There are business careers to suit almost any need and aptitude, and education programs to match. It is true that some enterprising individuals have made a fortune in business with very little education. But the right school choice speeds up the learning curve for most of us because it offers better contacts and opportunities, faster promotion and higher pay.

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Early in the search process, it is helpful to determine what you want and need from a business career. Consider five goals: promotion, income, stable employment, interesting work, and accommodation of family or other interests. In what order would you personally put those goals?

Of course, that order isn’t graven in stone; it is really just a way of relating your needs to the career’s opportunities.

Let’s look at a few careers in terms of which goals they best meet.


Generally, companies promote to senior management employees who have proven themselves in sales or production. That is because these employees make money for the business directly.

One can get started in sales ($30,000 – $51,000) with a high school diploma and a strong desire to sell. But a Bachelors or Associates degree in Marketing (how the market works and how to influence it) is an investment in learning the bigger picture — and in letting prospective employers know that you aspire to grow with the firm. You can also get started in production ($20,000 – $35,000) with only a high school diploma, but a degree in Applied Management or Business Leadership, for example, shows that you aim for more responsibility and the rewards that accompany it.

Ultimately, with considerable experience, the promotion-conscious employee aims to be Chief Executive Officer ($100,000 – $300,000, $150,000 to start for contract work). Or perhaps Chief Operations Officer ($320,000 – $566,000, 2009 median $421,000).


Because a business exists to make money, fields like sales ($30,000 – $51,000) and production ($20,000 – $35,000), which depend on measurable results, feature low starting salaries but high—and negotiable—achievement-based rewards. Buyer (buys merchandise for stores) is another field where achievement is well rewarded ($70,000 – $100,000, 2009 median $72,000). A Bachelors degree in economics or finance is often required, but the high starting salary suggests that the degree is a good investment.

Many other business positions require and reward education. A student with a strong mathematics background might consider being a Statistician ($50,000 – $93,000), analyzing and organizing data for businesses. Generally, a business-oriented degree in the expertise area (fashion, real estate, sports, for example), would be valuable. A student who can finance a doctorate might make $51,000 – $97,000 (2009 median $61,000) as an Economist.

Some job categories, like Labor Relations Specialist ($48,000 – $79,000), are better rewarded because they involve stress. Usually, a Bachelors degree in business, administration, finances, or management is expected. But caution, stress is not always well rewarded. A Bill Collector, with a high school diploma, gets about $25,000 – $38,000 per year, with limited prospect of advancement. However, the position might provide a suitable applicant with the funds to finance a degree that leads to better income and advancement.

Stable employment

Job stability has declined in recent decades, and no private sector job is immune. However, some jobs have highly portable skill sets anchored in knowledge of the task, not the industry. Sometimes these jobs are recession-proof, because businesses (or government) need the function whether the economic climate is good or bad. Interpreter (up to $55,000 yearly, 2009 median $47,000) and Translator ($35,000 – $50,000 a year) for languages widely used in business are examples. Certification requirements for translation or interpretation vary by language. Beyond that, further education in business communications and/or international business are a good long-term investment for the interpreter or translator.

Similarly, the Occupational Health and Safety Specialist ($38,000 – $63,000, Bachelors) and the Occupational Health and Safety Technician ($38,000 – $46,000, Bachelors) enable companies to fulfil legal requirements for health and safety in all economic weather.

Interesting work

Convention Coordinator ($29,000 – $46,000, up to $60,000 for high performance) pays little better than Billing Clerk (between $28,000 and $40,000 annually). Yet it increasingly requires a Masters degree and the clerk usually only needs a high school diploma. Event Co-ordinator is similar ($29,000 – $43,000, Bachelors). The pay structure probably reflects the fact that conventions and events are more interesting than bookkeeping, and many people choose a job they love over higher income.

Accommodation of family, other interests

For some employees, regular working hours and benefits are critical due to other responsibilities at home or in class. Positions that don’t usually require late hours or major stress include Office Reception ($23,000 – $36,000, high school diploma), Order Clerk ($26,000 – $41,000,high school diploma) and Posting Clerk ($24,000 – $30,000, high school diploma).

Some jobs, such as Office Machine Repair ($31,000 – $59,000, electronics background) or Meeting Planning ($45,000 – $63,000,Bachelors an asset) are well suited to juggling responsibilities through freelancing.

Because the business field is so broad, the key to success is identifying the career that meets your specific needs by using your skills.

List of Business Careers