Business majors are becoming increasingly popular at the undergraduate level. Fast tracked careers, lucrative starting salaries, increased awareness about higher study prospects of business education are some of the major reasons for this. However, most students in Bangladesh study science until college -- either willingly or are forced to do so by their parents. Consequently, a lot of students who studied science courses during A-levels or HSC have to change academic fields when they start university. But transitioning into a new field comes with a daunting set of challenges.
Switching academic fields is much more than just switching course content. The entire approach to studying becomes vastly different, as a result of which undergraduate students take time to fully transform into students of business studies.
Rabib Al Rafayed, a sophomore at IBA, University of Dhaka, states, "Being a student of science background under NCTB curriculum basically means that you have very specific knowledge about the subjects you need to get good grades in the board exams. Almost all the problems had specific solutions. From that, to business education, where there is no one correct answer, is a pretty bold move if you ask me. The transition part takes time. I'm now a second year student, but I think I am still transitioning. But with time it gets easier and you actually start to like it."
There is a notion that business education is far easier than its counterparts from science. This may hold true in certain aspects, but studying business administration is a different ball game altogether. And there are several facets of a business degree curriculum which generate as much pressure, if not more than stem degrees. Certain core quantitative courses can be especially challenging without prior understanding. Some universities have even taken steps to help students cope. Fairuz Mehedi, a second year student at Bangladesh University of Professionals, gives a perspective on this, "Getting enrolled in a business major, after completing college in science subjects, is definitely tougher than what most people make it out to be. Courses like Microeconomics were manageable since I had Economics in my O levels, but subjects like Accounting and Finance were on a completely different level. I think it's important to have introductory courses in the first year especially, since a majority of those enrolled actually hail from science backgrounds. For instance, Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP) is removing ‘Introduction to Computers in Business’ next year since most students, from all backgrounds, have some grasp on Excel and Powerpoint, and instead adding a course called ‘Introduction to Business’ which will give students like us an overall idea of what we can expect from the different fields associated with business. There is always this aspect of constantly being bombarded with assignments, presentations etc. Especially for people like me who are relatively introverted and/or struggle to cope with pressure, things can get very chaotic in the latter stages of each semester. Sure, you could argue that the pressure isn't as crushing as that experienced by engineering students; it's still pretty tough to adjust to, not just initially but all the time. So, anybody willing to make the transition should be aware that the pressure isn't less, or that business isn't easy, the requirements and challenges are just slightly (or substantially, depending on whom you ask) different."
There are steps that students take in order to overcome the aforementioned challenges and thrive in a career in the commercial world. Others somehow cram before exams to gain the necessary credits. Both of these paths may lead to a student obtaining an undergrad degree, however 'just passing' is not going to be enough to make an impact in the corporate world. Sakib Qamrul, an intern at e.gen Consultants Limited, said, "Moving to business education from a science background is, without a doubt, a huge challenge. You have to acquire knowledge that your fellow students from business backgrounds have learnt throughout several years within months, or risk going forward with shallow basics. A student transitioning from a science background has to put in the extra effort to catch up to his or her fellow students who have been studying the subject for years - there is no shortcut."
A good number of science background business undergrads achieve incredible academic results. However, there is no magic for this and it comes down to the simple steps of setting a goal, continuously following through with the steps to achieve it. When Mahin, a topper in his class of his business school was asked about the secret to his success, said, "It is hard to suddenly cope up with a completely novel line of studies. But it's not rocket science. You just need to be prompt and conscious from the beginning to put in enough labour to facilitate this transition. Thankfully, I was able to do so quite smoothly and to be honest many these days are easily adapting to this transition."
There are also some students who lament their decision to enrol in a business school. Business education, despite its ever increasing opportunities, is still not something tailored for everyone. Rahnuma who enrolled in a business school instead of a public medical school shares, "I think instead of asking which career path will create more job opportunities, students should ask themselves which career path will allow them to live out their passion. I have learnt it the hard way. I loved science, was good at chemistry and biology, and had the chance to become a doctor or a microbiologist. But I was confused and chose the safer conventional option over passion and made the decision to pursue BBA. I do often regret my decision whenever I become frustrated due to my lack of interest in business."
Therefore, enrolling in a business school as a science student requires implementation of a lot of major changes. There is no basis to think that a business degree will be "easier" than a degree in stem. It also does not mean that business studies are incompatible with science students.
If one is genuinely interested in switching fields then it can easily be done. A little consistency and awareness will ensure academic success.
The writer is a second year student of BBA programme at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org