Online Degrees in Business Administration

Technology, globalization, and evolving ethical questions have changed the way that businesses think about their everyday practices. Learning the principles of business activities such as marketing, finance, accounting and human resources can help students become potential candidates for employment in many different companies and organizations.

If student enrollment numbers are any indication, an online business degree with a focus on administration can be one of the most valuable academic tracks out there. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 39 percent of all business degrees conferred at the bachelor's level in 2015 were in business administration, and at the master's level, that number jumped to over 60 percent, making business administration the most popular track within the broader business category.

How to Choose the Right Business Administration Degree

Associate Degree in Business Administration: These are usually two-year programs, but it depends on whether students are enrolled full time or part time. Students study the principles of accounting, finance, marketing and human resources, as well as some business law. In addition to these subjects, individuals also need to complete general education courses such as English, math and psychology. Upon earning this degree, graduates may be able to find work as insurance sales agents, assistants in human resources departments or other entry-level positions.

Learn more about Online Associate Degrees in Business Administration

Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration: A bachelor's program can normally be completed in four years, but individuals may be able to earn one more quickly if they have transferable college credits or an associate degree. Topics of study include economics, reading financial statements, employment law, government regulations, and entrepreneurship. Possible careers for graduates of these online programs include financial analyst or human resources specialist.

Learn more about Online Bachelor's Degrees in Business Administration

Master's Degree in Business Administration: MBA programs impart a deeper understanding of subjects in business administration, preparing students to possibly take a larger role in guiding a business. These degrees can take two years to complete, but it depends on the school and whether the individual is enrolled full time or part time. Students can study techniques of effective leadership in business, management of a company's supply chain, account cycles, assets and liabilities, and ethical business practices. Students who earn a Master of Business Administration may qualify to become securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents, as well as other positions such as management analysts or marketing managers.

Learn more about Online Master's Degrees in Business Administration

Doctoral Degree in Business Administration: Doctorate degree programs have varying lengths to reach completion, as students take different amounts of time to write, present and defend their dissertations. The doctoral dissertation is a paper based on research conducted by the student that must be approved by a panel of faculty members. This usually happens when a student has finished most of their other required courses.

Besides studying research methods to help them work on their dissertation, students in business administration doctoral programs learn about initial public offerings, debt reduction plans, planning and implementing new technologies within a company, and various management techniques. Graduates of these programs may qualify to become executives for companies, or possibly become educators at the college level.

Learn more about Online Doctorates in Business Administration

Career Opportunities for Graduates of Business Administration Programs

Individuals who earn a degree in business administration learn many skills that may help them become assets to corporations, government agencies or nonprofit organizations. Some of these include topics in finance, marketing, accounting, human resources, and leadership. Having the knowledge that an online degree program in business administration imparts may help individuals become much more attractive candidates for employment.

Because business administration is such a versatile field, it can complement a wide range of career paths. Online degrees in business administration can help working professionals add sales, marketing or accounting knowledge to their existing skill set. For example, tech-savvy individuals may gain business training to start their own technical consulting company, while a culinary worker might pursue marketing skills to launch a catering business. Many MBAs also choose to flex their entrepreneurship muscles and start their own companies or nonprofit organizations.

Salary and Employment Outlook

Salaries in the business world vary depending on the level of education and the industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the following 2015 mean annual wages for selected business careers:

  • Payroll and timekeeping clerk: $42,130
  • Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistant: $55,460
  • Management analyst: $91,770
  • Human resources manager: $117,080
  • Marketing manager: $140,660

The job outlook for many of these fields is growing as well. According to the BLS, management analysts should see 14 percent employment growth from 2014 to 2024 -- much faster than the average for all careers -- while human resources managers and marketing managers are both projected to experience nine percent growth.

As the economic landscape shifts in the wake of recession, companies are changing the way they do business -- and many could benefit from strong, qualified workers to help shape the future of their organizations in the new economy. Online associate degrees in business administration help train these workers by teaching them the fundamental business knowledge they need to navigate through the shifting corporate world. Students who enroll in online associate programs in business administration study essential business concepts such as marketing, accounting, human resource management, business finance and business law. In addition, these programs are designed to enhance students' critical thinking and communication skills, which may prove crucial when solving complex business problems and managing employees.

What Does an Associate Degree Program in Business Administration Entail?

Full-time students earning an online associate degree in business administration can typically complete the program in two years. In general, curriculum covers skills and knowledge that might help graduates succeed in the modern workforce. Course material tends to focus on basic business practices and concepts that can be used in organizations of any size -- from the mom and pop business to the multinational corporation. Examples of course topics include:

  • Accounting: Since the financial trickery of companies like Enron was widely exposed, businesses have been concerned about utilizing accounting practices that are both legal and ethical. To teach students how to contribute to the financial health of an organization, accounting courses may incorporate lessons in accounting cycles, assets, organizational cash flow, and common financial transactions. In addition, students are taught analytical skills that can help them make sound financial decisions on behalf of an organization, allowing them to look at financial data, interpret it, and take a course of action that benefits the future of a company. Students usually also learn the general language of accounting and the computer systems used for common accounting tasks.
  • Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations: A company can create the best product in the world, but if no one knows about it, it won't matter. In these courses, students typically learn about creating a brand identity and presenting it to the marketplace, analyzing consumer behavior, developing a message designed to reach target audiences, competitively pricing products and services, and meeting the needs of customers so they'll keep coming back time and time again. Additionally, students in online business administration programs often learn how to work with the media to gain exposure, and how to find the most effective marketing channels to meet a company's goals.
  • Business Law: This class focuses on the domestic and international laws that govern the way organizations do business. Students tend to learn about mergers and acquisitions, business dissolution and liquidation, types of business entities, torts, product liability, and the legal roles and responsibilities of the decision makers in a business. In order to drive home complicated legal concepts taught in this course, students may be required to draft contracts, construct a defense against a lawsuit, or fill out paperwork used in a corporate bankruptcy filing.
  • Management Principles: Students who take this course learn about the managerial groundwork that helps leaders make business decisions and solve problems. This may include topics such as budgeting, leadership styles, strategic planning and business development. In addition, students learn the communication skills necessary to manage employees. To get hands-on experience in this area, students may participate in role-playing exercises where they act out employer-employee relationship issues, such as resolving a conflict, firing an employee, handling sexual harassment allegations, or negotiating a raise.

Students in online associate degree programs in business administration may also be expected to take electives that can help sharpen their analytical and communication skills in the workplace. Examples of electives include: English, to help students develop workplace communication skills; human resources, which gives students a deeper understanding of employee relations; and mathematics, to help students better understand business accounting and finance concepts.

As organizations grow and change, they need enterprising workers with the business acumen necessary to help them execute their mission and reach their goals. Online bachelor's degrees in business administration can act as a valuable proving ground for students looking to enter the business arena, combining fundamental business concepts with real-world examples that can help prepare students for the modern corporate world. Those who enroll in these programs can expect to learn about management styles and theories, project management, business technologies, information systems, and public administration, along with other common business topics like finance and marketing. In addition, students earning an online bachelor's degree in business administration may get the opportunity to enhance their verbal and written communication skills, which can help give them an edge in business relations.

What Does a Bachelor's Degree Program in Business Administration Entail?

Students enrolled full time in an online bachelor's degree program in business administration can generally finish their degree in four years. The curriculum found in these programs is designed to give students knowledge of business fundamentals, while explaining how these concepts are applied in the day-to-day working world. Examples of course topics include:

  • Finance: With the turbulence of the financial markets in recent years, it's imperative that businesses manage their money effectively. Finance courses teach business administration students how to evaluate different types of investments and financial instruments, make decisions about an organization's finances, and navigate through international financial markets. In these courses, students may participate in exercises that are designed to prepare them for the real world of finance -- such as reading a financial statement or writing financial policies for a major organization like Google.
  • Micro and Macroeconomics: Economics courses help students gain an understanding of concepts such as supply and demand, consumer choice, monetary and fiscal policies, wage determination, and inflation. In addition, students in these courses may learn about how recessions impact the health of organizations and what businesses can do to plan for a healthy future -- which is particularly important for students to understand in the current economic climate.
  • Human Resources Management: In this course, students learn the basics of employment law and government regulations, how to work with unions, procuring and developing workers, training theory, and how to develop and maintain effective teams. Students may also take part in real-world scenarios, such as role-play exercises where they try to motivate personnel and deal with interpersonal conflicts in the workplace.
  • Entrepreneurship: Students with an entrepreneurial spirit can benefit from this class, which teaches the basics needed to get a business up and running. Subjects that are taught in this class include how to recognize when it's a good time to start a business, create a business plan, understand complicated legal issues associated with launching and running an organization, and deciding whether or not it's time to sell a business.

General education courses and electives are also common elements of online bachelor's programs in business administration. These classes can help students sharpen the skills that business professionals use throughout their careers. Some examples of courses students might consider include: English, which can help students enhance their written communication skills; psychology, to give students an understanding of how people behave in the workplace; and project management, which teaches students how to supervise work projects from start to finish.

The business world is rapidly changing -- and it's more competitive than ever before. In order to keep up with these shifts in the modern workplace, and compete for good jobs, workers need to demonstrate superior skills and abilities. For those who want to advance in their careers and acquire the business acumen necessary to climb up the corporate ladder, or start their own business, earning an online master's degree in business administration (MBA) may be an excellent way to prepare. Students who enroll in these degree programs typically learn advanced business skills in subjects such as accounting, human resources management, marketing, strategic leadership and project management.

What Does a Master's Degree Program in Business Administration Entail?

Students pursuing an online MBA can generally complete their degree in two years of full-time study. The coursework in these programs is designed to give students a deep understanding of how different types of businesses are run. In order to do this, students take classes in subjects such as organizational behavior, international business, information technology, managerial accounting and corporate responsibility. In addition, online MBA programs may have classes designed to develop advanced communication skills needed to effectively work with colleagues on a one-on-one basis or in workplace teams. Example courses include:

  • Business Leadership: More and more, organizations have come to recognize that having effective leadership is paramount to their success. This is not surprising based on findings from two studies conducted by Right Management. The first reveals that most American employees are dissatisfied with their jobs (forbes.com, 2012), which may be leading to significantly lower morale throughout organizations, as well as decreased productivity. The second study notes that many executives are concerned they will not be able to find qualified workers to fill leadership in their companies (right.com, 2013). Leadership classes are designed to address organizational concerns like these by teaching students how to motivate a workforce and make decisions that help build a business. In order to do this, students may learn about leadership and motivation theories, industrial behavior, and corporate cultures, among other topics.
  • Supply Chain Management: In supply chain management courses, students learn about the flow of a company's products. The basic principles students learn in this class typically include supply chain vulnerabilities, analytics and design, as well as how to handle a company's supply chain on an international level. To help them make real-world connections, students may look at an actual company's supply chain and discuss ways to improve it, or create spreadsheets that track product production.
  • Business Ethics: As the public expresses increasing disapproval of corporate financial scandals, it becomes imperative for organizations to balance their desire to make a profit with the obligation to meet legal and ethical standards. Students who enroll in this class learn the importance of making ethical decisions as a business leader and the challenges associated with making those decisions. In addition, students often study legal compliance and how regulations play a role in decision making.
  • Advanced Accounting and Finance: Capital is the lifeblood of organizations, and in order to ensure it flows steadily, businesses must have workers who are adept in accounting and finance principles. Business administration programs usually teach students how to manage an organization's money by presenting essential concepts such as accounting cycles, assets and liabilities, financial instruments and investments, and cash flow. In order to give students hands-on experience with the material taught in class, they may be required to create a financial statement or annual report.

Often, students enrolled in online MBA programs are also required to take electives that might further enhance their expertise. These courses may include: human resources management, which helps students understand how to handle employee issues in a variety of situations; business writing classes designed to sharpen students' written communication skills; or entrepreneurship courses, that teach students how to open and operate their own business.

Thanks to factors like technological advancement, globalization, and the ever-changing economy, organizations are shifting the way they do business -- and they need a strong workforce to help them achieve their goals. Online doctoral degrees in business administration are helping create academic and professional leaders who can transform the business world and move it forward. These programs teach professionals the advanced business knowledge and skills they need to conduct research, become leaders at corporations, educate future workers, or provide consulting services to organizations. Students who pursue online business administration doctoral degrees can expect to take courses in marketing, international business, entrepreneurship, strategic management and finance.

What Does a Doctoral Degree Program in Business Administration Entail?

For full-time students, a doctoral degree in business administration generally takes about four to six years to complete, although this varies depending on the program and the student's aptitude.

Prospective students have two main choices when it comes to earning a business administration degree at the doctoral level: a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) or a Ph.D. in Business Administration. DBA programs are typically designed for professionals looking to improve real-world business practices through advanced theoretical knowledge. Meanwhile, the goal of Ph.D. programs is the creation of new theories altogether, often for academic purposes. However, depending on the program, there can be crossover between the two.

The curriculum of these programs covers subjects like business theory and research, ethics, business sustainability, management, and corporate finance. Students are also given the framework to conduct their own business research, which helps them identify trends, challenges and solutions that will shape the corporate world of the future. Example courses include:

  • Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods: This class is designed to teach students how to conduct scholarly research, and write and present the results of business research studies. In order to develop these skills, students typically learn about searching scholarly literature, collecting data using different techniques, formulating and testing hypotheses, and behaving ethically during the course of a research study. Students may also be required to participate in exercises that give them hands-on experience with the material, such as critiquing research papers written by thought leaders in the field, preparing case studies, organizing focus groups or interpreting statistical data.
  • Organizational Behavior Theory: This class helps give students an understanding of why people behave the way they do in the workplace, and how this knowledge can be used to benefit an organization. Topics addressed in this class can include organizational development and design, employee motivation theories, classical management theories, organizational dysfunction, approaches to human resources, industrial safety, and labor relations.
  • Advanced Finance: This course gives students a framework of finance theory, from its historical roots to modern-day perspectives. To that end, students study topics such as corporate bankruptcy and reorganization, initial and seasoned public offerings, option pricing, hedging, mergers and acquisitions, and derivatives. Students who enroll in this class are also typically given a real-world look at advanced finance in action, and may be assigned exercises like drafting credit policies, creating a short-term and long-term debt reduction plan, making hypothetical trading decisions and explaining the rationale behind them, or writing case studies about organizations based on different financial theories.
  • Technology Management: Technology is changing on a daily basis, so it's imperative for organizations to keep up with advancements. In order to ensure that students are equipped to meet these demands, they might learn about topics such as innovation, technology planning and implementation strategies, and the managerial challenges associated with the use of technology in the workplace.

Students enrolled in online doctoral degree programs in business administration may also be given the option to pick a concentration -- such as marketing, accounting or leadership -- and complete courses in this specialized business area. In addition to coursework, students are often required to complete a dissertation and present it to a committee of business professors. They may also have to take a comprehensive examination that covers what they studied during the program.

"Employers Worried by Lack of Future Leaders," Right Management, April 9, 2013, http://www.right.com/news-and-events/press-releases/2013-press-releases/item24817.aspx
IPEDS Data, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/Home/UseTheData, Accessed August 25, 2016
"New Survey: Majority of Employees Dissatisfied," Forbes, May 8, 2012, Susan Adams, http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2012/05/18/new-survey-majority-of-employees-dissatisfied/
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/, accessed August 25, 2016

With two children and a full-time job, my schedule is very hectic--WGU was put on this earth for me! I was able to submit work when it was convenient for me and work at a pace that best suited me, not the highest person in my class (as I've experienced with many traditional schools). - Carlisha Moore 
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