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Getting a degree in small business management can prepare students for leadership roles in already established businesses or give them the skills and experience they need to strike out independently.

The average annual salary for all management positions is $107,360, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, compensation can vary greatly depending on the industry and exact position. For example, food service managers have a median pay of $61,310, while financial managers have an average salary of $139,790.

A bachelor’s degree in small business management takes around four years to complete, while a master’s program in the same field can take two to three years. The average per-year cost of a bachelor’s degree was $16,618 for the 2020-2021 school year, and yearly tuition for a master’s degree was $19,749.

How to Choose an Online Small Business Management Program

Choose your area of study

Small business management programs cover many topics, and concentrating on a specific area can help narrow your focus. If you’re interested in the financial side, you may choose classes focusing on accounting, finance, or budget analysis. Those interested in leadership positions may want to focus on organizational leadership, information systems management, or operations.

Students who dream of opening their own businesses need a well-rounded program. However, a concentration in entrepreneurship can help them learn the skills they need to start a company.

Research schools and programs

Each academic institution offers a unique experience, so students should consider their options carefully. Ensure that any college you’re considering is accredited by a recognized body. Faculty members with real-world experience in small business ownership and management may provide more applicable and engaging instruction.

Cost, course offerings, and scheduling availability are also factors to consider. Online programs let you pursue your education while continuing to work full-time or handle family responsibilities, and some of these programs even allow you to work at your own pace. Once you’ve narrowed down your top choices, compare the tuition, fees, and financial aid opportunities to determine the best fit.

Prepare for tests and applications

The application process and admissions requirements will be different for each institution. Many colleges use the Common Application to streamline the process, but they may require additional materials, such as letters of recommendation from past instructors, transcripts, and a personal essay.

Placement tests, such as the COMPASS or ACCUPLACER tests, may also be required. These tests assess your competency in basic subjects, such as math, writing, and reading, to determine what introductory classes you can skip. Check with the admissions office to determine what tests you must take and when to take them to process your application.

Select your program

Once you know what programs you were accepted to, it’s time to select one. Compare the different programs, looking at what concentrations and courses are offered, whether classes are synchronous or asynchronous, and tuition and fees. If you’re having trouble narrowing it down, look for programs with internships, capstone projects, and networking opportunities that can help you secure a job after graduation.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Tuition, fees, and books can be expensive, but there are multiple options to help you lower your out-of-pocket costs. Some schools waive fees for online-only students since they won’t use on-campus facilities. Scholarships are available for both academic merit and financial need, and you may qualify for federal programs like the PELL grant.

Student loans are also an option but explore this carefully. Private loans and unsubsidized federal loans start accruing interest immediately, meaning you owe more than you borrowed when it’s time to pay them back. If you’re considering student loans, check the terms and interest rates carefully so you know what you’re agreeing to.

Best 50 Accredited Online Small Business Management Programs

Best Small Business Management Degree Program 2023

Mitchell Technical College

University of Alaska Southeast

Southern Regional Technical College

Rio Hondo College

Northern Vermont University

Delta College

Diablo Valley College

Normandale Community College

Central Georgia Technical College

Purdue University Fort Wayne

Discover More Options

How We Rank Schools

This list features some of the best online small business management programs at top colleges nationwide. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. The programs on our list are available at accredited institutions, including The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), both reputable organizations that assess business programs for educational excellence and a commitment to quality education.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and the student resources provided for online students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online small business management programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect From an Online Small Business Management Program

When you enroll in an online small business management program, you can expect to learn how to apply general math and data analysis skills to business operations and communicate effectively, both orally and in writing. Classes cover management aspects, such as decision-making, problem-solving, people management, and promoting diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. Business ethics and foundational courses in taxes and law may also be offered.

Many small business management programs at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels require students to participate in capstone courses or internships. For example, you may be expected to spend a semester forming and growing a fictional business to demonstrate competency in accounting, organizational leadership, and industry best practices.

Certificate programs can be completed in as little as six to 12 months. Associate programs require 60-65 credit hours, completed over four semesters for full-time students. Bachelor’s degree programs require around 120 credit hours, which takes eight full-time semesters. Master’s degree programs generally range from 36 to 48 credit hours and take one to two years to complete.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online small business management program

  • Principles of Management and Organizational Behavior. This course introduces students to fundamental principles of business operations and management. It focuses on managerial skills, such as team leadership and problem-solving. It also covers topics related to organizational structures and performance.
  • Marketing for the Small Business. This course focuses on marketing concepts and processes, emphasizing how they relate to small businesses. It includes topics such as competitive analysis, buyer personas, and advertising strategies.
  • Management Planning and Control. Focusing on how managers use accounting data to facilitate decision-making, this class introduces students to cash flow analysis and probable analysis concepts. It also familiarizes them with using computer applications for data analytics.
  • Business Ethics. This course covers how ethical theories and principles apply to business decisions. It teaches students how to identify and resolve ethical dilemmas in the workplace.
  • Principles of Microeconomics. Microeconomics is the study of how single factors impact economic decisions. It focuses on the allocation of resources and decision-making at the individual level.

What Can I Do With a Small Business Management Degree?

A degree in small business management introduces students to the wide range of topics they must be familiar with to operate a successful small business, including management, finance, human resources, information systems, and more. These skills are applicable to many different industries, including retail, hospitality, financial services, healthcare, and more. Graduates of small business management degree programs may choose to work with established companies or start their own businesses.

Across industries, overall employment in management occupations is expected to grow at a faster-than-average pace during the next decade, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports. According to the agency’s projections, there will be, on average, 1.1 million new job openings per year through 2032.

Career outlook

Some of the most in-demand positions for those with a small business management degree include:

  • Management analyst — Analyze a company’s operations and finances, and recommend ways to improve an organization’s efficiency and profitability.
    • Median annual salary: $95,290
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 10%
    • New jobs projected: 92,900 per year
  • Project management specialist — Work with staff and clients to coordinate the budget, schedule, and other details of a project, including identifying, reviewing, and selecting vendors or consultants to meet project needs and assign duties or responsibilities to project staff.
    • Median annual salary: $95,370
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 6%
    • New jobs projected: 68,100 per year
  • Administrative services and facilities manager —  Plan, direct, and coordinate activities that help an organization run efficiently, including supervising staff, setting goals and deadlines for their department or facility, and recommending changes to policies or procedures to improve operations.
    • Median annual salary: $103,330
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 5%
    • New jobs projected:  31,400 per year

Online Small Business Management Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online small business management degree program?

Each college has its own admissions requirements, and these can vary by the type of degree and major. You’ll need a high school diploma, GED, or the equivalent to apply for a bachelor’s degree in small business management. You may be required to have a certain ACT or SAT score or take a placement exam.

Graduate schools have more rigorous requirements for this degree. In general, you will need a bachelor’s degree in a business-related field and transcripts from every post-secondary institution you’ve attended. Competitive programs may require a personal statement or letters of recommendation. Speak with an admissions counselor before applying to ensure you understand and have met the requirements.

How much does an online small business management degree cost?

The total tuition cost for a four-year bachelor’s degree in small business management based on average per-year figures is $66,472. A two-year master’s degree program costs an average of $40,000. Remember that these figures don’t include other costs, such as books and supplies. Online programs may also be slightly cheaper, as many schools waive campus fees or offer the same tuition rates for both in-state and out-of-state students.

How long does it take to earn an online small business management degree?

You generally need at least 120 credit hours to earn a bachelor’s degree. Master’s degree programs can vary more widely, requiring between 30 and 60 credits. If you’re enrolled full-time, this is approximately four years for a bachelor’s degree and one to two years for a master’s degree. Students who are only enrolled part-time generally take twice as long to complete the degree. However, online programs often offer classes that let you work at your own pace, which can help you meet the degree requirements more quickly. Some students find they can take a larger class load with online courses because they don’t have to be in class at specific times.

Is an online small business management degree worth it?

While you don’t need a degree to start your own venture, operating a small business is a complex task that requires knowledge of human resources practices, logistics, management, financial accounting, business laws and regulations, and more. An undergraduate degree in small business management introduces aspiring small business managers to these concepts and provides them with a foundational understanding of how to run a small business successfully.

Many small business management degree programs offer students the opportunity to explore and refine their small business ideas through project-based assignments and classes. This can be an ideal opportunity to get feedback from professors and other experts before launching a venture in the real world.

There are also financial benefits to earning a degree. The BLS reports that the median weekly salary is $1432 for individuals with a bachelor’s degree and $1005 for those with an associate degree. Meanwhile, for individuals who don’t have a college degree, the median weekly salary is $935.