How is the course structured?
Among the fundamentals count Financing, Accounting, Human Resources, Production, Marketing and Management ? all of which are subjects covered in the first few semesters. Students learn how companies are formed, how markets work, and how balance sheets are read. They also have lectures in Maths, Law and Economics, most of which are accompanied by exercises and tutorials. In later semesters, students can opt for a specialisation ? in Human Resources, Controlling or Business Taxation, for example. "Students interested in investment banking can select lectures covering banking and stock market institutions, capital market theory and ethical aspects," explains Caren Sureth, Chairman of the German Academic Association for Business Research (Verband der Hochschullehrer für Betriebswirtschaft e.V. ? VHB) and a professor for Business Administration at the University of Paderborn. Practical elements and project work form key components of the course. In case studies, students analyse cases taken from the everyday world of work ? they consider communication theories and provide recommendations for employee talks on this basis. In the "IT & e-Business" course, Milena Sickenberger and some fellow students designed a concept for an app that translated words into sign language and outlined how this could be marketed in a final presentation. Students obtain credit points by holding presentations or talks, completing coursework, and sitting exams. Work placements or a practical semester generally constitute a mandatory component of the curriculum at universities of applied sciences. "The placement supervisors within companies work closely with the universities ? after all, credit points are awarded for these placements. Placement students should not make the coffee or do the filing, but rather be truly involved and perform real work," says Executive Member of the Federal Conference of Deans for Business Studies (BundesDekaneKonferenz Wirtschaftswissenschaften ? BDK), Business Administration professor, Rainer Ziegler. A typical task in the marketing department would involve developing a basic concept for a campaign, for example. Stays abroad are often also integrated into the course. At some universities, the opportunity to obtain a parallel qualification in Germany and another country exists. Most Bachelor's courses are broadly structured with moderate specialisation. In contrast, some prepare students for a specific occupational field in a targeted manner from the offset. In Saarbrücken, for example, there is a course in "Piloting and Airline Management". In Neu-Ulm and Osnabrück, the Bachelor's course prepares students for work in the health sector, and hotel and restaurant managers are trained at the University of Heilbronn. Many universities of applied sciences have offered courses in Business Law for years now. Around half of students at universities of applied sciences and three quarters of those studying for a Bachelor's degree at a university go on to take a Master's course. Most universities offer a general Master's ? so-called "General Management" courses. However, the universities and universities of applied sciences are increasingly also offering specialised Master's degrees in fields such as Controlling, Human Resource Management, Marketing and Logistics.
The financial and euro crisis is also a topic covered during the degree in Business Administration. "Lecturers refer to articles in the press, or current films to consider theoretical concepts and empirical studies," tells Caren Sureth, a professor in Business Administration from Paderborn. However, the time spent on such topics depends entirely on the lecturer. Many universities have sought to remedy deficits in the course as a result of the crisis. Sureth cites the examples of the criticism of incentive systems for manager salaries, and the analysis of specific algorithms that play a role in the computer trading of derivatives. Ethics seminars are increasingly on the syllabus, and philosophical and psychological aspects are also covered. With growing frequency, the subject of sustainability is also being covered within the degree in Business Administration. Studies consider how a company's energy consumption can be reduced and resources used more sparingly, for example. Some universities prepare their students specifically for work in green occupations, as is the case at Flensburg University of Applied Sciences with its course in "Energy and Environmental Management" and the University of Applied Sciences Erfurt with the Bachelor's degree in the "Management of Sustainable Energies". The once strict distinction between Business Administration and Economics has continued to blur in recent times. The disciplines have not also become closer in terms of their content. Oriented to the course known as Business Studies in the Anglo-American sphere, there are meanwhile dozens of broadly structured courses known as Wirtschaftswissenschaften (lit. Business Sciences) in Germany.
Aptitude, obstacles, misconceptions
Business Administration is the subject in Germany taken by the most students. The courses often have a numerus clausus; this varies from university to university. Particularly international-oriented programmes like to invite candidates to an application interview. The universities often require proof of good English language skills, as many texts ? and sometimes entire series of lectures ? are in English. Some also require students to write a business plan in English. "English is not a foreign language for business administrators, but rather more a dialect of German," says Rainer Ziegler of the Federal Conference of Deans for Business Studies (BundesDekaneKonferenz Wirtschaftswissenschaften ? BDK). Many of the first semester students find the Maths, Statistics and Law courses particularly hard going. Many universities offer preparation courses to refresh Maths skills and facilitate the start. Christoph Krombholz, who is currently taking the Master's course at the University of Bamberg, remembers the tough initial phase well. But he also remembers that perseverance and tenacity helped. "I was rubbish at Maths at school, but the course showed me what is really important. When you want something, you plough your way through it," he confides. Milena Sickenberger experienced that some fellow students merely chose the course, as they didn't know what else to do: "Many then dropped out after the second semester. Those with a concrete professional aim are far likelier to stick it out," she continues. A good test is to ask oneself whether one finds the economics issues discussed in the news on television are of interest. Is economic policy exciting? Do you regularly read the business section of a daily newspaper?
Business administrators manage projects, and analyse and control processes: They check whether the sale of a product via the internet makes sense, and which supplier is offering the best deals. They manage company capital, negotiate with banks, and identify savings opportunities. They are employed in a wide range of fields that range from Accounting to Logistics to Marketing. After completing his Master's degree, Christoph Krombholz would like to embark on a career at a medium-sized company in his region ? gladly at the packaging company where he already works as a student trainee. "I found that the tasks there are far more varied than at a large company ? in the Marketing department, I prepare everything from small ads to our entire presence at major exhibitions." With the "Bachelor Welcome" declaration, countless leading German companies have committed to also offering Bachelor's graduates attractive careers. "Many companies have meanwhile had good experiences with Bachelor's graduates and are prepared to employ them," tells Rainer Ziegler. A Master's degree can be obtained after gaining a few years' practical experience. It can also be taken alongside one's career; employees then often contribute to the tuition fees. Business administrators have the advantage of being able to work in a great many different sectors. So if the situation isn't as good in one sector, there are alternatives. The times in which a degree in Business Administration automatically meant smooth entry into the world of work are over, however. "The picture is a mixed one," explains Kolja Briedis from Hochschul-Informations-System GmbH in Hanover, which researched graduates' career paths. On the one hand, many students had found permanent employment within one year of graduating; on the other, business administrators meanwhile also sometimes found they had to do a work placement after completing their degree or temp for longer. According to the survey conducted in 2010, the starting salary lay at 37,400 EUR for university graduates and at 36,700 EUR for university of applied sciences graduates.
REPORT BY: SABRINA EBITSCH
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