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EDUCATION RANKINGS
 
 
Most VALUABLE Business Majors
2016
Article Sources

Sources

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Accessed July 10, 2016,http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.ht
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections 2014-2024, Accessed July 9, 2016,http://data.bls.gov/projections/occupationProj
  3. "Education, Experience, Training", O*NET Database 20.3, Occupational Information Network, August 2015, Accessed July 10, 2016,https://www.onetcenter.org/database.html
  4. Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed July 18, 2016, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
  5. National Center for Education Statistics, Graduate Degree Fields, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_ctb.asp
  6. National Center for Education Statistics, Undergraduate Degree Fields, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cta.asp
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According to the latest numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), business is the most popular field of study for degrees conferred at both the bachelor's and master's level. This could be due to the wide range of career options available to those with a business degree, as well as the availability of these programs at schools across the nation. But with so many specializations to choose from, which major should you invest in? To help prospective business students get the best bang for their tuition bucks, we ranked the most valuable business majors of 2016 based on educational affordability and potential earnings. Check out the list below.

Methodology

We analyzed 66 majors covering different subjects within the business field. To be included in the rankings, the major had to be either classified by the National Center for Education Statistics as part of the Business, Management, Marketing and Related Support Services instructional category, or it had to have a distinct business or management connection in its official definition.

In addition, all majors we ranked had at least one program offered nationally and at least one degree awarded in the subject in 2015, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

We scored each major on four categories of data using a 25-point scale and then added the scores from all categories, for a total of 100 points possible.

  1. Educational Availability, based on program availability data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  2. Earnings Index, based on salary and training data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015; education data from the Occupational Information Network, 2015; and tuition data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
  3. Employment Opportunity, based on employment projections for growth rate, numerical growth, and job openings, 2014-24, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
  4. Educational Affordability, based on tuition data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 2015

Most Valuable Business Majors and Related Careers

1 Business Administration

Business Administration

This major ranked No. 1 due to several factors, including the breadth of its availability (it ranked first out of the 66 schools we considered), earning index (11th), and employment opportunity (seventh). And all this at a reasonable price tag: The average in-state tuition of schools offering this degree is only $9,861 per year.

Major overview: This program trains professionals to oversee all aspects of a firm or organization, from accounting to hiring. Classes will most likely cover topics like purchasing and logistics, human resources management, marketing, and business theory.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 100.0

Educational Affordability: 56.9

Earning Index: 84.6

Job Opportunity: 90.8

Spotlight Career: Director of Sales

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $130,400
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 5.0%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $9,861

2 Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship

This program, aimed at enterprising students looking to launch a business of their own, got our silver medal for best value major by virtue of its availability, ranking 9th in that category, and earning potential, where it ranked sixth. It also scored 14th for employment opportunity, which isn't bad considering we evaluated 66 different majors for this roundup.

Major overview: This program teaches individuals how to start and run their own business. It will most likely include instruction in the three main tenets of business ownership: development (how to start a business), management (how to keep a business running smoothly), and marketing (how to get the word out and increase sales or customer loyalty.)

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 87.7

Educational Affordability: 58.5

Earning Index: 92.3

Job Opportunity: 80

Spotlight Career: Regulatory Affairs Manager

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $111,230
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 3.9%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $9,861

3 Retail Management

Retail Management

Rounding out the top three is retail management, one of the most front-facing jobs in the field of business. It is the job of retail managers to ensure that the experience of their customers is a positive one, in order to increase the number of repeat customers. It is a field that can pay well (ranking third for earnings index) and for which the cost of an education is typically more affordable than most (it ranked fifth out of the 66 degrees we considered).

Major overview: A retail management program prepares graduates to manage many types of retail businesses, from department stores to pharmacies. Classes cover topics such as merchandise management, customer service, accounting, business law, and human resource management.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 30.8

Educational Affordability: 95.4

Earning Index: 96.9

Job Opportunity: 95.4

Spotlight Career: Store Manager

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $119,460
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 7.1%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $9,861

4 Marketing

Marketing

Marketing comes in No. 4 overall by virtue of its high availability ranking (fourth in our analysis) and high employment opportunity (sixth). Not only that, it also boasts a potentially high earning capacity, ranking 12th in that category. With one of the highest salaries on our list of featured careers, the field of marketing management may be a lucrative fit for people with this major.

Major overview: Marketing programs help students learn how to develop customer loyalty in order to move products from producers to consumers. Coursework usually covers topics such as pricing theory, strategic planning, buyer behavior and dynamics, demand analysis, advertising, and customer relations

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 95.4

Educational Affordability: 47.7

Earning Index: 83.1

Job Opportunity: 92.3

Spotlight Career: Marketing Managers

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $140,660
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 9.4%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $17,456

5 Finance

Finance

Finance, the monetary nuts and bolts of business, comes in at No. 5 in our analysis due to several factors. It ranked No. 3 in terms of educational availability, and also received high marks for employment opportunity (ranking second) and earnings index (ranking 19th).

Major overview: Managing and analyzing the financial side of a business, bank, or other organization is a vital job with many moving parts. That's the kind of important role that people in finance can look forward to filling. To prepare, students typically take classes in accounting, asset and debt management, budgeting, portfolio management, and financial analysis.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 96.9

Educational Affordability: 30.8

Earning Index: 72.3

Job Opportunity: 98.5

Spotlight Career: Personal Finance Advisor

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $118,050
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 29.6%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $14,832

6 Operations Management

Operations Management

Ranking 11th for educational availability and eighth for earning index, operations management came in No. 6 overall on our list of best value majors for business students. Graduates typically put this degree to work helping organizations design and maintain the most effective production, manufacturing, or business operations possible.

Major overview: These programs help prepare students to manage the technical side of a business, especially as it relates to development or production. Classes cover such areas as production control, plant management, skilled trades supervision, equipment management, and materials planning.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 84.6

Educational Affordability: 61.5

Earning Index: 89.2

Job Opportunity: 50.8

Spotlight Career: Quality Control Systems Manager

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $103,720
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: -3.69%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $9,861

7 International Business

International Business

The study of international business is lucky No. 7 on our list, in part due to its high educational availability. The major ranked sixth in that category, as well as an impressive 17th for earning index. This major is a great fit for students who love to travel, or dream of doing business on a global scale.

Major overview: These degree programs help teach students how to effectively manage international businesses and business deals through the study of international business policy, foreign markets, export sales, trade controls, and other subjects related to conducting business with other countries.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 92.3

Educational Affordability: 24.6

Earning Index: 75.4

Job Opportunity: 76.9

Spotlight Career: Operations Manager

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $119,460
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 7.1%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $9,861

8 Sales Operations

Sales Operations

Sales operations professionals help develop, manage, and improve systems used in the buying and selling of goods and services. The numbers show that this major is both relatively affordable and easily accessible, ranking 10th out of the 66 degrees in our study for affordability and 19th for accessibility.

Major overview: Instruction in the basics of entrepreneurial economics, retail buying and selling, and sales skills will help guide students into expertise on the techniques of direct wholesale.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 72.3

Educational Affordability: 87.7

Earning Index: 61.5

Job Opportunity: 56.9

Spotlight Career: Account Executive

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $66,790
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 6.43%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $8,796

9 Accounting

Accounting

Ranking second for educational availability and 14th for employment outlook, the field of accounting boasts considerable job opportunities at a feasible price point. As a result, the major comes in No. 9 overall on our list of the best value business degrees. Accounting professionals can be found in nearly every industry, managing finances, examining financial records, and preparing tax returns.

Major overview: These programs help future accountants learn financial and managerial accounting, budget control, auditing, business information systems, and reporting procedures, as well as the many legal aspects of the field.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 98.5

Educational Affordability: 49.2

Earning Index: 33.9

Job Opportunity: 80

Spotlight Career: Accountant

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $75,280
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 10.7%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $11,701

10 Small Business Administration

Small Business Administration

Small business administration just manages to crack the top 10 thanks to the best earnings index ranking of the 66 programs we considered. The major also came in eighth for affordability. Additionally, supply chain managers, our featured career for this degree, has one of the highest average salaries on the list.

Major overview: This major covers the ins and outs of founding and managing an independent small business. It typically includes classes in taxation, business law, human resource management, business administration, and e-commerce, among other topics.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 38.5

Educational Affordability: 90.8

Earning Index: 100

Job Opportunity: 38.5

Spotlight Career: Supply Chain Manager

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $111,230
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 3.9%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $9,861

11 Management Science

Management Science

Ranking first in terms of employment opportunities and 14th in educational availability, management science is a great degree choice for students who want a wide variety of job options after graduation. Graduates might take on analyst roles in any number of industries, helping solve complex logistical or managerial issues in an effort to improve efficiency and save resources.

Major overview: This major deals with analyzing business problems through the lens of data, forecasting, statistical modeling, and other forms of research. Classes are heavy in mathematics, statistics, evaluation models, and operations analysis.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 80

Educational Affordability: 15.9

Earning Index: 67.7

Job Opportunity: 100

Spotlight Career: Operations Research Analyst

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Master's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $84,180
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 30.2%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $17,277

12 Office Management

Office Management

This popular degree program comes in at No. 12 on our list, ranking ninth for employment opportunity and sixth for affordability. In fact, office management had one of the lowest in-state tuition rates on the list, with an average cost of just $5,940 a year.

Major overview: Office management programs prep graduates to manage the daily operations of a business office. Students learn how to manage employees and office systems, as well as the basics of labor relations, budgets, office facilities design, and public relations.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 56.9

Educational Affordability: 93.9

Earning Index: 58.5

Job Opportunity: 87.7

Spotlight Career: Office Manager

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $56,170
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 8.3%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $5,940

13 Management Information Systems

Management Information Systems

This degree program came in No. 13 by virtue of strong rankings across all the categories we considered, including seventh place for earnings. Information systems directors, our featured career for this degree field, earned an impressively high average salary of $141,000 in the U.S. last year.

Major overview: In the course of a management information systems degree program, students learn how to use data systems that hold internal business information. Some of these systems include management control systems and personnel information systems. Students can also expect to study the basics of data storage, data security, and report preparation.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 86.2

Educational Affordability: 44.6

Earning Index: 90.8

Job Opportunity: 29.2

Spotlight Career: Information Systems Director

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $141,000
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 15.4%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $16,022

14 Human Resources Management

Human Resources Management

Human resources management came in No. 14 as a result of ranking fifth in educational availability, while also boasting high numbers in the employment and earnings categories. Skilled HR managers are needed in almost every industry, giving graduates in this field a wide range of employment options.

Major overview: Managing human capital is an important job at any organization, which is why it is such a highly regarded degree within the field of business. Coursework typically includes instruction in personnel and organization policy, employee testing and assessment, job training programs, labor relations, civil rights, human resources regulations, and recruitment and selection.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 93.9

Educational Affordability: 43.1

Earning Index: 55.4

Job Opportunity: 55.4

Spotlight Career: Compensation and Benefits Manager

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $121,630
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 6.5%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $12,734

15 Logistics & Supply Chain Management

Supply Chain Management

An earnings index ranking of 16th and an educational availability ranking of 15th helped bring this degree to No. 15 overall. Logistics and supply chain management is a great degree choice for highly organized individuals who enjoy learning about the underpinnings of a business' operations.

Major overview: Logistics management can include acquisitions, receiving and handling, and the internal allocation of resources. Instruction typically covers most of the following areas: Transportation, inventory control, storage and handling, shipping and delivery management, budgeting, and quality control.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 78.5

Educational Affordability: 66.2

Earning Index: 76.9

Job Opportunity: 10.8

Spotlight Career: Logistics Manager

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $95,130
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 2.2%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $9,861

16 Project Management

Project Management

This degree scored well across the board, ranking respectably in educational availability (23rd), affordability (34th), earnings index (23rd), and employment opportunity (31st). Graduates of these programs often go on to become project managers, who are professionals tasked with planning and executing specific endeavors within an organization.

Major overview: Over the course of this degree program, students can expect to study the quantitative and qualitative knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques used to manage projects and reach certain goals. This includes lessons in project planning, accounting, statistics, human resources, risk management, contracts, and procurement.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 66.2

Educational Affordability: 50.8

Earning Index: 66.2

Job Opportunity: 53.9

Spotlight Career: Project Manager

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $111,230
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 3.9%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $9,861

17 Credit Management

Credit Management

This degree program is one of the more cost-friendly on the list, ranking second in the affordability category. It also scored well in terms of potential earnings, where it ranked 15th out of the 66 programs we considered. However, since it's a relatively obscure major, it lost points for its low score in availability.

Major overview: In order to manage personal and corporate credit, an individual must be trained in credit management, which involves the study of general finance and banking, insurance, real estate, database management, and business law, among other disciplines.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: <10

Educational Affordability: 100

Earning Index: 78.5

Job Opportunity: 67.7

Spotlight Career: Credit Analyst

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $79,720
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 6.1%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $11,701

18 Agribusiness

Agribusiness

Coming in No. 18 is the unique intersection of agriculture and business: agribusiness. This major ranked high for both affordability (ninth) and earnings (17th), but scored fairly low in the job opportunity category.

Major overview: Agribusiness degree programs focus on the skills needed to manage an agricultural business. Students will be taught the ins and outs of business management, accounting, finance, marketing, human resources management, and other managerial responsibilities as they relate to agricultural operations.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 52.3

Educational Affordability: 89.2

Earning Index: 75.4

Job Opportunity: <10

Spotlight Career: Nursery and Greenhouse Manager

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $69,880
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 2.0%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $5,030

19 Real Estate

Real Estate

Real estate degrees performed well across all of the categories in our methodology, but it landed at No. 19 overall due mainly to strong marks in educational availability (where it ranked 19th) and affordability (21st).

Major overview: These degree programs cover everything one needs to know in order to develop, buy, sell, and appraise real estate. Students typically receive instruction in subjects such as land use development policy, real estate marketing, property inspection, real estate investing, and property management.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 73.9

Educational Affordability: 70.8

Earning Index: 49.2

Job Opportunity: 40

Spotlight Career: Real Estate Broker

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $80,210
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 1.8%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $7,170

20 Special Products Marketing Operations

Special Products Marketing Operations

According to our data, this degree is both relatively affordable and potentially lucrative, ranking 12th on our affordability scale and 23rd for earnings potential. While not widely available, the major can lead to a number of different marketing management positions.

Major overview: Special products, such as flowers, food, or office supplies, have unique marketing needs. Students in these degree programs learn market research and advertising practices specifically tailored for these types of businesses.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 12.3

Educational Affordability: 84.6

Earning Index: 66.2

Job Opportunity: 66.2

Spotlight Career: Area Sales Manager

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $84,910
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 4.7%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $4,219

21 Organizational Leadership

Organizational Leadership

With high marks in both educational availability (where it ranked 16th) and employment opportunity (where it ranked 17th), organizational leadership came in at No. 21 overall in our analysis. Graduates often go on to help businesses, nonprofit agencies, or other organizations improve their management practices, or perform in leadership roles themselves.

Major overview: Organizational leadership programs help students learn traditional leadership skills, as well as develop new theories and practices in the field. Instruction typically covers areas like finance, conflict resolution and mediation, communication, and team building.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 76.9

Educational Affordability: 26.2

Earning Index: 27.7

Job Opportunity: 75.4

Spotlight Career: Management Analyst

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $91,770
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 13.6%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $9,861

22 Secretarial Science

Secretarial Science

This degree made it on our list of best value degrees for business students by virtue of its relatively affordable price tag -- it ranked third for affordability out of the 66 majors included in the study. In fact, our data found the average in-state tuition for a secretarial science program was just $2,562.

Major overview: These degree programs help prepare students to fill roles as administrative assistants, secretaries, stenographers, executive assistants, or executive secretaries. Instruction is typically covered at the associate degree level, and includes coursework in such topics as public relations, business law, and word processing.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 75.4

Educational Affordability: 98.5

Earning Index: 63.1

Job Opportunity: <10

Spotlight Career: Executive Assistant

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Associate Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $55,460
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: -5.7%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $2,562

23 Fashion Merchandising

Fashion Merchandising

Employment opportunities for this degree are strong, with the major ranking 19th out of 66 in that category. It also ranked 22nd for affordability, but ultimately got dinged for its low potential earning index. Despite this, fashion merchandising remains a great choice for students who want a job that combines trend watching, creativity, and business savvy.

Major overview: This degree program helps prepare professionals to conduct market research and organize promotional campaigns in order to garner interest from retailers. In the course of study, most students learn about wholesale purchasing, customer relations, wholesale advertising, and selling.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 67.7

Educational Affordability: 55.4

Earning Index: <10

Job Opportunity: 72.3

Spotlight Career: Fashion Buyer

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $59,270
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 6.2%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $8,796

24 Accounting Technology & Bookkeeping

Accounting Technology

This highly accessible degree ranked eighth in our analysis for educational availability, and seventh in terms of affordability. Unfortunately, due to technological advancements automating many of the tasks once performed by bookkeepers, the major came in last for job opportunity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there is still demand for these professionals in the small business sector, however.

Major overview: In order to learn the technical administrative support skills necessary for a job as a bookkeeper, students typically take courses in record-keeping systems, accounting principles and accounting software operation.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 89.2

Educational Affordability: 92.3

Earning Index: 30.8

Job Opportunity: <10

Spotlight Career: Brokerage Clerk

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $51,640
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 9.1%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $3,879

25 Construction Management

Construction Management

Construction managers help ensure that building projects both big and small are completed on time and within budget. This major rounds out our list of best value business degrees due to a strong earnings index (it ranked ninth out of 66) and good marks in affordability (23rd).

Major overview: These programs help train professionals to manage and supervise construction for a wide variety of projects, including commercial, residential, mechanical, highway/heavy civil, electrical, environmental, industrial, and specialty construction. Some topics students can expect to study include project planning, budgeting, materials management, and personnel management skills.

Category Scores

Educational Availability: 49.2

Educational Affordability: 67.7

Earning Index: 87.7

Job Opportunity: 12.3

Spotlight Career: Construction Manager

  • Entry-Level Degree Required: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2015 National Average Salary: $97,510
  • 2014-2024 Job Growth: 4.8%
  • Average In-State Tuition: $9,861
Article Sources