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Business Education

What Are NBEA Standards?

July 20th, 2022 | 29 min. read

Brad Hummel

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through his own teaching background, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for iCEV, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students by listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.

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The National Business Education Association’s (NBEA) standards are areas of competency that the organization believes are crucial to the success of any student as an employer, employee, and citizen.

NBEA standards cover 10 subject areas:

  1. Accounting
  2. Business law
  3. Career development
  4. Communication
  5. Economics & personal finance
  6. Entrepreneurship
  7. Information technology
  8. International business
  9. Management
  10. Marketing

With 10 areas of standards, the NBEA is one of the most thorough authorities on business education in the world.

But wait a minute — why is the NBEA credible? And why did they choose those specific areas to use for their standards?

What Is the NBEA?


The National Business Education Association (NBEA) is a professional association that publishes business education news.

As a result, the NBEA is often at the forefront of changes and developments in the world of business education.

This makes the NBEA an outstanding resource for any teacher focused on business education, 21st Century skills, and more.

It’s also why the organization started setting its own standards.

After all, if they’re already the leading publication on business education in the United States, they’re the best ones to make business education standards!

That’s the theory, and it works in practice as well.

Even so, the NBEA has its sights set on goals beyond business education.

It also endeavors to prepare students for their careers, functioning “within the global environment,” and being strong citizens overall.

As the NBEA says:

“Because all students will participate in the economic system, all students need to be literate in business and economics.”

This inspiring message is found in every standard that the NBEA sets.

In general, each of their standards entails a specific part of a business principle, which also has certain success metrics assigned to it.

We’ll dive into each standard complete with the signs of success that you and your students can accomplish to truly be NBEA compliant!

1. Standards for Accounting


The NBEA’s standards for accounting focus on the typical qualities of numbers and math.

They also go a step further to examine qualities like thought leadership, communication, problem-solving, and decision-making.

Altogether, students who learn these standards will be able to:

  • Read, interpret, and understand financial information
  • Apply accounting principles
  • Understand how accounting systems provide information
  • Recognize different uses of accounting
  • Understand the dynamic nature of business environments

These standards make a lot of sense for anyone who’s experienced a day in the life of an accountant first-hand or second-hand.

First, every student needs to know how to understand financial information.

How could you be an accountant if you didn’t?

Second, students have to know how to apply accounting principles.

These principles can run the gamut of just about everything you encounter in finance — tax law, moving cash, revenue, expenses, assets, liabilities, and more!

Third, it’s essential to understand how accounting systems provide information.

Accounting is, in many ways, its own language. The systems that use that language all report information according to ultra-specific codes, parameters, regulations, and more.

Fourth, NBEA-compliant accounting students have to recognize users of accounting information.

This plays an enormous role in working as an accountant for any company since it tells students who should have access to financial information and which information is privileged knowledge.

Finally, accounting students have to understand the dynamic nature of the business environment to fully grasp how accounting functions.

Change comes to every corporate entity, government institution, and school, which means that an accountant’s working environment can be completely different from one day to the next.

The sooner an accounting student understands that, the better they’ll adapt to the high-stakes industry of accounting!

Conveniently, accounting ties in well with the NBEA’s next standard — business law.

2. Standards for Business Law


NBEA standards for business law discuss the regulations that apply to every company.

Ironically, the standards for business law also extend to individuals and those individuals’ families as the law relates to them as citizens, employees, consumers, and more.

That may sound like a lot, but the NBEA breaks these concepts down into four much more manageable tenets of success, like:

  • Understanding intellectual property law
  • Understanding contract law
  • Understanding digital privacy
  • Understanding computer-specific crimes and torts

While the NBEA is a well-respected organization, one common criticism is that their business law standards are much better suited for post-secondary students than elementary, middle, or even high school students.

That’s why the NBEA goes on to spell out specifics about what students should learn about these standards at varying grade levels, saying:

“Although the standards relate primarily to secondary and post-secondary education students, standards fore elementary and middle school are also included to give students at those levels a basic understanding of law, the legal system, and what it means to exhibit ethical behavior.”

Regardless of what grades you teach, the purpose of these standards is all the same.

First, intellectual property is perhaps one of the most complicated legal issues in the United States.

This concept includes issues like copyright infringement, idea theft, and a wide variety of other issues that can even include cybercrime.

Second, contract law may be the most common — yet least understood — areas of law in everyday life.

Every job someone has will include a contract, meaning that each of your students will run into contract law at least once in their lives.

This is why it’s so exceptionally important for them to understand what contract law means, how contracts are written, and why certain contract clauses exist (like non-competes and non-disclosures).

Third, digital privacy has become a hot area of contention throughout the world.

 With governments catching up to social networking companies, search engines, email suppliers, and other online companies, privacy in the modern age is an evolving concept with plenty of current events to use as examples.

Last, computer-specific crimes matters to students because it’s now possible for them to commit crimes online without fully realizing it — namely cyberbullying.

Along with that, it’s crucial that students know that stealing passwords, impersonating someone online, and other activities that could be considered “pranks” are now considered misdemeanor criminal activity, at least!

In terms of business education, computer-based crimes matter because it’s theorized that every company in the world has been hacked at least once by malicious outside entities.

Hacking — and the crimes that result from it — is a very real, very potent threat to students’ future employers. As the rate of technology advances and knowledge about it increases, it’s guaranteed that computer-based crime is here to stay for the foreseeable future. 

With business law fully discussed to NBEA satisfaction, the next area of student compliance is career development!

3. Standards for Career Development


The NBEA’s take on career development standards is by far their largest-scope endeavor.

These standards encompass a students’ job prospects for the future along with the students’ personal skills, aptitudes, social responsibilities, personal quirks, and even recreation!

If this sounds like a lot, it is!

But once again, the NBEA condenses this broad-range concept into four bite-sized pieces, including:

  • Understanding yourself, your qualities, and your “career fit”
  • Exploring career opportunities with the resources available to you
  • Forming expectations and practices for working relationships, ethics, etc.
  • Transitioning from school to work

Altogether, mastering these four qualities primes your students to enter the workforce and exceed employer expectations.

First, understanding yourself is one of the most underrated areas of career development.

It’s surprisingly simple as a concept, though. The more you understand yourself, the more you know what you want to do for a living.

For your students, that means identifying what they enjoy in life and making that work with a career description.

In effect, this is career exploration. But the NBEA standards place a heavier emphasis on students understanding themselves as people instead of matching up to a generic list of careers.

The results, according to the NBEA, are a strong sense of personal awareness and understanding that leads students to the careers they want.

This leads perfectly into the second NBEA standard of exploring career opportunities, often with a few resources.

The Internet has become the most valuable (and accessible) resource in that regard. Even when a student doesn’t know anything about a career, they can always turn to the Internet to learn more.

Best of all, students can learn about careers around the planet this way. So while someone may have been restricted to jobs in their local area 50 years ago, anyone can go anywhere to get any job these days.

Next, forming expectations and practices helps students understand what’s expected of them in a workplace and how they can exceed those expectations.

Students in high school are working part-time jobs less and less these days. But in previous generations, that’s how young workers learned how to behave in a professional environment.

That means it’s on the schools to pick up the slack of this life experience.

While these expectations and practices may only be theoretical and untested, it’s better for a student to figure them out than to walk into their first job interview unprepared.

Fourth, every student should master the school-to-work transition.

This applies on two levels.

First, it applies to students who attend high school during the day and work part-time jobs in the evening.

That’s a tough transition to master since it’s a daily occurrence, especially as academic demands grow for teens in the United States.

This transition also applies to students graduating from school and moving into full-time work.

This is a much more abrupt and challenging transition since it’s a permanent life change.

Still, it’s easier to make this transition when students have experience going from school to work in a day-to-day setting.

With that in mind, this is one standard that’s especially tough to teach in a classroom.

The best way to learn it is — and has been — experiencing it first-hand.

But developing a career involves more than knowledge and research. Soft skills are also important for students to master — especially when it comes to communication.

4. Standards for Communication


Currently, the NBEA standards for communication aren’t fully fleshed out on their website.

This is because of a copywriting error where the top half of the page is showing information on the “Economics” standards instead of the “Communications” standards.

However, we can still talk about some of the tenets that the NBEA has established, including:

  • Understanding communication foundations
  • Recognizing communication in social situations
  • Knowing how to communicate in the workplace
  • Understanding technological communication

The first tenet of this standard is surprisingly broad. Understanding the foundations of communication means you can take your lessons in a lot of different directions.

You can talk about intent, language, metaphor, hyperbole, and a ton of other ideas that make communication so exciting and so complicated at the same time.

Then, you can ensure your students recognize communication and its impact in social situations.

This is a little more specific in that you have to discuss how language is perceived and understood in conversations.

Clarifications, repetition, and even short-term memory all play major roles in how communication functions in social settings.

Because “work” is a social scenario, it’s also important for students to know how to communicate in the workplace.

This ties back to ideas like professionalism, written communication, and functioning generally in a polite society.

You can talk about what is considered professional language in many workplaces and address what kind of sentences, phrases, or words cross the line.

Finally, this will all help your students understanding of technological communication.

While email and instant messaging has made it easier to communicate throughout the world, both of those communication media lack the benefit of vocal tone.

Tone plays a huge role in communicating in every culture. Sometimes, whole languages use vocal inflection to determine the context of a word and how it’s interpreted.

That’s why it’s so crucial for students to understand how they can be perceived — and misunderstood — via digital communications.

And speaking of digital tools, communication is just the beginning.

If students truly want to achieve their professional pinnacle in their lives, they’ll have to understand computation as well!

5. Standards for Economics & Personal Finance


The NBEA standards for economics and personal finance set an ambitious bar for students learning more about how money works. 

Many of these qualities also tie back into decision-making and other NBEA standards, too.

However, the NBEA has almost twice as many requirements for economics and personal finance than it does for other standards!

These requirements include:

  • Opportunity costs
  • Productivity
  • Economic systems
  • Money interdependence
  • Prices
  • Supply and demand
  • Consumers, citizens, and governments

First, the NBEA requires that students understand opportunity costs. In a nutshell, this complex concept breaks down to understanding what you gain or lose by choosing to pursue different options in any decision.

Any choice has an opportunity cost because, theoretically, no two choices are ever the same.

The second factor students need to understand is productivity. This is often described as the amount of work or progress someone can make in a timeframe.

The more someone gets done, the more productive they are! In addition, productivity includes ideas like division of labor, technological impact, and capital investment.

Depending on who you ask, you may also find economists who argue that quality plays a role in productivity alone with quantity. That means you could look at productivity as how well someone performed a task or made something in a timeframe, as opposed to how much they did.

Third, NBEA says that students need to learn about economic systems.

Most notably, this requirement means students have to know about different economic systems that exist, like capitalism.

Students go beyond naming these institutions though. They also have to learn why economic systems were developed in the first place, the basic features of each one, and which ones apply to United States economics specifically.

Next, the NBEA stresses the importance of understanding monetary interdependence.

Of all the concepts in NBEA standards, this is one of the most complicated to understand (and explain).

The quick explanation is that the world economy involves so many different ideas and parts that each country, province, and city relies on one another for a healthy exchange of goods and services.

This leads to the NBEA’s fourth requirement for this standard — prices.

Prices are influenced by individual markets, industries, and competition, particularly in countries that practice capitalism.

But because of monetary interdependence, every country’s prices are influenced by different forces, many of which are outside their control.

As a result, prices aren’t as cut-and-dry as they seem!

Understanding prices, the influences of prices, and how prices are interpreted by consumers all play a role in how price works worldwide.

The biggest force that impacts price is also one of the simplest — supply and demand.

Supply and demand is the backbone of economics.

The more plentiful something is, the lower its price will be. The rarer something is, the higher its price will be.

There are exceptions to this rule, but it rings true for almost every economic system and institution throughout the world.

However, this rule is subject to three external factors more than any others: consumers, citizens, and governments.

Consumers are the individuals who choose what to purchase in an economic system.

Citizens are individuals who can be impacted by economic factors, whether they’re positive or negative.

Finally, governments choose what economic system a country will follow, tariffs for international trade, taxes for domestic trade, employment laws, and just about anything else that matters to an economy.

So with all of this knowledge from the first six NBEA standards, there’s only one logical place to go next.


6. Standards for Entrepreneurship


NBEA entrepreneurship standards are designed to give your students the best possible advantages if they choose to start their own business.

All of these qualities are wrapped into three basic tenets that NBEA-compliant students need to follow:

  • Understanding technology’s importance to business
  • Understanding the variety of electronic tools to perform business tasks
  • Using the Internet to promote and maximize business

Ten years ago, these qualities would have looked completely different from what they are now.

But because of the proliferation of the Internet, the American startup culture, and digital retail, the name of the game in modern entrepreneurship is “online.”

Understanding technology’s importance to business is a crucial starting point because it sets the stage for the remaining entrepreneurial requirements.

This makes students learn the differences between computers for business use and computers for personal use.

Incidentally, this ties back into concepts like business law surprisingly well. After all, the laws that apply to business property are different from the laws that apply to personal property.

This is crucial for entrepreneurs to understand for whenever they start and grow a company. As a result, the sooner your students can learn about it, the better!

It also leads into the next point of NBEA standards — understanding electronic tools that perform business tasks.

Electronic tools have expanded at a rapid rate over the past few years. Today, there’s a tool for every business task from tracking users on a website to automating email and way, way more.

Understanding this diversity of tools — and the fact that these tools exist for just about any business need someone could have — shows students how they can structure and build a business with the help of online tools.

Some of these tools perform essential tasks. Some of them help build a business in the first place.

Regardless of what they do, students need to know about them if they’re going to walk the path of an entrepreneur.

This concept conveniently includes the third tenet of the NBEA’s entrepreneurship standard, which is using the Internet to promote and maximize business.

For the most part, this requires covering concepts like digital marketing, content creation, search engine optimization, video production, and other methods of promoting a company online.

You can teach this tenet a thousand different ways. The Internet is chock full of opinions, how-to lists, and insights into Internet-based marketing.

Once you’ve talked about how to use the Internet for business, it’s time to talk about how the computer, Internet, and digital technology works by covering information technology.

7. Standards for Information Technology


Of all the standards on this list, the NBEA standards for information technology (IT) are the broadest in terms of scope.

This is because of the rapid migration of tools and tasks to the Internet, which we briefly discussed with the previous standard.

Basically, technology changes so much and so frequently that the educational standards for IT have to accommodate dozens of variables.

For the NBEA, these variables include:

  • Understanding IT’s central role in every business
  • Understanding the value and impact of IT
  • Pragmatically solving technological problems
  • Developing interpersonal and service skills
  • Behaving ethically, legally, and responsibly
  • Respecting intellectual property, privacy, and security

Perhaps the simplest tenet in this standard is understanding IT’s central role in every business.

Every modern company uses IT systems, networks, and other installations to some degree.

It could be a database of clients. It could be network hard drives. Regardless, these networked resources help companies improve efficiency and get work done. 

This leads perfectly into the next idea of understanding the value and impact of IT.

While this idea is nearly identical to the first, it gives you the chance to take a deep dive into statistics, trends, and current events that discuss IT.

That helps contextualize the modern uses of IT for your students while underlining the points you’ve already made.

Third, students have to be able to pragmatically solve IT problems.

Depending on the grades you teach, this tenet can mean wildly different things.

For example, sixth-graders probably don’t need to know much more about IT than how to access the Internet and stay safe.

High school seniors taking a specialized course in IT will need to know about troubleshooting, security protocols, encryption, operating systems, coding languages, and a whole lot more.

Next, the NBEA stresses the importance of students mastering interpersonal and service skills.

The condensed version of this idea is that every student needs to know the soft skills expected of them in the workplace.

Professionalism, communication, and even dress code can all play a role in someone’s interpersonal and service skills.

These skills also contribute to the next tenet of behaving ethically, legally, and responsibly.

IT can often feel like it exists in a separate world from reality. It has its own languages, protocols, and operating procedures that are each drastically different from person-to-person interactions.

As a result, it’s easy for IT-focused professionals to learn much, much more about their expertise than the average person.

That specialized knowledge brings its own expectations of ethics, legality, and responsibility. It’s easy to use tech-based information to behave in unethical ways.

That’s why it’s so important for individuals to understand how their work in IT can impact other people — especially other people’s livelihoods.

Ethics, law, and personal responsibility all factor into major tech-based industries from social networking to online banking.

Without these concepts, IT becomes a much more dangerous and exploitable field for experts.

That’s because, as the NBEA states:

“IT is a common thread throughout every business.”

It’s borderline impossible to find any company today that doesn’t have IT infrastructure to some degree. Even having a website counts as IT.

This is a powerful concept to understand because it all but guarantees IT professionals will have employment for their whole lives.

To maximize their employability, students finally need to understand intellectual property, personal privacy, and security.

This tenet is the culmination of the ones that came before it. It encompasses everything about acting ethically, obeying the law, analyzing information, developing service skills, and more.

You can use this tenet as a catchall for anything you feel didn’t fit in the previous parts of this NBEA standard.

When you’ve finished with this standard, it’s time to move onto another of the NBEA’s more complex standards.

International business.

8. Standards for International Business


The NBEA standards for international business cover everything students need to know about companies that operate in multiple countries.

This type of business is significantly different from most, as many organizations never grow to the point where they can function on a global (or semi-global) scale.

So while many students may not actually use this information in the workplace, it’s still important for them to know.

Overall, the NBEA says five qualities contribute to a student’s understanding of international business, including:

  • Understanding how political policies and economic practices relate in different countries
  • Learning how communication influences business relations
  • Conceptualizing the global business environment
  • Understanding international finance, management, and marketing
  • Identifying different forms of business ownership

The first thing students need to learn is how political policies and economic practices relate in different countries.

Mainly, this idea refers to how certain government structures correlate to economic structures.

For example, almost all governmental democracies exercise some form of free-market capitalism (to varying degrees).

In addition, totalitarian governments typically retain economic control of their country’s most valuable resources, as Saudi Arabia does with its state-run fossil fuel enterprise.

Last, communism — and other forms of it — often mean that the government in power retains total control over the economy, regulating everything as they see fit from the state level.

While the details may not be important to the specific grade level you teach, the concepts are crucial to understanding the influence of government on economics and vise versa.

Students can build on this understanding by looking at how communication influences business relations.

International relations are always hampered by two key elements — language and culture.

Language is the first major barrier because speaking different languages makes it impossible to properly communicate.

But once someone masters a language, they then have to understand the culture of the language’s native speakers.

This requires an in-depth appreciation of the culture’s idioms, beliefs, expectations, and more.

Even the best-speaking polyglots can run into problems of miscommunication if they don’t fully understand culture.

Once students understand that, they’ll have a much easier time with the next tenet of this standard — conceptualizing the global business environment.

This is your opportunity to introduce students to the ecosystem of global business.

Trade deals between corporations and governments form a major component of global enterprise, but so do business-to-business deals for raw materials, services, technology, and more.

It’s actually possible today for major corporations to have more employees than a country has citizens.

As a result, some companies may have such a big influence on a country’s economy that they can leverage that influence into legislation and decision-making nationwide!

Once you have students looking at international business on that scale, you can go into the details of how it all happens with finance, management, and marketing.

International finance is always going to be tricky because it involves multiple governments’ trade laws, tariffs, and taxes.

It’ll also deal with other countries’ minimum wage requirements and standards of living.

Those same laws will also influence how managers can behave when overseeing international teams, not to mention the codes of conduct that the company uses in different countries.

As a result, an international business will also have to change how it presents itself, its products, and its values from one country to the next in the form of marketing.

This leads into the final tenet of the international business standard, which is identifying different forms of business ownership.

On a general level, this refers to private and public companies. Is the company run by one person who retains total control of it, or does the company sell stock and empower shareholders with decision-making votes?

You can also take a look at the titles different companies use — CEO, partner, principal, president, chairperson, director, etc. — and how they relate to a company’s structure.

With that, you’ve set yourself up to talk to your students about another key standard from the NBEA.


9. Standards for Management


The NBEA standards for management are based on the idea that management is the practice of using the resources available to a company to progress that organization’s goals.

To that effect, every company’s assets are also resources that are usable by the company’s managers.

That’s why the NBEA says management standards are:

  • Emphasizing higher-order thinking skills to manage people and companies
  • Recognizing the changing role management plays today
  • Appreciating the gravity of ethical and corporate behavior
  • Incorporating global perspectives into any business’s viewpoint

According to the NBEA, great management starts with emphasizing higher-order thinking skills.

Those thinking skills can include a lot of different ideas, including metacognition, long-term planning, and time management.

In addition, students need to recognize the changing role management plays in business today.

In years past, managers held an immense amount of power over their subordinates. But today, that perspective has shifted from the “boss” archetype to the “leader” archetype.

Managers are expected to know how to do their teams’ jobs and respect those who can do those jobs well.

Managers are also expected to empower their teams with the opportunities they need to grow as individuals while understanding individuals’ boundaries.

This requires someone who can think, act, and decide at a moment’s notice while maintaining a predictable baseline of behavior for their teams to follow — among other concepts.

However, the single most important tenet for good management is appreciating the importance of ethical and corporate responsibility.

The best managers will have a firm ethical compass while understanding how their actions will be perceived both within and outside the office walls.

This extra layer of consideration plays a big role in decisions, day-to-day behaviors, team values, and more.

It’s also why it’s important for students to understand the necessity of a global perspective in any business.

The Internet has made the world smaller by empowering near-instant communication.

On top of that, countless products and services come from international businesses that create products and services for smaller companies to use.

In that respect, every business is an international business to some degree, and every company is impacted by international business decisions.

That’s a hard concept to understand at a 10-person mom-and-pop store in a student’s hometown.

But understanding it gives students a strong perceptual advantage over others who may only be focused on what they can see in front of them. 

This large-scale conceptualization plays a big role in the final (and shortest) NBEA standard, too.

This is all especially important for marketing.

10. Standards for Marketing


The NBEA standards for marketing are brief, yet impactful.

The tenets of this standard help students understand what marketing entails and how it works.

They include:

  • Understanding why marketing is important and how it impacts society
  • Understanding the customer-focused framework upon which marketing is built

The first tenet of understanding why marketing is important and how it impacts society is almost exclusively based around awareness.

Students should know how to spot marketing, especially paid advertising, in every aspect of their lives.

Business signs, billboards, search engine ads, social media ads, and other forms of marketing all have different requirements and outcomes in their own ways.

For high school learners, you can also discuss concepts like ad creep, ad saturation, and other political-economy theories.

For earlier learners, you can use games and activities to train younger students to spot ads “in the wild.”

This leads you right into helping students understand the framework of marketing.

You can take this in any number of directions. You can talk about this quickly by saying that marketing is based on customers, their expectations, and the qualities that apply to them.

You can also take a deep dive into this idea by talking about marketing theories, marketing principles, and how marketing has changed over the centuries.

With all of that done, you’ve successfully taught your students to NBEA standards — all 10 of them!


Satisfy NBEA Standards with a Comprehensive Curriculum

As a business education teacher, teaching topics you are unfamiliar with can be frustrating. Thankfully, the National Business Education Association standards provide a common blueprint many business educators and CTE programs follow to ensure students are career-ready. 

You can meet NBEA standards with any lesson plans or resources that you choose. However, many teachers find that using a comprehensive curriculum system gives them confidence in meeting all of their standards and preparing students for success.

Business&ITCenter21 from AES is a continually updated curriculum that can save you time while meeting standards in the ten NBEA subject areas.

To learn more about the Business&ITCenter21 curriculum, visit the catalog page. You'll learn how you can use the curriculum to meet your standards for business, technology, career development and more.

Explore the Business&ITCenter21 Catalog