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Online business administration degrees

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), hundreds of thousands of students earn business administration degrees each year. In fact, the total number of business degrees awarded in the 2011-2012 statistical year was greater than the amounts of the two runners-up — health care and the social sciences — combined.

And yet, with all those business graduates hitting the workforce every year, the employment and salary data for working professionals with business administration degrees seems to show a generally rosy outlook. A report published in USA Today in 2014 showed an average starting salary of $41,200 for business graduates, with an average mid-career salary figure of a comfortable $70,700.

Schools from coast to coast and all up and down the map offer business administration degrees at both the undergraduate as well as the graduate level. Here's a chart that shows how many schools in each geographical region of the country have campus-based or online business administration programs in their catalog, according to NCES data:

Region No. of schools offering business administration degrees No. of schools with online business administration degree programs
Far West (CA. OR, WA, NV, AK, HI) 350 80
Rocky Mountains (ID, MT, UT, WY, CO) 109 42
Southwest (AZ, NM, TX, OK) 284 128
Plains (MO, KS, IA, NE, MN, ND, SD) 291 149
Southeast (AR, LA, MS, AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, TN, KY, VA, WV) 744 334
Great Lakes (IL, IN, OH, MI, WI) 427 144
Mideast (PA, NY, NJ, DE, MD, D.C.) 418 154
New England (CT, MA, RI, VT, NH, ME) 149 57
Total (all 50 states) 2772 1088

Entry-level business administration degrees

Depending on the career you're hoping to pursue, an entry-level degree in business administration may be all you need to get your foot in the door. Here are a few brief descriptions of what you can expect from undergraduate business administration programs:

  • Associate degrees - Earning a two-year degree in business administration can be a great way to take care of the basic requirements for a bachelor's degree and acclimate yourself to college life. Most associate degree programs take around four semesters of full-time study to complete and introduce you to vital administrative, economic and managerial concepts like accounting, finance, marketing, business ethics, project planning and business communication.
  • Bachelor's degrees - The nature of a business administration curriculum is flexible enough that you may see Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS) and Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) study plans in the subject, among others. Bachelor's degrees in business administration typically bring an expanded depth of study to the same sort of fundamental topics covered in associate degree programs, often including the option to specialize your degree work in concentrations such as entrepreneurship, accounting, human resources, business analytics, management, banking and financial services, healthcare administration and more.
  • Non-degree study - Whether you need to brush up on the basics or you're looking to get your first taste of formal business training, undergraduate certificates can be a great way to shore up your skills without having to sign up for a full slate of general education courses as well. Most non-degree business administration programs for undergraduates teach the principles of management, financial concepts, business operations, economics and other fundamentals, but there remains a vast variety of different approaches to choose from.

Earning your undergraduate business administration degree online can be great if you need to keep working at your current job while you continue your education, particularly if you've already got enough tech literacy the the online learning environment won't seem foreign to you. It's been said that there are fewer professional networking opportunities in online classes than they are in person, but that's becoming less and less the case as a greater proportion of digital natives enter the workforce.

Advanced-degree business administration programs

Graduate degrees in business administration are something of a rite of passage for those working their way up the ladder in the business world. It may be true that not every member of upper management has an advanced business degree, but the number of those who do likely far outnumber the ones who don't. If you choose to continue your business training to the graduate level, here's a little information about what you can expect:

  • Master's degree programs - Although not the runaway favorite it is among undergraduate degree plans, the NCES also counts business as the most popular field among master's degrees. The Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is one of the most widely available and deeply customizable graduate degrees in the country, with an available specialization to suit just about every advanced student's needs. On top of that, some institutions offer abbreviated, accelerated or otherwise time-altered programs to better accommodate the existing schedules of busy businesspeople.
  • Doctorate programs - Terminal academic degrees in business administration may take the form of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) programs. Ph.D. students typically intend to use their knowledge as researchers, university professors and other academic operatives, while DBA candidates often plan to return to the private sector as expert-level practitioners of their craft. Most doctoral programs are based on a 60-credit schedule, which typically takes between four and five years of study to complete.
  • Graduate certificates - Since the national and international business climate is constantly in flux, there's fairly high demand for non-degree work in business administration disciplines. Graduate certificates typically consist of between four and six courses and aim to shed new light on the elemental subjects of the discipline. Certificates that cover individual aspects of business administration study, such as finance or organizational leadership, can also be found.

It's been well understood for decades that professionals are often too deeply invested in building career momentum to take time off for educational purposes when a graduate degree will help the most, and the b-school correspondence courses of yesteryear have migrated online in a big way. Online MBA degrees can be found from some of the top schools in the country, including the University of Florida and Carnegie Mellon, and they can be a great option for aspiring business leaders who can't spare the time for a traditional degree.

Q&A with experts

Geovanni Derice, CEO of 20/20 Living Inc.

Geovanni Derice, CEO of 20/20 Living Inc.What would have been helpful to know when you were looking into your own business education?

GD: To get field experience as soon as possible and while you are out in the field to ask a lot of questions, so you can get wisdom for future opportunities.

What are some especially helpful subjects of minor study for students interested in business administration as a career?

GD: Communication. Breakdown in communications and the inability to communicate can be the very thing that limits the growth of many businesses, so having this skill set would make you a more valuable asset to a company.

What's some advice you would have for a student just beginning to consider business administration as an educational and career path?

GD: My best advice would be to evaluate the reason you would like to get into business administration and then go find someone who is doing it and ask them about their experience to see if it matches up with what you perceived it to be.

Nathan Barber, business administration graduate and digital analyst at SeoWorks

Nathan Barber, business administration graduate and digital analyst at SeoWorksWhy would you encourage someone to consider a degree in business administration?

NB: The vast array of career options allows people with BA degrees to be adaptable with their choices. The best part about a business administration degree is it allows a pivot of career choice without much hassle or repercussions.

Would you recommend that a student go straight into an MBA or other graduate program before entering the workforce, or is it better to gain a few years work experience before moving on to a master's degree?

NB: From my personal experience going to undergraduate school, I often took upper level classes that incorporated MBA students. I feel that I was learning the same things as them, and if I needed to learn certain skills that on-the-job training, and/or online research would sufficient enough.

What's some advice you would have for a student just beginning to consider business administration as an educational and career path?

NB: I would say my best advice to during college is to gain as many networking opportunities as you can. Get involved with a club and meet people who you could create networking with for the future. Meet, and introduce yourself to professors, and go to their office hours. Be curious, ask questions, and learn as much as you can.

Types of business administration careers

Business administration is one of the more flexible academic disciplines in terms of employment opportunity, and many of the fields that make use of its skills are projected to add thousands of new jobs to the workforce over the next several years. Here are a few of the careers to which a campus-based or online business administration degree can lead, according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Occupation title National mean annual salary
(2015)
Projected job growth
(2014-2024)
Total U.S. employment
(2014)
Entry-level education
Sales manager $130,400 5 percent 376,300 Bachelor's degree
Budget analyst $75,150 3 percent 60,800 Bachelor's degree
Financial examiner $88,310 10 percent 38,200 Bachelor's degree
Personal financial advisor $118,050 30 percent 249,400 Bachelor's degree
Event planner $51,200 10 percent 100,000 Bachelor's degree
Administrative services manager $94,840 8 percent 287,300 Bachelor's degree
Purchasing agent $66,120 2 percent 443,200 Bachelor's degree

Common misconceptions about business administration degrees and careers

Even though it's the most popular undergraduate major in the country, a few misconceptions still persist about traditional and online business administration degrees. Here's a short list of some of the more common ones and some information to bust the myth:

Misconception: You're guaranteed to get a job or a promotion with a business administration degree.

  • Fact: The job prospects for business administration graduates can be pretty good, but by no means does the degree itself serve as a guarantee that you'll leave school with a new job offer waiting. It's important to take advantage of the resources available on campus during your education — student business organizations, job fairs and the career services office, to name a few — and to learn as much as you can of your degree's core competencies before getting out into the workforce.

Misconception: No good companies will hire you if you earned your business administration degree online.

  • Fact: Prejudice against online degrees may have played a part in the hiring process several years ago, but the prevailing trend today is that employers care more about what you studied and the reputation of the specific school where you graduated than they care about whether you attended classes in brick-and-mortar building or not. The business workforce is full of people with online marketing degrees, online business administration degrees, online degrees in management and other business credentials, and they're all but proven to have just as much value as traditional degrees.

Misconception: It's always the right choice to get an MBA right after you graduate with your bachelor's.

  • Fact: Plenty of business experts will tell you almost the exact opposite: that it's important to put your skills to the test in the working world and get some practical business experience as soon as possible. There may be some cases in which going straight into graduate school out of undergrad is the right move, but it's important to talk to a few established professionals and go over your plan with your academic advisor before jumping straight into another multi-year degree plan.

How can I enroll in an online business administration degree program?

Every school sets its own admissions policies and requirements for enrollment, so the best way to find out how to get started down the road to a business administration degree is to reach out to individual institutions. Browse our listings below and find a few that seem right for you, then visit the campus or get in touch by phone or email to get the answers you need.

Sources:

  1. National Center for Education Statistics, accessed March 25, 2016: College Navigator, http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/; Bachelor's degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by field of study: Selected years, 1970-71 through 2011-12, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_322.10.asp; Bachelor's, master's and doctor's degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by field of study: Selected years, 1970-71 through 2011-12, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_318.20.asp;
  2. "Same as it ever was: Top 10 most popular college majors," Carly Stockwell, USA Today, October 26, 2014, accessed March 25, 2015, http://college.usatoday.com/2014/10/26/same-as-it-ever-was-top-10-most-popular-college-majors/
  3. School pages, accessed March 25, 2016: Business Administration - Associate's Degree, Virginia College, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_318.20.asp; Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration, http://www.kaplanuniversity.edu/business/business-administration-associate-degree.aspx; Courses, Associate in Science in Business Administration, Penn State World Campus, http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/business-associates/courses; Undergraduate Business Administration Program, Carnegie Mellon University, http://coursecatalog.web.cmu.edu/tepper/undergraduatebusinessadministrationprogram/; Bachelor of Science in Business, Penn State World Campus, http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/business-bachelors/overview; Business Administration Bachelor's Degree Program, Central Penn University, http://www.centralpenn.edu/academics/academic-programs/bachelor's-business-administration/; Bachelor's of Business Administration in Business Management, University of the District of Columbia, http://www.udc.edu/programs/business_management; BA in Business Administration, California State University, Fullerton, http://business.fullerton.edu/Programs/Undergraduate/busadmin.htm; Business Management Program Undergraduate Certificate, Penn Foster College, http://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/business-management/business-management-undergraduate-certificate.aspx; Business Management Undergraduate Certificate, Boston University, www.bu.edu/met/programs/undergraduate/business-management-certificate/; Business Administration Certificate (Undergraduate), University of Phoenix, http://www.phoenix.edu/programs/continuing-education/certificate-programs/business-and-management/cert-badm.html; Online Masters Business Administration (MBA) Degree Program, Abraham Lincoln University, http://www.alu.edu/academics/masters-business-administration.php; Master of Business Administration, The University of Kansas, http://www2.ku.edu/~distinction/cgi-bin/degree-requirements235; Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), Walden University, https://www.waldenu.edu/doctoral/doctor-of-business-administration/tuition-fees; PhD in Business Administration, Florida International University, https://business.fiu.edu/graduate/phd/; Doctorate of Business Administration, University of Wisconsin Whitewater, http://www.uww.edu/cobe/dba/; Graduate Certificate in Business Administration, University of Missouri - St. Louis, http://mba.umsl.edu/Graduate%20Certificates/bacert.html; Business Administration (Graduate Certificate), University of Louisiana at Lafayette, http://gradschool.louisiana.edu/graduate-degrees/graduate-certificates/business-administration-graduate-certificate; Business Administration Certificate, University of Florida, http://www.bus.miami.edu/graduate-programs/business-certificate/index.html;
  4. Best Online MBA Programs, U.S. News and World Report, accessed March 25, 2016, http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/mba/rankings?int=a22409&int=a08008&int=aa6309
  5. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed March 18, 2016: Sales Managers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/sales-managers.htm; Budget Analysts, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/budget-analysts.htm; Financial Examiners, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-examiners.htm; ; Personal Financial Advisors, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/personal-financial-advisors.htm; Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/meeting-convention-and-event-planners.htm; Administrative Services Managers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/administrative-services-managers.htmBuyers and Purchasing Agents, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/buyers-and-purchasing-agents.htm;
  6. May 2015 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed May 1, 2016, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm;
  7. How Employers View Your Online Bachelor's Degree, U.S. News and World Report, Devon Haynie, March 4, 2014, accessed March 29, 2016, http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2014/02/28/what-employers-really-think-about-your-online-bachelors-degree
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