Future Business Leaders of America, or FBLA, is currently the largest business career and technical student organization in the world. Read our review of one of the largest high school business organizations in the US.
Where do aspiring young business leaders turn to to acquire the skills and experience that will one day ensure success in the business world for them?
As a school or college student interested in following a career in business, it makes sense to join an organization that will put you on the path to success.
Future Business Leaders of America, or FBLA, is currently the largest business career and technical student organization in the world. Their mission is to inspire students to become community-minded business leaders by providing them from a young age with the necessary skills and experience to succeed in the business world.
FBLA is also a proud partner of BETA Camp, with numerous students completing both programs and with our organizations and their overlapping ideals, drawing inspiration from one another. BETA Camp recently attended the FBLA conference and met hundreds of FBLA students who were excited to hear more about BETA Camp. If you are a parent or teenager looking for entrepreneurship bootcamps or to develop your leadership skills - check out BETA Camp and join a free info session with our Program Director!
I spent some time looking at this organization and what they offer, including their goals, the way it is structured, membership, their educational programs and competitive events, and awards and fees, and was pleasantly surprised by the scope and opportunities available to members.
Table of Content
FBLA Review: Overview
FBLA was the brainchild of Prof. Hamden L. Forkner of Columbia University, who in 1937 already had a vision of uniting the numerous business clubs at various schools and colleges across the country into one organization. The led to the establishment of FBLA, who currently has about 230 000 members, with a National Centre in Reston, Virginia, from where activities are coordinated.
FBLA created a code of ethics, which makes it clear what the organization stands for. It emphasizes:
- honesty and sincerity
- working at a high standard
- accepting responsibility
- seeking self-improvement
- sticking to rules
- co-operating with superiors and co-workers
- acting in a way that will elicit respect
- working towards improving your community.
FBLA Review: Goals
With the code of ethics as the guiding light, the organization set its goals. First up is the development of competent business leadership, while an interest in and understanding the American business system, as well as practical money management, also feature prominently.
Leadership development is another major goal of the FBLA programs. Students get opportunities to develop their leadership skills through, amongst others, holding leadership positions in their local chapter, and also at state and national levels.
Community involvement is also considered very important, with students encouraged to get involved in projects that will benefit their communities. Students are also assisted in determining their future career path, including the transition from school to the work environment.
FBLA Review: Who can join FBLA?
Any student interested in eventually pursuing a business career can join FBLA. There are three divisions in the organization, namely FBLA Middle School, FBLA High School and FBLA Collegiate.
- FBLA Middle School caters for middle and junior high school students, in other words students from grades 5-9. They learn about business through various programs, events, and competitions, develop leadership skills and are also made aware of possible careers in the business world.
- FBLA High School, the largest of the FBLA’s divisions, targets high school students planning a career in business. The development of leadership skills is a particularly important part of the program, as well as acquiring knowledge of business principles and the impact business has on all sectors of society. This happens through various academic competitions and educational programs.
- FBLA Collegiate, formerly known as Phi Beta Lambda, concentrates on college students, with the aim to develop the next generation of business leaders. The concepts of mentoring and networking are emphasized. Understanding the business development cycle and developing a personal brand are some of the outcomes strived for by FBLA Collegiate.
All divisions operate on a chapter system, but not all chapters function exactly the same. When wanting to join FBLA, the first step is to find an existing FBLA adviser (a school administrator, teacher or faculty member) or current member at your school or college. This person will guide you through the application process.
If there is no chapter at your school or college yet, it is easy to start one. Again, finding somebody willing to act as an advisor is the first step, and this person will then start the process of establishing the chapter. For middle school and collegiate, each chapter must have at least three members and for high school five members, but the bigger the membership, the more the chapter can achieve.
FBLA Review: Education programs
The three divisions of FBLA have different educational programs, but all with the same overarching aims, namely, to develop members’ leadership skills, expand their business knowledge, contribute to local communities and earn recognition for their hard work.
- FBLA Middle School uses the Lead Awards program to achieve the stated aims. It operates on two levels, of which the Explore Award (Level 1) is more introductory and the Aspire Award (Level 2) delves deeper into a specific issue.
- FBLA High School uses the Business Achievement Awards program, of which there are four levels – Contributor (introductory), Leader (fundamentals of leadership and personal leadership style), Advocate (develop a business skill or content area of their choice) and Capstone (project that solves a real-life problem).
- FBLA Collegiate uses the Excellence Award program. The program is credit-based and bridges participation in numerous programs, alongside attendance at FBLA Collegiate Career Connections Conference to build a portfolio of career readiness.
FBLA Review: Competitive events
The National Awards Program, also known as competitive events, is a program aimed at recognizing and rewarding excellence. Members compete in a vast range of events, all aimed at preparing them for future success in the business world by simulating the work environment during the competitions. Clear rules and regulations govern all these competitive events.
FBLA Review: Awards
There are various awards that recognize members’ hard work and contribution to the organization.
- FBLA Middle School have merit and membership awards.
- FBLA High School also have membership awards, but add the Champion Chapter Challenge for which recognition is on a national level.
- FBLA Collegiate’s Who’s Who award goes to collegiate members who made outstanding contributions to the association at local, state, and national levels, while there is also the FBLA Collegiate Outstanding Advisor Award and the Gold Seal Chapter Award, the latter recognizing outstanding local chapters.
FBLA Review: Membership fees
FBLA needs dues from members to keep going and develop programs and provide the necessary resources, training and technological support to the various chapters, as well as organizing events.
There are two types of dues.
- National dues for both middle and high school is $6, while the national dues for FBLA Collegiate is $10.
- Dues paid to the various state chapters vary from state to state, and also differ according to whether it is middle school, high school or collegiate membership. It is often less than $10 and, in many states, less than $5 – with collegiate members usually paying a few dollars more.
FBLA Review: Scholarships and grants
FBLA puts their money to good use by providing various grants and scholarships to members.
- The Dressed to Impress grant is available to all divisions and provides members with professional business attire for up to three months, while the National Leadership Conference Scholarship assist deserving members to attend the national conference.
- High School and collegiate members can also apply for the Distinguished Business Leader Scholarship, as well as scholarships in partnership with the National Technical Honor Society.
- An added incentive for high school members is that they are also eligible to apply for the Johnson & Wales University Scholarship up to full tuition.
FBLA Review: How does it help me?
- Gain knowledge and experience about the business world.
- Develop leadership skills.
- Build self-confidence.
- Network with like-minded students all over the country.
- Compete in numerous challenges and competitive events.
- Get the opportunity to travel to attend conferences
- Get a scholarship.
- Receive exclusive discounts on certain products.
- Be prepared for a career of success.
FBLA Review: Differences between FBLA and DECA
DECA, formerly known as the Distributive Education Clubs of America, is another organization whose aim is to entice students to enter the business world by providing them with the necessary skills to do so. Although they have some very similar aims, there are also differences:
- The emphasis in FBLA seems to be on preparing students for the business world while in DECA there seems to be more emphasis on marketing, finance, hospitality, and management.
- FBLA aims to develop competent business leadership, while DECA concentrates more on developing social business etiquette.
- FBLA is very involved in the transition process from school to work, something which DECA does not necessarily do.
- Membership numbers for FBLA (230 000) seems to be a bit higher than for DECA (177 000) countrywide.
To any student interested in business, and pursuing a business career, FBLA provides a good grounding in business principles though its programs, competitions, networking opportunities and annual convention. For high school students, being a member of FBLA, and especially receiving an FBLA award, is a big selling point when applying for college, while for college students the organization, through its various programs, can make the transition to the world of work much easier.