The Ultimate College Student’s Guide to Business Administration
So there you are, a perhaps soon-to-be college student thinking about earning your degree in business administration. But how do you know if business is really the right path for you? What’s the job market like for business majors? How do you cut through all the noise and get some simple, down-to-earth answers about what to expect?
Fortunately for you, we’ve set out to offer you answers to these and many other questions. Whether you’re interested in business administration as a career choice or simply exploring college majors, you’ll find what you need here.
What in the world is business administration, anyway?
First things first, let’s define what a “business” is. A business can be almost anything from a small mom-and-pop store to a large multinational corporation—or even just one person working on their laptop at home! Wherever goods or services are traded in exchange for something else, business happens.
So what is “business administration”?
Generally speaking, business administration is anything that has to do with managing, supervising, or overseeing a business’s operations. This could include anything from leading a sales team, to developing a strategy for a company’s new ad campaign, to starting your own business from the ground up.
Because businesses come in so many different shapes and sizes, business administration is perhaps one of the most broad and versatile fields of study available in colleges today.
What is the difference between business administration and business management?
In the professional world, business administration and business management are both very similar fields, with lots of overlap between them. Some employers may have clearly defined responsibilities and duties specific to one field or the other. For the most part, though, they are both heavily involved in planning and decision-making within a business setting.
If you’re talking academics, however, there’s more of a distinction between the two terms. Many colleges and universities offer either a business administration degree or a business management degree. Sometimes both!
Though we can’t speak for programs at all colleges, business management degree programs typically provide a strong foundation in the fundamental knowledge and skills of, well, managing a business (or a specific team within a business). This foundation will generally include courses in essential topics like accounting, marketing, insurance, finance, and ecommerce. Often, such programs will include optional areas of emphasis for students to pursue, such as retail sales management.
Business administration programs, on the other hand, tend to build upon the fundamentals taught in business management programs and dive deeper into the many different aspects of business management, such as sales, operations management, human resources management, and economics. Some programs likewise offer a variety of emphases to choose from.
If you’re not sure which program is right for you, take a look at each program’s courses to see what subjects they teach. Then select the one that sounds most in line with your personal goals.
Who should study business administration?
It might sound cheesy, but probably … you!
No, seriously. The fact that you’re reading this right now means there’s a strong chance you already have more than just a casual interest in business administration. Even if you’re only mildly interested in business, that’s OK.
Let’s just put it this way:
- Can you see yourself in a position of responsibility and/or leadership, whether over a small team of people or an entire company?
- Does the thought of helping a business grow and become more profitable excite you?
- Do you daydream about one day starting your own business, or spearheading a new business initiative at an existing company?
- Are you constantly looking for ways to fill a need that isn’t being met by products or services already on the market?
- Do you have any really cool ideas for a new product or service?
- Do you have a way with motivating others to take action?
- Are you organized? Do you like to plan things ahead for the greatest possible success?
- Are you results-oriented?
- Do you have an eye for a good deal?
- Do you enjoy providing something of value to others?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, then a degree in business administration or business management deserves a closer look. Your education will help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in your business career.
So, what do business administrators actually do?
In short? Almost anything you can think of having to do with growing a business (or making one run more efficiently).
As mentioned above, business administrators (and business managers) may be involved in any number of different areas of a business’s operations, such as asset management, human resources, marketing, or technology. Likewise, the duties and responsibilities can vary quite a bit, depending on the company and the job.
Almost all business administration jobs have one thing in common, however. That is managing the resources of a particular business—whether that means products, revenues, or employees—with the goal of getting the most out of each resource and making the business more successful than ever before.
Who hires business administrators?
This may sound a bit obvious, but businesses!
In truth, though, many different kinds of organizations employ people who have business administration skills. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 the industries with the highest levels of employment in management occupations were:1
- Companies and enterprises
- Elementary and secondary schools
- Local government
- Restaurants and other eating places
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools
At the same time, the industries with the highest concentration of employment in management occupations were:
- Land subdivision
- Companies and enterprises
- Securities and commodity exchanges
- Nonfinancial assets
- Grantmaking and giving services
In other words, whether you want to work for a private company, a nonprofit, or even a government agency, chances are your business administration skills will be valued and put to good use.
What’s the job market like for business administration majors?
In a word, good.
… Really good.
Don’t just take our word for it. According to employment projections compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy will create over 2.5 million new jobs for management occupations between 2014 and 2024.
In the same timeframe, an additional 2.1 million new jobs are projected for business and financial operations occupations.
It’s no wonder that business news anchor Cheryl Cassone reports, “The demand for business majors will always be high, because there are an endless number of career opportunities available to individuals with a good business education.”
What will a business administration degree teach me?
Once again, business administration programs will look different at different colleges.
There are certain subjects that most business administration degrees teach, such as management principles, finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, sales management, and business law, among others. Courses in these subjects will help you gain valuable knowledge and skills that business professionals use daily in the real world.
In addition to the practical or “hard” skills a business degree can provide, going to college for business may teach you a lot of the “soft” skills you’ll need to succeed. These include things like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and how to adapt to change.
If you’d like to know what subjects and skills a business administration degree at a specific college teaches, ask their admissions department for more information about your program of interest, along with a full course listing.
Will I have to learn any accounting?
Most likely, but that’s actually a good thing.
Accounting is the “language” of business. In fact, many of the world’s most successful business owners either started out as accountants or currently are accountants. But don’t worry; you don’t have to be a full-fledged CPA in order to be successful in business.
Learning the fundamentals of accounting will help give you a leg up on your business career, whether you’re just starting out or trying to climb the corporate ladder. And if you want to start your own small business, accounting skills will be absolutely vital to your startup’s success. After all, someone has to cut the paychecks to your employees, right?
Suffice it to say, accounting courses will teach you how to better manage your business’s resources, and keep track of all the money flowing in—and out!—of your company.
I’m really interested in _____. Are there different concentrations or specializations in business administration?
Perhaps one of the best things about a degree in business is that it can help prepare you for a very wide range of different careers in almost any industry. As such, many business degree programs at many colleges offer a variety of areas of emphasis that may be suited to your individual interests. This may include things like event planning or retail sales management.
But let’s say you’re passionate about pizza. (I mean, who isn’t, right?) The same principles and skills you’d need to launch a successful pizza chain are pretty much the same as those you’d use to launch a line of pencil sharpeners.
The point being, it almost doesn’t matter what you’re personally interested in. Chances are there’s a way to make a business out of it. Or, if your dream employer already exists, there’s a good chance they need a savvy business professional like you to help them reach their goals. The sky is the limit on the ways in which you can specialize and grow your career.
How long will my business degree take?
Once again, we can’t really speak for all colleges, but at a traditional college or university, you can expect about two years or more for an associate’s degree, four years or longer for a bachelor’s degree, and an additional two to three years for a master’s degree.
However, some colleges offer flexible degree programs to help students finish their degree faster.2
At CollegeAmerica, for example, you can finish your associate’s degree in Business Management & Accounting in as few as 20 months. And you can finish your bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in just 36 months.
Independence University, CollegeAmerica’s affiliated, fully online institution, also offers two Master’s degree programs in Business Administration: the MBA, and the MBA with an Entrepreneurship emphasis. Both of these programs can be finished in just 15 months, assuming you already have a bachelor’s degree.
2Accelerated degree programs are compared to traditional colleges and universities. See https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d14/tables/dt14_326.10.asp.
CollegeAmerica admits students of any race, color, and national or ethnic origin.For more information about graduation rates, the median debt of graduates, and other data, see collegeamerica.edu/student-information.