So You’ve Done A Commerce Degree… What Next?

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“So, what is the scope after a commerce degree?” 

What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘commerce’? Personally, numbers start swimming in front of my eyes, and I begin to feel a bit dazed. Because I am so wary of mathematics, and the fields of study adjacent to it, I am also in awe of those who take them up.

In all honesty, I neither know much about the stream, but I do believe that every subject holds value. Since we’ve already provided some insight into the scope after humanities, we’ve decided to take the next step and offer some perspective on commerce as a stream.

Let’s hear it straight from the horse’s mouth: what can you do if you decide to go into commerce? 

Case Studies: How To Turn Your Commerce Degree Into A Career

From B.Com To Impact Investing

So what can you do after a B.Com degree?

Riddhi Jhunjhunwala, Senior Manager of Partnerships at The Better India, has always been fond of maths in school. While many see maths as a restrictive subject, Riddhi found that it let her think out of the box, and the affection for maths eventually grew into a strong inclination towards business. 

By the time she was in 9th grade, she had started taking up related fields like economics and accounting as her core subjects. In fact, she loved these subjects so much, she even became a tutor of economics when she was in 11th grade! At the same time, she ensured that she had a good balance of humanities and science in her core subjects as well.

“I’ve always been a-bit-of-everything kind of person,” Riddhi laughs.

By the time she had finished school, Riddhi knew what drew her: she was interested in entrepreneurship, and knew that she wanted to start something of her own down the line.

She ended up going to business school in Canada – accounting being her major – and spent four years studying what she enjoyed.

She says, “It was interesting, and I did well, but at the same time by the time graduation rolled around, I knew it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do.”

The obvious path after an accounting degree, she continues, would be to pursue an MBA or become a CA. But she didn’t want to do either. Riddhi discovered the field of social entrepreneurship, and started reading up about social work. She did a lot of personal reading about the field in her final semester, and it gave her the pause she had been looking for.

At that point, she decided to not immediately jump into a corporate job. Instead, she took time to consider her future, even worked with her father for some time, before starting Your Local Cousin, a travel startup connecting travellers with local people around the world. 

Despite working on Your Local Cousin, Riddhi was still stuck on the idea of pursuing social entrepreneurship. She didn’t know a masters in the subject was a possibility, so when she found out about the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), she knew that it was exactly what she wanted to do. 

“It was a great cross-section between social work and commerce, because we were learning how to build a sustainable business model with a social impact!”

While at TISS, she worked as an intern at an impact investment company, which also bridged the gap between business and social impact. More importantly, it gave her the opportunity to network with hundreds of entrepreneurs. It was there that she eventually discovered The Better India.

The journey, of course, doesn’t end there. Being a part of India’s largest positive news platform has added yet another layer to Riddhi’s interests. The Better India is working towards the unique vision to catalyse the media as an agent for social change, and Riddhi has seen it grow from a team of less than 10 members, to a team of more than a 100.

From BBA To Leadership Coaching

So what can you do after a BBA degree?

Until 12th grade, Life and Leadership Coach Priyanka Dutta was a science student intent on studying medicine. She was attracted by the nobility of the profession; it seemed empowering to serve others. However, she was unable to crack her medical entrance tests, which is when her journey in the field of commerce took off.

Having dropped maths from her curriculum for 11th and 12th meant that her options were limited even further, and she was uninterested in pursuing any subjects adjacent to science (such as zoology or botany). Her only option at that time seemed to be business administration.

Yet, the zeal to help people did not dissipate so easily, and eventually, when she went on to do an MBA, it was with a specialisation in human resources management.

She then started working in the corporate environment, although it wasn’t initially “hard-core HR” as she puts it. It was an HR firm however, so she did end up getting the chance to see what she studied in action.

She used that to eventually start working in training and development, but marriage and parenthood happened, which caused more than one break in her career. But when she began to look into restarting her career, she quickly realised that corporate environments could not offer her the flexibility that she needed. 

Undeterred, she ventured into the world of start-ups and worked with an entrepreneurial model for a bit. At this point, she made the biggest career decision so far: she got accredited as a life and leadership coach.

Her past, although so divergent and interesting, has shaped Priyanka immensely. “Whatever I have studied and wherever I have worked… it has all contributed to where I am today, personally and professionally.”

All this experience has helped her broaden her perspective, especially because her work involves connecting with and helping people. It also makes her flexible, and this ability to adapt to changing circumstances has truly aided her.

“It has given me the power of resilience. I have seen failure, I have seen big changes, I have paused and unpaused my career…,” she says as we wind down. “But I have picked up life skills which have given me an opportunity to keep learning.”

[Continue reading below.]

What Are The Advantages Of Studying Commerce?

While many may see the study of commerce as limiting, it is not the case. It has a number of well-established benefits, all with direct correlation to career-building and professional skillbuilding.

Here are some of the benefits of choosing to study a commerce subject:

Real-World Skills: A commerce degree in India can provide you with skills across the board; from organisational basic business knowledge, to more than passable capabilities in computer use and MS Office. All of these can add a little extra something to your resume, your interviews, and your working experience. 

Opportunities To Upskill: In a B.Com degree, they teach you Tally, which is the number one accounting software in the world! If you study accounting, you can also go on to learn application softwares such as SAP, Oracle, etc. You could also take up career-oriented diploma courses from organisations such as NIIT to add a little shine to your skill set!

Employee Value And Cross-Functionality: Employees who have the capabilities they have picked up over their commerce studies can take on multiple and cross-functional roles within the organisation. It adds value not only to your work experience, but also the functionality of the organisations.

Scope For Cross-Sectional Studies: Commerce degrees certainly open up the opportunity to expand your horizons when it comes to further studies. You could go on to do Law, an MBA, Chartered Accountancy, and so many more!

Here is a non-exhaustive list of fields you could branch out into, as listed by Gyan Unlimited:

Accounting, Finance, Banking, Company Secretary, Insurance, Foreign Trade, Stock Broking & Investment, Analyst, Economics, Cost Accounting, Corporate Law, Logistics, Taxation, Statistician, Actuarial Sciences, Portfolio Management, BPO, and more!

What’s The Deal With The Commerce Stream? 

Ever since I have known of commerce as a stream, I have found it to be extremely vague. What aren’t they telling us, I have always wondered.

Riddhi says, “Commerce for me has been just as important as my social work studies.While having an interest in a subject is good, having knowledge about the spaces you want to impact is better!” 

India is an ever-expanding start-up incubator, and when you are joining entrepreneurial spaces and organisations which are looking to scale up, you need the tools that will help you grow along with the organisation. Multiple skill sets are always useful, even within the same broad area of study.

The reason Riddhi feels as though she was able to grow personally and professionally within the company is because she has a dual skill set: social studies has given her the human perspective in social work, while business studies has taught her how to determine expansions, keep the business operating smoothly, ensure consistency, and stay persistent with clients.

So would she reconsider the manner in which the Indian education system promotes stream-based studying? For example, till just a decade ago, there was a stigma around choosing humanities. To date, with the still popular social desire to get into the sciences, there remains a cultural messaging about choosing certain subjects.

“Very few people know exactly what they want to do at a young age,” Riddhi tells me. “I did accounting, and still did not end up pursuing it. It has definitely impacted my professional life, but the fact is that we need a variety of subjects in order to get a well-rounded perspective of the world.”

Riddhi was lucky to go to an international school which allowed her to study a variety of subjects, and she believes that this is something that every student should be able to do. It helps un-restrict the mind, which ought not be made up so concretely at a young age. 

Children deserve the opportunity to explore and expand their horizons. As Riddhi has expressed, going into commerce has never made her feel like it was the limit of her professional journey.

Pressure, whether parental, societal, or of the peer variety, should never hold back a child in their educational journey. You can define your own career path, and your degree doesn’t define you.

Priyanka had always wanted to help people, but while there wasn’t parental pressure, there was definitely parental influence. Priyanka says, “I grew up in a time where becoming a doctor seemed to be the only way to help people. Options seemed limited beyond medicine or engineering.”

She goes on to tell me how her engineer father explained the disadvantages of being a woman in his field. With this in mind, and her obedience driving her, she made her choice accordingly, and chose to toe the line. Yet, the heart wants what it wants, and she ended up on a career path wherein she was helping others—just in a different way!

At the end of the day, education is not about schooling. It isn’t a box into which children must step in and never out of. Studying commerce doesn’t mean you will end up swimming in numbers your whole life.

If you are inclined towards the study of commerce, hopefully you have found encouragement and answers to your doubts! 

Have you taken up commerce? Tell us about your career journey in the comments.

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Priyanka is a poet, a feminist, and an Ophelia conspiracy theorist. She can often be found yelling "Pray you, mark!" at rooms full of condescending men in positions of power. She believes that there is a tremendous dearth of tenderness in this world, and that we need to shift perspectives from acute compassion to chronic empathy. Trust her, she's learned that the hard way. She spends her life drinking coffee, playing with eyeshadow, and ricocheting between bawler and baller.

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