Why Study Business

Why Study Business

Research suggests that about one-third of all college students will change their major before graduating. This is a positive thing. Few college students have true work experience, so they most likely do not know where their gifts and interests will best fit in the working world. Therefore, the first year or even two is often a time of self-discovery, of learning how their interests and abilities intersect the world's needs. Or as Frederick Buechner tells us, students come to learn where God has called them as they discover "the place where (their) deep gladness and the world's deep hunger coincide."

The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in 2014-2015, business was the most popular major among the almost 1.9 million college graduates, with almost 20% receiving bachelor's degrees in business. Similarly, at Dallas Baptist University, more students seek majors in business than in any other program. But why is business so popular? We have seen in the press and social media a rise of socialist voices in politics and criticism of a perceived "greediness" among companies and their leaders. In this cultural context, why would so many students pursue a business degree?

Several factors draw students to study business.

To borrow a phrase from McDonalds, "Do you want a job with that?" While no bachelor's degree guarantees a job, the perception is that a business degree is a better predictor of finding a job after graduation. With the high cost of higher education, parents and students alike often view the selection of a major from a pragmatic standpoint in the pursuit of financial independence and security.

Students are exposed to the business world to a much larger degree than to other vocational fields simply by growing up in our consumer-oriented society. They are exposed to advertisements throughout their day, make purchases often without giving it second thought, and through social media see the purchases of their friends. Students become brand loyal before they are old enough to understand what brand loyalty even means. With all that "business" experience, it is understandable that students are more inclined to choose business as a field of study over other areas.

Even with the criticisms of business we see in the media, business leaders still hold a position of admiration in our society. For example, we have seen a rise in the number of business-related reality TV shows such as Shark Tank and Undercover Boss. On a smaller stage, local business leaders volunteer their time to mentor kids, provide financial support for little league teams and demonstrate exceptional character in many ways. Students who grow up with these examples reflect their admiration for what they see and experience by seeking to emulate these leaders.

While these factors describe why many students choose business as a field of study, let me suggest three other reasons why students should study business.

1. Business benefits society.

Business owners and leaders take risks (financial and reputation) to create products and services that people need. Most new businesses fail, so the risks are real for entrepreneurs, but existing businesses experience similar risks. In addition to providing products and services, businesses provide jobs and the income and personal growth opportunities that go with a job. Businesses pay taxes to help support society. We are seeing a rise in social entrepreneurship, where business leaders use a business to address a need in society. In so many ways, business benefits society and is a worthy vocation to pursue.

2. God calls people to business.

In the creation story God commanded Adam to work, to steward creation and help it flourish. Adam and Eve were designed by God, gifted by him to care for creation and build a society that would flourish. The Fall corrupted every part of creation, and it is only by God's grace through Jesus that we can be redeemed. And not only are we redeemed and restored, but God gives us the amazing opportunity to work alongside him in restoring creation. To this end, God creates each person with a unique set of interests, abilities, and gifts with the goal of each person co-laboring with him in restoring creation and promoting human flourishing. Some are gifted for medicine, others teaching, others preaching and still others for business. Yes, God does gift some people with the skills, abilities and interests to start or run businesses to the glory of God. So, if you take a genuine interest in business, if you believe you have a unique set of skills and abilities that were designed to help you thrive in the marketplace, then perhaps God has gifted and called you to work with him in restoring creation through the marketplaces of the world. What better way to prepare for that than to study business.

3. Business opens doors for the Gospel.

Over 40% of the world's population has almost no opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus. Many of these live in countries with borders closed to missionaries. In some cases, even non-profit organizations have limited or no access. However, most of these countries welcome foreign businesses because they see the economic advantage of having foreign investment in the country. Followers of Jesus who are gifted by God for business and who conduct their lives and their business in ways that honor God and reflect his love for the world can holistically show that love through a "business as mission" (BAM) business. BAM businesses are typically sustainable, for-profit businesses that bless the communities in which they operate by providing products, services, technology, jobs and tax revenues. In addition, these business people build relationships with their various stakeholders and have many opportunities to make disciples as they carry out their work. Not every follower of Jesus is called to live cross-culturally, but we are all called to make disciples. Through BAM businesses, those who have never heard the Gospel can know what it means to have a personal relationship with the God who created and loves them.

So why study business?

Beyond the practical reason, getting a job after graduation, students who are gifted by God with skills, abilities and interests in business should study to prepare themselves for God's call. Followers of Jesus who are called by God to business carry out the sacred work of starting and running businesses with creativity and excellence in all they do, blessing stakeholders as they carry out their calling, reflecting the nature and purposes of God.

Interested in learning more? Visit DBU's College of Business site for more information.

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Written by Dr. Ross O'Brien

Dr. Ross O’Brien is an Associate Professor of Management in the College of Business at Dallas Baptist University, and the Director of the Center for Business as Mission, which educates and equips aspiring business leaders with the integration of God’s calling to mission and business.