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Integrated programs: a combination of theory and practice

Combining studying and work has become increasingly popular over the last ten years. An integrated (dual studies) university program that leads to a Bachelor's or Master's degree combines studying with vocational training or work experience in a company, and represents an outstanding symbiosis of theory and practice. In this article, you will learn what really matters when it comes to integrated business administration programs, and possible alternatives you should consider.
Smiling students at their graduation ceremony who have completed a dual study program in business administration

Why study business administration?

By studying business administration, you are opening the door to an unbelievable variety of career prospects. Be it in the field of marketing, accounting, controlling, management, HR management, or tax consulting – the world is your oyster.
As the term suggests, business administration involves the economic operation of a business/enterprise, including processes relating to governance, management, and the company structure. The work is based on the premise that goods are generally limited and need to be handled efficiently. A degree program in business administration consists of many mathematical principles, including statistics, business mathematics, investment, and financing. But key foundations of business administration also include subjects such as economics, business management, and human resources management. Even if you don’t opt for a degree in international business administration, you’ll still learn some basics of international management in a general business administration degree program. The core components are the same on almost all business administration courses. However, it is interesting to examine what the universities offer in terms of concentrations, specializations, and supplementary courses. This is where the true quality of a business administration course is revealed.

International business administration opens doors for you around the world

International business administration could be the right choice for you if you want to work in an international company. As a result of advancing globalization, digitalization, and a scarcity of resources, markets are growing increasingly global. Intercultural competencies are also becoming increasingly important in this context. Ideally, future managers should already begin to learn how to work on an international level during their Bachelor's degree. The semester abroad is perfect for that.

What advantages does an integrated program offer?

Integrated programs make it easier to combine the knowledge acquired at the university with its practical implementation in a company. You gather theoretical insights and important practical work experience in parallel. In contrast to a “normal” degree program in business administration – in which the focus is primarily on the theoretical elements and in which only short-term internships are done – an integrated program allows knowledge to be more deeply rooted. Through the direct practical relevance and the increasing knowledge about the students’ assigned company and its structures, the acquired theoretical knowledge can be integrated directly in day-to-day business activities. The students and the company where they are assigned are both able to benefit equally from this combination. Furthermore, the student has the option of either pursuing their specified career goal during the training or wait for a couple of semesters before choosing a specific area of focus.

Alternatively, there are other recommendable full-time business administration courses with a strong practical orientation, but more on that later.

How long does an integrated program course last?

You might expect that an integrated program would take considerably longer than a full-time degree program. After all, you’re acquiring a vocational qualification in addition to the degree. But that’s not always the case. A degree program in business administration, whether integrated or not, usually takes around three and a half years. In some cases, the integrated program can last one or two semesters longer than the full-time degree program, due to the vocational training included. The demands on your time should not be underestimated, and it will usually be necessary to cut down on leisure activities and time spent with friends and family.

What are the time models of an integrated program?

The theoretical and practical phases alternate throughout the program. The division of the two phases depends on the particular university. At some universities, an extensive phase of theoretical studies is followed by an extensive practical phase. In other institutions, the phases might alternate from week to week. 

What type of companies do students work with during a program in business administration?

Business administration is a very diverse program, which is also why it’s so popular. Since business administration involves learning business-related work processes, planning and coordinating processes, and supporting the company management from an economic perspective, you can be employed in various areas of the professional world, such as trade and commerce, marketing, logistics, and consulting. However, you should also bear in mind that you first need the trainee position in a company before you can start a dual studies course/integrated program. After you finish your course, you are usually bound to the company for several years because it is paying for your training.

When you study at WHU, you can keep your options open for longer and find out through multiple internships what aspect of work is important to you and what you expect of an employer. Furthermore, you have access to Europe’s best Career Center, whose staff will help you to find out in which area of business your strengths lie and where your career should take you.

Does an integrated program in business administration cost me anything, or will I be paid?

The companies where students are assigned often cover the costs of the degree program, in part or even entirely. In such cases, the employer’s contract includes a clause to prevent the student from leaving the company immediately after graduating. After all, the company will have invested a lot in you and should likewise be able to benefit from what you have learned.

As a rule, the company also pays a monthly salary. The amount of the salary depends on the size of the business and on the field. The gross monthly income ranges from an average of around €600 during the first year and can increase to around €1,800 (gross) by the third year.

However, financing should not be the decisive consideration when selecting a course. Even if you do not want to work as you study and do not have anyone who can support you financially, there is a whole host of other financing options, from scholarships to student loans with 0 percent interest. Never forget that, when you study, you are not only investing in your education, but also and above all in yourself and in your future. 

What kind of alternatives are there to integrated programs?

One alternative to an integrated (dual studies) degree would be a program with a very practical orientation such as the Bachelor in International Business Administration at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management. Completing at least two internships is a compulsory part of the program. One of those must be undertaken abroad. A semester abroad is also scheduled in the fourth or fifth semester. However, most WHU students do three internships or more during their courses – simply because the opportunity is there and offers a large number of possibilities to widen their network and gain experience. WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management offers courses in European business law, big data science, and how to develop into an effective leader, but also the chance to study languages such as Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and Russian. With such advanced knowledge, you can enhance your profile substantially – and become even more attractive for employers later. If you are looking for challenges and variety in everyday working life, are keen to apply the theory in truly optimal fashion, or want to study more than “just” business administration, the Bachelor in International Business Administration at WHU is highly recommended (degree: Bachelor of Science).