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What is Business Administration Really?

By D. Lau

In theory what is it?

An X-year guide in how to run and operate a business.

Most accredited universities and colleges seem to lump "business administration" as a big umbrella major with several concentrations ranging from finance to human resource to marketing to information systems. This has its advantages in that most if not all business students have to take a core that touches on all areas of business no matter what concentration they are in. However, it has an obvious drawback - uber broadness. It's literally like saying all engineers should have a major called "Engineering" instead of calling them electrical engineers, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, etc.

Generally, "business administration" breaks down to these categories, and their "usual" general theories:

  • Finance/Economics - how to maximize $$$, reduce losses, and manage money/capital
  • Human Resource - managing people effectively, hiring the right kinds of people and firing the dolts
  • Marketing - penetrate markets, sell useful/less stuff to just about anyone, guage market share with competitors
  • Operations Management - optimize business functions and create efficient processes
  • Information Systems - data is integral in business, I.S. people learn to manage, utilize, and integrate technology in its business
  • Accounting - the IRS/SEC requires it
  • Law (there are classes on business law, but usually not as a "Business Law" major) - litigation and ethics
  • With this in mind, nearly all theory studied at a business school will most likely have an applied aspect. For 99% of business students, the theory somehow ends up to be a study of "how to make money" or "how to maximize profit" or "how to fully penetrate markets" - generally it's a bunch of "how to" guides. For the remaining 1%, it may be an abstract mathematical, economical, behavorial, study that are usually conducted by PhD students or faculty (with an eventual hope that it too will become a "how to" applied set of uses). In general, no matter what concentration a student takes (if any), the courses taken will discuss how a business works (in different environments).

    What is it used for?

    Business! (I really hope that was obvious), or just about any place or institution that uses money as a exchange medium.

    What does the major actually entail - work-wise?

    As stated above, because there are so many concentrations, the business school cirruculum may resemble a smorgasbord of different subjects (marketing, operations, etc.) but the levels and difficulty of schoolwork will deviate as students take different paths. For the technically inclined, they may take more math-related subjects like operations, information systems, or finance. And for those who think mathematics is the bane of their existence, then marketing, human resources, or law/ethics may be a good fit for them. And for those who like to tango with the IRS and find memorizing accounting rules exciting, then there's financial and managerial accounting.

    For the math-related subjects, there will be quite a bit of problem solving, but rarely will business students touch on abstract or theoretical subjects. About 99.99% of the material will be 'applied math'. Persons strong in hard sciences, however, may find it hard to appreciate these subjects as a 'real science'.

    For the non-math-related subjects, expect lots of groupwork and/or case study projects.

    What kind of jobs do you get with it?

    None - just kidding!

    While most people may think that everyone from business school will be pegged to go in the corporate world as a management jockey, reality is far from it. While the majority do go into profit-business ranging from "Mom & Pop" to "MegaCorp" in their specialized area, a good number go into non-profit organizations (remember, they need to manage funds and people as well!). Business school is mostly about "the real world" application and is very geared in getting almost any job because of its flexibility.

    Business majors, unless they are double majors in another field or have prior training/experience, will rarely take jobs in highly specialized fields like medicine, engineering, science research, etc. This is why they are generally pegged as bureaucrats in technical firms (business people with little or no technical skill that manages people with real technical skill - refer to Dilbert cartoons for a further explanation).

    Just about anything can be defined as a "business", but that may not necessarily translate to jobs. Ideally, a business major can get a job with just about anything related in their concentration. However, in a downturn economy (such as this one - 2002/2003), jobs are difficult to come by since employees in a business are essentially money sinks, despite any profit that may or may not be realized.

    To up your job potential, get an internship during college. An internship means experience which means that a person hiring is less likely to think twice about you against another applicant.

    What are the fellow students like (personalitywise) in it?

    Since the business major is so broad, you get all sorts of personalities spanning across concentrations. There are some trends however:

    In a world where time = money, you get your greedy backstabber types and those who'd sell their own mother for a nickel if they could.

    You get the quiet "engineering-types". Some appear to be very quiet, but will explode with outgoing fervor when their work becomes realized.

    Most are very outgoing, since interpersonal communication is the most important skill in any business. Note, that because of this, most of what you see is a business persona, or the external mask that hides the real personality…

    With the outgoing people, a lot are risktakers and financial daredevils who are willing to risk some to gain more. Very few are gutless, especially the financial geeks.

    The ones who make it are happy, while the ones who are stuck in a gutter will feel miserable. Then there are the people who are completely oblivious to the real world (e.g. The Pointy-Haired Boss, there was a kid who was just like that…mumbling that he should make \(270k/yr plus options to do almost nothing useful in a corporation…those are the gutless types).SRF:ELEMENTS:39xsrfLastly, most have superhuge egos. While an ego is critical in for-profit corporate management, an over-inflated ego is extremely and utterly annoying.SRF:ELEMENTS:8xsrfBusinesses solely exist to make \)$$ and lots of it: While this is true for the most part, there are such things as

    non-profit businesses
    out there, and not every business makes a ton of money. In a dog-eat-dog world, you have winners and losers.

    Business school teaches you how to squander corporate assets and how to "cheat the IRS" with accounting tricks and schemes.: Constrary to what you may have seen in the media lately, accounting schools are quite strict on teaching GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and accounting ethics. The bad apples that you have seen are intelligent people who abuse their knowledge, position, and power to…well…abuse people.

    Business school majors will be filthy rich: Most people in business will end up like "normal people" on the wealth scale. Remember that almost everyone will have a 'regular job', and a regular job pays 'regular wages' so to speak. The ones you see on CNN all the time were probably the backstabbing types anyway…

    Dilbert is just a cartoon: No, it's reality. If I got a dollar for every Dilbertarian cubicle or a moronic decision made by Pointy-Haired Bosses out there, I'd be a millionaire in a day.

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