In today’s business landscape, everything is global. Businesses, big and small, are increasingly expanding their efforts beyond our 50 states (and DC). This shift makes graduates with an international business degree highly sought after for a wide range of roles across all types of businesses.
The overall employment in business and financial occupations is expected to grow faster than average from 2022 to 2032. That’s a good indicator that this is a great time to study international business.
In this article, we’ll explore what international business degrees entail, what to expect from them, career opportunities after graduation, and other relevant information that can help you make better academic decisions.
Simply put, an international business (IB) degree is a program designed to arm you with the knowledge and skills you need to thrive in the dynamic world of international business.
An international business degree can open doors to a wide array of industries, positioning graduates as valuable assets in today’s globalized economy. From multinational corporations spanning technology, finance, and manufacturing to roles in international trade and nonprofit organizations, these degrees offer versatility. As an international business major, you can also find opportunities in consulting firms, finance and banking, logistics, marketing, technology, hospitality, healthcare, and many related industries.
The Classification of Instructional Programs defines International Business degrees as:
Programs that prepare individuals to manage international businesses and/or business operations. Includes instruction in the principles and processes of export sales, trade controls, foreign operations and related problems, monetary issues, international business policy, and applications to doing business in specific countries and markets.
To simplify this definition, degrees in international business can prepare you for broadly two types of functions:
1. To lead or manage an international business.
(Think COO, Co-founder, International Business Manager, Global Operations Specialist, International Management Consultant etc.)
2. To manage or oversee specific international business operations.
(Think Global Marketing Manager, Compliance Director, International Trade Manager, Data Analysis Consultant, etc.)
Common Titles for International Business Degrees
International business degree programs differ with each university. They may have similar coursework, but different titles across colleges. They may be offered at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels, or as certificate programs.
Broadly, at all levels, there are 2 types of IB programs:
1. Programs that cater specifically to international business.
For example: Everglades University’s Bachelor’s in International Business.
2. Programs that offer international business as a concentration or emphasis.
For example: Keiser University’s Business Administration, BA, with a concentration in International Business.
Here are some program titles commonly seen across international business degrees at leading universities:
Undergraduate International Business Degrees
- Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in International Business
- Associate in Science (AS) in International Business
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in International Business
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Business Administration with an international business concentration
- Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) with an international business concentration
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) – International Business
- Bachelor of Science in Business – Global Management
- Bachelor of Business Management (BBM) with a concentration in International Business
- Bachelor of Science in Business Studies – International Management
- Bachelor of Science in International Business Administration
Graduate International Business Degrees
- Master of Science (MS) in International Business
- Master in Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in international business
- Masters in International Management (MIM)
- Master of International Business (MIB)
- MBA/Master of International Business (dual degree)
- Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in International Business
- Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in International Business
- Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) – Global Business
- Doctor of International Business (DIB)
These are the most commonly seen degree titles for IB degree programs across colleges and universities. Some institutions may label them differently, though. If you’re searching for similar degrees at your desired schools, look for subjects like global marketing, international management, foreign markets, global commerce, etc.
While the coursework and curricula can differ with each program, most international or global business degrees include courses that prepare you for various facets of multinational business.
Core Courses to Expect With International Business Degrees
Here are some of the core courses typically offered by most international or global business degree programs:
With international marketing courses, the focus lies on understanding and implementing strategies that effectively promote products and services on a global scale. These courses explore the intricacies of diverse consumer behaviors and ever-evolving trends within global markets. With advanced degrees, these courses go well beyond the simple 5 Ps of marketing and may sometimes include STEM-related components.
Topics covered in global finance courses include foreign exchange dynamics, investment strategies, and risk management on a global scale. The goal is to help you build the knowledge and analytical skills necessary to make informed financial decisions within the context of diverse markets, currencies, and economic environments.
These courses explore strategies to foster effective communication and collaboration among people from varied cultural backgrounds. This knowledge is immensely valuable, especially in businesses that actively work with people from different countries and cultures.
International Trade and Economics
There are certain fundamental principles that govern cross-border commerce. Courses in international trade, business law, and economics introduce you to these. Being aware of these principles and regulations can make you a valuable asset in any company that does business overseas.
Global Supply Chain Management
These courses help you understand processes related to the movement of goods and services across international borders. They typically cover strategies to ensure efficiency in global supply chains, encompassing aspects from logistics to procurement. The goal is to equip you with an understanding of the flow of business and identify optimal strategies to ensure maximum efficiency.
These are just a few of the most common courses seen across IB programs at various schools. Besides these, some programs also include courses on topics such as sustainability, ethics, digital marketing, and other closely related topics.
Concentrations to Expect With International Business Degrees
While international business is itself a concentration offered as part of many business degrees, some programs let you major in IB, and choose a further area of emphasis.
Here are some common concentrations offered:
- Human Resource Management (HRM)
- Operations Management
- Global Business Strategy
- International Trade and Development
These are but a few of the popular specialization options offered by most schools. Some universities offer super-specific concentrations, letting you focus on areas as niche as international luxury marketing, tourism, healthcare, e-commerce, and such.
Business is a popular major by itself. Focusing on international business can lead to lucrative career opportunities, equipping you with in-demand skills. If you’re interested in business, but want to explore the world beyond our states, an IB degree can be just the ticket. Even if you simply intend to learn about global markets without having to leave the comfort of your home, these programs can prepare you for roles at multinational corporations (MNCs) within the US.
International business is a versatile field, with transferable skills that are in demand across several industries. Here are some fields in which international business majors thrive:
Marketing and Sales
An international business degree equips students with the knowledge and skills to excel in global marketing and sales. Understanding diverse consumer behaviors and market trends on a global scale prepares graduates for roles such as:
- Global Marketing Managers
- International Marketing Specialists
- Global Sales Managers
- Cross-Cultural Communications Coordinator
Related: Marketing Degree Career Paths
Finance and Banking
In the finance and banking sector, an international business degree provides insights into global financial markets and cross-border transactions. Graduates can pursue roles such as:
- International Financial Analysts
- Global Investment Managers
- Foreign Exchange Traders
International Trade and Logistics
For those interested in trade and logistics, an international business degree is invaluable. Graduates can contribute to efficient global supply chains and international trade operations in roles such as:
- Logistics and Supply Chain Managers
- International Trade Specialists
- Import/Export Coordinators
Government and Policymaking
An international business degree is well-suited for those aspiring to work in government or diplomatic roles that involve international relations. Career options include:
- Foreign Affairs Specialists
- Diplomatic Officers
- Trade Policy Analysts
Hospitality and Tourism
For individuals interested in the hospitality and tourism industry, an international business degree provides a global perspective on managing hotels, resorts, and tourism operations. Careers may include:
- International Hotel Managers
- Tourism Development Specialists
- Destination Marketing Coordinators
Owing to the versatile nature of IB programs, it is also possible for graduates to build transferable skills that can be applied across sectors such as healthcare, entertainment, education, human resources, and more. Choose a program that caters to your goals and lets you learn what you’re most interested in.
Should you pursue a degree in international business, or one in finance?
To answer this, you should understand the differences between the two. The table below highlights key distinctions across 4 aspects: typical curriculum, career opportunities, coursework emphasis, and skills developed.
|International Business Degrees
|Cover fundamental business concepts, principles, and practices with a focus on global markets and operations. Usually include courses in global marketing, international trade law, foreign policy, global economics, cross-cultural communication, etc.
|Focus on financial management, investment analysis, and financial markets. Usually include courses in accounting, economics, statistics, financial modeling, portfolio management, and risk management.
|Prepare students for a wide range of career opportunities in various sectors, including marketing, economics, accounting, law, information technology, and international financial institutions.
|Prepare students for careers in finance, banking, investment management, financial analysis, and financial planning.
|Emphasize global markets, operations, and principles, with a focus on cross-cultural communication and international trade.
|Emphasize financial management, investment analysis, and financial markets, with a focus on accounting, economics, and financial modeling.
|Develop linguistic and cross-cultural proficiencies, as well as analytical, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
|Develop analytical, quantitative, and financial modeling skills, as well as communication and interpersonal skills.
Both international business and finance degrees offer a wide range of career paths across sectors. International business professionals can explore career paths in management, marketing, human resource management, economics, and operations management. On the other hand, finance degree holders can obtain roles with multinational firms and work as financial analysts.
If you’re looking for a more versatile degree that can prepare you for careers across the international business landscape, or if you’re not sure which area of business you’re most interested in, then consider getting a degree in international business.
If you’re interested in analyzing market data, managing funds, and helping businesses make the best use of their finances, then a degree in finance is likely what you’re looking for.
Ultimately, the choice between the two fields should be based on your career aspirations, personal strengths, and the specific skills and knowledge you aim to acquire.
International business is an underrated major, with only about 9000 degrees being awarded in 2021, according to Data USA. This can be a great opportunity to get ahead of the curve and build skills that not many possess.
Majoring in international business can satisfy your curiosity to explore businesses beyond our borders—without having to cross them. It can also be a great path for those who aren’t sure which area of business they want to move towards. Graduating with a degree in global business can lead to careers in fields such as marketing, sales, finance, banking, international trade, logistics, government and policymaking, hospitality, tourism, and many more.
As businesses continue to expand, the demand for professionals with a global perspective is on the rise. A degree in international business can open doors that not a lot of other degrees can. So, whether you’re aiming for a corner office in marketing, a government role in international policymaking, or a position at the intersection of technology and global business, this could be your answer.
International business involves businesses operating across different countries. The main aim is to expand business beyond national borders, fostering global economic connections. It plays a key role in connecting businesses and consumers worldwide. While importing and exporting are the most common forms of international business activity, they can also exist in the form of franchising, licensing, joint ventures, etc. Tourism, foreign investing, and similar roles also fall within the broad ambit of international business.
Yes, you can. Many universities offer accredited online international business degrees. In fact, many traditional international business degrees also have online components, letting you interact with people across the world to build a better global perspective.