Academic journal article Journal of the Academy of Business Education

Matching Employer Demands with Business School Degree Programs

Academic journal article Journal of the Academy of Business Education

Matching Employer Demands with Business School Degree Programs

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

This paper has two objectives: the first to assess employer opinions regarding essential fields of study and workplace skills of new college graduates. Second, because anecdotal information from campus recruiters indicates that many would prefer students to have rigorous training in multiple business disciplines, we garner employer opinions of the pros and cons of business schools offering single majors and/or dual discipline degrees. The term "dual discipline" in this paper is broadly defined and refers to the combination of two separate areas of study, such as marketing and management. Some programs eschew the traditional major altogether and, instead, students choose to focus on two (or three) disciplines, each discipline requiring about half (to a third) the credit hours of the traditional major. Subject to the same credit hour conditions, our designation of dual discipline degrees also includes programs that permit the combination of a business major along with a business minor or concentration (such as a marketing major and communications minor).

An ancillary objective is to provide a survey and methodology that other business schools can use with employers' participation to determine their student skills needing enhancement based on employers perceptions, while also determining the feasibility and desirability of offering specific possible duel discipline degrees. For each school, the survey could be tailored to better match its student degree choices to the hiring needs of their current and future potential employers.

In business vernacular, the school's "targeted areas" represent a mission and faculty driven "quality assurance" objective, while meeting employer needs represents a "customer driven product design" objective. Clearly both objectives need to be jointly determined and implemented, and both objectives need to be explicitly addressed when considering any changes to a school's curriculum. With our approach, either a business school or employer can initiate the process to determine how student and employer needs and requirements can be better matched. Any divergence in supply and demand levels then can be resolved by coordinating an examination of supply of and demand for various degrees and skill sets, and then embodying them in revised degree offerings that better match community needs. This should also initiate a reexamination of a business school's mission statement and program objectives to determine needed changes.

The terms minor, concentration, area of study and major are interchangeably used among the schools in our sample. Examining a sample of the top 50 ranked business schools, a "major" has a range from 9 credit hours to more than 30 hours, and concentrations that required up to 18 credit hours. Minors generally range from 9 credit hours for business majors, and into the 20's for business minors for nonbusiness students. Thus, a concentration or area of study at one school can be called a major at another school; there is no standard definition.

This lack of comparability across business schools adds confusion for students and parents in selecting a school, and employers in hiring decisions. Students and parents are typically unaware or have insufficient information to make informed decisions regarding degree content and quality. As mentioned earlier, we use the term "dual discipline" to refer to the combination of two separate business areas of study, with the assumption that degree completion may occur in four years without overloads or summer courses.1 As an example, with 30 credit hours of business free electives and degree specialization credits, a dual discipline might contain two study areas of 15 credits, or a traditional major (18-21 credits) with 12 to 9 credits available for a concentration or business minor. Use of the depth and breadth of a given major or dual degree program better enables hiring decisions by employers as well as school and degree selections by students. …

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