The fact that even the most promising students cannot hope to assume highly responsible jobs in business for a number of years after graduation raises an issue of critical importance for this branch of higher education. If business schools concentrate on preparing students for work they will be doing twenty or thirty years after graduation, the value of their education will largely be limited to later stages in their careers. On the other hand, to concentrate on the initial stage of the students' working lives by only helping them secure their first jobs would lead to an even more restricted educational result.
Neither of these conceptions of the role of business schools appears wholly satisfactory since the full value of the college-going experience can only be realized if it contributes to every stage in a person's development. Knowledge tends to be quickly forgotten unless it is used regularly. If the work which students take at business schools is aimed either at beginning jobs or at some point late in their careers, its chances of achieving meaning for the individual are greatly reduced. In a changing world where many business school students will go to work in jobs and companies not known at the start, knowledge must be generally applicable across jobs and companies in order to have any value outside of pedagogy. The need is for knowledge and understanding which will transfer to new situations and for the kinds of abilities which will be useful at all stages of a person's career. A lifelong view of learning would thus appear to be quite as applicable to the work of business schools as to any other branch of higher education.
The foregoing raises the question whether there are elements which are common to a wide range of jobs and careers in business and if so, whether business schools are especially well qualified to prepare for them. If the answer to either part of this question is in the negative, the need for offering special preparation for careers in business as an aspect of a general college or university program largely disappears. Since the greater part of the rationale of the business school movement as it has developed in this country rests on the answer to this question.