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.
On the surface, the idea of a business degree seems pretty self-explanatory. But in reality, 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. This is why 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 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.
If you already know what you’re looking for, go ahead and jump to our ranking of The 100 Best Business & Economics Programs in the World Today. You might also be interested in checking out the 25 Best Online Bachelor in Business Administration Degree Programs or The 50 Best Online MBA Programs.
If you need a little more information, continue on.
Covered in this article:
- What do I need to know about accreditation?
- What kinds of Business Degrees are there?
- What kind of licensing or certification do I need?
- What can I do with a Business Degree?
- How much can I make with a Business Degree?
- What professional business associations or societies should I join?
Let’s start with the one thing you absolutely must be sure of before you proceed: accreditation.
What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?
The last thing you want to do is waste time and money on a degree that won’t be taken seriously by future employers. That’s why it is absolutely imperative that you make sure your school has the proper accreditation before you proceed.
As with most other higher education disciplines, accreditation is of critical importance in determining where to obtain a business degree. Program accreditation is granted by accrediting agencies that are formally recognized by the Department of Education. Only accredited colleges or universities are eligible for financial aid. Moreover, accreditation typically indicates that an institution is not only maintaining its standards but that it continues to advance and remain current within its field. As you proceed in your search, you’ll find both institutional accreditation and program accreditation. The former refers to school wide accreditation and the latter refers to the accreditation conferred upon your specific discipline and degree program.
Regional Accrediting Agencies
The institutional accrediting sector is divided into regional and national accrediting agencies. Generally, regional accrediting agencies confer greater credibility and merit. When you’re investigating a college or university, you’ll want to look for the “stamp of approval” from one of the following regional accrediting agencies:
- The Higher Learning Commission
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
When it comes to national accrediting agencies, reputations may vary. In some cases, program specific accrediting agencies may hold a great deal of importance. Some professions and places of employment will require that your degree has been conferred by a course of study with program specific national accreditation.
Of course, when it comes to business, you don’t necessarily need national accreditors 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 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’s, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral-level business degrees focused on teaching.
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 take a 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?
Now that you get the idea, let’s take a look at some of your degree options.
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 a number of 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. 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’s Degree into entry-level work in the business world, though it may limit your qualification for advanced management or leadership roles.
What Courses Will I Take?
- Principles of Management
- Business Law
- Introduction to Marketing
- Business Writing
- Financial Accounting
- Global Business Issues
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 as well as hands-on volunteer or internship work.
Now that you know what to look for, check out The 20 Best Online Associate of Business Administration Degree Programs here!
Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA, BSBA, or BABA)
The Bachelor of Business Administration 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. The BBA 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 particular concentration. You may also have the opportunity to pursue this concentration through case projects, internships, and apprenticeships. This degree is the basic threshold for employment at a variety of top firms.
What Courses Will I Take?
- Business Ethics
- Operations Management
- Information Systems
- Supply Chain Management
- Business Law
What’s the Difference between a BBA, a BSBA, and BABA?
You have a few options as an undergraduate business student, including a bachelor of business administration (BBA), a bachelor of science in business administration (BSBA), and a bachelor 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 The 25 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Business Studies here!
You might also want to check out The 20 Best Online Bachelor in Business Management Degree Programs or the 25 Best Online Bachelor in Business Administration Degree Programs here.
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 studies into a Master’s program. This can reduce the commitment of time, and sometimes, money. Master’s programs often offer flexility for full-time, part-time, online and traditional students, particularly because so many candidates will pursue this degree while already advancing a professional career.
What Courses Will Will I Take?
- Operations Management
- Organizational Development
- Advanced Topics In Managerial Economics
- Corporate Finance
- Management Communications
- Employment Law
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Organizational Behavior
What’s the Difference between an MBA and an MS?
At the Master’s level of education, you have two primary options: A Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Science (MS). With an MBA, your graduate studies will offer a broad overview of business, almost as an extension of your Bachelor studies. Your MS program would, instead, offer great depth of study in a specific concentration like accounting or information technology.
What’s the Difference between a DBA and PhD in Business?
A quick note, as long as we’re on the subject of advanced degrees. If you plan to continue on to the doctoral level in your business studies, we’re guessing you probably know the lay of the land pretty well by now. But just for clarification, a DBA is a professional doctorate focused on the practice and application business. The PhD candidate is instead focused on scholarship in the field. The DBA will make contributions to the industry. The PhD will make contributions to the research, discourse, and education surrounding the industry.
If you're not sure where to start on your MBA/MS program, check out The 10 Best Executive MBA Programs, the 20 Best Online Programs for MBA in Entrepreneurship, or The 50 Best Online MBA Programs.
Depending on your area of concentration, we might also recommend taking a look at The 25 Best Online MBA in International Business Degree Programs, The 20 Best Online Master of Project Management and MBA in Project Management Degree Programs, or The 35 Best Online Master's in Human Resources Programs.
If you need a little more motivation, check out The 10 Best Jobs for MBA Graduates here.
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 ply your trade.
For instance, 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 post-graduate education, your particular 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 on 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 this will ultimately demand.
There are other licenses or certifications that may not be required of your career, but which may 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 the American Marketing Association Professional Certified Marketer (PCM) program, the American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management (AAHAM) Certification, or the National Association of Sales Professionals' Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP) designation.
Before entering into 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 see what’s out there check out The 20 Best Online Certified Financial Planning (CFP) Programs here!
What can I do with a business degree?
You’ve probably picked up on a theme here. 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 really 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 Careers in Business:
- 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 Associate, Bachelor or Master, check out 100 Business Careers.
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 pretty bright. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in business and financial operations is projected to grow 8% between 2014 and 2024, adding about 632,400 new jobs to the labor market over that duration. The median annual wage across all “business and financial occupations” as of May 2016 was $66,530. The BLS also lists the following career-specific median salaries as of 2016:
- Accountants and Auditors: $68,150
- Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate: $51,850
- Budget Analysts: $73,840
- Buyers and Purchasing Agents: $60,700
- Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators: $63,670
- Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists: $62,080
- Cost Estimators: $61,790
- Financial Analysts: $81,760
- Financial Examiners: $79,280
- Fundraisers: $54,130
- Human Resources Specialists: $59,180
- Insurance Underwriters: $67,680
- Labor Relations Specialists: $62,310
- Loan Officers: $63,650
- Logisticians: $74,170
- Management Analysts: $81,330
- Market Research Analysts: $62,560
- Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners: $47,350
- Personal Financial Advisors: $90,530
- Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents: $52,060
- Training and Development Specialists: $59,020
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. Look for business associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration.
Business Management/Development Associations
Sales & Marketing
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)
Now that you now a bit more about how to earn a business degree, jump to our ranking of The 100 Best Business & Economics Programs in the World Today and find the best school school for you!