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Nothing stays the same in the world of business. Stocks rise and fall. Marketing strategies change as technology and consumer behaviors change. Leadership models and management structures evolve over time. While the basic principles of supply and demand may be consistent, everything around them is shifting. 

The question for you as a potential business student is: How do these shifts impact your education?

An advanced degree shouldn’t be outdated within five years, or even 10. What you learn should be as timeless as possible. But at the same time, your education should prepare you for growing trends in the business world. With this in mind, here are a few key trends that will impact your business education. 

1. Data in everything

According to Inc., “Every Business is a Data Business.” In other words, whether a company realizes it or not, data can spell its success or ruin. Using data can be as simple as a car mechanics shop sending reminder emails to customers about upcoming service needs, or as complicated as the monster of Amazon using your shopping patterns to serve up ads for what you might want to purchase next. 

Most companies are gathering some form of data and there are a growing number of tools for chopping up and rehashing that data. So, what do you need to know as a business student? Along with an understanding of how data (and data tools) works, your coursework should develop the ability to use data in order to draw conclusions—about your customers, products, marketing initiatives, etc.—and make a data-backed case for new or tried-and-true business efforts.

Are you prepared for today's job market?

The current job market is in good shape, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting an addition of 8.4 million jobs from 2018 to 2028. But this doesn’t mean employers will hire just anyone. They’re on the hunt for employees who can learn on the go, work well with others, and bring their best ideas to the workplace. Are you prepared to be a competitve candidate?

2. Remote work

As technology and the internet grow more and more powerful, physical office spaces are becoming increasingly optional. Remote work is becoming more common, a development that seems to have a positive impact on employee productivity. But with all these long-distance work relationships comes the increased need for solid communication skills, especially in written communication. 

If you’re good at talking but have a hard time writing a clear, concise email, you’ll have a difficult time in this new work environment, so make sure your business program helps you develop communication skills—not just in public speaking, but also in the written word.

3. Globalization

At this point, globalization is old news but its ramifications for business are still being understood. Globalization puts businesses in contact with people from literally around the globe, which opens the door to great innovations and growth, as well as to culture clashes and major misunderstandings. 

Every businessperson in 2020 needs to possess cultural competence, or the ability to effectively engage with people of different cultures. This means you need to understand and be aware of, first, the culture that you live out of and how that influences the way you see the world and various issues. You need to have humility about that cultural framework so you don’t think of your culture as automatically superior to any other culture. Cultural competence also requires an openness to other cultural perspectives that enables you to understand people from different backgrounds and contexts. 

Cultural competence can be developed through inter- or cross-cultural experiences, such as trips or studying abroad—but it does not require these experiences so much as an attitude of humility and curiosity about different cultures.

4. Automation

Word on the street (and at the grocery store self-checkout station) is that technology is taking over; it’s stealing people’s jobs, encroaching on the factory floor. This is not necessarily bad—if a mundane, repetitive task can be handed off to a machine, the person whose eyes were bleeding over that task may breathe a sigh of relief. But increased automation brings a fear that humans will become obsolete. 

Not so, says McKinsey Global Institute. Automation (and artificial intelligence, which we’ll talk about next) depends on predictability and consistency. Machines can’t handle the unexpected—that’s a human skill. It requires conscious observation and creative problem solving, among other skills that machines just don’t have. 

Does the business program you’re considering support the development of these human skills?

5. Artificial Intelligence

Like automation, artificial intelligence is gaining ground (hello, self-driving cars), but it lacks some key abilities due to its nature as dead machine, not conscious life. A key gap for AI is ethical questions. The classic example for self-driving cars is: If a child runs into the street and there isn’t enough time for the vehicle to stop, does it hit the child, run into oncoming traffic, or veer into pedestrians on the sidewalk? 

Ethical questions like this require value judgments in order to be answered. The business world is rife with these sorts of dilemmas, which only humans equipped by philosophy, morality, and their own consciences can address. Your business education should support the development of ethical reasoning so you are prepared to fill the gaps that no machine could fill.

With these trends in mind, where will you go as you prepare for your business education? Whether you’re planning for your first degree, completing a degree, or going for a master’s degree, we’ve got you covered.