International Business Majors Guide

What Does it Mean to Study International Business?

Long gone are the days where travel around the globe was limited to several-months-long journeys by horse or by sea — the days when continents were separated by a barrier that, at the time, must have seemed insurmountable. In the modern world, international business is no pipe dream, but is instead a way of life for many established professionals. By joining their ranks as an educated specialist who understands the diversity of international business — and is armed with a strong business school background — you can be a valuable participant in global business ventures.

A formal, accredited business degree in international business is a strong first step towards competing in the global market. The survival of many American companies is dependent on the ability to expand into new markets, and part of doing so is understanding the needs and wants of their international customers.

Keep reading to learn more about international business degrees, what they entail and what you should expect during an education as an international business major.

Types of International Business Degrees

While many accredited schools offer international business degree programs in a traditional college setting, online college courses in international business are also increasingly prevalent options for students across the globe. If your location, your work schedule, or some other factor is preventing you from earning an on-campus degree, an online degree program may be an ideal alternative.

The curriculum for international business programs typically portrays the standard fare of business courses through the unique perspective of how to do business on a global scale. There are many differences between domestic business ventures and conducting business on a global scale, and those differences are the primary focus of the field. Core courses for international business often include management, economics, marketing and business law.

It’s important to select the correct degree level for your situation when pursuing international business. Let’s take a look at some of the differences between the different international business degree levels and the courses you may find yourself taking in pursuit of each.

Associate Degrees in International Business

An associate degree in international business is meant to offer an introduction to the concepts and responsibilities of this important field. Traditionally two years in length, these programs can focus on specialized international business courses, related basic business subjects, and a range of general educational requirements.

While this degree can stand on its own, it’s also a great starting point to focus on in pursuit of a four-year degree in this field. However, it may also be sufficient to open the door to entry-level career opportunities all on its own. Whether you choose to earn an associate degree for the purpose of starting a career or as a stepping stone towards earning a bachelor’s degree, you should expect to take the following courses during your program:

  • Fundamentals of finance
  • International business basics
  • Economics
  • International business law
  • International marketing

Bachelor’s Degrees in International Business

An international business degree can also be pursued at the bachelor’s level. A bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum requirement for entry-level positions in American businesses with overseas markets, whether in private, governmental or nonprofit organizations.

As you pursue a bachelor’s degree, you are expected to develop an understanding of international business, marketing, finance and trade through policy analysis and case studies. Developing your communication skills and learning at least one foreign language are also important goals for students in this field. Here are a few examples of courses offered in this field:

  • Global finances
  • International management
  • Marketing in a multinational setting
  • International economics
  • Cultural norms

Master’s Degrees in International Business

A master’s degree program in international business exists to introduce students to the complex and forward-thinking business topics that affect businesses that operate worldwide, as part of helping graduates to earn positions in said businesses.

It’s common for specializations to be available at this degree level, giving students added control over what they study so they can focus on their preferred aspects of the field. International business itself can be offered as a specialization for an Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) program, too. Topics of study at this degree level may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • International project management
  • Business analytics
  • International entrepreneurship
  • Global finance
  • Global business ethics

What Can You Do With a College Degree in International Business?

Many jobs in international business involve sales and marketing, whether it’s in a traditional employee role, on contract or as an entrepreneur. And while the name “international business” may cause you to envision sleepless red-eye flights across the world to attend this meeting or that training — and while those may in fact sometimes occur — many jobs in international business can be performed in your own community. After all, talking to a representative in another country who is liaising between you and your end consumers can be as easy as picking up the phone.

Before you decide to major in international business, it’s wise to understand the career options that may be available, so that you can better orient yourself to pursue the future you desire. Your education should reflect your interest in business and some specialty within it — marketing, financial management or nonprofit management, for example. Here are some careers in the field that an international business student might want to aim for:

Budget Analysts

Budget analysts help organizations keep track of and manage their finances. When these professionals work for international businesses, however, they need to have a broad knowledge of multinational financial customs, as well as international banking standards and financial markets.

While budget analyst job duties vary, many help their organizations create budgets they can stick to while meeting payroll and other financial obligations. They may also drill down into the projects and activities of the company and use their research to find ways to reduce or redirect business spending so organizations can spend their money where it matters.

  • Budget analysts typically need a bachelor’s degree for entry-level work.
  • While certification is not always required, budget analysts that work for government agencies may benefit from earning the Certified Government Financial Manager credential from the Association of Government Accountants.

Financial Analysts

Financial analysts help businesses make important investment decisions with their business capital. They may spend their time researching investment options, looking for ways to optimize business revenue through investment, and studying economic and business trends in an effort to predict optimal financial strategies for the future.

  • Financial analysts typically need a bachelor’s degree.
  • Many employers prefer certification, such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification from the CFA Institute.

Financial Managers

Financial managers are responsible for the financial health of the organization they work for. These professionals take a holistic look at their company’s financials — including liabilities, capital, debt, etc. — and propose solutions and strategies to make their most of their position, both the good and the bad. Financial managers also prepare reports and financial statements with the goal of keeping other company members abreast of their business finances and new changes as they take place.

  • Financial managers typically need a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of experience.
  • While certification is not required, some workers choose to pursue the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification from the CFA Institute.


Actuaries use complex math and data to predict risk for businesses and organizations. They analyze studies and information in an effort to estimate the likelihood of certain events, then create reports and presentations. While the bulk of their work is done with computers and software programs, it’s still important for actuaries to have an in-depth knowledge of complex financial and mathematical concepts. On an international business level, their level of expertise may need to be even higher, since different financial markets and currencies may be involved.

  • A bachelor’s degree in finance, business or economics is the most common way to get started in this field.
  • The Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) and the Society of Actuaries (SOA) both offer two levels of certification in this field: associate and fellow.

Cost Estimators

Cost estimators use their knowledge to predict the costs of various business-related projects as accurately as they can. They identify factors affecting costs; prepare budgets and projections; then present their predictions for how much businesses should reasonably expect to spend. Working with other professionals in their field, they may also brainstorm ways to reduce project budgets in hopes of preserving their company’s capital.

  • Most cost estimators have a bachelor’s degree.
  • Certification is not a requirement for this career.

International Business Salaries and Career Outlook

Total Employment
Annual Mean Wage
Budget Analysts51,460$80,300
Financial and Investment Analysts, Financial Risk Specialists, and Financial Specialists, All Other458,510$94,160
Cost Estimators210,000$71,350
Financial Managers654,790$147,530

International Business Associations and Organizations

As an international business major, it can be helpful to be aware of developing business trends and opportunities with professional organizations in the international business field. Here are some of the most important organizations to be aware of:

  • Casualty Actuary Society — This organization works to keep actuaries abreast of changes within their industry, both through news updates and through educational opportunities. Certification is also available through the society, as well as continuing education.
  • CFA Institute — The CFA Institute offers news, educational opportunities and resources for financial analysts and other professionals. They also host the Chartered Financial Analyst credential.
  • Forum for International Trade Training — This organization offers news and networking opportunities for international traders and business professionals. Through them, applicants can also earn the FITT Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) credential.
  • Nasbite International — Nasbite International aims to advance global business opportunities for businesspeople in nearly every field. The organization awards the Certified Global Business Professional (CGPB) to select business professionals that operate on a global level.

Article Sources


  1. Actuaries, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  2. Associate Degree in International Business, The University of the Potomac,
  3. Budget Analysts, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  4. Cost Estimators, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  5. Financial Analysts, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  6. Financial Managers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  7. Masters in International Business, Hult,
  8. Online Bachelor’s Degree in International Business, Southern New Hampshire University,
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