In the minds of many business professionals, the obvious way to go about ascending the business career ladder is to secure a prestigious degree in a relevant field – such as a Masters of Business Administration. This kind of degree is a smart choice for many business leaders, especially those who are looking to secure basic knowledge of their craft and to pick up management skills, accountancy abilities and even some specialist knowledge from fields like marketing and HR.
But there are other ways to the top in the world of commerce, and there are lots of business leaders whose careers just go to show that the traditional MBA route is not necessarily the only way to do it. This article will explore some of the alternative qualifications an individual can get if they want to do well in business – and share some inspirational stories from those who have.
In the eyes of some, humanities degrees are nothing but opportunities to waste time. But nothing could be further from the truth: humanities degrees are some of the best options for people who are looking to ascend the business ladder. A degree in a topic such as English Literature provides a student with the skills needed to craft a top-quality argument and express it in the clearest possible way, which can come in very handy when trying to get a business deal over the line.
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Those who opt for a subject like history, meanwhile, will benefit from learning how to retain large amounts of factual knowledge and then learn how and when to best deploy it. For a business leader, this can offer benefits in every realm from relationship management to strategic decision-making. Lady Barbara Judge studied Medieval History at the University of Pennsylvania and is now a prominent executive and legal figure – and there are plenty similar to her who prove that humanities degrees can be great choices.
It’s also important not to write off other degrees, such as those in the field of science. Not all people who study for a science-related topic go on to work as a physician or in a lab. If you’re planning to specialize in an industry such as pharmaceuticals, for example, a degree in chemistry or a similar subject is likely to not just make you stand out but could even in some cases be a prerequisite. And some people who take science degrees at college then go on to work in non-scientific fields, such as management consulting: after all, skills like analyzing data are useful no matter what industry you happen to work in, and they’re valuable to all sorts of modern employers. For that reason, keeping your science options open while you work out what you like and what you want to do is a smart and sensible move.
No degree at all
One of the great things about the American economic system is that it’s – in theory at least – open to anyone, and there are certainly many examples of people who have managed to make it to the top of the business tree without actually securing a degree. Some of those who make it to the top without an undergraduate qualification is very famous examples of dropouts, such as the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who left Harvard before completing his degree.
But there are also plenty of examples of leading business figures who didn’t even go to university, to begin with. Carl Lindner Jr., who set up United Dairy Farmers, did not even complete high school, and instead left at the age of 14 to plunge right into the business world. Figures like these were able to jumpstart their business careers with only basic qualifications, perhaps from high school or similar – or even just qualifications from the “school of life”.
If you are looking to break into the world of business, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself wondering just how important qualifications are. Getting that coveted MBA or economics degree might well give you a leg up in the race to the top – but there’s no need to remain wedded to that if it’s not exactly what you think you want to go for. Humanities subjects such as history are perfect for a business career, while it’s also worth looking into science topics – and, indeed, questioning whether a university-level qualification is the right one for you at all.
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