Earning a business administration degree opens doors to a variety of careers and opportunities. The versatile degree equips graduates with a broad understanding of business fields, like finance, marketing, and human resources. Students also learn how to manage and supervise a business operation.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, business fields are among the most popular majors at the undergraduate level, and the MBA is the top degree at the master's level.
Given the annual influx of new graduates, students pursuing business administration careers should begin their career planning and job search preparation early. Traditionally, finance, business, and tech firms recruit in the first half of the fall term. As noted by Forbes, management consulting, investment banking, and leadership development programs all hire months in advance.
Additionally, the global employment website Monster.com explains that many companies recruit recent college graduates in the spring for June start dates. Industries that hire during this time include marketing, public relations, and media.
Skills Gained in a Business Administration Program
Students in business administration programs study the fundamentals of business as well as management best practices. They learn to plan, organize, lead, and support the human, financial, and physical resources that comprise a business.
Through coursework and training, students develop the skills required of a leader, including analytical, communication, and problem-solving skills. For many business administration career paths, learning does not end at the college level but continues on in the form of certification and personal/professional development.
Analytical skills support sound decision making and problem-solving -- two baseline management skills that employers value. For fields such as accounting, professionals employ analytical skills to carry out their daily work, including calculating bottom lines and investigating fraud. Many business administration programs offer business analytics as a concentration, which teaches students to transform data into predictive information.
Business professionals should possess a basic knowledge of math concepts and demonstrate financial literacy. Students who enter fields like accounting, finance, or economics become experts in financial math. Many refer to financial accounting -- a core course in business administration programs -- as the common "language of business."
- Project Management
Project management skills help individuals advance along business administration career paths. Effective project management involves detailed planning; open team communication; and the ability to prioritize tasks, manage resources, and stay within a budget. While general business administration degrees teach project management basics, students can also choose project management as a specialty.
Like analytical skills, organizational skills underpin other business competencies, such as decision making, problem-solving, and leadership. In business management and administration careers, individuals use organizational skills to set goals, develop and assign tasks, and delegate duties.
Careers that take advantage of a business administration degree require proficiency in verbal and written communication. A team leader, for example, must possess the skills needed to communicate with all stakeholders of a project and convey expectations and goals. The five main elements of business communication include collaboration, public speaking, listening, the ability to read others, and written communication.
Why Pursue a Career in Business Administration?
Business administration degrees prepare graduates for various career paths. Across industries, companies of all sizes need capable managers to oversee teams, resources, and projects. Within an organization, business administrators and managers work in areas like marketing, accounting, human resources, analytics, and product development and innovation.
A degree in business administration teaches students the fundamentals of business and management, as well as various marketable skills that many companies can use to achieve organizational goals. These skills include relationship building, strategic thinking, goal setting and planning, and ethical and moral decision making.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects business and financial occupations to grow by 10% between 2016 and 2026. Additionally, management jobs should increase by 8% over that same time period. Business administration degree holders entering the job market can look forward to solid employment prospects, along with the opportunity to advance their careers by taking advantage of continuing education programs.
How Much Do Business Administration Majors Make?
Various factors can affect the potential salary of a business administration graduate, including their industry, job function and level, years of experience, location, and level of education. Entry-level jobs in business and financial operations typically require a bachelor's degree. For some occupations, such as economists and statisticians, candidates need an advanced degree.
A recent career outlook report by the BLS concluded that many business occupations pay above-average salaries, and wages typically increase as a person gains professional experience. According to the BLS, workers in business and finance brought home a median salary of $68,350 in May 2018, which was more than 75% higher than the median wage for all occupations.
|Job Title||Entry Level (0-12 Months)||Early Career (1-4 Years)||Midcareer (5-9 Years)||Experienced (10-19 Years)|
|Certified Public Accountant (CPA)||$52,000||$57,000||$69,000||$80,000|
|Human Resources Manager||$49,000||$58,000||$66,000||$71,000|
How to Succeed in Business Administration
Business administration graduates enter the job market with a lot of options -- they can apply their business and management skill set to many roles and industries. As noted above, most jobs in business and finance require a bachelor's degree to get started. The BLS lists a bachelor's degree as the minimum credential for 17 popular business management occupations, including jobs in advertising, human resources, healthcare, sales, and community service.
At the MBA level, students further develop their business acumen and financial, marketing, and managing skills. During a master of business administration program, students can also focus their skills toward a particular area of interest, such as entrepreneurship, business intelligence, supply chain management, or leadership.
To pursue a business administration career in research, economics, or postsecondary education, job candidates usually need to earn a terminal degree, such as a Ph.D. or a doctorate in business administration (DBA).
The experience required to work in this field varies depending on an individual's business administration career path and job level. Some business fields, such as finance, may require relevant experience -- even for entry-level roles.
Most MBA programs require applicants to hold at least two years of professional, post-baccalaureate experience. Additionally, some business administration professional certifications require candidates to accrue a certain number of supervised hours or years of experience before they can sit for certifying exams.
Licensure and Certification
Some business administration professionals may need to obtain certification or licensure to work, depending on their profession. Others pursue certification to gain an advantage over the competition. For example, financial analysts do not need to earn certification, but obtaining a professional credential, like the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential, can prove the difference when it comes to career advancement.
Loan officers, meanwhile, do need certification to work as a mortgage loan originator (MLO). To become an MLO, loan professionals need to complete certain coursework, pass an exam, and submit to a background check; this certification requires annual renewal.
Certified Public Accountant
To obtain a certified public accountant license, an individual must fulfill certain requirements, which vary by state. In general, an accountant must complete at least 150 credits of postsecondary education and pass the Uniform CPA Examination. Before qualifying for certification, individuals must also gain a certain amount of experience; this varies by state, but most individuals need 1-2 years of training under the supervision of a licensed CPA.
Chartered Financial Analyst
To distinguish themselves from the field, financial analysts can pursue the Chartered Financial Analyst credential -- a globally recognized designation conferred by the CFA Institute. To qualify, investment professionals must hold a bachelor's degree, have at least four years of relevant work experience, and pass three levels of exams. Members of the CFA Institute can apply for this professional credential. The CFA Institute offers the Level I exam in June and December, and Level II and III exams in June.
Concentrations Available to Business Administration Majors
Not all schools offer the same business administration concentrations. For this reason, business majors should take their time when comparing programs. Along with factors like program cost and length, on-campus requirements, and accreditation, students should weigh available concentrations or specialties and how these options might impact their future careers.
Many students -- even at the undergraduate level -- tend to know the business administration career path they want to pursue. To prepare for this path, learners should select a concentration that matches their career aspirations. Check out the following list of specialties, which contains both traditional and modern business career paths.
- Accounting: An accounting concentration covers the financial aspects of business, including financial statements, transactions, and the reconciliation of accounts. In addition to financial accounting, students also study auditing, cost accounting, managerial accounting, and tax accounting.
- Computer Information Systems: Students study computerized business systems. Curriculum covers the technical and business sides of management information systems. Given that computer and information systems managers typically need a graduate degree and basic business proficiency, an MBA with a concentration in computer information systems may be a sensible choice.
- Finance: A finance concentration explores financial decisions within an organization, including investments, raising capital, and managing risk. Finance represents one of the core functional areas of business, and business administration students already study this topic to some degree in their core curriculum.
- Marketing: Marketing focuses on promotion to help ensure a business's success and sustainability. Business administration careers that emphasize marketing skills also include roles in advertising and public relations. Students learn to assess consumer behavior, build brands and loyalty, and strategically market goods and services.
What Can You Do With a Business Administration Degree?
The business administration careers available to business administration majors largely depend on a professional's level of education. Most business, finance, and management jobs require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in a relevant field.
Business administration degrees also allow students to specialize in areas like accounting, analytics, marketing, or information systems. With an MBA degree, business professionals can further hone their skills and qualify for higher-level management roles upon graduation.
Business administration professionals can steer their careers by earning different credentials. For example, to apply for a bookkeeper position, an individual needs to earn a degree in accounting or a related field, like business administration. However, to work as a certified public accountant, a professional needs to obtain a CPA license and meet state requirements.
Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration
Bachelor's in business administration (BBA) graduates gain a broad, in-demand skill set that applies to many industries, including finance, technology, and healthcare. A BBA provides students with versatility, mobility, and room to grow professionally.
Business administration professionals possess the foundational knowledge and skills needed to adapt to changing markets and technologies in a dynamic economy. BBA graduates can transfer their skills to other fields and move when opportunities arise.
A BBA represents the entry-level education requirement for most business management and administration careers. The BLS projects faster-than-average employment growth for the business and financial sectors.
- Accountants and Auditors
Accountants prepare and examine financial documents, document financial transactions, and recommend financial actions after analyzing accounting options. Auditors review the financial records of an organization to ensure validity and accuracy. To work as an accountant or auditor, an individual needs a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field like business administration.
- Budget Analyst
Budget analysts help public and private institutions develop budgets after assessing the needs, costs, and risks of a project or program. They work closely with product and project managers, reviewing budget proposals for completeness, accuracy, and compliance.
- Cost Estimator
Cost estimators analyze data to determine the overall cost of a project, accounting for materials, labor, and time. These estimators typically specialize in a product or industry, such as automotive production or construction.
- Human Resource Specialists
Human resource specialists and managers develop policy and direct/coordinate the administrative functions and HR activities of an organization. Daily duties may involve hiring, screening, and recruiting new staff; addressing questions regarding compensation, benefits, training, and labor relations; and working on strategic planning. HR specialists typically need a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions.
Logisticians oversee the activities of a supply chain, including purchasing, transportation, inventory, and warehousing. They manage a product's entire lifecycle, working with software tailored to their industry. Daily duties often center on the logistical functions of the supply chain, such as procurement, inventory management, and delivery.
Master's Degree in Business Administration
With a professional business degree or an MBA, students gain a more comprehensive understanding of how businesses operate, as well as the skills and know-how needed to lead and manage.
A recent survey by the National Center for Education Statistics found that U.S. schools conferred the most master's degrees in business, outpacing education -- the runner-up -- by more than 25%.
While a BBA can help graduates launch their business administration careers, an MBA can help them advance professionally. MBA graduates leave business programs prepared to take on management roles with a skill set they can apply across industries.
- Information Technology Managers
Information technology managers oversee the computer-related activities of an organization, including the planning, coordination, and direction of IT goals and systems. They may work with hardware, software, and networks. IT managers often lead teams in the installation and maintenance of systems. Many organizations require these workers to hold a master's degree.
- Financial Manager
The primary task of financial managers involves monitoring the financial health of an organization. Typical duties include producing and reviewing financial reports, monitoring accounts, and preparing activity reports. They also direct investment activities and assess ways to help organizations achieve and improve profitability, including analyzing markets for opportunities and developing long-term strategies. Financial managers with a bachelor's degree must bring significant experience to the role, and many employers prefer candidates with a master's degree in business administration, finance, or accounting.
- Industrial Production Managers
Industrial production managers oversee the daily production of goods at manufacturing plants and related sites. Responsibilities may include coordinating, planning, and directing the use of workers and machines in the production process. This process may include performance reviews, quality assurance of products, and ensuring safety compliance. Hiring managers at larger plants often look for candidates who hold an MBA or an advanced degree in industrial management.
- Management Analysts
Management analysts help companies find ways to improve their efficiency of operations to drive down costs and increase revenues. Their daily duties may include conducting organizational studies and evaluations, designing systems and procedures, and conducting measurement studies. Management consultants or analysts can enter the field with a bachelor's degree, though some employers prefer candidates who hold an MBA.
- Top Executives
C-level executives make company-wide decisions. They direct, plan, and coordinate the activities of their organization and develop policies and strategies to help companies reach their goals. Top executives may possess a degree in business administration or a degree more targeted to their industry, such as a public administration degree. To work in the private sector, executives more commonly possess an MBA with a specialization in finance, entrepreneurship, operations, or business intelligence.
Doctoral Degree in Business Administration
A DBA serves as a terminal degree in business administration. Students who enroll in these programs continue to bolster their theoretical knowledge in business and business management by completing 3-6 additional years of school. Similar to an MBA, a DBA can lead to many lucrative career opportunities.
While a DBA prepares professionals to continue working in management, a Ph.D. in business administration qualifies graduates for roles like professors, researchers, and economists.
Ph.D. tracks differ from DBA programs in that they emphasize research, preparing graduates to contribute to modern business scholarship and work in academia. Some roles, like teaching at the university level, require applicants to hold a doctoral degree.
- Postsecondary Teachers
Professors prepare course materials and teach at universities and colleges. They lead lectures, seminars, workshops, field studies, and labs. They may also carry out independent research and engage in collaborative work with colleagues. Postsecondary teachers with a master's degree can sometimes find employment at the junior or community college level; however, to teach at a four-year institution, they need a Ph.D.
Economists study how society distributes resources. Professional economists conduct research and analyze the costs and benefits involved in the distribution and consumption of goods and services. Typical duties include monitoring economic trends; performing data analysis; and developing forecasts for variables like inflation, interest rates, business cycles, and a nation's employment levels. A doctorate can help economists stand apart from their peers.
What Industries Can You Work in With a Business Administration Degree?
Business administration graduates enter the job market with diverse, dynamic career options -- options that can increase as they gain more education and experience. A versatile business degree prepares graduates for opportunities many industries. A recent report by the Graduate Management Admission Council on hiring trends found that the consulting, energy and utilities, healthcare, and technology industries reported the strongest demand for new MBA graduates.
- Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services
This industry includes CPA firms and businesses that provide tax preparation and payroll services. Other services provided may include auditing, preparing financial statements, and designing accounting systems.
- Management of Companies and Enterprises
Businesses in this sector either manage companies or secure the financial assets of said companies. They may acquire a controlling interest in a company or wield the power to influence management decisions.
- Financial Services
The financial services industry includes the institutions and firms that provide finance-related services like money management, personal investment, and insurance. Banks, money markets, and stockbrokers also fall under financial services.
- Management Consulting
This sector offers advisory services to public and private organizations. Consultants assess operations and recommend plans of action with regards to organizational design, IT strategy, corporate strategy, sales, and marketing efforts.
Nonprofit organizations require the same leadership, direction, and consulting as for-profit enterprises.
How Do You Find a Job as a Business Administration Graduate?
While the BLS projects the business, finance, and management sectors to produce jobs at a faster-than-average rate, competition for these positions remains competitive given the popularity of the business major.
Among the various business fields, accounting employs the highest number of business graduates. Additionally, two occupations projected to grow even faster than the industry standard include financial analysts and loan officers, which the BLS projects to increase by 11% between 2016 and 2026.
Business students start building their networks at school and by joining student and professional organizations. Graduates can also look into leads provided by alumni associations, their local chambers of commerce, and organizations like LinkedIn or Business Network International -- a networking organization with more than 250,000 members and 9,000 chapters.
Professional Resources for Business Administration Majors
AACSB provides programmatic accreditation for business/accounting programs at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. This century-old accrediting body serves over 1,600 member organizations and 800 accredited business schools worldwide.
Founded over 30 years ago and recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, ACBSP aims to see that "every quality business program worldwide is accredited." The organization accredits business programs at all levels of postsecondary education, including the associate level.
Established in 1923, AMA provides organizations and individuals in management with tools and support to professionally grow and prosper. AMA offers five membership levels, including one for students at a discounted rate.
AMA connects marketing professionals across North America through 70 local chapters and 17 academic special interest groups. Members share ideas, knowledge, and experience in person and virtually. AMA offers certification, conferences and training, and career resources and tools for professional development.
Founded in 1887, AICPA serves more than 430,000 members in over 140 countries. The organization's members represent many areas of practice, including business and industry, government, and public accounting. AICPA offers several credentials and designations, including credentials in the financial forensics, information technology, and business valuation fields.
ABWA provides members with networking support, education and training, and a national voice to help them grow personally and in their chosen professions. The organization hosts over 5,000 business and networking meetings every year through its local chapters.
Established in 1980, AFP supports the professional development and growth of treasury and finance professionals. AFP administers two finance certifications: Certified Treasury Professional and Certified Corporate FP&A Professional credentials. Its annual networking conference hosts over 6,500 corporate finance professionals from around the world.
AAFA's member search firms specialize in the national recruitment and staffing of finance and accounting professionals. The alliance dates back to 1978 and includes over 40 metropolitan search firms based in the U.S. and Canada.
This professional association for business economists and others who use economics in their work celebrated its 60th year in 2019. Its members include applied economists, strategists, academics, and policymakers. NABE provides continuing education resources; conferences; networking; and access to industry surveys, roundtables, and the latest economic news and updates.
SHRM serves the professional development needs of more than 300,000 members, representing a combination of HR professionals and students. Members hail from dozens of industries, including services, manufacturing, healthcare, education, and technology. SHRM membership benefits include the opportunity to network with peers, earn professional recognition, and find a career partner.