What's it like to study... Business

Business is far from a doss subject and can be academically rigorous and challenging, says Rupesh Patel, who studied a Bsc in Business Administration at Bath University

Rupesh Patel
Friday 23 November 2012 17:17 GMT
The ability to present information to new audiences is an important skill in business
The ability to present information to new audiences is an important skill in business (Juhan Sonin)

For romantic effect I would like to say that my decision to study business came from a specific eye-opening childhood experience. Sadly it's much more boring than that. Maybe visits to my Grandfather's toy shop or seeing impressive office buildings light up the Hong Kong skyline as a child had a subconscious impact, but for me it really started with GCSE business studies.

It was the first subject that truly caught my attention and got me thinking about its relevance outside of school. Learning about photosynthesis never made me look at plants differently, but after studying business I began to instinctively analyse logo designs, coffee shop processes, shop window displays and more just on trips into town! To study business at university seemed like the obvious decision.

On a business degree you will be challenged academically from a number of angles. Maybe the reason I liked business studies so much at school is that it focused neither on essays or numbers, but dipped into both. Business at degree level is quite different! My degree required me to perform at a high level in maths, essays, group work, leadership, presentations, computing and more. Whilst I was strong in some of these areas upon arrival, I was quite nervous about the others! By the end of the four years I left university feeling confident in all of them. I'm not sure I could say the same if I had done another degree.

Another advantage of a business degree is the breadth of disciplines available to the student: economics, strategy, finance, law, e-commerce, human resources, accounting and the list goes on. Most people, like me, start their degree with little to no idea what career they want. A business degree leads into many career paths suited to a range of people.

It seems that every university offers a plethora of business degrees with placements, languages or time abroad often thrown in. Picking a shortlist let alone a favourite was no easy task. Thankfully my mother came to my rescue! She attended the Bath BSc Business Administration (BBA) open-day when I was unable to and came out certain that it was the course for me. As they say, "mother always knows best", and she was spot on with BBA.

BBA is designed to prepare students for two things: the final year project (FYP) and to build a career as a business leader. FYP is an epic, social-life destroying, brain squeezing group dissertation in partnership with an organisation (examples are PwC, L'Oreal, Accenture). It tests your abilities in group work, research and practical solutions for organisations. This means it is also incredibly hard work, but then at the end exceptionally rewarding.

There is no better way to prepare students for their career than work experience. BBA is a thin-sandwich course meaning students do two six-month placements rather than a single year-long placement, which is more common. It is worth noting that many business degrees have no placement at all - I strongly recommend choosing a degree that does! Helpfully, BBA has a department dedicated to finding placements for students (some degrees expect students to source their own which can be difficult). A thin-sandwich structure might sound like a minor detail but it allowed for me to better choose my eventual career path and provided me with the CV to get on it. My first placement was in marketing for a medium-sized company. I worked with great people but I was looking for something a bit bigger. Thankfully I had a second placement coming up. This time I worked on the trading floor of an investment bank which was closer to what I was looking for (I am soon to start working for a financial services consultant). My placements helped me link the academic side of business to the practical. They also taught me the workplace skills that everyone will eventually need but don't often learn at university. Most importantly, they made me stand out against the competition and got me my graduate job.

Studying business, however, isn't for everyone. If group work isn't for you (at times it can drive anyone up the wall) pick your course carefully. You will be expected to stand up and present your ideas - something I found a lot of people were nervous about. Furthermore, a lot of students on business courses are by nature competitive, which can be both motivating and annoying. Of course, all of these aspects are double-edged swords. I personally feel I benefited from them, but at the time they can be challenging.

Before finishing, I want to address a couple of myths about business degrees. The first is that business is a 'doss' subject. Students on my course were often the first in the library and the last out, myself included. The second is that business degrees are not academically rigorous. Many hours are spent trawling through journal articles, textbooks and market reports. My final year project is an example of the academic level that can be achieved on a business course. Our research is now being taken forward and will hopefully be published in leading economic and public health journals.

When I look back at my time as a student I can happily say it was four years well spent. One of the surprises for me was that I probably ended up learning more from my peers than I did from my textbooks or lecturers (and they taught me a lot!). Having a group of like-minded people around you who question established theory, challenge your opinion or want to start their own business is so enriching and inspiring. I've no idea what awaits me in my career. I could one day be a CEO, a banker or even run a restaurant. Whatever it is, studying business has given me a great start.

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