Carolina experts offer advice to prospective business majors

Vanessa Infanzon

College of Charleston
College of Charleston students listen and learn. Photo by Reese Moore

Many students head off to college with the intent of pursuing a degree in accounting, marketing, international business or finance, but finding the right school to hone their skills takes research.

Daryl Kerr, clinical professor and the director of first-year experience at the Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte, said business degrees are essential to the global marketplace.

Companies need employees proficient in profit and loss, strategic planning, investment opportunities and marketing. Most important, Kerr said, is that graduates know how to work with employees, colleagues and customers from different cultural backgrounds.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 19 percent, or 358,000, of the degrees conferred in 2013-14 were awarded to business majors.

There are dozens of undergraduate business schools in North Carolina and South Carolina. Finding the right one for you means asking questions. Here are a few to help you begin your search:

What makes the business school unique?

Kerr recommends researching the best accrediting agencies for business schools. “There are a lot of programs out there,” Kerr said. “What is the quality of these programs? You want to find out what distinguishes that business school from other ones.”

A college’s location can determine the opportunities available for guest speakers, internships and work. Opportunities for on- and off-campus leadership positions, internships, volunteering and part-time work are necessary to be a viable job candidate, he added.

Jim Allison, the executive director of the career center at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, also recognizes that there are many business schools offering the same majors. At open house programs, he advises asking questions like: “Can you get me an internship in Qatar? Can you get me an internship in London? Can you get me an internship on Wall Street?”

Talking with staff from the career center and academic advising, as well as a faculty member in the program you are seeking, is an important part of the decision-making process, he said.

Allison recommends asking specific questions about what happens to the school’s graduates. Which companies interview on campus each year? How many graduates were hired from the past two graduating classes? For students who are considering graduate school, Allison suggests asking questions about where recent graduates are attending business school and how many are following that path.

What kind of support will I receive as a student in the business school?

The transition from high school to college can be difficult, especially for students in a new city or state. According to Kerr, many business schools offer a first-year experience program that helps students develop the skills needed to succeed. Encouraging students to engage in campus life and learn about resources increases the chances that they will stay at the school and graduate.

Kerr explained that how the faculty and staff view their job at the school also makes a difference in the quality of the program. He suggests that it’s key for faculty to not only care about the success and well-being of their students, but to ensure that teaching is a high priority.

How will I be prepared for my career when I graduate from this school?

After four years of school, students want to know that they can secure a job in their field. Kerr said, “Grades are not enough these days. You’ve got to have several internships, and if possible, you want to study abroad.”

Kerr encourages students to ask how a program will give them the competitive edge to make it in the global economy. He suggests asking how a school supports the development of “soft skills,” such as writing, speaking, small group communication, interpersonal skills and teamwork.

Allison believes that the right school should be able to identify a set of experiences and opportunities that fit what students want to do with their degree. He recommends students ask, “What will I learn that is different than a business administration degree at another school?”


Vanessa Infanzon is a freelance writer based in Charlotte. In her former life, she worked in Student Life at Davidson College, UNC Charlotte and Queens University of Charlotte. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @morethanVMI