Business Education

views updated May 23 2018


Tena B. Crews
Wanda L. Stitt-Gohdes

Kwabena Dei Ofori-Attah

Judith J. Lambrecht


For many years, business education has been defined as the courses at the secondary level that prepare students for the business world. While that definition continued to have validity at the beginning of the twenty-first century, by then the range of the courses had expanded to include preparation for additional study at postsecondary institutions. As business education courses changed over the years, so did the level at which the classes are taught. For example, computer applications courses are often taken at the middle school level and keyboarding may be introduced in the third grade. Secondary level courses include accounting and management, but also branch into technology-based courses such as desktop publishing, multimedia, computerized accounting, and web page design.

The advent of business education in America occurred when the Plymouth Colony hired a school teacher to teach reading, writing, and casting accounts. Casting accounts, the predecessor to accounting, was a subject taught in business arithmetic. Signs of early school-to-work initiatives were evident as students who wanted a commerce or business career left school to work as an apprentice. It should not be surprising, then, that bookkeeping was the earliest business course taught in public schools, being offered in Boston in 1709, in New York City in 1731, and in Philadelphia in 1733.

The founding of Benjamin Franklin's Academy in 1749 was a significant event for business education. The Academy had three departments: the Latin School, the English School, and the Mathematical School. Business subjects offered included "accounts, French, German, and Spanish for merchants; history of commerce; rise of manufacturers; progress and changing seats of trade" (Hosler, p. 3). By 1827 Massachusetts passed legislation requiring municipalities with 500 or more families to establish a high school; Bookkeeping was one of the specific courses that had to be offered. During this time private business colleges opened to meet the increasing demand for well-educated business workers.

Several occurrences in the 1860s hastened the development of business education as an area of study. In 1862 the Morrill Act, more commonly referred to as the land-grant act, gave every state 30,000 acres of land for every congressional representative to establish a college for agricultural, mechanical arts, and business instruction. Also in 1862 shorthand was first offered in public high schools; the first comprehensive high school, which offered both college preparatory and vocational programs of study, was established. Educators generally accept this as the most important contribution to education. Finally, in 1868 Christopher Sholes invented the first practical typewriter. Historically, typewriting and subsequently keyboarding courses frequently encouraged students to enroll in additional business education courses. In the late 1800s John Robert Gregg brought his shorthand system to the United States from Great Britain and "by 1935 it was offered in 96 percent of public high schools teaching shorthand in this country" (Hosler, p. 10).

A turning point regarding business education curriculum occurred in 1946 with the invention of the first electronic computer, ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator). As might be expected, the 1960s brought significant change in business education. IBM introduced the first Selectric typewriter in 1961 and the Magnetic Tape Selectric typewriter in 1964. In 1962 the United Business Education Association (UBEA) changed its name to the National Business Education Association (NBEA). In 1963 the Joint Council on Economic Education brought together "over 60 collegiate and secondary school business educators to discuss how economics could be implemented in business courses" (Hosler, p. 23). That same year the National Business Education Association published the first NBEA Yearbook. The year 1965 saw the first minicomputer invented and word processing was then offered as a part of the business education curriculum. This marked the beginning of dramatic curricular change in business education.

The 1980s saw an era of standards development and the need for increased accountability. In 1983 the U.S. Department of Education accepted the Standards for Excellence in Business Education, developed by Calfrey C. Calhoun. This was followed in 1985 by The Unfinished Agenda, The Role of Vocational Education in the High School, and in 1987 bythe Database of Competencies for Business Curriculum Development, K14 and the Business Teacher Education Curriculum Guide. The National Association of Business Teacher Educators (NABTE) published Standards for Business Teacher Education in 1988. All these efforts affected business education curriculum and standards from kindergarten through graduate school.

The Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) report, Learning a Living: A Blueprint for High Performance, was published in 1992. It provided clear guidelines regarding foundational skills needed for workplace success. This was followed in 1994 by the Goals 2000: Educate America Act. The Goals 2000 Act, as it is often called, codified into law the six original education goals:

  1. School readiness
  2. School completion
  3. Student academic achievement
  4. Leadership in math and science
  5. Adult literacy
  6. Safe and drug-free school

Two new goals were also added to encourage teacher professional development and parental participation. This act also established the National Skills Standards Board to develop voluntary national skill standards.

Federal Legislation

As the nation grew and developed, and the economy changed from agrarian to industrial to technological, a number of factors consistently have influenced funding for educational endeavors. A few of these influences include the economy, society, demo-graphics, and technological advances. Beginning in 1862 with the passage of the Morrill Act, the U.S. government supported vocational education. However, it took nearly one hundred years after the Morrill Act for business education to be brought under the vocational education umbrella. And yet, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, some continue to hold the opinion that business education is not vocational education. However, the following definition of vocational education provided by the 1990 Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act, challenges that perspective: "organized educational programs offering a sequence of courses which are directly related to the preparation of individuals in paid or unpaid employment in current or emerging occupations requiring other than a baccalaureate or advanced degree" (Scott and Sarkees-Wircenski, p. 3). Clearly, business education at both the middle and high school levels falls under this definition. The value and merit of secondary business education programs is their ability to enable a student to pursue a program of study, graduate, and successfully move into the workforce or postsecondary education.

The Smith-Hughes Act of 1917, also known as the Vocational Act of 1917, promoted the vocational education programs of agriculture, trade and industry, and home economics. Key elements of this legislation defined vocational education as "less than college grade, for persons over 14 years of age who desire day time training, and for persons over 16 years of age who seek evening class training" (Scott and Sarkees-Wircenski, p. 122). This legislation also provided funding for teachers' salaries for the three program areas.

With the Vocational Act of 1963, the definition of vocational education was broadened to include "any program designed to fit individuals for gainful employment in business and office occupations" (Scott and Sarkees-Wircenski, p. 130). This was the first piece of federal legislation to specifically include business education. Vocational education funding was amended several times in the 1970s; however, the passage of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act of 1984 brought with it a stronger emphasis on local control. "The act had two interrelated goals, one economic and one social. The economic goal was to improve the skills of the labor force and prepare adults for job opportunitiesa long-standing goal traceable to the Smith-Hughes Act. The social goal was to provide equal opportunities for adults in vocational education" (Scott and Sarkees-Wircenski, p. 145). The 1984 Perkins Act was amended in 1990 and renamed the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act. This act was significant for two reasons: first, a major goal was increased vocational opportunities for the disadvantaged; and second, funds were authorized for technical preparation (tech-prep) programs. Tech-prep programs are often referred to as 2+2+2, which refers to the articulated agreements between two years of concentrated vocational coursework at the high school level plus two years of advanced technical education at the postsecondary level and the potential for an additional two years of education leading to the baccalaureate degree. An important part of the Perkins legislation was the requirement of implementing state councils on vocational education and the development of long-term state plans for vocational education.

The Goals 2000: Educate America Act of 1994 had as its goal the development of national goals and standards and assistance to states in helping students reach these goals and, in turn, helping them succeed in a technology-based economy and society. A key part of this legislation was the creation of a National Skills Standards Board "to stimulate the development of a voluntary national system of occupation standards and certification" (Scott and Sarkees-Wircenski, p. 156).

"The School-to-Work Opportunities Act (1994) was passed to address the national skills shortage by providing a framework to build a high skilled workforce for our nation's economy through partnerships between educators and employers" (Scott and Sarkees-Wircenski, p. 157). It was hoped the School-to-Work Opportunities Act (STWOA) would encourage the integration of academic and vocational courses, improve career guidance, and include work-based learning, many times in the form of apprenticeships.

In 1998 the Carl D. Perkins Vocational-Technical Education Act was amended. The amendments included more funding at the local level and required an equity coordinator in every state. While business education is specifically included in little federal legislation, the impact of federal legislation is felt in every business education program today. Not only does the funding provide computers for classrooms, more importantly it provides for exploratory courses at the middle school level and career guidance, which helps students imagine opportunities available to them in the world of work and for which business education is a key factor.


Certification is the process by which an individual becomes licensed to teach in a particular subject area or grade level. All fifty states have various routes to certification; however, common elements include a baccalaureate degree and some competency test. Typical baccalaureate degree programs include a liberal arts core and upper division courses in business education subject matter and professional education, including a teaching internship. In recent years a number of states have moved to using the Praxis II subject-area test in Business Education as the competency test. The advantage of this test for teachers is its mobility, allowing a person to earn a degree in one state and meet certification requirements there, and move to another state and already have met its certification requirements.

Teaching certification is not a lifelong certification. Certificates must be renewed over a period of time, such as every five years. States require a varying number of either graduate credit hours or continuing education units over a specified period of time for teachers to retain for their certification. Typically, colleges and universities use certification guidelines in planning their pre-service teacher preparation programs. These programs are reviewed periodically by the associations that accredit them.


The primary mission of business education is to provide instruction for and about business. In the past, courses such as accounting, data processing, economics, shorthand, typing, basic business, business law, business math, office procedures, and business communication were taught as a part of the business education curriculum. Many of these courses continue to be taught, but the content and technology aspect has changed drastically. Common business education courses now include computerized accounting, business management, business law, economics, entrepreneurship, international business, word processing, desktop publishing, multimedia computer programming, and web page design. Keyboarding is still taught in some business education programs as a separate course or as a four-to six-week part of a semester course in computer applications, but there is a push to teach keyboarding at a much earlier stage in education. Many schools teach keyboarding at the middle school level and some offer keyboarding as early as the third grade.

Historically, curriculum was developed on a course-by-course basis; and the courses were seen as separate entities. Today a much more integrated approach is taken to ensure business skills at many levels throughout the curriculum. National standards have been incorporated into business education in the United States. In 1995 the National Business Education Association revised existing standards that were developed around specific courses offered. The revised standards centered around twelve topical areas: accounting, business law, career development, communications, computations, economics, personal finance, entrepreneurship, information systems, international business, management, marketing, and interrelationships of business. In 1995 the NBEA determined the following standards that exemplify what America's students should know and be able to do in business:

  1. Function as economically literate citizens through the development of personal consumer economic skills, a knowledge of social and government responsibility, and an understanding of business operations.
  2. Demonstrate interpersonal, teamwork, and leadership skills necessary to function in multicultural business settings.
  3. Develop career awareness and related skills to enable them to make viable career choices and become employable in a variety of business careers.
  4. Select and apply the tools of technology as they relate to personal and business decision making.
  5. Communicate effectively as writers, listeners, and speakers in social and business settings.
  6. Use accounting procedures to make decisions about planning, organizing, and allocating resources.
  7. Apply the principles of law in personal and business settings.
  8. Prepare to become entrepreneurs by drawing from their general understanding of all aspects of business.
  9. Understand the interrelationships of different functional areas of business and the impact of one component on another.
  10. Develop the ability to participate in business transactions in both the domestic and international arenas.
  11. Develop the ability to market the assets each individual has whether they be in the labor market or in the consumer goods market.
  12. Manage data from all of the functional areas of business needed to make wise management decisions.
  13. Utilize analytical tools needed to understand and make reasoned decisions about economic issuesboth personal and societal.

The NBEA standards were developed by business educators at every level and are revised periodically. They were also developed with the belief that business education courses are designed for all students who need a general understanding of the role of business and its role in the economy.

The curriculum has developed into a criticalthinking curriculum with software applications combined. The students create real-world projects and are being taught about the "business of business" and not just simply how to create an accounting spreadsheet or use a word-processing software package. Topics such as ethics, diversity in today's society, global society, online learning, and emerging technology are also incorporated into the curriculum.

Work-experience programs are also a viable part of the business education curriculum. States have implemented different regulations, but many states have Cooperative Business Education (CBE) and/or apprenticeship programs associated with business education. Normally a course or courses are associated with the work-experience program, and students are given a specific amount of release time from school to work.

The connection between school and work has always been an important part of business education. These programs give the students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a real-world setting. It also gives them the opportunity to increase necessary business skills and connect their classroom knowledge to the business environment.

Student Organizations

Business education students have two student organizations from which to choose: Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) and Business Professionals of America. In 1942 the National Council for Business Education sponsored the first FBLA chapter in Johnson City, Tennessee. Four years later the sponsorship was transferred to the then UBEA, now NBEA. In 1969 FBLA became an independent association. In 1958 Phi Beta Lambda, a collegiate division of FBLA was organized. Scott and Sarkees-Wircenski stated the purpose of FBLA-PBL is "to provide opportunities for students in business and office education to develop vocational and career supportive competencies, and to promote civic and personal responsibilities" (p. 188).

International Business Education

The International Society for Business Education (ISBE) is an organization for anyone interested in international business education. Membership includes teachers, trainers, and administrators; however, collective memberships are also available to organizations, such as educational institutions, governmental and other agencies, industry, trade unions, and employers' associations. ISBE was founded in 1901 in Zurich, Switzerland. Approximately twenty countries worldwide have membership in ISBE. Groups from Eastern Europe, the Far East, Central and South America, and Africa are expected to join in the near future.


Educational environments experience continuous change and business education is no exception. Although it is clear that technology is an integral part of business education in the early twenty-first century at every level, a continuing question revolves around the appropriate use of technology: Does it drive the curriculum or should it be viewed as one tool in the curriculum toolbox? Distance learning and online learning are trends in the delivery systems. Providing educational excellence in a multi-faceted technological environment is a huge challenge. Accountability for the education of students results in a careful approach to many areas in education and technological applications are no exception. As business changes, business education must continue to change to keep up with the needs of business.

Certification in many areas such as Microsoft Office User Specialist (MOUS), A++ (the name of the certification for networking), Certified Novell Administrator (CNA), and many others are also being considered at the secondary level. Some courses are being designed so that the students will either become certified by the end of the course or be given the information to obtain certification on their own at the end of the course. Certification is obtained from an accrediting organization and may involve taking a test, depending on the type of certification.


The shortage of business education teachers is definitely an additional challenge. Alternative certification processes are being developed in many areas of the country to address this shortage. Incentives such as scholarships or grants are also being allocated to encourage adults to choose business education as a major at the postsecondary level.

The ever-changing role of technology continues to be a challenge for all educators, but especially business educators. Business education teachers are constantly required to update their software and hardware skills as well as learn new technologicallybased information. The incorporation of this new knowledge and the constant maintenance and updating of hardware is a real challenge for business educators.

Future Directions

Students may choose to take business education courses for a variety of reasons, such as learning about business, updating technology skills, and exploring career options. No matter what their reason, it is necessary for the business educators to provide those students with the skills to become productive and active members of society.

See also: Experiential Education; Vocational and Technical Education, subentries on History of, Trends.


Hosler, Mary Margaret, ed. 2000. A Chronology of Business Education in the United States 16352000. Reston, VA: National Business Education Association.

Lynch, Richard L. 1996. "Principles of Vocational and Technical Teacher Education." In Beyond Tradition: Preparing the Teachers of Tomorrow's Workforce, eds. Nancy K. Hartley and Tim L. Wentling. Columbia, MO: University Council for Vocational Education.

Nanassy, Louis C.; Malsbary, Dean R.; and Tonne, Herbert A. 1977. Principles and Trends in Business Education. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.

National Business Education Association. 1995. National Business Education Standards. Reston, VA: National Business Education Association.

National Business Education Association. 1999. The Twenty-First Century: Meeting The Challenges to Business Education. Reston, VA: National Business Education Association

Schrag, Adele F., and Poland, Robert P. 1987. A System for Teaching Business Education, 2nd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Scott, John L., and Sarkees-Wircenski, Michele. 1996. Overview of Vocational and Applied Technology Education. Homewood, IL: American Technical.

internet resource

International Society for Business Education. 2002. <>

Tena B. Crews

Wanda L. Stitt-Gohdes


More than 4,000 educational institutions in the United States offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in business. These institutions include two-year private and public colleges, four-year colleges, and graduate schools. A business school may be set up as a college or school within a university; in other cases, it may be a department within a two-year or a four-year educational institution such as a polytechnic. A degree in business is very popular in the United States because it gives the holder a specialized skill highly valued by the commercial, business, and industrial world. The types of degrees offered by business schools in the United States include associate, bachelors, certificate, diploma, masters, and doctoral degrees.


A diploma degree usually is awarded after completion of a short-term course, lasting anywhere from eight to twelve months, and is designed for students who need basic or advanced skills for employment in business administration, management, or accounting. A diploma degree may also be an essential step for students who may later choose advanced studies in business. Business schools award diplomat degrees in areas such as marketing, accounting, management, finance, or office practice.

The associate in science (A.S.) or associate in arts (A.A.) in business administration degrees are generally two-year programs offered by for-profit schools or two-year community colleges in the United States. Most students who plan to enter the business job market soon after their studies enroll in associate degree programs. These programs also prepare students for their bachelor's degree in business. In many cases, the only requirement for a student who holds the associate degree in business studies and wishes to obtain the baccalaureate or bachelor's degree is to complete two years of further studies in a preferred area in business such as accounting, finance, or marketing. Many institutions such as Kaplan College, Hickey College, Allentown Business School, and Gibbs College also offer associate, certificate, or diploma degrees in business.

In the United States, as elsewhere in the world, business schools offer programs leading to the award of a bachelor of science (B.S.) and bachelor of arts (B.A.) degrees. A student working on the baccalaureate degree in business may obtain a B.S. degree in several areas including accounting, economics, finance and investments, management, and marketing. A student pursuing the B.A. degree in business may complete concentrated courses in business administration such as marketing, management, or accounting and study several areas in the social sciences. The baccalaureate program in business prepares students to work in several areas in business. It also prepares students for further studies in business at the graduate level.

Business schools in the United States also offer degrees in graduate studies. These degrees include master of science (M.S.) or master of accountancy (M.Acc.), executive master of business administration (E.M.B.A.), doctoral (Ph.D.) programs, and other professional certificate programs such as certified public accountant (C.P.A.). The master of accountancy (M.Acc.) is a program that attracts students who want to be corporate accountants. The M.S. degree is conferred on students who focus their studies on a particular subject area in business such as accounting, marketing, finance, banking, international business, or taxation.

The master of business administration (M.B.A.) is generally a two-year program, although it may be shorter in some business schools. Part-time students may take as many as six years to complete it. Students pursuing the M.B.A. degree may specialize in one of several specialized business areas: accounting, economics, finance, banking, computer information systems, marketing, management information systems, international business, health care administration, taxation, and e-commerce.

The master of business administration degree is very popular and in high demand all over the United States and the rest of the world because of the high prestige it confers on people who successfully complete it. It is often perceived as an avenue toward achieving an executive position in business, industry, education, and government. The financial rewards are in most cases very lucrative. These, and other factors like job satisfaction, make the M.B.A. a terminal or the highest degree required for a top position in the field of business for many people.

Several business schools in the United States offer joint degree programs. These degrees are offered in conjunction with other departments within the college or university system or a different educational institution elsewhere. Students pursue these degrees by simultaneously enrolling in the two programs that are of interest to them. A student may pursue a joint graduate degree in one of the following combinations: law and business (J.D./M.B.A.), medicine and business (M.D./M.B.A.), public policy studies and business (M.P.P./M.B.A.), social services administration and business (A.M./M.B.A.), master of science in accounting and business administration (M.S/M.B.A.), master of engineering management and business administration (M.Eng. Mgt./M.B.A.).

Business schools in the United States have designed several executive educational programs for people who do not want to quit their job for full-time studies in business. These programs are designed to be equivalent to a master's degree. These degrees are awarded in several areas after several credit hours of college work in business. The executive programs may lead to the award of the executive master of science in finance (E.M.S.F.), executive master of business administration (E.M.B.A.), international executive of master of business administration (I.E.M.B.A.), global executive master of business administration (G.E.M.B.A), and executive master of international business (E.M.I.B). Students who enroll in these programs usually work intensively on weekends to complete the program within two years.

A certificate of advanced graduate studies (C.A.G.S.) or postmaster's certificate (P.M.C.) in business administration is designed for graduate students who want to acquire special skills or update their business skills. A student may obtain a business certificate in financial planning, business management, business administration, business microcomputing, accounting, or marketing.

The Chicago School of Business within the University of Chicago in 1920 set up the first doctoral program (Ph.D.) in business administration in the United States. The doctor of business administration (D.B.A.) is the highest degree in business studies. Because a master's degree in business is often the only degree needed for gainful employment, few business schools offer doctoral programs in business studies. These include Baruch College, City University of New York; The Carroll School of Management, Boston College; Graduate School of Business and Behavioral Science, Clemson University; Columbia Business School, Columbia University; and John Molson School of Business, Concordia University. Other educational institutions that have doctoral programs in business include Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University; College of Business, Florida State University; Fisher College of Business, Ohio State University; DuPree School of Management, Georgia Institute of Technology; Pamplin College of Business, Virginia Tech University; and Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University.

Students pursuing the Ph.D. in business generally study for about five years after a master's degree program. Areas of specialization for the Ph.D. program in business include finance, marketing, accounting, business economics, organizational behavior, and human management, or business administration. Many people who hold Ph.D.s in business become college or university professors, business consultants, or research fellows.

Admission To Business School

Admission requirements for business studies vary from program to program and from institution to institution. Students seeking a certificate, diploma, or associate degree have few requirements to meet. The requirements may include a high school transcript, General Educational Development (G.E.D.) test scores, ability to speak and write English, completion of self-assessment form, and a personal interview. For a certificate of advanced graduate studies (C.A.G.S), a graduate degree in the area of interest or a closely related area is required. Many of the two-year community colleges have an open door policy for admission, which makes it possible for a student who is eighteen years old or older to gain an admission. Under this policy, college and university students who have good academic records but decide to enroll in a community college for business education may have not find their A.A. degree a complement to their education.

Students who want to get an undergraduate degree in business have to meet the same admission requirements as other students enrolling for a baccalaureate degree. However, students who desire a B.S. or B.A. degree in business may apply to the business school after completing twenty or more credit hours of college work. In some cases, such students would be expected to have successfully completed several business courses at this time of their college work.

Generally, graduate schools and colleges have higher admission requirements. For the master of business administration (M.B.A.) program, business schools require students to have a baccalaureate degree, and an acceptable score on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Indeed, very few business schools do not require a GMAT score. Other admission requirements include college transcripts showing acceptable grade point average (GPA), recommendation letters, resume, essays, and interview. Students applying for the executive master's degree in business such as executive master of business administration (E.M.B.A.) must also have seven or more years of professional work experience. Students applying for admission to complete a joint degree program must meet the admission requirements of all the departments or schools concerned. For instance, a student who wants a joint degree in law (J.D.) and business (M.B.A.) must meet the admission requirements of both the law school and business school. This means the student must obtain appropriate test scores on both the GMAT and the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

The admission requirements for doctoral studies in business are similar to the requirements for a graduate degree. Emphasis is however, placed on essays written by the student, academic background and performance, research interest and potential, prior exposure to academic research, and the strength of recommendation letters.

See also: Curriculum, Higher Education; Graduate School Training.


Etheridge, Harlan L.; Hsu, Kathy H. Y.; and Wilson, Thomas E., Jr. 2001. "E-Business Education at AACSB-Affiliated Business Schools: A Survey of Programs and Curricula." Journal of Education for Business 76 (6):328331.

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Kwabena Dei Ofori-Attah


A person planning to teach business subjects in the twenty-first century faces a wide array of possibilities regarding the students, subject areas, school levels, and sites at which business subjects are taught. The routes to certification and licensure are equally diverse. The challenge in business teacher education is to provide viable paths for professional development and growth in settings that often require diverse technical skills and teaching competencies.

Business education as a field is part of two worlds that are sometimes viewed separately because of funding and licensing requirements. Business education is provided to meet both general education, and career and technical education needs. General education can further be divided between personal-use business skills and preparation for advanced study in businesstwo different types of goals. Calhoun and Robinson summarized these goals in 1995:

  • Specialized instruction to prepare students for careers in business.
  • Fundamental instruction to help students to assume their economic roles as consumers, workers, and citizens.
  • Background instruction to assist students in preparing for professional careers requiring advanced study.

Several statements from the Policies Commission for Business and Economic Education (1997, 1998, 1999) note that business education represents a broad and diverse discipline (perhaps field of study is a better term) that is included in all types of educational delivery systems: elementary and secondary schools, one-and two-year schools and community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities. For many business teachers, a new and growing site for work is providing training or human resource development services in industry. Business education can begin at any level; it can be interrupted for varying periods of time; and it will very likely be continued throughout the life of an individual. Business education includes education for administrative support occupations, marketing and sales occupations, information technology occupations, business teaching, business administration, and economic understandings. At the secondary level of education, business courses are generally electives for students.

History Of Business Teacher Education

The earliest teaching of business subjects in public grammar and secondary school dates back to the 1700s with the study of bookkeeping. Programs in private academies soon became popular in public high schools, especially for students who were not preparing for college. In the 1800s private business schools were also a large source of business preparation, and commercial teachers, as they were called, often were recruited from business colleges. The first collegiate institute to offer a program of preparation for business teachers was Drexel Institute in Philadelphia in 1898. One-and two-year normal schools came into existence in the early 1900s. From these informal to more formal preparation programs, two requirements were essential to ensure professional competency in business teacher education: on-thejob experience and attendance at a university or teacher's college. These two prevailing requirements continue in the early twenty-first century.

The purposes of business teacher education coincide with the general breadth of the field and the dual objectives of employment-related and general education. Sources of funding for education have affected how business teachers are licensed. Since passage of federal vocational legislation in the early 1900s, such as the Smith-Hughes Act in 1917, the George-Deen Act of 1937, and the George-Barden Act of 1946, up through the Vocational Education Act of 1963 and the Tech-Prep and School-to-Work legislation of 1990, 1994, and 1998, teaching licensure, as provided by the various states, is generally of two types: (1) standard licensure for teaching in the secondary schools; and (2) career and technical licensure for teaching in programs reimbursed by state and federal career and technical education funds. Career and technical education programs and their corresponding licensing requirements can exist at either the secondary or postsecondary levels. Initial standard licensing in the past has generally required the completion of an undergraduate program. This is changing for those programs that have moved or are now moving to a postbaccalaureate degree requirement for standard, initial licensure. Postbaccalaureate-or graduate-level licensing is particularly attractive to persons who already possess a bachelor's degree in business and then decide they would like to enter teaching.

Work experience has been considered an essential part of business teacher preparation. It is frequently required for a career and technical education license. However, work experience is not generally required for graduation from business teacher education programs. Opinions about the value of work experience are mixed. Teachers value their business work experience and believe it gives them confidence in their teaching, but John Burrow and Nancy Groneman found in 1976 that the amount or frequency of related work experience of business teachers has not been shown to result in greater teaching effectiveness.

Professional Development For Business Teachers

In addition to initial licensing, business teacher education has been a provider of in-service teacher education and graduate coursework for the completion of advanced degrees. Provision of professional development opportunities is the responsibility not only of colleges and universities that provide formal coursework, but also of professional organizations in the field. Although business teachers participate in a wide variety of business professional groups, three can be said to have a key interest in teacher preparation: National Business Education Association (NBEA, founded in 1878), National Association for Business Teacher Education (NABTE, founded in 1927), and Delta Pi Epsilon, the graduate researchfocused society of the profession (DPE, founded in 1936). NBEA and NABTE, respectively, are responsible for developing the National Standards for Business Education, which have directed curriculum development in the field at the K14 grade levels, and Business Teacher Education Curriculum Guide and Program Standards for programs that preparebusiness teachers.

Trends In Business Teacher Education

There was a gradual and consistent increase in the number of business teacher education programs from the 1940s through the 1970s. Augmented funding from federal and state vocational legislation may have contributed to this. However, since 1980 several trends have been a source of concern: the shrinkage in the number of programs preparing business teachers in a time of teacher shortages; program responses to technological change; maintaining balance in business program offerings; and the use of technology as a form of distance learning.

In 2001 NABTE found that there were 124 institutions in the United States providing business teacher preparation by offering at least a bachelor's degree that meets the requirements of a "comprehensive" teaching license, or a license to teach the broadest range of business courses at the secondary level. This total of 124 programs compares to a high of 305 programs in 1980, an almost 60 percent loss of programs. A critical issue has been to understand reasons for program eliminations. Perhaps, when funds are being retrenched, teacher preparation program for courses that are generally electives at the secondary level are easier to eliminate than others. Retrenchment has been common as states have reduced or failed to increase funding to public universities.

This downward trend in program availability might justify the continued expectation of a business teacher shortage in the early 2000s. Because the demand for business teachers, in particular, parallels the demand for entry-level business employees, and the information technology area continues to be one of growth, a shortage of business teachers is a reasonable projection. Several states and professional organizations have implemented or are discussing alternative ways for teachers to become licensed more quickly than a four-year degree generally allows.

A major preoccupation of all business teachers is maintaining up-to-date programs with regard to information-processing technology. Demand in the workplace for employees in information technology jobs has made the provision of technical courses increasingly popular among students. Courses range from personal-use applications of personal computers through the preparation of employees to manage telecommunication networks.

As the demand for information technology courses increases, questions are also being raised about the too-early specialization of high school students for rapidly changing employment expectations. Further, interest in technical courses and technical certifications at either the secondary or postsecondary levels tends to reduce student time for other business courses and nonbusiness general education course work. Lack of more breadth may not only limited students' ability to understand business operations and the place of technology for meeting business needs, but it may also prevent broader understanding about the world and the diversity of options available for many life choices. Maintaining balanced curriculum choices for students is a challenge.

Not only must teachers be prepared to teach using current information-processing technology, programs themselves may be offered using telecommunications technology. Distance learningthe offering of selected courses or complete teacher-preparation programs over the Internetis being viewed as one way to address a variety of challenges: the need to take full advantage of technology capabilities to serve the profession, the need to provide professional development opportunities for current teachers, and a way to counter the shrinkage of available teacher preparation programs for students across the country.

The ability to use technology to give students access to resources and allow communication with multiple groups of people makes telecommunications capabilities the new fad of the early twenty-first century. Too little is known about the outcomes of programs offered in part or in total by distance learning to be able to judge their quality. It is not known whether such new ventures broaden educational opportunities for under-served groups of people, or whether learning at a distance compromises learners' chances to actually become part of professional communities of teachers. Business teachers are not alone in experimenting with these new possibilities and their associated costs and risks.

Future Directions

Business teacher preparation continues to maintain a historical commitment to preparing teachers who have two basic goals: preparing students both for employment and for economic citizenship. They teach from the elementary, middle, and secondary school levels through the collegiate level in both public education and private training settings. Over the past two centuries, teacher preparation has progressed from informal on-the-job learning through four-year-degree and graduate-level licensing programs. Forces moving toward higher licensing standards are currently being countered by a shortage of teachers, which tends to create pressure to reduce licensing requirements. Nevertheless, changing technological capabilities require all business teachers to become responsible for doing more in the classroom as they teach about technology as a business tool as well as consider using technology as a teaching aid. Technology appears to be both part of a problem and part of the solution. It continually makes new demands on teachers' time and capabilities at the same time that, in the form of distance learning, it makes business teacher education opportunities available to more people when the number of traditional, campus-bound programs has been shrinking.

See also: National Business Education Association; Vocational and Technical Education, subentries on History of, Preparation of Teachers, Current Trends.


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Judith J. Lambrecht

Business Education

views updated May 23 2018

Business Education

Business education is a term that encompasses a number of methods used to teach students the fundamentals of business practices. These methods range from formal educational degree programs, such as the Master of Business Administration (MBA), to school-to-work opportunity systems or cooperative education. Business education programs are designed to provide students with the basic theories of management and production. The main goals of business education programs are to teach the processes of decision making; the philosophy, theory, and psychology of management; practical applications; and business start-up and operational procedures.


Traditional academic programs for business education include college courses that teach students the fundamentals of management, marketing, business ethics, accounting, and other relevant topics. These have been supplemented in recent years with extensive course offerings in computer skills, e-commerce management, and other factors in managing a business within the global economy. Students can earn degrees ranging from an Associate degree in business to a Ph.D (Doctor of Philosophy) in business administration. Some programs may consist of classwork only, while otherssuch as tech-prep and cooperative education programs, internships, and school-to work opportunitiescombine academics with on-the-job training.

Tech-Prep Programs

A tech-prep program is a four-year planned sequence of study for a technical field which students begin in their junior year of high school. The program extends through either two years of college in occupational education, or a minimum two-year apprenticeship. Students who complete the program earn either certificates or Associate degrees.


Cooperative education (co-op) is a program which offers students a combination of college courses and work experience related to their majors. Co-op programs are available in a wide range of business disciplines, e.g., information systems, accounting, and sales. Participants enroll in a postsecondary educational program while employed in a related job. Most co-op participants are paid by their employers. The co-op program provides students with the work experience they need to obtain full-time employment after graduation. More than 1,000 postsecondary educational institutions and 50,000 employers participate in co-op programs throughout the United States.


Internships are related closely to co-op programs. The main difference, however, is that those who participate in internship programs are not paid, as internships are designed specifically to provide participants with work experience. Often, interns will complete the program separately from their academic setting, rather than combining the two.

School-to-Work Programs

School-to-work opportunity programs focus on career awareness for students. They provide participants with work mastery certificates and furnish them with links to technical colleges. In these programs, all participants have jobs, apprenticeships, or further schooling after finishing high school.

Career Academies

Career academies are occupationally focused high schools that contain "schools within schools." Primarily, they train high school juniors and seniors in such areas as environmental technology, applied electrical science, horticulture, and engineering. In addition to these schools, there are also privately operated business schools that grant certificates to students who complete their programs.

All of these types of business education programs provide participants with career paths for high-skill technical and professional occupations by formally linking secondary and post-secondary education, and by integrating academic and occupational learning. Students who complete such programs gain an advantage over people who concentrate solely on the academic part of business education. Whichever route students use to acquire a basic knowledge of business skills and principles, there exist ample opportunities to prepare them for business careers.


In the past, many entrepreneurs viewed the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree as unnecessary to small business success, and some believed that it stifled the creativity that allowed small businesses to develop and grow. Most entrepreneurs counted on their energy, work experience, industry knowledge, and business connections rather than on their formal business education. In the late 1990s this attitude began to change and increasing numbers of entrepreneurs chose to pursue an MBA degree. Two reasons for this change are often cited. First, today's business world often requires small companies to compete for the same customers as much larger, professionally managed corporations. Second, entrepreneurs are finding that even their smaller competitors are likely to be run by MBAs, as more downsized executives decide to start their own companies. And the appeal of the MBA to entrepreneurs seems to runs in both directions. According to Della Bradshaw in an article appearing in The Financial Times, "while the dotcom boom caused frenzy in MBA ranks, business schools themselves report that the 1998 to 2001 boom was just a blip in the sustained interest students have shown in entrepreneurship over the years."

The MBA degree offers entrepreneurs a set of sophisticated management tools that can be brought to bear on the challenges of running a small business, including economic analysis, marketing knowledge, strategic planning, and negotiating skills. In addition, a business education can help many small business owners to broaden their viewpoints and recognize trends within their business or industry.

Yet another reason for the increase in entrepreneurs pursuing MBA degrees is that most such programs have become more practical in recent years. In addition to teaching theory, MBA programs are increasingly emphasizing teamwork, hands-on experience, and cross-disciplinary thinking. This approach makes the MBA much more applicable to the entrepreneur's interests and experience.


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Bradshaw, Della. "Entrepreneurs are Back in the Classroom." The Financial Times. 21 April 2003.

Cashill, Jack. "Capitalizing on Business Education." Ingram's. July 2000.

Mitchell, Meg. "A Difference of Degree." CIO. September 2000.

                              Hillstrom, Northern Lights

                                updated by Magee, ECDI

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