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What is Business Administration?
Business administration is a wide-ranging field that ultimately includes a myriad of management positions. That’s because everyone from the largest corporation to the smallest independent business requires skilled administrators to succeed.
If you’re enterprising, motivated, organized, pay attention to details and have strong people skills, the chances are high you will thrive in business, especially in a fast-paced, high-powered environment. Those who know how to manage stress and keep their wits about them increase their odds of profitability.
It helps to be tech savvy, goal-oriented and a team player. Negotiation skills are useful, too.
So, what might some high-level responsibilities be for someone in business administration? According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those duties might include:
- Establishing and carrying out departmental or organizational goals, policies and procedures
- Directing and overseeing an organization’s financial and budgetary activities
- Managing general activities related to making products and providing services
- Consulting with other executives, staff and board members about general operations
- Negotiating or approving contracts and agreements
- Appointing department heads and managers
- Analyzing financial statements, sales reports and other performance indicators
- Identifying places to cut costs and improve performance, policies and programs
Of course, one-size-fits-all doesn’t apply in the business world and executive responsibilities may vary depending upon an organization’s size.
Business Administration Jobs
Also varying is the amount of education needed for a career in business administration.
Entry-level positions in the field might only require an associate’s degree in business. Employment is possible as a management trainee or a manager in the sales or retail industry. Other possibilities are project assistants, office managers and technology-oriented support specialists.
Stepping up to a bachelor’s degree will open the door to many more positions because of advanced knowledge and skills of organizational leadership, managing people and strategic planning. Appropriate jobs for this level of education include business analyst, human resources generalist, operations manager and marketing specialist. Others try their hand at entrepreneurship, creating from the ground floor.
One educational gold standard is the master of business administration degree, or MBA, which typically signifies a commitment to leading in the field. Management opportunities grow noticeably, with titles such as corporate controller, executive director and independent consultant.
There’s even a Doctor of Business Administration degree, which may take three to six years to complete. That degree positions people to work in management at the senior executive level as well as university research and teaching.
Here are few common senior-level positions aside from the ubiquitous CEO:
- Chief financial officers, which account for a company’s financial reporting.
- Chief information officers, which take charge of the technological direction of a company, including information technology and computer systems.
- Chief operating officers, who oversee other executives directing various departments, such as human resources and sales.
- Chief sustainability officers, who develop corporate sustainability strategies.
- General and operations managers, who are responsible for assorted areas of management or administration, such as formulating policies, managing daily operations and planning the use of materials and human resources.
But education often doesn’t end with a doctorate.
Some executives secure a Certified Manager (CM) credential through a certification program. This certification may display management competency, as well as potential leadership skills, giving jobseekers a competitive edge.
And depending upon the field, there may be other available certifications to earn. Just remember that education is a lifelong process for the successful business executive. You can never learn too much.
Business Administration Salary
In the long run, many things in life come down to money. That’s why it’s important to know that securing a degree in business administration can lead to a comfortable living.
Six-figure salaries by mid-career aren’t uncommon and starting salaries often are solid as well. Consider the following data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for a few jobs:
- Sales manager, 2010 median salary of $98,530. The number of these positions is expected to grow by 12% by 2020 – an increase of 40,100 jobs. A full half of all sales manager jobs are in retail trade, wholesale trade and manufacturing.
- Financial manager, 2010 median salary of $103,910, with expected job growth by 2020 of 9% – or 46,300 jobs. Logically enough, 29% of finance managers are hired by finance and insurance companies.
- Human resources manager, 2010 median salary of $99,180. Job growth of 13% is anticipated by 2010, which is an increase of 9,300 jobs. Government offices account for 14% of all hires in this field, with manufacturing right behind at 13%.
- Lodging/hospitality manager, 2010 median salary of $46,880, with 8% growth expected by 2020 for an increase of 4,300 jobs. Hotels and motels account for a lion’s share of new hires.
- Healthcare administrator, 2010 median salary of $84,270, with 22% job growth expected by 2020 – 68,000 more jobs. Hospitals, hospices, nursing home and other care facilities hire most healthcare administrators.
- Marketing manager, 2010 median salary of $116,010, with 14% job growth anticipated by 2020, or 23,700 more jobs. Professional and technical services account for 18% of marketing manager hires, followed by manufacturing with 14% and company management at 13%.
Of course, these kinds of jobs aren’t just handed out, especially in today’s competitive world.
Where the ability to spot trends and patterns and to conduct business ethically once would have taken you far, business administration is more complex than ever.
And that means getting a good, advanced education is crucial.
Although you might be able to land an entry-level job with just an associate’s degree, an advanced degree is needed to climb the corporate ladder.
Earning a master’s of business administration (MBA) will increase career options and give you access to management and administrative roles, while earning a doctorate will open avenues in areas such as academia and research.
Here are a couple other tips that could pay off.
First, learn a new language – the whole world doesn’t speak English. For example, India and China are huge market opportunities, and it never hurts to know Spanish.
In addition, computer knowledge is crucial, so take information technology and computer science classes to learn the software applications needed to best do your job.
Business Administration Degrees
And – again it comes back to education — earning certification or licensure demonstrates to employers that you are both qualified and accomplished.
Let’s take a look at some of the degree levels:
- Associate’s degree: These two-year programs usually give students a comprehensive understanding of management principles, business-oriented technology and interpersonal skills. Schools often offer concentrations in specific areas, such as healthcare administration, human resources and information systems. These programs often are career-oriented.
- Bachelors degree: These four-year programs are designed so students typically come away with an understanding of business management, technological expertise and interpersonal skills. Coursework covers management principles and practices such as organizational leadership, people management, strategic planning and business-oriented computer applications, as well as introductions to core subjects such as accounting, finance, information technology and marketing.
- MBA degree: Students can choose a full-time MBA program or part-time MBA program. Full-time MBA programs typically take two years to complete. Undergraduate students also can enter into a BA/MBA track where they earn their bachelor’s degree and MBA in just five years. Additionally, for working professionals, pursuing an online degree can be an alternative to a traditional classroom program.
- Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree: A doctorate prepares graduates to lead, consult and teach in corporate and academic arenas. Students can earn their DBA in three to six years. DBA studies typically involve classes in research and analytical methods; core management subjects such as strategic planning, managing change and solutions-oriented leadership; and the student’s choice of specialization. Additionally, doctoral candidates must write and defend a doctoral dissertation and pass a comprehensive exam.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you know the basics of business administration degree programs, some questions have probably come to mind. In this part of our guide to business administration, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
How much will it cost to obtain these degrees?
The costs for a bachelor’s degree vary widely.
The average annual cost (excluding fees, books, room and board) at a four-year, public institution runs around $8,655 for in-state tuition and $21,706 for out-of-state-tuition, according to College Board’s Trends in College Pricing 2012-2013.
At a four-year private nonprofit school the tuition averages $29,056, and it’s $15,172 for a private for-profit school.
Master’s degree tuition at in-state public institutions averages $7,606 annually, and doctorate program tuition costs $9,539 annually at in-state public institutions.
What are prerequisites I should expect?
For undergraduates, a strong college preparatory high school education with courses in English, communications and social sciences is recommended and mathematics courses are desirable as well. It also helps to take computer technology classes — as these skills will be integral through college and into your career.
For graduate students, a completed, four-year bachelor’s degree in business administration or a related business field is ideal preparation. Meantime, neither the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) nor the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is required for admission to degree programs in the U.S., but scores in those exams may be submitted for review with your admission materials.
What accreditation is there for my program?
Accreditation shows that an institution or program meets quality standards detailed by an accrediting agency. Accreditation may be specialized or institutional.
The three main specialized accreditors for business administration degree programs are the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which accredits degree programs in business administration and accounting at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate levels; the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP), which accredits business, accounting and business-related programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degree levels’ and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE), which accredits business programs that lead to associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees.
Regional and national associations of schools and colleges, such as The Higher Learning Commission, provide institutional accreditation. There are six regional associations — each named after the region in which it operates.
Are there online programs in business administration?
Yes, even if they sometimes receive unfair criticism. A common complaint is that you’re isolated from your teachers and classmates, but that may not be true — you might interact more with instructors and peers in online discussions, social media venues and emails, than in a traditional classroom.
Online classes also allow students the flexibility to schedule classwork around busy employment and family schedules, as well as cut transportation costs to and from campus.
How do I apply for financial aid?
While the process may seem daunting, financial aid is available from a variety of sources. Government financial aid is the most common, but before you can be considered for aid, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/. There also are scholarships, grants, private loans and PLUS loans, all with their own online resources.
What careers can I pursue with a business administration degree?
One of the major advantages of a business administration degree is the number of career options available. Some of those options include accounting, entrepreneurship, finance, healthcare, hospitality management, human resources, information technology, leadership, management, marketing, public administration and project management.
How can I be sure to succeed in whatever program I choose?
First off, learn whether business is the career for you before you jump into the time and expense of a school program. If you’re tech-savvy, well organized, goal-oriented and an enterprising team player, this might be the field for you.
Here are some closing tips for success!
- Use financial aid resources
- Carefully plan your study time
- Create a workspace that is conducive to learning
- Make a daily routine; study at the same time every day
- Use online tools for better time management
- Take notes, participate and speak freely in classes
- Find an online study-buddy in your program
- Know your goals: take your online education and yourself seriously