Business minors can round out degrees

In the current shaky job market, students are sometimes pessimistic about their career outlook post-graduation. According to staff from UVic’s business school and a major employer in Victoria, certain undergrads could benefit from having a business minor, whether or not they are pursuing a career in the business world.

“It gives a bit more teeth to their degree,” says Jennifer Oakes, admissions officer and student advisor at UVic’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business. “It shows the potential employer that the student has some familiarity in the language of business . . . Those kinds of things are pretty important to prospective employers no matter what career you’re going into.”

The Business minor at UVic’s Business school has no admission requirements and includes six courses. Four of them are basic courses: an organizational behaviour course, a marketing course, a finance course and a combination financial and managerial accounting course. The other two can be either specialty upper-level courses designed for non-Commerce students (i.e. those who are not majoring in it), such as international business or entrepreneurship, or fourth-year commerce electives. The Business minor also offers a co-op option.

“It’s really intended to give students some fundamental business foundation that they can take with whatever degree they’ve got,” says Sheryl Karras, the associate director of UVic’s Bachelor of Commerce program.

At UVic, any student can declare a Business minor, provided they are not majoring in a professional degree such as Commerce or Law. According to Oakes and Karras, the business minor classes are full each semester, and the waitlist for the courses has been growing each year.

As an admissions advisor, Oakes often recommends the Business minor to students whose main interests are in a different subject but who still want a business background. She says students sometimes opt for the minor because it offers more flexibility in course selection and is not as competitive as the Business major program.

“We recognize that if history or economics, for example, is your passion and interest, absolutely go for it and get a deep and broad understanding and expertise in that area,” says Karras. “On top of that, layering a Business minor makes you that much more marketable in a business environment.”

For those hoping for a career in business, getting a bachelor’s degree in Commerce isn’t necessarily the only route. But it could be a longer journey otherwise.

Randy Decksheimer oversees the recruiting process in Victoria for KPMG, an international company that provides audit, tax and advisory services. Decksheimer says student employees at KPMG pursuing the Chartered Accountant (CA) designation without a business degree need to first take a number of business classes in order to get into the CA School of Business (CASB).

KPMG hires six to 10 students per year through its Victoria office for co-op, part-time and full-time positions.

“Periodically, we have someone with an arts degree, say, and they don’t have all the prerequisites [for a CA designation]. They would have to pick those up in order to actually register to become a potential CA,” says Decksheimer.

That being said, because UVic doesn’t have a CA designation program, he says “We’re used to students working with us who still have some courses to do at college level.”

Decksheimer says that some people with Business minors may be aspiring entrepreneurs looking for skills to start their own business. They could start out as employees for KPMG and end up being clients of the company.

“The best thing I can do is find someone who has great business ideas and converts them into their own business. I’m probably going to have a client there because they’re going to appreciate what we do and will want us to help them while they do that,” he says. “It’s a good opportunity for KPMG, playing a part in how they get there and afterwards.”

Having employees with a diverse background in education and experience creates a strong workplace, says Decksheimer. Without any official statistics from KPMG, he estimates somewhere between 10–25 per cent of company hires are non-Business majors.

“It’s a bigger number than one might expect,” he says.

Karras says it’s hard to say if employers are generally appreciative of a Business minor on a resumé the same way they might be of a Business major.

“Ultimately, I think they want bright, creative minds. Any employer will train you how to do tasks [specific to their organization], but they don’t want to have to train you how to think or put things together, how to write well . . . or basics like that. I think they want students to come out of university having those sets of skills,” Karras explains.

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