Business Administration Degree Guide

What is a business administration degree, and is it a good idea to get one? Business administration is the most popular college major in the country at both the bachelor’s degree and master’s degree levels. In 2014-15, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that 364,000 graduates took home a bachelor’s in business administration, while 185,000 graduates earned an MBA or other master’s degree in business administration.
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Business administration programs are so popular because the degrees teach versatile skills needed in almost every industry sector. From management to marketing to data analytics, business degrees touch every aspect of running organizations efficiently and effectively. It’s no wonder so many people are curious about how to get a business degree.

In this guide, we’ll describe how to get a business administration degree, what the various business administration degrees are, how many years business school is, what you can learn and what you can do, including skills you can develop, career paths business administration majors can choose from, and the latest salary and job growth data. After reading this guide, you should be better informed about the options available to you as a business administration major in today’s job market.

What Is a Business Administration Degree and Who Are They For?

A degree in business administration can prepare you for careers spanning from sales and design to analytics and accounting. This is because business administration degrees offer enormous scope for specialization. If you want to prepare for careers in sports management, there are programs for that. If you are interested in business technology, there are business administration degree courses and concentrations that can prepare you for career paths that span IT and business.

Generally, people who will succeed in these degrees meet the following business degree requirements:

  • Comfortable with numbers: You don’t have to be a math wizard to get a business administration degree, but you should be ready to handle college-level mathematics and statistics. Accounting and finance data has always been an important part of business administration jobs, and with computers tracking everything from sales to website clicks, there’s more data than ever.
  • Able to work in teams: Business is a collaborative effort, so you should bring the ability to handle group projects to your business administration degree courses.
  • Entrepreneurial spirit: You’ll need to balance out your teamwork skills with the initiative and drive of an entrepreneur: someone who’s willing to start something new and see it through.
  • Informed decision-making: Business administration jobs require taking calculated risks, so you should be willing to review evidence, weigh options, and decide based on the facts—not just your gut.
  • Able to handle new technology: Again, you don’t have to be able to code, but you should be comfortable using new technology and interpreting the information it presents. You should also be willing to take appropriate security precautions with data and access to business systems.

Skills for Business Administration Careers

When you go to school for business administration at any degree level, you will develop important professional skills that employers want to see in job candidates. Some of these skills are technical business administration skills, and some are so-called “soft” or “people” skills. But just because a skill is called “soft” doesn’t mean it isn’t important!

Skills in a business administration degree may include, but are not limited to:

  • Problem solving
  • Decision making
  • Accounting, budgeting and finance principles
  • Human resource management principles
  • Business law and regulations
  • Global business concepts
  • Written and spoken communication skills
  • Business technology, from office productivity software to IT infrastructure concepts
  • Advertising and public relations skills
  • Marketing analysis skills
  • Research project design and implementation
  • Project management
  • Conflict resolution

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Types of Business Administration Degrees

Degrees in business administration are available at the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels. If you are wondering,” How long does it take to get a business degree?”, that will depend on the degree level you choose, your business administration school, and your prior college experience, if any.

 

Degree Type

Skill Level

How Long Business School Is

Associate degree

Entry level, for support roles only

1.5-2 years

Bachelor’s degree

Entry level, with skills for management-track roles

2-4 years, depending on previous college experience

Master’s degree

Advanced level for executive and leadership roles

1-2 years, depending on the program structure

Most students will want to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in business administration. This degree teaches foundational skills that can be put to work in management-track jobs after graduation. An associate degree in business administration can help people without college experience get into the business job market more quickly, but it is usually viewed as the first step towards a bachelor’s and not an end in itself.

Bachelor’s Degrees in Business Administration

A bachelor in business administration teaches the foundational skills and knowledge for careers in business management. You can expect to spend up to four years earning a bachelor’s in business admin, with shorter degree completion programs available for those who have some prior college experience.

There are many specialization options available for business administration bachelor’s degrees. These may include:

  • Accounting
  • Business Information Systems
  • Financial Management
  • Healthcare Administration
  • Human Resources
  • Marketing
  • Organizational Management
  • Project Management

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in business administration, you can expect to qualify for a wide range of jobs with decent salary and advancement potential. According to data from Payscale.com, the average salary for graduates of a bachelor’s in business administration in the United States is currently about $61,000.

We give more detailed business administration salary information, as well as more information about what you can do with a business administration degree, in the career sections below.

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Business Administration Degree Courses

Bachelor of Business Administration courses cover the full suite of business knowledge plus any specialization or concentration electives. Key classes in the business administration major may include:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Principles of Finance
  • Business Management and Leadership
  • Business Statistics
  • Human Resource Management
  • Marketing Management
  • Business Policies and Strategy
  • Technical Writing
  • Legal Issues in Business Administration

To earn a Bachelor's of Business Administration degree, you can expect to take about 120 credit hours, or take about 40 total business administration classes, depending on where you earn your degree and how they structure their programs. You may also complete a business internship and capstone project in order to graduate.

As mentioned above, how long your business degree takes will depend on your previous educational experience: if you only have a high school diploma, it can take four or more years to complete your degree. If you have some prior college credit, you may be able to transfer classes and complete your bachelor in business administration in less time.

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Master’s Degrees in Business Administration (MBAs)

The MBA degree is an advanced business administration degree for mid-career professionals who want to prepare to move up to executive roles or start their own companies. These programs are competitive, teaching advanced skills for decision making in finance, human resources, and global management.

Earning a master’s in business administration degree can enhance your competitiveness and salary potential greatly. According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) 2018 Global Recruiter Survey, 81% of employers wanted to hire an MBA graduate in 2018, and the annual median starting base salary (meaning without bonuses or benefits) for MBA graduates in the U.S. in 2017 was $105,000.

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As with the bachelor’s in business admin, there are many specializations available for MBA degree-seekers. These can include:

  • Accounting and Finance
  • Data Analytics
  • Healthcare Administration
  • Human Resource Management
  • Information Systems
  • International Business
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Project Management
  • Strategic Leadership
  • Transportation Leadership

How Long Does it Take to Get a Master’s Degree in Business?

“How long does business school take?” is a common question MBA prospects ask. It can take as long as two years to earn an MBA if you are studying full-time. Part-time programs can take longer. There are also accelerated MBA degree programs which can be completed in as few as 12-18 months, depending on the program structure.

There are also many online MBA programs for people who need to continue working while they study. Some combine online classes with in-person residencies, or with study abroad experiences.

Master’s Degree in Business Administration Courses

In an MBA program, business admin courses are intensive and aim at developing your ability to make strategic decisions for the long-term goals of a business. Business administration classes may include:

  • Accounting for Decision Makers
  • Business Information Systems
  • Ethical Decision Making and Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Managerial Finance
  • Managing Business Operations
  • Marketing Planning
  • Strategic Management

Most MBA degrees include about 30-40 credits of coursework for a total of 10-12 classes. The exact number of classes for an MBA will depend on what specialization you choose and whether you need to take any prerequisites.

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Master of Business Administration Degree Requirements

If you are wondering how to get a master’s in business administration, you will need to have graduated from a bachelor’s degree program and achieved a high GPA (usually at least a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale) in your program to meet the application requirements for an MBA.

If you weren’t a business administration major, you may need to take prerequisite classes in bachelors-level business administration subjects such as statistics or economics before you can start your MBA classes.

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Business Certificate Programs

You can also gain business administration skills through business administration certificate programs. These short-term programs usually offer four to six business administration classes in a very specialized area and can be completed in a year or less.

Certificate programs are a good option for people who hold a business degree and want to expand their skill set without committing to a full degree.

  • Undergraduate business certificates are for anyone who has a high school diploma or higher.
  • Graduate business certificates are MBA-level programs for those who have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Careers in Business Administration

If you want to know what you can do with a business administration degree, the short answer is: just about anything! Careers for business administration majors and MBA graduates are varied and can involve everything from directing creative marketing campaigns to designing computer server set-ups for banks. This variety is one of the reasons why earning a bachelor’s in business administration is a good idea.

In our guide, we’ll look at a few bachelors-level and MBA-level career path options, along with salary and projected job growth data.

Note: Salary and job growth data comes from sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and apply at the national level. Your local job market may vary.

In addition, the salaries quoted are median salaries or the most commonly earned salary for each occupation. This is different from the average salary, which can be affected by the very highest or very lowest earners and may not present an accurate picture of what workers in the field really earn.

Careers with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business

There are countless job roles available to business administration majors who earn a bachelor’s degree. Here are just a handful of the most in-demand and fast-growing career paths out there.

Accountants

What they do: Accountants maintain and analyze financial records and authorize payments. They review financial statements, ensure their organization’s record keeping meets legal and regulatory requirements, and perform audits to look for missing information, errors, or irregularities. They may also calculate taxes for businesses and individuals and prepare tax return documents.

How to become one: Earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an accounting specialization and then take and pass the Certified Personal Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) examinations after graduation. This is a requirement for many types of accounting jobs in most states.

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Management Analysts

What they do: Management analysts, also called management consultants, help organizations cut costs and achieve better organizational effectiveness. Management analysts will conduct surveys, reviews, and audits to create a complete picture of what is happening in the company’s finances, HR department, operations, and other areas, and then define problems to be solved. They will research potential solutions and present findings to management. They may also work with organizations that carry out the improvement plans and follow up on results.

How to become one: Earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an organizational management focus. If you have experience in a specific industry sector, this can help differentiate you in the job market. As you gain experience, you can also pursue certification, such as Certified Management Consultant (CMC) status from the Institute of Management Consultants USA. This is not required, but it can show employers you are dedicated to professional excellence.
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Human Resource Specialists

What they do: Human resource (HR) specialists are responsible for recruiting, hiring, training, and management of the people who work for a company. HR specialists help write job descriptions, screen applicants, conduct interviews, research employee compensation and benefits packages, and arrange or conduct professional development courses. They may also liaise with labor unions and other employee organizations and solve interpersonal conflicts among colleagues.

How to become one: Most employers look for candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in business administration with courses focused on organizational psychology, coaching, labor laws, and more. Once you have begun to work in HR, it is possible to earn certification from the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) or the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) that may help you stand out even more with employers.

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Market Research Analysts

What they do: Market research analysts help businesses find where their customers are, and where potential product or service development opportunities could be. They collect information on customers, competitors, economic indicators, and other factors to find meaningful insights that can help inform a business’s plans to expand its locations, adjust its pricing, develop messaging, and more.

How to become one: Earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration and be sure to choose electives focused on the analytical side of marketing: statistics, forecasting, and other coursework are all helpful.

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Salaries for Jobs with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration

As noted above, Payscale.com estimates the current average salary for jobs with a bachelor’s in business administration is about $61,000. This table looks at median salaries and job growth rates for the jobs described above.

Job Title

2017 Median Annual Salary

Projected Job Growth 2016-2026

Accountants

$69,350

10%

Management Analysts

$82,450

14%

Human Resource Specialists

$63,200

8%

Market Research Analysts

$63,230

24%

Note, that the project job growth rate for all occupations from 2016-2026 is 7.4%. All these business jobs are projected to grow as fast or faster than the job market.

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Careers with an MBA Degree

Marketing Managers

What they do: Marketing managers provide strategic direction for their companies’ product development and promotional/advertising efforts. They hire and oversee marketing teams, take a leading role in developing budgets, financial forecasts, media buys, vendor hiring, and market research projects, and they represent the marketing department at meetings with clients, executives, and other stakeholders.

How to become one: You will need to be a mid-career professional with demonstrated progressive experience in marketing roles, including entry-level management roles. While exceptionally experienced bachelor’s graduates may be able to compete for marketing manager roles, employers are likely to give a competitive edge to candidates who hold an MBA.

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Sales Managers

What they do: Sales managers control the direction and strategy of sales teams, including budgets, forecasts, assigning territories and sales quotas, sales representative training, and setting customer service policies. They will also present results to executives and other managers and collaborate with marketing executives to align sales representatives’ approaches and materials with current branding direction and campaigns or promotions.

How to become one: To work in sales management, you will need to come from a sales or marketing associate background and show progressive experience in the field. Very experienced and high-performing candidates who hold only a bachelor’s in business admin may advance into these roles, but again, the advanced strategic decision-making skills offered by an MBA should offer more of an edge in the job market and in salary negotiations.

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Computer and Information Systems Managers

What they do: Computer and information systems managers provide the technical knowledge and strategic planning businesses need to make the most of technology in order to achieve their goals. They analyze an organization’s needs, develop budget recommendations, direct IT implementation products and oversee the teams of technicians who administer the systems, direct work for developers, analysts, and others. They also stay on top of cybersecurity issues for their organization and direct professional development for themselves and their teams.

How to become one: You will need a combination of IT experience and advanced management skills in order to qualify for computer and information systems management roles. If you hold a bachelor’s degree in an IT-related field, consider earning a master’s in business administration to formalize your leadership skills and sharpen your competitive edge.

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Medical and Health Services Managers

What they do: Medical and health services managers (also known as healthcare administrators) support health care delivery through a variety of advanced business functions, from IT management to purchasing and fundraising to public relations. At the advanced level, healthcare administrators will be responsible for coordinating a department’s strategic direction with its clinical mission, business goals, and applicable health policy and legislation.

How to become one: You can move into healthcare management from a business administration background or a clinical practice background. While all candidates for upper-level management roles in healthcare can benefit from the advanced education provided by an MBA program, a master’s in business administration is especially useful to senior nurses, physicians, and surgeons who wish to move into management.

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Emergency Management Directors

What they do: Emergency management directors are responsible for creating proactive strategies to manage man-made and natural disasters for their organizations. They coordinate with multiple private and public agencies to develop response and recovery plans that consider many different scenarios. They oversee response teams that conduct drills and carry out actual disaster response and recovery.

How to become one: To qualify for emergency management roles, it is useful to come from a background in law enforcement, the military, first-responder agencies such as fire departments, or transportation, where disaster response is a top-of-mind concern.

As with every upper-level management role, you will be best-placed as a candidate if you can demonstrate strategic business administration knowledge as well as progressive experience in the field. An MBA can help provide the advanced education you need to stand out in the job market.
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Salaries for Jobs with a Master’s in Business Administration

 

Job Title

2017 Median Annual Salary

Projected Job Growth 2016-2026

Marketing Managers

$129,300

10%

Sales Managers

$121,060

7%

Computer Information Systems Managers

$139,220

12%

Medical and Health Services Managers

$98,350

20%

Emergency Management Directors

$72,760

8%

 

Learn More About How to Get a Business Administration Degree

Find out what you can do with a business administration degree from GMercyU: Contact Gwynedd Mercy University to learn about our bachelor’s and MBA degree options, including flexible, convenient online business degrees. Get in touch today!