and accounting. Additionally, some basic introduction to the laws that govern and regulate the conduct of business is almost always included in the required curriculum.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in business or some related field, many people decide to go further. A master’s degree in business administration can open many potential career paths in various industries, including at the managerial level.

For these students, more advanced coursework with a tighter area of focus is generally required. Candidates for a master’s degree may also be expected to complete internships, independent study projects and possibly a formal thesis as well.

How Business Studies Relate to Your Business

Business studies are valuable to students at all stages of life, including young adults at the very start of their careers and older adults who own established businesses. By allowing customization of coursework and study, colleges and universities make it easier for students with different needs and circumstances to get the information and training they most need when they need it.

Today’s business climate is globalized and more diverse than ever before. At the same time, technology has radically shifted the details of how business is conducted. As a result, specialization is increasingly important and business studies programs have responded to this shifting reality.

Modern business studies programs generally allow students some degree of specialization. Students no longer are restricted solely to a broad and general selection of overview courses. They can concentrate in a specific area and learn it in more depth. This focused approach permits students to achieve a deeper level of expertise, thus preparing them more efficiently for their specific career goals.

If you’re already an entrepreneur or small business owner, business studies can still be a valuable investment for you.

Many local and community colleges offer part-time programs featuring business studies, both at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. You can enroll in a few courses per semester and enjoy positive benefits for both your personal career and your business as a whole.

In addition, many well-known larger institutions offer business study courses online in a virtual classroom. These course offerings may be designed to lead to a degree or certification, or they may simply be for enrichment or continuing education purposes.

Even without the benefit of a formal degree program, however, business students can take what they’ve learned and transfer those skills to their real-world contexts. Improved skills in accounting, marketing, product development and personnel management, to name but a few, can have an immediate benefit for any small business.

The Value of Business Studies in Today’s Marketplace

For the ambitious entrepreneur, business studies can be invaluable tools for success. When carefully selected and diligently pursued, business studies at all academic levels help prepare those with the desire and drive to create, run and grow the businesses a crowded marketplace craves.

By selecting the right course of business study, future business specialists can gain the necessary education, skills and even practical experience that will help distinguish them from the competition. This competitive edge helps them land the best jobs and chart a career path that meets their goals.

Business studies also help the ambitious entrepreneur. By learning as much as possible about both business in general as well as their specific areas of interest, future business owners can simultaneously build-up their natural business strengths while minimizing weaknesses. As a result, the companies they eventually create are stronger, more stable and built to last.

In turn, these individual and small-scale successes benefit both the local and larger economy and marketplaces in which these businesses compete. The company that’s staffed and owned by these former students becomes more successful. It may even expand to other locations and markets, with additional product and service lines, employing more and more people along the way.

When individual businesses are better equipped to handle the myriad challenges of the global marketplace, it benefits the business community as a whole. As colleagues and business leaders share their expertise and challenge each other to grow, the advantages eventually flow out to the society at large.

Ultimately, talented business students become experts in their chosen areas of discipline. Bringing that expertise to the market and the world at large, they create not just more jobs, but better jobs as well, improving the workplace and business culture as they do. Truly talented experts also foster increased levels of innovation, which can improve standards of living on a widespread basis.

About the Author

Annie Sisk is a freelance writer who lives in upstate New York. She holds a B.A. in Speech from Catawba College and a J.D. from USC. She has written extensively for publications and websites in the business, management and legal fields.

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