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Small businesses in every industry are significant sources of job opportunities for entrepreneurs, corporate managers, and related professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects approximately 1.1 million management job openings annually from 2022 to 2023, and management occupations earn a median annual wage of $107,360.

Small business management degree programs provide students with the skills, knowledge, and credentials required for many of these roles. Undergraduate programs average $14,688 annually and usually take four years to complete. Graduate programs typically take about two years, with an average yearly tuition of $20,513.

How to Choose a Small Business Management Program

Choose your area of study

Small businesses require innovative and motivated professionals to oversee all aspects of the organization and strategically drive success. Small business management degree programs can prepare students for these leadership positions in corporate management or as entrepreneurs. Through a leadership lens, these programs cover broad business topics, such as sales, accounting, human resources, and marketing. Some majors are specifically in management or entrepreneurship, while others offer these topics as concentrations.

Bachelor of Science (BS) programs typically suit those interested in data analysis, technical tools, and data-driven problem-solving. Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) programs deliver broad business foundations and versatile skill sets that prepare students for various management positions. A Master of Science (MS) or Master of Business Administration (MBA) builds on these foundations to prepare students for advanced or executive roles.

Alternatively, a bachelor’s or master’s of business in entrepreneurship also provides an education in marketing, accounting, and related areas. Entrepreneurship degrees typically offer fewer specialization options — instead, they emphasize the skills and strategies essential for starting and running a business, but students can also find success with their entrepreneurship skills in traditional roles.

Your career goals and personal interests should guide you to the educational tract that’s right for you. Consider the specialties that small business management degree programs offer, such as hospitality, marketing, project management, or logistics, and how they may support your professional goals.

Research schools and programs

School and program websites feature information crucial to student research, and admissions counselors can provide additional recommendations and answers to questions. For insights into the student experience, sign up for in-person or virtual campus tours and information sessions and follow schools’ social media accounts.

Verify the accreditation of the institutions and programs you apply to with resources such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. Prioritize regional accreditation as it ensures your institution adheres to the Department of Education’s quality standards. Securing federal financial aid requires accreditation, and many schools only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited schools. Employers may also prefer job applicants from accredited schools.

Prepare for tests and applications

Small business management programs generally require the following application materials:

  • Application form and fees
  • Secondary school transcript
  • In-progress undergraduate transcript for transfers
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • Personal essay or statement
  • Resume or CV
  • SAT or ACT scores for undergraduates
  • GRE or GMAT scores for graduates
  • TOEFL score (for students educated in a non-English language)

Some institutions and programs have different admission requirements. For example, some undergraduate degrees may require students to complete a year of survey or core courses before they can declare a major. Graduate programs usually require a bachelor’s degree to confirm academic competence, but some may substitute equivalent work experience. Check with an admissions counselor to verify admission requirements, submission deadlines, proper documentation, and other relevant information.

Select your program

As you review your top choices, identify and weigh the features most important for your academic and professional success. Tuition, curriculum, internship or co-op opportunities, location, campus amenities, and many other factors can significantly influence the student experience.

For instance, program logistics may influence decisions more or less depending on individual circumstances. Many students prefer the immersive experience of an in-person and full-time program, especially for career tracks that benefit from networking opportunities. Flexible options, such as online, hybrid, or part-time, may better suit students already in the workforce or with other obligations.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Most programs list expected tuition fees and other costs, but a financial aid counselor can provide further information and verify that programs qualify for financial aid. Regardless of financial circumstances, students should apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to access need-based federal grants, scholarships, and loans.

Research other opportunities for aid, such as scholarships and grants. Businesses, foundations, and sometimes schools offer assistance based on merit or for workforce development, and some employers may provide tuition assistance benefits to eligible employees.

Best 50 Accredited Small Business Management Degree Programs

Best Small Business Management Degree Programs_2024 badge

University of Michigan - Dearborn

Miami University

Husson University

Union College

Huntington University

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

This list primarily includes Bachelor of Science degree programs offered through four-year universities but also covers some associate degree and certificate programs available through community colleges. Depending on the school, these degrees may focus on business management, business administration, entrepreneurship, or leadership, and they are available in online, in-person, and hybrid formats.

All of the schools featured on this list are regionally accredited institutions. Many of these options also have programmatic accreditation from organizations such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Attending a regionally accredited school is necessary to qualify for financial aid, and degrees that have been programmatically accredited might stand out to employers.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Small Business Management Program?

Small business management programs offer different experiences, but students can expect to gain an in-depth understanding of entrepreneurial and leadership skills as they apply to marketing, business law, accounting, and other business fundamentals.

As either a standalone major or concentration, small business management degrees often overlap with other business program curriculums. Students develop contextual understanding and analytical, critical thinking, communication, and other essential skills for managing people and developing products. A typical curriculum blends theoretical and practical coursework with internships, work co-ops, and capstone projects. Most programs require approximately 120 credits for graduation (four years of full-time study).

Graduate programs deepen understanding of leadership and business topics, often focusing on business model development, new venture planning, and financial modeling. Students can sometimes choose an industry focus, such as fashion or financial services. Graduation requirements usually require about 30 credits in core and elective tutorials, seminars, internships, and a capstone project or thesis.

Potential courses you’ll take in a small business management program

  • Principles of Entrepreneurship: This course explores the dimensions of new venture development in independent and corporate settings. Students gain understanding by applying theory to new venture formulation and implementation as well as conceptualization, development, and management.
  • Principles of Management: This management overview allows students to study its evolution, current practices, and emerging theories.
  • Microeconomics: Microeconomics covers theories around consumer and corporate behavior. Students learn how supply and demand, market efficiency, and other economic factors affect business policies and practices.
  • Business Finance: This course covers theoretical and practical issues associated with financial management. Topics may include asset management, cash flow, debt and equity, investment policy, and financial reporting.

Small Business Management Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a small business management degree program?

To begin your application, refer to the program or institution website — schools typically have an admissions portal where you can apply digitally. Most applications require relevant transcripts, a resume or CV, a personal statement, a letter of recommendation, and undergraduate or graduate-level test scores.

Speak to an admissions counselor for information on offline applications, eligibility confirmation, deadlines, or general support.

How much does a small business management degree cost?

Undergraduate tuition and fees average $14,688 per year, and adding room and board can increase costs to $27,673. Graduate programs average $20,513 yearly.

These figures don’t necessarily represent your out-of-pocket expenses. Course delivery, location, and private vs. public institutions can affect your budget. Scholarships, grants, and loans can also reduce your financial burden.

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

Most undergraduate programs require about 120 credits for graduation, which equates to approximately four years of full-time study. Graduate programs require 30 credits, which takes about two years of study.

Some factors may influence the time needed to satisfy graduation requirements. For example, part-time study will extend the completion timeline, and self-paced and online options can sometimes accelerate studies.