When starting a Commerce degree, the choice of subjects, pathways and majors can be daunting. My aim with this post is to shed a little bit of light into what each of the majors are.
Firstly, I want to address the fact that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter a whole lot what degree you have. When interviewing for a position, it comes down to whether you are the best candidate for that job. Of course, doing an accounting degree might help you get a job at KPMG doing auditing, but it is not going to be deciding factor.
So, in a Commerce degree there are usually some standard majors to choose from. These include Accounting, Finance, Management, Marketing, Information Systems. I will break down what each of these really focuses on for the rest of this article.
Now, it is important to note that not every business school is going to offer the same majors. While the common majors will be offered almost everywhere, there are many other majors which may or may not be offered at your school. For example, the University of New South Wales Business School offers majors in Business Law and Taxation but does not offer a major in Banking.
The Big Two
Accounting and Finance are standard majors offered at Business Schools worldwide. The reason is that both majors are very applicable to the job market and develop some very important skills.
Both majors involve transforming information from certain inputs into more useful outputs. Additionally, both majors require the application of large amounts of information.
Accounting is an integral part of any business at any level. The raw accounting skills that your will get from the major are literally applicable all the way from running a small lawn mowing business, all the way up to the Apples and Googles of the world. In this way, Accounting is the single most useful major in the Commerce degree. You will also get the maths skills that come along with working with numbers all day as well as a good ability to work in Excel. Many accounting programs will also provide exposure to some accounting software packages.
I did an accounting course last year, and the assignment was to do the books for a few months’ worth of transactions at a retail store, and then produce the financial statements for the business. I very quickly learned how to make a tedious excel task into an easier one by using some of the formulas built into it.
Apart from Accounting, Finance is probably the most directly useful major. The reason for this is that it teaches some very core concepts that can be applied both in the business world, and in your own life. Finance is where we learn about the functioning of interest rates, savings accounts, equity and debt financing, banking, investing, stock picking and a plethora of other topics. A finance major is a very flexible major. At UNSW, a Finance major can consist of anything from Corporate Governance to Asia-Pacific Capital Markets to Credit Analysis and Lending to International Banking. Almost no two students will have to same courses and skills coming out of a finance major which makes it a very good major to choose if you know what path you want to go down.
Finance is a more maths heavy course. While the maths is not super complex, it is advisable to be comfortable with mathematics and be able to work with it. Someone who really struggles in maths may find the maths-based courses in Finance more difficult.
Of course, the management major is also very important. It teaches the skills required to make a business function in hiring, coordinating and creating an effective environment for employees. The other area that a management major touches on is the strategic side of business. This gives the skills for a student to go into the workforce and manage both the human and the operational sides of a business.
The management major is probably well paired with another major from the business school to give you the technical skills and knowledge to operate in a business environment.
Especially in the modern world, marketing is extremely important. The skills gained from a marketing degree allow someone to align a business’s activities with the demands of the consumer. This includes conducting market research to discover what the market wants and producing advertisements to show what the business is able to offer.
Marketing is not simply creating pretty advertisements or conducting focus groups. Marketing includes a wide range of areas which draw from the social sciences, economics and other business school majors.
Information systems is a relatively new major compared to Accounting and Finance. Information systems allows people to understand how a business in the modern environment can gather, store and share data. Being a new major, this focuses a lot on the skills required to solve problems and create innovative solutions.