A business degree can be your ticket to a huge spectrum of career opportunities, from management, sales, and finance to entertainment, entrepreneurship and organizational leadership. Read on to find out what a business degree can do for you.
A business degree focuses on learning and applying business concepts across industries and markets, blending economics, entrepreneurship, management, communications, marketing, and more to prepare you for a career in business. Business degrees prepare graduates for work in several settings and fields, from startups and self–employment to corporate marketing and management.
On the surface, the idea of a business degree seems pretty self–explanatory. But this discipline covers a lot of ground. Whether you’re hoping to work in a big corporate office or aspiring to open your own restaurant, whether you’re a team player or a lone wolf, whether you see yourself in an accounting firm, on a marketing team, or in a human resources department, there’s a business degree that makes sense for you.
Business principles apply to every sector of our economy, and many aspects of our personal lives, for that matter. Therefore, most business degree programs are multidisciplinary in nature, touching on a broad and overlapping set of subjects. Your course of study will incorporate everything from economics and entrepreneurship to organizational management and interpersonal communication.
And as you advance in your business degree program, you’ll have the opportunity to choose courses with increasingly specialized focus. From consumer goods, food services, and hospitality to real estate, apparel, production and everything in between, a degree in business gives you the tools and qualifications to mold the career you envision for yourself.
What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?
Accreditation is the process by which colleges and universities are evaluated and validated. Colleges and universities that have earned accreditation have met the standards set by accrediting organizations. These organizations are comprised of faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. Legitimate regional and national accrediting organizations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Typically, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes the same institutions, although CHEA recognition isn’t mandatory. A college or university must be accredited by a Department of Education-recognized accreditor for its students to receive federal financial aid.
For a detailed look at the differences between regional and national accreditation, check out What Do I Need to Know About College Accreditation?
- What is Regional Accreditation?
- Regional accreditation is the signifier of quality education; this includes the currency of curriculum, credentials of educators, and credibility of degrees. Regional accrediting agencies only accredit institutions in their geographical area.
- The Six Regional Accrediting Agencies
- Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)
- The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
To find out if a college or university on your list is regionally accredited, check the Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
- What Is National Accreditation?
- National accreditation is often perceived as a less rigorous standard than regional accreditation and is governed by educational accreditors agencies that are not restricted by region or geography. This means that one such agency can provide accreditation to any college or university in the U.S. that meets its criteria. National accreditation is commonplace among trade schools, religious schools, and for–profit colleges.
Most regionally–accredited colleges do not accept or recognize credits or degrees earned from colleges that lack regional accreditation. However, national accreditation may be a useful indicator of quality for students pursuing vocational training, competency-based education, or other education models that operate under a for-profit model.
To learn more about National Accreditation, check out Understanding National Accreditation.
For help safely navigating the For–Profit Sector, check out our Guide to For–Profit Colleges: What You Need to Know.
- What is Programmatic Accreditation?
- Programmatic accreditation certifies that an institution’s program, department, or college has met the standards of the programmatic accrediting agency. While programmatic accreditation agencies often have national jurisdiction, programmatic accreditation is not institutional national accreditation. In fact, programmatic accreditation often coexists with regional accreditation. In some disciplines, a degree with programmatic accreditation may even be required to earn a license or enter professional practice.
Of course, when it comes to business, you don’t necessarily need a national accreditor’s stamp of approval to get a job. But, accreditation by one of the leading national associations indicates an acceptable level of quality assurance, professional development, and post–graduate employability. And if you intend to pursue a master’s degree, your program may require that you’ve received a bachelor’s degree in business from a program recognized by one of the following two accreditors:
- The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
- AACSB International is generally viewed as the highest level of accreditation among U.S. business schools, with only 25% of business schools earning this stamp of quality. The AACSB grants accreditation status to both undergraduate and graduate business administration and accounting programs.
- The Accreditation Council for Collegiate Business Schools and Programs
- ACBSP places an emphasis on schools that achieve teaching excellence through outcomes assessment and continuous improvement. The ACBSP grants accreditation status to smaller private and public schools offering associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral business degrees.
The easiest way to determine accreditation status is to contact your school of choice, or visit the website for any of the above accreditation agencies. Each provides a searchable database of accredited institutions and degree programs. You can also look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accreditors within its purview.
Or, to learn a little more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who’s Accrediting the Accreditors?
What Kinds of Business Degrees Are There?
Associate Degree in Business Administration (AAS or AS)
An associate degree in business can be an excellent way to get the ball rolling. Associate degrees are typically awarded by two–year institutions or community colleges. Here, you’ll take several introductory level courses, learn basic business principles, and take a handful of courses providing an overview on sub–disciplines like accounting, marketing, and organizational management. The cost per credit for an associate degree is often lower, which makes this a great way to save money, even if you ultimately plan to earn a bachelor’s degree in business. Remember, if you do plan to do so, be sure before beginning your associate program that your credits will transfer to most public and private four–year institutions. Alternately, you can parlay your associate degree into entry–level work in the business world, though your qualification for advanced management or leadership roles may be limited.
What Courses Will I Take in an Associate Program?
- Business Law
- Business Writing
- Financial Accounting
- Global Business Issues
- Introduction to Marketing
- Principles of Management
What’s the Difference Between an AAS and an AS?
An associate degree in business administration (AAS) provides a foundational overview of business principles as well as instruction in entry–level skills. An associate in the science of business administration (AS) will, in addition to providing this foundational overview, develop practical computing and spreadsheet skills, and may include some hands–on volunteer or internship work.
Now that you know what to look for, check out:
Bachelor’s of Business Administration (BBA, BSBA, or BABA)
The bachelor’s of business administration (BBA) is conferred upon students who have completed a full program of general, advanced, elective, and concentration–specific courses, typically at a public or private four–year university. A bachelor’s degree in business centers around a set of core subjects designed to provide you with the principles, knowledge, and skills needed to navigate today’s business landscape. You’ll develop managerial, communication, and leadership skills. From there, you’ll have the opportunity to choose courses based on a concentration. You can also pursue this concentration through case projects, internships, and apprenticeships. This degree is the basic threshold for employment at a variety of top firms and organizations.
What Courses Will I Take in a Bachelor’s Program?
- Business Ethics
- Business Law
- Information Systems
- Operations Management
- Supply Chain Management
What’s the Difference Between a BBA, a BSBA, and BABA?
You have a few options as an undergraduate business student, including a bachelor’s of business administration (BBA), a bachelor’s of science in business administration (BSBA), and a bachelor’s of arts in business administration (BABA).
A BBA will typically provide a broad overview of business with an emphasis on management, marketing, and economics. With a BSBA, core courses are more mathematical in nature, with a greater focus on finance and analytics. A BABA will offer both a business concentration and a parallel liberal arts education.
Now that you know a bit more, check out:
Master of Business Administration (MBA or MS)
A master of business administration is an advanced degree. Though the master’s degree program will cover much of the same territory as a bachelor’s degree—management, accounting, finance, etc.—the coursework will typically bring a greater scientific and analytical depth to subject matter. This is a great move if you plan to pursue a leadership role in your career. Your program may be general in nature, or specialized according to your area of interest. You will also typically complete a capstone course, where you will be expected to synthesize and demonstrate the knowledge and skills obtained from your study. A master’s will typically take two years, though in some cases, you may be able to merge your bachelor’s studies into a master’s degree program. This can reduce the commitment of time, and sometimes, money. Master’s business degree programs often offer flexibility for full–time, part–time, online and traditional students, particularly because so many candidates will pursue this degree while already advancing a professional career. An online MBA program is a great option for student’s seeking the most flexibility.
What Courses Will I Take in a Master’s Program?
- Advanced Topics In Managerial Economics
- Corporate Finance
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Employment Law
- Management Communications
- Operations Management
- Organizational Behavior
- Organizational Development
What’s the Difference Between an MBA and an MS?
At the master’s level of graduate education, you have two primary options: a master of business administration (MBA) or a master of science (MS). With an MBA, your business degree will offer a broad overview of business, almost as an extension of your undergraduate studies. An MS program would, instead, offer greater depth of study in a specific concentration like accounting or information technology.
What’s the Difference Between a DBA and Ph.D. in Business?
While we’re on the subject of advanced business degrees, a DBA is a professional doctorate focused on the practice and application business. The Ph.D. candidate is instead focused on scholarship and research in the field. The DBA will make contributions to the industry. The Ph.D. will make contributions to the research, discourse, and education surrounding the industry.
What Kind of Licensing or Certification Do I Need?
When it comes to obtaining a certification or a license to practice your profession, your options are as varied as the nature of a business degree itself. Your specific area of concentration will usually dictate any kind of licensing or certification you might require to legally work in your field.
- If you pursued a business degree with a focus in accounting, you will require a Certified Public Accounting (CPA) license.
- Managing payroll duties for a large firm may require you to become a Certified Payroll Professional (CPP), a status awarded by the American Payroll Association.
- To become a practicing Actuary, you’ll need to obtain a license, which you can do either through the Casualty Actuarial Society (CAS) or the Society of Actuaries (SOA). Both require completion of specific certification courses and exams.
Indeed, this is something you should bear in mind if you intend to pursue a specific professional concentration. In addition to your undergraduate or postgraduate education, your business degree may require specific licensing or certification. In some cases, you can pursue such certification in tandem with your regular coursework. In other cases, such a CPA, you may be able to continue directly from your undergraduate education, earning the requisite credits to obtain your certification through your college or university.
In any case, if you are pursuing a business degree with a specific concentration, you should try to get a sense, in advance, of what types of certifications you may ultimately need in order to practice. This should help prepare you for the greater investment of time and money that certification will demand.
There are other licenses or certifications that may not be required of your career, but which could help to advance your prospects. You may obtain a business certificate to advance your knowledge and credentials in a specific area of business or you might find that certain business certificate programs are valuable or even necessary to advance professionally. Certificate programs can run the full gamut of subject matter, duration, and accessibility. Some certificate programs can be pursued in tandem with your undergraduate or graduate studies. Others may require completion of your degree program as a prerequisite.
Non–mandatory but potentially valuable certifications may include:
- American Marketing Association Professional Certified Marketer (PCM)
- American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM) Certification
- National Association of Sales Professionals’ Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP)
Before entering a licensing or certification program, be sure that it is awarded by a reputable association or group. Most associations or groups will require you to complete an education program or workshop to earn your certification.
To learn more, check out:
What Can You Do With a Business Degree?
You’ve probably picked up on a theme here. You may be asking yourself “What can I do with a business degree?” As you can see, the answer is: a lot! Your business degree can be the key to a pretty huge doorway. The practical knowledge and skills you’ll gain in pursuit of your degree will prepare you for an almost infinite number of professional possibilities. It’s all about what you want to do with that knowledge and skill. It’s also about where opportunity knocks. It could happen in any one of these Business and Finance Careers:
- Accountants and Auditors
- Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate
- Budget Analysts
- Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators
- Cost Estimators
- Financial Analysts
- Financial Clerks
- Human Resources Specialists
- Insurance Underwriters
- Loan Officers
- Management Analysts
- Market Research Analysts
- Meeting, Convention and Events Planners
- Operations Research Analysts
- Personal Financial Advisors
- Purchasing Managers, Buyers and Purchasing Agents
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. How could it be? When you get a degree in business, your opportunities are almost too many to name. You might parlay that knowledge into an enterprise or an idea unlike any the world has ever seen. That’s the beauty of a business degree. It can take you as far as you’re willing to go.
For a list of the very best jobs out there for a business degree at the associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree level, check out:
What Kind of Salary Can I Earn With a Business Degree?
Your salary prospects with a business degree may vary according to the exact path your career takes. However you approach your career, your prospects with a business degree have the potential to be bright. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in business and financial operations is projected to grow 10% between 2016 and 2026, adding about 773,800 new jobs to the labor market over that period. The median annual wage across all business and financial occupations as of May, 2018 was $68,350. The BLS also lists the following career–specific median salaries for the same period:
|Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners||$49,370|
|Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents||$54,440|
|Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate||$54,980|
|Training and Development Specialists||$60,870|
|Human Resources Specialists||$60,880|
|Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists||$63,000|
|Market Research Analysts||$63,120|
|Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators||$65,670|
|Labor Relations Specialists||$67,790|
|Accountants and Auditors||$70,500|
|Personal Financial Advisors||$88,890|
|Medical and Health Services Managers||$99,730|
|Human Resources Managers||$113,300|
|Compensation and Benefits Managers||$121,010|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Are There Professional Business Associations or Societies I Should Join?
Professional associations are a fantastic way to make connections in your field, learn about valuable seminars or certifications, and improve your own credentials. The association or associations you choose to join will depend to an extent on the career path you take. Some organizations invite you to join after completing a business degree. Others may allow you to join as a student. Look for business associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration.
Business Management/Development Associations
- American Management Association (AMA)
- The World Federation of People Management Association (WFPMA)
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)
Sales & Marketing
- American Marketing Association (AMA)
- Business Marketing Association (BMA)
- The National Association of Sales Professionals (NASP)
- Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM)
- Professionals in Human Resources Association (PIHRA)
- The American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHM)
- Health Care Administrators Association (HCAA)
- American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS)
- The International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP)
Accounting & Finance
- American Bankers Association
- The American Finance Association (AFA)
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
- American Society of Women Accountants (ASWA)
- The Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business (IMA)
- Association for Financial Professionals, Inc. (AFP)
- International Federation of Accountants (IFAC)
- National Association of Black Accountants
- Professional Accounting Society of American (PASA)