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Becoming a Business Teacher

Business education is booming in America. Business degrees are the most popular graduate degrees in the U.S., followed by education degrees. If you want to, you can put those areas of interest together and become a business education teacher.

If you’re most interested in helping high schoolers become financially literate, you can start by getting a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) degree, then taking a teacher prep program. If you’re most interested in taking college learners through operational decisions and corporate strategy, keep going and get that doctorate.

The rest of this page delves into specifics on how to become a high school business teacher or college-level instructor, with stops to discuss salary trends, certification, and teaching methods.

What Is a Business Teacher?

A business teacher educates students with the principles and specifics of business administration and management for profit, growth, and sustainability. Students learn aspects of business including accounting, economics, finance, human resources, information systems, sales and marketing, legal and regulatory requirements, labor relations, organizational development, and short- and long-term strategic planning. High school and college business teachers cover much of the same ground, but high school teachers usually expose students to general concepts and processes rather than going very deep into any one area. College-level business teachers go past Business 101 to dig into each subject, from introductory to very advanced levels.

Most high schoolers don’t have prior exposure to how the American or global economies function. A high school teacher will explore these areas to put the concept of “business” into context, and then focus on general areas such as accounting, finance, marketing, management, and human resources. As part of the foundational curricula, the teacher would discuss types of businesses and sectors, and address the importance of business ethics. The National Business Education Association (NBEA) develops nationwide standards for secondary school business teachers to make sure students across the country are prepared for the business world.

High school business teachers can also teach office skills. Think: keyboarding and document formatting, slide deck creation, filing, spreadsheet creation and management, and professional communications, including email. Personal finance and entrepreneurship are important programs in some schools, and are taught by business teachers. In addition to classroom time, secondary school teachers may organize field trips or supervise extracurricular activities.

College-level business class instructors teach introductory classes such as Business 101, Accounting 101, and Marketing 101. Most specialize, often teaching multiple classes at different levels in a single track such as accounting, finance, advertising, marketing, human resources, organizational management and leadership, or supply chain management.  College-level teachers may supervise research or senior capstone projects. They may also oversee hands-on learning or case studies.

Like all educators, high school and college business teachers build lesson plans, provide instruction, and administer and grade tests. They should be comfortable assessing students’ performance and communicating areas for improvement.

Salary and Career Growth for Business Teachers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median income for all high school teachers in 2018 was $60,320 per year. Of course, that varies by geographic location, by whether a school is public or private, and from school district to school district. At the post-secondary level, earnings are higher. The BLS notes that technical schools pay a mean average of nearly $61,000; business and tech academies pay $64,500; junior colleges almost $88,000; and four-year universities pay $108,000.

The call for all teachers, regardless of subject, is growing. The rate is a modest 4% for high school teachers, but BLS projects post-secondary teaching jobs to grow by 11% between 2018 and 2028. Interestingly, job openings seem to be growing fastest in states that already have a lot of teachers—and pay them well: California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts. The last two have growth rates above 20%. Both states pay postsecondary business teachers more than $108,000 a year on average.

How to Become a Business Teacher

Steps to Become a High School Business Teacher

States, not the federal government, set standards for high school teachers. That means that the exact path to getting into the classroom depends on which state you plan to work in. Here are the generalized steps:

  1. Get a bachelor’s degree. It doesn’t have to be in business. Nor does it have to be in education. However, given the steps that follow, either or both would be helpful.
  2. Finish a teacher prep program. Degree in hand, now you take a certification program so you understand how to teach your chosen subject.
  3. Student teaching, where you are supervised as you practice applying theory, will be part of your teacher prep program.
  4. Take a test or two. States want educators to know the subject matter they’re teaching. Often, they want to know teachers also meet minimum standards for reading, writing, and math as well.
  5. Undergo a background check. Anyone working with minors should be prepared to wait for the results of a background check before heading into the classroom.
  6. Get a master’s degree (optional). Getting a job and keeping a job are two separate things. Some states—Massachusetts, for instance—require additional steps to continue teaching after an initial period. A master’s degree can satisfy some requirements.

Steps to Become a College Business Teacher

The general rule, hard-coded into some accreditation standards, is that teachers should have a degree in the subject that’s at least one level higher than the level they teach at. Here’s how that looks in practice, step by step:

  • With a bachelor’s degree. If you plan to teach occupational associate or certificate programs, you might be able to land a job with an undergraduate business degree, especially if you have relevant work experience. Getting a bachelor’s degree is also your first step for entry into an M.B.A. program. If that’s your goal, your bachelor’s doesn’t have to be in the field of business or education, but it helps.
  • With your master’s degree in business, you can get hired as a business instructor at a two-year or four-year college. At a four-year school, it’s likely to be work on a part-time basis.
  • With your master’s and relevant work experience. Often, universities will consider hiring you if you’re working on your doctorate, provided you have strong work experience. Earning your M.B.A. opens more job opportunities, making this a reasonable time to consider joining the mainstream workforce, even if just for a little while.
  • With a doctorate. A Doctorate of Business Administration (D.B.A.) or Ph.D. is required to teach in an M.B.A. program or other graduate courses. A doctoral degree is also the path to becoming a full-time

Business Education for Teachers

Bachelor’s Degree

As a high school student, to get accepted into an undergraduate business program with the goal of a Bachelor in Business Administration degree, you’ll have to do all the typical things college-bound students do—send SAT/ACT scores, high school transcripts, personal essays, and letters of recommendation to the admissions committee. However, you might not enter straight into the program. If you’re headed to a four-year university, you may first have to gain entry to the business college within the university. Once you’re enrolled, you can seek entry into the program. (Career colleges are a notable exception; they typically allow direct entry into a program.)

Once admitted to the school, you’ll take prerequisite classes and, often before declaring a major, a few introductory classes in the topic you’re considering. Once those have been satisfied, you can expect to study any or all the following:

  • Accounting: How to keep track of money coming in and going out; generating and analyzing the data needed to plan and control a company’s operations.
  • Finance: Understanding financial concepts, financial instruments, corporate compliance, financial management decision-making.
  • Marketing: Concepts and tools; pricing, promotion, advertising, public and media relations.
  • Economics: Microeconomics, macroeconomics, factors in economicgrowth and international trade, labor and environmental economics.
  • Information technology: Computers, devices, servers, networks, clouds, etc. How to choose and apply technology to achieve business goals.
  • Database management: Data centers, data storage, mining, analysis, and application.
  • Supply chain management: Manufacturing operations, purchasing, transportation, and physical distribution.
  • Human resources: Personnel management, training, leadership development.
  • Ethics: Concepts and principles of ethical reasoning, ethical issues specific to business management in a competitive marketplace.
  • Strategy: Business theory about what factors influence a company’s success or failure, including a digital strategy to manage rapid technological change.

Many schools allow for (or require) a specialization, which makes sense because there are so many different business roles requiring focused expertise. Choosing a specialty also allows you to focus on an area you’re especially keen about. Someone fascinated by the startup scene might specialize in entrepreneurship. An avid Wall Street Journal reader could focus on investment banking. Would-be jetsetters might develop expertise in global business. If you like numbers and logistics, you could do a concentration in supply chain management.

If you graduate with a B.B.A. or similar degree, you can apply for jobs as a high school business teacher, provided you’ve followed the steps to earn a teaching certification.

Master’s or Graduate Degree

For acceptance, M.B.A. programs require that applicants have a bachelor’s degree, but it doesn’t need to be in any particular field. They also typically require GMAT or GRE scores, in addition to standard application materials like resumes, essays, and recommendation letters. Most don’t require work experience, but admissions committees often like to see an entrepreneurial streak or internship experience. Business schools set their own cutoffs for acceptable undergraduate GPAs and test scores.

D.B.A. and Ph.D. programs have roughly the same requirements as M.B.A. programs, though generally higher standards. That means undergrads can skip the M.B.A. and go straight to working toward a doctorate. What you choose to do will depend on where you want to teach. A doctorate qualifies you for all teaching jobs, while an M.B.A. is sufficient for community colleges (unless there’s a glut of PhD-level instructors looking for work).

M.B.A. degrees come in different formats:

  • Full-time M.B.A. programs take one to three years to complete, depending on the program. Full-time M.B.A. students have full-day, intensive schedules; it’s hard to work even a part-time job when you’re in this program. Full-time M.B.A.s tend to be younger students, freshly graduated with a bachelor’s, able to attend full-time and put off entering the workforce.
  • Part-time MBA programs are geared towards employees who work full-time and typically stretch to three or four years Classes are held after work, in the evenings or on weekends. Part-timers take many of the same courses as full-time students, with the same faculty. Fewer scholarships are given to part-time students.
  • The Executive M.B.A program (E.M.B.A.) is a two-year program aimed at business executives with at least five years’ managerial experience. The average age of students ranges from 32 to 38 years old. E.M.B.A. students keep their full-time jobs and typically attend classes on Fridays and the weekends. They cover the same material as M.B.A. students, but it’s faster paced, with fewer electives. Employers often cover the tuition of an E.M.B.A., along with your regular salary.

Master’s and Ph.D. programs typically include case studies and experiential learning, methods that could help you teach at a higher level. You’ll be asked to use what you’ve learned to solve a range of problems, from operations to marketing to strategy. This experience may help you lead students to make good decisions about resource allocation, hiring, and investments.

Not all M.B.A. programs require you to write a thesis, although many do. For a D.B.A. or Ph.D., you’ll most likely be required to write a dissertation.

Licensing or Certification

The terms “license” and “certification” are often used interchangeably to mean the state has authorized someone to teach in public primary and secondary schools. With states using different terms and processes, it’s important to follow their specific guidelines, but the general steps below will give you an idea.

  • To become a public secondary school teacher, you need to receive licensure and/or certification from the state. (Private secondary school teachers generally don’t need licenses.) The first step is nearly always earning a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited Teacher/educator preparation programs in your state may also have a minimum GPA for admission, so your undergraduate grades do matter.
  • You can fulfill the teacher prep requirement by majoring or minoring in education during college (depending on state regulations). If you don’t do that, you can elect to take a teacher prep program that covers business-specific coursework plus teaching methods. In addition to undergrad transcripts, you’ll likely have to take the Praxis Core Academic Skills Tests or another standardized exam.
  • Next is the assessment. Before licensure, you must sit for a state exam covering business and teaching knowledge. Once you pass, you can apply for official licensure/certification from the state. If you are currently teaching other subjects, you could seek to add a subject-area endorsement in business onto your secondary teaching certificate.

Ironically, the process is more straightforward higher up the education ladder. Postsecondary business teachers typically don’t need licensure or certification. However, if you happened to be teaching about how to teach business in a Master of Education program, you would likely need a teaching credential yourself.

Teaching Topics and Strategies for Business Teachers

Teaching Technology

Every company uses technology platforms in almost every aspect of business, from bookkeeping spreadsheets to online employee training to marketing automation to customer service chatbots. Often, the technology is the product or service. The business factors to talk about in this area are so numerous, so dynamic, and so critical that it’s common to see an M.B.A. specialization in Information Technology Management.

To teach technology to undergrads, you’ll likely cover areas such as:

  • Enterprise resource planning: Software helps companies automate parts of the business, like pricing items, choosing the right time to buy parts, and even paying staff.
  • Data acquisition and analytics: There’s a tremendous amount of data out there, with new ways (such as sensors feeding the Internet of Things) to gather it. Savvy businesspeople harness data to make decisions, find new customers, tweak their marketing messages, and keep prices competitive.
  • Databases: They may not sound exciting, but databases keep companies running by storing customer and product information. IDC predicts that 49% of the world’s stored data will reside in public cloud environments by 2025, so understanding how to optimize cloud technologies and strategies for data storage is increasingly important.
  • Information security: Anything and everything electronic (databases, websites, email and other communications, devices, etc.) is vulnerable to hacking, resulting in ID theft, ransomware attacks, and much more. Students need to learn best practices for keeping data safe in all locations and in transit.
  • Telecommunications: The more employees or customers you have, the more need you have for telecommunications. Just think of how a call center handles incoming customers and transfers them to different departments, or how chat is used.
  • Legal and ethical issues: Should you buy lists of email addresses? Is spamming okay? What do you need to do to sell into other countries? How long should you store sensitive customer data? Some of the answers to these are written into law. Others are moral questions, the answers to which help determine how a company’s brand is perceived.

Teaching Financial Literacy

At the high school level, teaching financial literacy should cover six areas, according to standards created by Jump$tart:

  • Spending and saving. You may teach students how to create a savings plan, decide how to allocate income, keep financial records, and explore how to pay for things with cash or credit.
  • Credit and debt. With your guidance, students learn how to determine the true cost of credit and avoid or responsibly manage debt. They may also study consumer protection laws related to loans.
  • Employment and income. You’ll expose students to career paths and how much they potentially pay. You can lead them as they add theoretical income, benefits, and expenses to calculate net income.
  • Investing. Students learn the power of compound interest and explore different investment strategies. As a class, you may practice buying and selling products like stocks and bonds.
  • Risk management and insurance. Help students explore the costs and benefits of different types of insurance. You’ll present the risks of foregoing insurance and explain where, when, and why insurance is legally required. 
  • Financial decision making. You’ll teach students how to research products and vendors, identify reliable information before buying, and review the fine print on contracts. Ultimately, you should be able to take students through the steps of creating a personalized financial plan.

Learning by Doing

Experiential learning can be an excellent way of delivering business concepts. In fact, it’s common to see this type of curriculum in an M.B.A. program, with students collaborating to solve a business problem.

But that involves taking a lot of mastered knowledge and putting it to use. At lower academic levels, students are still mastering the basics. Skilled instructors might have students create a business plan or a family budget, or make pretend investments and track their fictional stock portfolio.

There’s no need for it all to be pretend. As a teacher, you can encourage students to start actual businesses. A simple tutoring business, for example, would require students to market their services, handle money from clients, file taxes, and build a handful of other skills.

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) targets youth from under-resourced communities with totally hands-on methodology. Schools that partner with NFTE can access its curriculums. Youth Entrepreneurs is another business program with experiential learning at its core. Educators can access activity guides and worksheets online for free; activities cover economics, marketing, values, and finance.

Case Studies and Exposing Students to Real Businesses

Originated by the Harvard Business School, the case study method has become a popular way of teaching about problem-solving in business at many colleges. Case studies present students with a problem that a real business faced. Students receive financial data and other information about the company, then have to determine what’s relevant in solving the problem. You, as the instructor, don’t offer your own opinions, but ask students to devise and defend solutions.

In one case study, for example, students might look at how to expand a business into a new market. In another, they might look at ways to remain profitable while increasing compensation for a striking workforce. In yet another, an airline might be deciding when to begin replacing its aging fleet. Students argue the merits of opposing viewpoints.

The case study method involves lots of research, analysis, and discussions about the best way to move forward.  It also requires students to do their homework—poring over data and company profiles in advance—to get the most out of the conversation.

Beyond case studies, you can expose students to the hard work and hidden frameworks of real businesses in several ways:

  • Take field trips and go behind the scenes
  • Invite business owners and CEOs to give a guest lecture to your class
  • Start a genuine, student-run very small business, and give everyone in the class a role in making it successful

In any case, making the abstract issues concrete will make a more powerful, memorable learning experience.

 Helpful Resources:

  • Job outlook: The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 2018 Job Outlook 2018 survey identified which business majors were in the most demand in the market.
  • Curriculum standards: The National Business Education Association (NBEA) develops nationwide standards for secondary school business teachers This collection of national standards is designed to prepare students to become knowledgeable and ethical decision makers as they fulfill their roles as consumers, workers, and citizens.
  • Lesson plans: The Council for Economic Education (CEE) provides free online economics and financial literacy lesson plans via EconEdLink.
  • Case studies: The Harvard Business School (HBS) sells its famous case studies so you can use them as teaching aids. The Laura Arrillage-Andreessen Foundation provides case studies developed by the Stanford Graduate School of Business that deal specifically with charities and philanthropists. MIT’s Sloan School of Management makes some case studies free for all to download. 
  • Financial literacy standards: A consortium of businesses, banks, educators, and government leaders, Jump$tart is a nonprofit that created its own national standards for a K-12 financial literacy curriculum. The Council for Economic Education also published standards for financial literacy and economics. Moreover, it has created state standards for both.
  • Financial literacy resources: The National Education Association (NEA) has a resource page for financial literacy that links to hundreds of ready-made K-12 lesson plans and lesson sets covering heady concepts like the Federal Reserve and opportunity costs.
  • Marketing: Seth’s Blog is from Seth Godin, who runs the altMBA program and hosts the Akimbo podcast, teaching entrepreneurs about marketing. His insights are often counterintuitive yet easily grasped.
  • Teacher preparation, licensure/certification requirements: Teach.org is a nonprofit collaboration between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Education. TEACH.org runs a well-designed website for finding teacher preparation programs and exploring state-by-state requirements for licensure/certification.
  • Broad-based business self-help: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a Learning Center that’s chock-full of online courses and incorporates useful information on legal requirements. The dozens of videos are short and digestible; they cover basics like marketing and pricing, but also copyrights and cybersecurity. There’s even a course for young entrepreneurs looking to create and finance a business.