Are you debating between a degree in business and a degree in or specialization in human resources? Both options have pros and cons. Unless you feel fully confident that HR is the right career field for you, there are some clear advantages to choosing a business degree over a human resources degree. For example, your general business education will be broader, which means that it will offer you a greater variety of career opportunities and keep you from being stuck with just one career option.

What Are the Benefits of Earning a Business Degree vs. a Human Resources Degree?

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A More Comprehensive Business Curriculum

The versatility of a general business program is one of the popular major’s best attributes. While there are certainly benefits of specializing in an in-demand subject of study, pursuing a major that is general in scope means that you have a wide range of careers open to you. The broadest business major is business management, which equips students with the theoretical concepts and strategies needed for leadership and supervisory roles of various kinds and in an array of different industries. Business administration bachelor’s degree programs expose students to coursework in all kinds of business disciplines but often require students to choose a single specialization. The potential specializations range from marketing to finance, each of which has its own specially tailored curriculum. For students who want a truly well-rounded business education, a bachelor’s degree in general business fits the bill. In this program, much of your coursework would be business electives that include studies in management, marketing, finance, business law and more.

How does this compare to undergraduate studies in HR? A human resources degree program includes a focus on some aspects of business – like organizational behavior, economics and the skills to attain, develop and retain personnel – but other aspects of the field are drawn from completely different disciplines, like education and psychology. Often, the best choices in HR degree programs match the guidelines imposed by the Society for Human Resource Management, which include 18 main content areas of study. Some human resources programs, especially those in which HR is a concentration or specialization within a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, include a core of required business classes in different disciplines. However, given the scope of specialized human resources content that must be covered in an HR program, these students don’t have a lot of extra business electives to spare on developing expertise in other fields of business.

Don’t fear that you’re missing something crucial by not declaring a formal specialization or by choosing the most general concentration. You will still take upper-level business courses, but you’ll have more freedom to pick classes you find interesting and valuable.  

Broader Applications in Business

If you choose to earn a specialized degree in human resources, you can work in a role such as human resources specialist, human resources generalist, personnel recruiter, labor relations specialist or training and development specialist. With experience, and perhaps a graduate degree or professional certification, you can advance to a human resources manager role. However, this narrowly-focused program of study may not be good preparation for jobs in other areas of business. Moving to a finance or marketing role with a human resources background is not easy or straightforward.

For students of general business, career opportunities are open-ended. Just a few of the jobs you can get with a business degree include loan officer, meeting and event planner, business analyst, sales representative and supervisor. You could start your own business or work your way up into a senior-level role in an established company. Some of the highest-paying jobs in business and finance, such as personal financial advisor, management analyst and budget analyst, are available to students with a bachelor’s degree in business, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.

Of course, there are disadvantages to business degrees, just as there are to any program of study. While a general business curriculum offers a great all-around business education, it could also leave you with not enough depth of subject matter expertise to get certain jobs.

Less Worry About Being Pigeonholed

If part of your reluctance to choose just one specialization is due to a fear of being locked into that business discipline permanently, a degree in general business could be the perfect fit for you. It’s true that if your degree, college transcripts and professional resumé all refer to your human resources background, then you are likely to be permanently branded a human resources professional. Shaking that reputation and having the chance to move into a different business role – particularly, a lucrative but competitive job in finance or leadership outside the HR realm – might be a challenge. On the other hand, with an adaptable and multipurpose background like general business, you are much less likely to be pigeonholed into a single business field or career.

As a general business student, you can develop depth in different subject areas through internships, extracurricular activities and business competitions, all without limiting yourself to one academic or professional specialization.

Additional Resources

What Is the Benefit of Earning a Human Resources Degree vs. a Business Degree?

What Is the Difference Between a Human Resources Degree and a Business Degree?

What Is the Difference Between a Certification in Human Resources and a Master’s Degree in HR?