What Specialties Can You Study Within Business?

Like most students applying to college, you want a degree that offers flexibility and prepares you for success in the field. You probably desire something that aligns with your skills and interests, but simultaneously may boost your earning potential.

We know that committing to any program can be stressful, which is why we have compiled information on all eight undergraduate business programs that Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management offers and why you may want to consider pursuing a bachelor’s degree in a business field. 


“Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today,” comments MaryAnn Monforte, professor of accounting practice. 

Monforte explains why accountants are in high demand currently. “Accountants are needed to audit and validate that a company is fairly and accurately reporting its financial health. People are still investing and looking for jobs, so we rely on these financial statements to be accurate. They impact if banks will lend to them as well. When you have an accounting degree you are a hot commodity,” she says.

“All public companies are required to have an independent public accounting firm. Large accounting and professional service companies such as PwC, EYDeloitte and KPMG are needed now more than ever. They also play the role of trusted advisors and talk about acquisitions and other business strategies,” explains Monforte.

“Accounting tells the story of a business. Being able to interpret a story is huge,” says Monforte. 

Individuals interested in accounting need to be inquisitive and have the ability to logically work through problems. Monforte adds, “Being creative is also important. People don’t think of that. It’s not just crunching numbers. It’s about interpreting what numbers tell us.”

It’s true. Accountants do not solely work with numbers; they analyze, summarize and report their findings on the financial health of an organization. They work closely with a variety of colleagues and clients. People with an accounting background can work in private or public sectors and have a wide variety of jobs to choose from such as a forensic accountant, tax attorney or financial analyst.

Earning a degree in accounting, even a bachelor’s, can set you up on a reliable career path. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of an accountant is $71,550 annually. The projected employment rate for this field is 6% until 2028. The median base salary that accounting majors from the Whitman School class of 2019 saw was $61,890 but the range was between $50,000 to $85,000.

Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises 

“Entrepreneurship is about the pursuit of opportunities in regards to resources currently controlled,” says Alexander McKelvie, associate dean for undergraduate and master’s education and professor of entrepreneurship. Having an entrepreneurial background could prepare you for the future.

Entrepreneurs impact the capitalistic environment by promoting competition and challenging innovation. Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Sam Walton are among some of the best-known entrepreneurs. However, not every individual launches their own corporation right away, but having a degree in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprise from the Whitman School could assist you in finding other business and non-business related jobs

Over half of the world’s billionaires are self-made. Although that may not be realistic for a newbie entering the business world, the average entrepreneurs’ annual salary nears $70,000. The range of salaries for the Whitman class of 2019 entrepreneur students was between $32,000 to $90,000 with a median base of $53,500.

“Entrepreneurs are well-known for being comfortable with uncertainty. Given the current challenges we all face, learning to think entrepreneurially in times of uncertainty is a valuable skill for anyone in the workplace,” states Todd Moss, chair of the department of entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises, associate professor of entrepreneurship and faculty director of the Sustainable Enterprise Partnership.

Moss adds, “Thinking entrepreneurially is one skill that you will learn early and learn well as an Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises (EEE) major at the Whitman School. Yes, entrepreneurial thinking is valuable to entrepreneurs, but it is also valuable to businesses and other organizations, which is why EEE students are well-prepared to tackle any role in today’s marketplace. Finding ways to create value, to see or create opportunities where others can’t, is a necessary ingredient for your success.”


Ravi Shukla, associate professor of finance, recognizes that uncertainty is scary for many students to face. “Students have to evaluate their circumstances and decide what makes sense in their particular case. In the current climate, students who don’t have employment opportunities may find college a better use of your time,” he says.

You may want to consider earning a degree in finance for earning potential and job flexibility. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of a financial analyst is over $85,000. Students who specialize in finance may become auditors, personal financial advisors, entrepreneurs or take advantage of a different career path with the skills they obtain.

The 2019 finance majors from the Whitman School earned a median salary of $65,415 with a range between $31,200 to $90,000.

Many people in the world are under financial stress; they do not know how to manage their savings, they are experiencing unemployment or they are encountering other financial hardships. Some individuals are turning to financial advisors for help for the first time in their life. Earning a degree in finance could allow you to work for financial planning groups and help people in similar situations of uncertainty in the future. 


“A management degree is incredibly versatile, valuable and relevant. It prepares you for a wide range of careers and builds skills in leadership, collaboration, communication, creative and analytical thinking, technological literacy and data analysis. Those skills will not only help you launch a career but also will help you move up the organizational ladder,” says Lynne Vincent, associate professor of management.

Majoring in business management has the potential to help you advance your career more rapidly. In addition, Poets and Quants reports that, “Business majors have earned a return of 17 percent on their degree for more than a decade, outperforming their counterparts who majored in degrees such as liberal arts, leisure and hospitality and education.” 

The average base pay for someone with a business management degree is $63,388 annually, according to Glassdoor. For 2019 Whitman School business management graduates, the base salary was $57,000 and the range was between $20,800 to $70,000.

Business management majors may become business analysts, account managers or work in a variety of other fields. 

Marketing Management 

Companies will always need marketing professionals, “With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and social media, the demand has been particularly high for marketers equipped with the latest analytical and managerial knowledge,” says Eunkyu Lee, associate dean for global initiatives and professor of marketing. An education in marketing can open doors to a plethora of careers in areas such as market research, brand management, new product development, multi-media marketing communications and sales.

“Whitman marketing management majors are well prepared for opportunities in marketing strategy, marketing communications, analytics and customer management in today’s global, competitive and dynamic marketplace,” states Lee.

According to Glassdoor, the average base salary for a person working in the marketing field is $54,268. Whitman’s marketing management students who graduated in 2019 saw a median base salary of $57,000, which was above the national average. The range of salaries was between $17,870 and $90,000.

Pursuing a career in marketing could be exciting and rewarding for students who are creative, analytical and who enjoy strategic thinking. There is a lot of job flexibility and Whitman’s marketing management program will give you a broad foundation to launch your career. 

Real Estate

Erasmo Giambona, James D. Kuhn Center for Real Estate director, Falcone Chair in Real Estate and professor of finance shares, “On March 3, 2020, the Federal Reserve started a massive monetary stimulus that will have a direct beneficial effect on the real estate market. Having a real estate degree will give you a competitive edge in the job market.” 

“Real estate represents approximately half of the world’s wealth and is the most important asset that most individuals would own in their life. Increased prominence of real estate has led to a growing demand for specialized skills in the analysis of real estate decisions, development, investments and asset management,” says Milena Petrova, assistant professor of finance, who teaches courses in real estate and corporate finance at the Whitman School.

Petrova explains what differentiates the Whitman School’s real estate bachelor program from others. “The real estate program at Whitman provides you with in-depth knowledge in the major areas of the industry – real estate finance, property development, as well as investments and capital markets. In addition, you have the opportunity to participate in hands-on experiential learning classes in NYC and are offered Excel and Argus specialized real estate modeling training,” she shares.

“Real estate offers a rewarding and challenging career. Examples of areas where our students work upon graduation include: asset and portfolio management, real estate capital markets, REITs, private equity, corporate real estate, appraisal, development and brokerage,” says Petrova.

She adds, “Compensation is very competitive and on average is about the same as that in finance.” The average base salary for the class of 2019 real estate Whitman graduates was $69,300 with a range of $35,360 to $85,000.

Retail Management

The retail industry is vast and impactful to every single individual. If you have ever been to a mall, grocery store or paid to watch a movie, you have directly engaged in retail. The National Retail Federation claims, “Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, driving the U.S. economy and creating jobs in communities around the country. Retail is everywhere.”

Retail also supports 25% of jobs within the United States.

“Retail is an exciting and dynamic industry that focuses on the consumer trends, fashion trends, technological trends, managing inventory and supply chains. If you are interested in any of these areas, earning a degree in retail management would be a good fit for you,” states Ray Wimer, professor of retail practice. The average base salary for Whitman graduates who enter the retail industry was $57,000 in 2019. The base salary range was $40,000 to $60,000.

Supply Chain Management

Almost every product you purchase has been produced by the collective effort of multiple organizations. For example, purchasing bread requires ingredient suppliers, a bakery, an organization to package the bread, an organization to sell the packaging and so on.

In times of crisis, supply chains can get disrupted. There is a need for trained professionals to help return the cycle to normal and prepare a crisis plan for the next unexpected event. 

“Almost 40 percent of employment opportunities in the business world are supply chain positions. Starting salaries within the supply chain field are between $50k to 60k and will vary based on regions within the U.S.,” says Patrick Penfield, professor of supply chain practice and director of executive education.

Graduates of the 2019 Whitman School supply chain program earned a median base pay of $60,000 with a range of $17,870 to $90,500.

“Many supply chain professionals are also retiring, and this is leading to more opportunities for new supply chain professionals. This is a perfect time for you to get a supply chain management degree!” says Penfield.

Multiple studies have revealed that, for each supply chain professional entering the business world, at least two are leaving. There is also fear among business leaders that talent pools in the discipline are shrinking, making this a prime time for you to earn a degree in supply chain and fill the gap in the workforce. 

Why Whitman? Why Right Now?

A business education at Whitman will prepare you for the ever-changing world. McKelvie remarks that there will always be disruption and fast change, but that is why prospective students should consider earning a business degree. He adds, “A business education, especially at Whitman, will help you develop your entrepreneurial skills so you can deal with this in the future. Something that differentiates the Whitman School from other schools is the quality of the experience that students are receiving.”

He explains, “We continue to train faculty that provide a dynamic and engaging education that will educate you in the classroom, as well as  those who are learning remotely from their dorms, NYC, China and elsewhere.” 

Faculty are also increasing their accessibility by holding evening office hours to accommodate students in different time zones such as international students. 

Petrova admits that prospective and current students will face challenges but that they should use this time to embrace an educational opportunity. “The job market will be quite challenging for at least a year. Traveling will be difficult too. So, better spend this time in school,” she says.

Petrova adds, “Business as we know it, may undergo major shifts with more firms taking advantage of work from home practices. In the short-term, most companies will have to implement cost-cutting strategies to increase efficiencies and respond to the current market conditions. This implies that to be competitive in a challenging job market, prospective real estate students should also take advantage of the various activities and certifications offered through Whitman and build a strong resume.”

Monforte optimistically says, “If there is one positive outcome for students returning to universities this fall, it is the flexibility that has been created. You will never miss out on anything no matter where you are. I will teach live classes this fall, but only so many students in person at one given time, so I will be recording lectures and having online sessions. Even if you’re compromised, you can be there virtually.”

Monforte explains that students who pursue their educational endeavors will also build fortitude. “Being able to function and learn live, online, synchronously and asynchronously will just make you a better professional. In the real world, you will have problems to figure out on your own or you will have to watch videos or figure out the best answer on your own. This environment gives you a unique opportunity to develop these thought skills.”

It is important to differentiate yourself from others. A business degree will provide skills and tools that prepare you for success beyond Whitman. The experiential learning opportunities available to you as a student will provide hands-on learning and experience in the field before graduation. 

Learn more about Whitman’s undergraduate programs.

Maya Bingaman
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