Skip to main content
Northwestern University

Academic Preparation for a Career in Business

The liberal arts curriculum offers many opportunities to develop knowledge and skills relevant for a business career.  These include cognitive skills (analytical and critical thinking, problem-solving and research skills, and technological expertise), interpersonal skills (written and spoken communication skills, organizational and management skills, inter- and multicultural thinking), creativity, initiative, and the ability to recognize and resolve ethical challenges. Every Weinberg major involves learning about complex relationships, assimilating large amounts of information, identifying and interpreting the central issues, and then using or presenting what you have learned. A senior thesis, for instance, can demonstrate research, creativity, analysis, writing, and project management skills. Group projects for a course can show organizational and management skills, project management, and problem-solving. These talents will serve you well when you must make sense of the diverse and changing situations you will face in business.

Choosing a major

Many students come to Northwestern believing that the only way to get a job is to slot themselves into a particular major, but generally speaking this is not the case. Employers often seek well-rounded, talented people with diverse academic backgrounds; they value the ability to think critically about different areas in and of itself.  Choosing a major that does not interest you simply because you believe that you’ll have a better shot at a particular job is risky for several reasons. First, your professional interests may change as your studies evolve. Second, you’ll be happier studying a topic that interests you and that you find enjoyable; so you’ll learn more and you’ll likely do a lot better in your courses. Third, with the flexibility afforded by the quarter system, you can pursue the major that most suits your strengths and interests and still have time to use your electives to learn skills and demonstrate aptitude in business-related areas.

Business-related programs, certificates, and courses

Northwestern University does not offer an undergraduate business major, but it does offer a wide array of business-related programs, certificates, and courses. Whether you pursue a minor or certificate or use your electives to take the courses that interest you most, these options can help you assemble a coherent group of classes that can easily be described to potential employers as, for instance, an “advertising and communication focus.” Beyond that, you would do well to improve your speaking, writing, computer, and quantitative skills through any of the courses Northwestern offers in these areas.

Weinberg also offers undergraduates a chance to link professional experiences to credited academic work. Chicago Field Studies is the largest academic internship program on campus, and it gives students a chance to earn Northwestern credits while interning with business, law, humanities, civic engagement, social justice, or community research programs.

Next steps

Wondering how this all applies to YOUR situation?  Consult with advisers across Weinberg and the university: your freshman adviser, major adviser, and College Adviser can all help put decisions about choosing majors and courses into context given your strengths, interests, and long-term plans.  Read the Roads to Business brochure (pdf) as well. Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) offers advice on choosing a major, crafting a resume, preparing for the job search, and translating academic work into workplace skills.  They have specialized advisers in particular professional fields, and they bring a variety of employers to campus for job fairs.  They can also help you think about your graduate school plans.  Working with NCA from freshman year on can help you find ways to integrate your academic and professional goals.

Back to top