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Business education is a term that encompasses a number of methods used to teach students the fundamentals of business practices. These methods range from formal educational degree programs, such as the Master of Business Administration (MBA), to school-to-work opportunity systems or cooperative education. Business education programs are designed to provide students with the basic theories of management and production. The main goals of business education programs are to teach the processes of decision making; the philosophy, theory, and psychology of management; practical applications; and business start-up and operational procedures.
Traditional academic programs for business education include college courses that teach students the fundamentals of management, marketing, business ethics, accounting, and other relevant topics. These have been supplemented in recent years with extensive course offerings in computer skills, e-commerce management, and other factors in managing a business within the global economy. Students can earn degrees ranging from an Associate degree in business to a Ph.D (Doctor of Philosophy) in business administration. Some programs may consist of classwork only, while others—such as tech-prep and cooperative education programs, internships, and school-to work opportunities—combine academics with on-the-job training.
A tech-prep program is a four-year planned sequence of study for a technical field which students begin in their junior year of high school. The program extends through either two years of college in occupational education, or a minimum two-year apprenticeship. Students who complete the program earn either certificates or Associate degrees.
Cooperative education (co-op) is a program which offers students a combination of college courses and work experience related to their majors. Co-op programs are available in a wide range of business disciplines, e.g., information systems, accounting, and sales. Participants enroll in a postsecondary educational program while employed in a related job. Most co-op participants are paid by their employers. The co-op program provides students with the work experience they need to obtain full-time employment after graduation. More than 1,000 postsecondary educational institutions and 50,000 employers participate in co-op programs throughout the United States.
Internships are related closely to co-op programs. The main difference, however, is that those who participate in internship programs are not paid, as internships are designed specifically to provide participants with work experience. Often, interns will complete the program separately from their academic setting, rather than combining the two.
School-to-work opportunity programs focus on career awareness for students. They provide participants with work mastery certificates and furnish them with links to technical colleges. In these programs, all participants have jobs, apprenticeships, or further schooling after finishing high school.
Career academies are occupationally focused high schools that contain "schools within schools." Primarily, they train high school juniors and seniors in such areas as environmental technology, applied electrical science, horticulture, and engineering. In addition to these schools, there are also privately operated business schools that grant certificates to students who complete their programs.
All of these types of business education programs provide participants with career paths for high-skill technical and professional occupations by formally linking secondary and post-secondary education, and by integrating academic and occupational learning. Students who complete such programs gain an advantage over people who concentrate solely on the academic part of business education. Whichever route students use to acquire a basic knowledge of business skills and principles, there exist ample opportunities to prepare them for business careers.
In the past, many entrepreneurs viewed the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree as unnecessary to small business success, and some believed that it stifled the creativity that allowed small businesses to develop and grow. Most entrepreneurs counted on their energy, work experience, industry knowledge, and business connections rather than on their formal business education. In the late 1990s this attitude began to change and increasing numbers of entrepreneurs chose to pursue an MBA degree. Two reasons for this change are often cited. First, today's business world often requires small companies to compete for the same customers as much larger, professionally managed corporations. Second, entrepreneurs are finding that even their smaller competitors are likely to be run by MBAs, as more downsized executives decide to start their own companies. And the appeal of the MBA to entrepreneurs seems to runs in both directions. According to Della Bradshaw in an article appearing in The Financial Times, "while the dotcom boom caused frenzy in MBA ranks, business schools themselves report that the 1998 to 2001 boom was just a blip in the sustained interest students have shown in entrepreneurship over the years."
The MBA degree offers entrepreneurs a set of sophisticated management tools that can be brought to bear on the challenges of running a small business, including economic analysis, marketing knowledge, strategic planning, and negotiating skills. In addition, a business education can help many small business owners to broaden their viewpoints and recognize trends within their business or industry.
Yet another reason for the increase in entrepreneurs pursuing MBA degrees is that most such programs have become more practical in recent years. In addition to teaching theory, MBA programs are increasingly emphasizing teamwork, hands-on experience, and cross-disciplinary thinking. This approach makes the MBA much more applicable to the entrepreneur's interests and experience.
Alon, Ilan, and John R. McIntyre, Business Education and Emerging Market Economies. Stringer, 2004.
Avis, Ed. "Plugged-in Professors: Business Schools Must Balance Traditional Lessons with Tech Trends." Crain's Chicago Business. 2 October 2000.
Bradshaw, Della. "Entrepreneurs are Back in the Classroom." The Financial Times. 21 April 2003.
Cashill, Jack. "Capitalizing on Business Education." Ingram's. July 2000.
Mitchell, Meg. "A Difference of Degree." CIO. September 2000.
Hillstrom, Northern Lights
updated by Magee, ECDI