Is a Business Degree Worth It? Key Facts and Statistics

The median business sector salary is 67% higher than the median for all occupations. Find out why these degrees are so popular and if they're always worth the cost.
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Lyss Welding
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Lyss Welding is a higher education analyst and senior editor for BestColleges who specializes in translating massive data sets and finding statistics that matter to students. Lyss has worked in academic research, curriculum design, and program evalua...
Updated on October 2, 2023
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Reece Johnson
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Reece Johnson is the editorial director for news and data. He writes about the future of work and higher education, student political activism, and expanding educational opportunities. Reece holds a master's degree from Columbia University and a bach...
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Data Summary

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    The average annual salary for a bachelor's in business administration is $73,000.[1]
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    The median starting salary for 2021 graduates with a bachelor's in business was $57,190.[2]
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    Some business schools report that grads from their bachelor's programs earn $80,000-$120,000 a year, net of debt payments.[3]
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    Most careers in business and finance require at least a bachelor's degree.[4]
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    About half (51.4%) of business owners have a bachelor's degree or higher. A degree may help aspiring entrepreneurs learn valuable financial tools and frameworks.[5]
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    School choice and other factors impact your degree's return on investment; networking makes a difference.

Business is the most popular major for undergraduates — and one of the least regretted. But why? And is it always worth the time and investment?

Business degrees, like a bachelor of business administration (BBA), are undergraduate degrees that focus on the skills and knowledge needed to enter the world of business and finance.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals working in business and finance earned a median salary of $76,570 a year in May 2021, far higher than the national median salary.[6] At the same time, college comes at a cost.

This report answers why getting a business degree is an attractive choice for students, what it costs, and how much it pays off.

Did You Know…

A BBA isn't the only kind of business degree.

Many schools offer bachelor of science degrees in business or business administration (BSB or BSBA). For example, Washington University in St. Louis offers a BSBA program, in which students can choose from eight majors like accounting, finance, and marketing.

These bachelor's degrees aren't to be confused with a master of business administration (MBA) degree. An MBA may be worthwhile if you already have a bachelor's degree and you want to excel in your career and boost your earnings potential.

Popular Online Bachelor's in Business Administration Programs

Why Get a Business Degree?

Whether you should get a business degree comes down to your specific goals. Here are some upsides and things to consider.

There's high demand for business degree graduates.

According to a report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 74% of people who graduated with a bachelor's in business in 2021 were employed by the time of their survey in 2022. About 13% were continuing their education and another 11% were seeking work.Note Reference [2]

By comparison, 60% of all bachelor's degree graduates were employed, 22% were continuing their education and about 13% were seeking work.Note Reference [2]

Business salaries are competitive.

According to the BLS, the median annual payout for professionals in business and finance was $76,570 in May 2021. The median salary for all occupations during the same period was just $45,760.Note Reference [6]

Business and finance jobs typically require at least a bachelor's degree.

Among the 32 business and finance occupations listed by the BLS, 28 typically require a bachelor's degree.Note Reference [4]

If you want to start your own business, you don't technically need a degree. (According to a Kauffman Foundation report, only half (51.4%) of business owners had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2020.Note Reference [5]) But it might help.

Neil Gallagher, a 2020 grad from University of South Florida's Muma College of Business, began working in finance before starting his own roofing and solar company. He said in finance, earning his business degree was a must.

If I knew I was going to go the path I did, it may not have been a necessity, though it certainly helped, Gallagher said of his degree. The more specialized coursework allowed me to really get my business off the ground.

Business degree programs teach skills for multiple sectors and may offer dual-degree options.

Undergraduate business programs often offer a wide variety of majors, specializations, or courses under the umbrella of business administration, such as human resources, marketing, or healthcare administration.

Additionally, some business degree programs offer dual-degrees. At the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, 30% of students earn more than one degree, combining their business education with international studies, nursing and healthcare management, technology, or life sciences.[7]

A business degree may help you leap over the learning curve.

Business bachelor's degree programs may help you learn tools, methods, and frameworks for solving complex problems in business.

Here's an example from Loyola University Chicago's Quinlan School of Business. (We like that this school spelled out just what students are supposed to learn in the BBA degree program). Students in the BBA in finance should, among other things:

  • Possess analytical skills to utilize sophisticated models, manage large data sets, and make decisions under uncertainty.
  • Possess sound understanding of various business aspects (accounting, economics, statistics, etc.) and a deep understanding of basic financial concepts and theories.
  • Be able to apply financial concepts and theories in the workplace.

Theoretically, you could gain experience with these concepts on the job with the right opportunities and mentorship. However, formal degree programs are designed to prepare you for job readiness at graduation.

And build a network of classmates, instructors, and alumni.

Reaching out to folks who share your alma mater can be a clutch networking strategy — even better when those contacts also work in business and finance.

Plus, some undergraduate business degree programs are housed in business schools that award advanced degrees too. As an undergraduate, you can network or learn from MBA grads from your school.

For example, Indiana University's Kelley School of Business boasts a network of over 127,000 alumni and hosts events nationwide.[8]

Is a Business Degree Worth It? Cost, Time, and ROI



Average Total Cost (2015-2016)


Average Student Loan Debt



Median Bachelor's Degree Salary at Graduation (2021)


Average BBA Salary (All Career Stages)


Average MBA Salary (All Career Stages)

Cost and Student Loan Debt

Tuition and total costs for business degrees vary widely by school. In general, the average cost of college is more expensive at private universities versus in-state public schools and highest at the most selective universities.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2015-2016, the median cost business undergraduate majors reported paying for a year of college was about $22,040.[9]

For reference, that's over $88,150 for four years — or in today's dollars, about $112,000.[10]

Also, keep in mind that tuition costs can turn into debt later on. Roughly 57% of undergraduates take on debt to pay for their education.[11] The average student loan debt for a bachelor's degree was $26,190 in 2017-2018.

Time and Opportunity Cost

Bachelor's degrees typically take about four years to complete. If you stop working to attend school full time, you may miss out on opportunities in these four years to earn income, learn on the job, or start your own business.

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for a high school graduate in the U.S. was $42,070 in 2021. Over four years, that's almost $170,000 of lost income.[12]

But keep in mind, some business degrees are accelerated, and online programs may be self-paced. Plus, having a degree generally pays off in the long run.

Potential Salary and Return on Investment

According to the NACE, college students who graduated with a bachelor's degree in 2021 reported making a median salary of $57,190.Note Reference [2]

With more years on the job, you may increase your earnings potential. According to Payscale, people with a BBA reported an average annual salary of $73,000 as of June 2023.Note Reference [1] Folks who went on to complete an MBA earned an average salary of $96,000 per year during the same period.[13] Payscale reports salary information from people at all career stages, including mid- and late-career professionals.

Salaries for Business Degree Earners by School

In 2022, Georgetown University's Center for Education and the Workforce estimated the average salary after debt for graduates of bachelor's degree programs in business administration, management, and operations, two years after graduation.

The center found that bachelor's degree holders in business earned a median annual salary of $43,200 after debt.Note Reference [3] But, the project found that some programs' graduates gain more than others.

Keep in mind that these tuition and potential salary figures are based on large sample sizes. The ROI of your specific degree will depend on several factors, including your future job, location, and the school you choose.

Business Degree Programs Where Grads Earn the Most

Grads from the University of Pennsylvania, Bismarck State College, and Washington University in St. Louis had the highest earnings post-graduation — at least $90,000 a year.

Business Bachelor's Degree Programs With the Highest Salaries for Graduates, 2022
School Major Annual Earnings Net of Debt Payment
University of Pennsylvania Finance and Financial Management Services $121,200
Bismarck State College Business Administration, Management, and Operations $103,200
Washington University in St. Louis Finance and Financial Management Services $90,000
Villanova University Business/Managerial Economics $87,600
Georgetown University Finance and Financial Management Services $84,000
University of Notre Dame Finance and Financial Management Services $84,000
Baylor University General Sales, Merchandising, and Related Marketing Operations $82,800
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Business Administration, Management, and Operations $81,600
University of California-Berkeley Business Administration, Management, and Operations $80,400
New York University General Business $80,400
Source: Georgetown University Center for Education and the WorkforceNote Reference [3]

Online Business Degree Programs

Several top online BBA programs and fully-online business management bachelor programs also produced graduate salaries that were above average.

Average Salaries for Online Business Bachelor's Degree Programs, 2022
School Major Annual Earnings Net of Debt Payment
City University of Seattle Business Administration $48,000
University of Houston, Clear Lake General Business $48,000
Lewis University Finance $46,800
University of Arkansas at Little Rock Accounting $45,600
Florida Atlantic University Accounting $45,600
SUNY Empire State College General Business $45,600
Franklin University Business Administration $44,400
Indiana University East General Business $44,400
Fresno Pacific University BBA $42,000
McKendree University Management $40,800
Source: Georgetown University Center for Education and the WorkforceNote Reference [3]

Does School Prestige Matter?

Gallagher says the answer to that question is ultimately up to you and what you want to do with your career.

I attended a state school with good relationships in the Tampa area. My degree was as good as anyone else's, he said. I imagine if I had gone to a top school, my application would have been looked at a bit more closely. If you're trying to work in high finance in New York or other major cities it also may be more helpful to have a top university.

Gallagher, who landed his first job at a school networking event, advises that prospective students put work into networking and building connections, regardless of their schools' name or prestige.

Always strive to do the best you can and attend the school that you feel is best for you, he said. If you get involved in your school's communities, doors will open. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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