If you’re considering a post-secondary education in business, you’ve likely seen that your options include business administration and business management degrees.

Although it may seem like these two degrees are the same, there are important distinctions between them that students should know about when choosing a program. Both are versatile degrees that can prepare students for various business-related career paths, but they have different approaches and areas of focus that may appeal to different types of students.

Regardless of which program you choose, now is an ideal time to pursue a degree in business. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there will be approximately 911,400 new job openings in the business and finance sector through 2032. It’s also a lucrative field, with a median annual salary of $76,850.

This article will explore the differences and similarities between online degrees in business administration and business management, the job outlook for these fields, and what employers think about online business degrees.

Types of Online Business Degrees

Online business degrees are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. To determine whether to seek a business management or business administration degree, you should also consider what degree level is appropriate for your current education status and career goals.

Associate degree

This degree is ideal for students starting their post-secondary educational journey or switching careers from a different field. Associate degrees prepare students for entry-level positions by providing foundational coursework in their area of study with minimal general education requirements. They may also have an internship or experiential learning component.

  • Degrees available: Associate of Business Administration (ABA), Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
  • Minimum credits: 60
  • Average length of program: 2 years full-time

Bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree is another popular undergraduate option that prepares students for entry- and mid-level positions in business and related fields. The core curriculum in bachelor’s programs focuses on foundational and intermediate business skills and concepts, with options for specializing in marketing, finance, communications, or business analytics. General education coursework and internship requirements are common in bachelor’s programs.

  • Degrees available: Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA), Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS),
  • Minimum credits: 120
  • Average length of program: 4 years full-time

Master’s degree

Students who already have an undergraduate degree, whether it’s in business or another field, can pursue a master’s degree to gain advanced knowledge and prepare for high-level roles, including C-suite positions. Most master’s degrees allow students to choose an area of specialization, which can be helpful to those who have a general business undergraduate degree. The curriculum for a master’s degree may also include internship and capstone project requirements.

  • Degrees available: Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Science (MS), Master of Arts (MA)
  • Minimum credits: 36
  • Average length of program: 2 years

Similarities between business administration and business management

Before diving into what makes business management and business administration different, it’s helpful to understand what these programs have in common.

Both degrees educate students about the various components of business practices, with a core curriculum of courses in business principles and theories, finance and accounting, marketing, communication, analytics, and economics. Their purpose, particularly at the undergraduate level, is to give students an understanding of how businesses work and develop the transferable skills they need to be successful employees and leaders in the business world.

Because business encompasses many different areas, most programs offer specialization options in areas like marketing, finance, human resources, or international business. Internships are also common in business management and business administration programs, allowing students to use their knowledge in a real-world setting.

Online programs also have similarities, regardless of the degree students earn. Students can choose between synchronous and asynchronous course delivery methods and enroll part-time or full-time.

It’s also always important to verify the accreditation status of the school and program, as this can impact eligibility for financial aid, jobs, and educational opportunities. Several agencies offer accreditation specifically for business degree programs, including the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

What is an Online Business Management Degree?

A business management degree focuses on the skills individuals need for leadership and managerial roles within an organization, including decision-making, strategic planning, employee supervision, communication, and budgeting.

Because managers are responsible for coordinating all the various departments within an organization, they must understand the function of each department and how they work together to keep operations running smoothly. A business management program will include finance, accounting, marketing, and human resources courses.

Business leaders are responsible for managing people and operations, so most online business management degrees will also include courses to develop these skills, including interpersonal communication, public speaking, conflict management, and mediation.

These programs also offer the opportunity to specialize in a particular field, such as healthcare management, supply chain management, or small business management.

Individuals with a degree in business management may start out by running a particular department within an organization, in roles like sales manager, human resources manager, financial manager, or management analyst, before working their way up to C-suite positions like chief financial officer (CFO) or chief executive officer (CEO).

This degree is best for individuals aspiring to lead teams, departments, or companies.

If you eventually want to be the CEO of an existing company or start your own business, a business management degree will give you an understanding of how businesses function while developing the skills necessary to be an effective leader.

Important qualities for business management students include:

  • Strategic thinking and planning
  • Creative problem-solving
  • Strong interpersonal communication and social skills
  • Comfort with delegating tasks and managing people

What is an Online Business Administration Degree?

If business management focuses on creating the overall vision for a company or organization, business administration is all about the day-to-day tasks that make that vision a reality. Business administrators ensure that individual departments function correctly so the business can operate efficiently and effectively.

Although business administration degree programs, especially those at the undergraduate level, usually include general business courses, their curriculums tend to have a narrower focus than business management degree programs. Business administrators must understand how their role fits into the larger picture of a company’s operations. Business administration students commonly choose a specialization such as marketing, human resources, finance, or information technology, which allows them to develop the practical skills they need to execute the responsibilities related to their specific department.

Business administration is often described as the ‘nuts and bolts’ of a company’s operations and is essential to the functioning of organizations across multiple industries. Business administration students learn skills necessary for settings like education, retail, information technology, nonprofits, government, and more.

This degree is best for individuals who want to run the day-to-day operations of an organization or project.

Business administrators are great at executing the plans developed by management and can keep workflows running smoothly and efficiently while handling any operational challenges that may arise.

Some of the key strengths a business administrator needs include:

  • Organization skills, including time management and attention to detail
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking
  • Active listening and ability to follow directions
  • Ability to work under pressure or in a fast-paced environment

Business Management and Business Administration Career Outlook & Salary Information

Because business management and business administration graduates have skills necessary across most industries, the job outlook for these majors is typically strong. Individuals with these degrees can work in healthcare, retail, non-profits, education, finance, marketing, tech, and more.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that overall business and finance employment will increase faster than average through 2032, translating to approximately 911,400 new job openings. The median annual salary for jobs in this field is $76,850, although individuals with high-level roles can earn much more. For example, the median yearly wage for top executives, like CEOs, is $189,520.

In the business world, career progression can be linear or nonlinear. Some workers focus on climbing the ladder at one specific company, while others gain new skills by switching between employers. A background in business can also be an ideal launchpad for entrepreneurial individuals who want to start their own businesses.

Some fast-growing occupations in the business field include:

Project management specialist

Median annual salary: $95,370
Job outlook: 6% increase through 2032

Project management specialists coordinate the various moving pieces of projects both internally at companies and externally between clients. Key responsibilities include developing project plans, communicating with all parties to determine project objectives and deadlines, monitoring budgets, reviewing and approving modifications, and more. Project managers are in various industries, including tech, marketing, finance, and more.

Management analyst

Median annual salary: $95,290
Job outlook: 10% increase through 2032

Also known as consultants, management analysts help companies and organizations run more efficiently. They often work on a contractual basis and may specialize in specific industries like healthcare, education, or government. They focus on gathering and analyzing information about an organization, developing new strategies or systems to improve efficiency, and writing reports detailing findings.

Human resources specialists

Median annual salary: $64,240
Job outlook: 6% increase through 2032

Human resources specialists work across multiple industries to recruit and hire employees. They may also coordinate benefits, provide training for new hires, and mediate conflicts between employees and managers. Human resource specialists rely on communication, decision-making, problem-solving, and organization skills.

How Do Employers View Online Business Management and Business Administration Degrees?

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced a widespread switch to online learning, employers are more accepting of online degrees than ever. In most cases, as long as an accredited institution grants a degree, employers consider it to have the same value as an in-person degree. Students should review the curriculums of any online degree programs they’re considering attending to confirm that they will learn the appropriate skills and concepts for the jobs they want post-graduation.

Accreditation is a crucial way for employers to assess whether the education that students receive online is of high quality and has prepared them for the responsibilities required by the job. Students can check the accreditation of the online college they’re considering attending by searching the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s database.

With the increased prevalence of remote and hybrid jobs, attending an online degree program can give students some advantages. It can demonstrate that students are comfortable working autonomously and troubleshooting their own technical issues. Students who attended school remotely may also be more familiar with video conferencing platforms and software they will use professionally.

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