Most business administration careers require a college degree that emphasizes accounting or finance. You can learn more about these degrees in this guide, as well as common careers for business administration majors. Other sections cover continuing education opportunities, career resources, and answers to frequently asked questions.
Why Pursue a Career in Business Administration?
Business administration careers need professionals who can think analytically, lead teams, and perform research. Although most academic programs help learners to develop and hone these traits, individuals should also have a passion for using them to complete tasks and solve problems on the job.
A business administration degree allows graduates to work in nearly any private industry -- companies and organizations require business professionals who can help them succeed financially. As a result, business administrators can look for a field that aligns with their expertise and passion.
Business Administration Career Outlook
Jobs in business administration include positions where workers help companies and organizations meet financial goals. The median salaries for these careers typically range from $50,000-$90,000 per year. Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for these professionals to grow by 7% from 2018-2028, which is higher than the projected growth for all careers in the United States.
The following salary table reflects the median annual salaries for four typical business administration careers, as well as how a worker's salary potential increases over time.
|Certified Public Accountant||$52,790||$58,470||$69,870||$82,200|
|Human Resources Manager||$50,680||$59,310||$67,890||$72,740|
Skills Gained With a Business Administration Degree
Students in business administration programs study the fundamentals of business and 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 leadership skills, including analytical, communication, and problem-solving abilities. For many business administration career paths, learning does not end at the college level but continues through certification and personal/professional development.
Analytical skills support sound decision-making and problem-solving. 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. 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 in their 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 must be able 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, reading others, and written communication.
Business Administration Career Paths
Along with factors like program cost and length, on-campus requirements, and accreditation, students should weigh available concentrations or specialties and how these options may affect their available career paths. Many students -- even at the undergraduate level -- tend to know the business administration careers they want to pursue.
To prepare for their target career, a student should select a concentration that matches their professional aspirations. Check out the following list of specialties, which contains traditional and modern business career pathways.
This path covers the financial aspects of business, including financial statements, transactions, and the reconciliation of accounts. In addition to financial accounting, enrollees also study auditing, cost accounting, managerial accounting, and tax accounting.
- Computer Information Systems
Learners explore the technical and business sides of management information systems to prepare for this career path. Given that computer and information systems managers typically need graduate degrees and basic business proficiency, master of business administration (MBA) degrees with a concentration in computer information systems may be an especially sensible choice for this field.
With a focus on investments, raising capital, and managing risk, finance is one of the core functional areas of business, and business administration students already study this topic to some degree in their core curriculum.
Marketing focuses on promotion to help ensure an organization'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 brand loyalty, and strategically market goods and services.
How to Start Your Career in Business Administration
According to the BLS, most business administration careers require candidates to possess a bachelor's degree. This four-year degree provides you with foundational business knowledge, as well as transferable skills that you develop in general education courses. As a result, you can switch jobs if you decide that a career in business administration does not match your personality.
As you gain experience in an entry-level job, you may realize that professional advancement requires an advanced degree, such as an MBA. Your employer may restrict management-level positions to employees who possess this degree; however, some companies pay for workers to return to school and earn their master's degrees.
Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration
Bachelor's in business administration (BBA) graduates gain a broad, in-demand skill set that applies to finance, technology, healthcare, and other fields. A BBA provides students with versatility, mobility, and room for professional growth.
Business administration students develop the foundational knowledge and skills needed to adapt to changing markets and technologies in a dynamic economy. BBA graduates can also transfer their skills to other fields, should the opportunity arise.
A BBA fulfills the entry-level education requirement for many business management and administration careers. Additionally, the BLS projects above-average employment growth for the business and financial sectors.
What Can You Do With an Bachelor's in Business Administration?
- Accountant and Auditor
Accountants prepare and examine financial documents, document financial transactions, and recommend financial actions after analyzing accounting options. Auditors review organizations' financial records to ensure validity and accuracy. To work as an accountant or auditor, each candidate 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 a project or program's needs, costs, and risks. They work closely with product and project managers, reviewing budget proposals for completeness, accuracy, and compliance.
- Cost Estimator
These professionals analyze data to determine the overall cost of a project, accounting for materials, labor, and time. Estimators typically specialize in a product or industry, such as automotive production or construction.
- Human Resource Specialist
Human resource specialists and managers develop policy and direct/coordinate organizations' administrative functions and HR activities. Daily duties may involve hiring, screening, and recruiting new staff; addressing questions regarding compensation, benefits, training, and labor relations; and working on strategic planning. An HR specialist typically needs 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 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
While earning a professional business degree or MBA, students develop a 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 BBAs can help graduates launch their business administration careers, MBAs help them continue to advance professionally. MBA graduates leave business programs prepared to take on management roles across industries.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Business Administration?
- Information Technology Manager
Information technology managers oversee the computer-related activities of an organization, including the planning, coordination, and direction of IT goals and systems. They work with hardware, software, and networks, often leading teams in the installation and maintenance of these systems. Many organizations require these workers to hold master's degrees.
- Financial Manager
These managers monitor 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 bachelor's degrees must bring significant experience to the role, and many employers prefer candidates with master's degrees in business administration, finance, or accounting.
- Industrial Production Manager
Industrial production managers oversee the daily production of goods at manufacturing plants and related sites. Responsibilities include coordinating, planning, and directing the use of workers and machines in the production process. These managers also deal with performance reviews, quality assurance, and safety compliance. Hiring managers at larger plants often look for candidates who hold MBAs or advanced degrees in industrial management.
- Management Analyst
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. These analysts can enter the field with bachelor's degrees, though some employers prefer candidates who hold MBAs.
- Top Executive
C-level executives make company-wide decisions. They direct, plan, and coordinate their organizations' activities, developing policies and strategies to reach their goals. A top executive 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, an executive commonly holds an MBA with a specialization in finance, entrepreneurship, operations, or business intelligence.
Doctorate Degree in Business Administration
A doctor of business administration (DBA) serves as a terminal degree in the field. Students who enroll in these programs continue to bolster their theoretical knowledge related to business and business management by completing 3-6 additional years of education. 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 doctoral degrees.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Business Administration?
- Postsecondary Teacher
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 master's degrees can sometimes find employment at the junior or community college levels. However, to teach at a four-year institution, professionals typically need a Ph.D.
Economists study how societies distribute resources. Professional economists conduct research and analyze the costs and benefits 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 an economist stand apart from their peers.
How to Advance Your Career in Business Administration
Once you attain your first business administration career, you can research ways to improve your job and salary potential. This process may include enrolling in a master's program, completing continuing education courses, and/or earning a professional certification. You may need to complete additional steps, depending on your career goals and your employer's requirements.
The following sections highlight different ways to make the most of a career with a business administration degree.
Certifications and/or Licensure
Business administrators do not typically need a license if they find a job at an existing company. However, a professional who wants to start their own business needs a license in their home state. Business owners must renew their licenses annually, which requires a fee.
Although a license may not be necessary, many workers pursue optional professional certifications to advance within their career. For example, the Project Management Institute (PMI) offers nine industry certifications, including project management professional and portfolio management professional credentials. PMI certifies candidates who pass a rigorous exam and meet other prerequisites, such as possessing a bachelor's degree or professional experience.
Professionals can pursue industrial certification programs, continuing education opportunities, and university certificates to continue learning relevant skills. Many universities offer online certificates, which allow professionals to take part in continuing education without pausing their careers.
Typical continuing education programs charge a fee, but some schools may provide some continuing education courses at no cost. Both edX and Coursera have popular business administration courses, many of which were developed by professors at top universities.
Some professionals may discover that the only way to advance their career in business administration involves earning a master's degree. If this is the case, they should see if their employer offers a tuition-reimbursement plan.
As professionals explore online continuing education opportunities, they may wonder which options align with their current job and career goals. Before paying for a course, they should consult with a supervisor to determine which classes might benefit their current role. This conversation can also signal to employers that an employee values lifelong learning and wants to improve their skills.
As professionals complete continuing education opportunities and gain experience, they should keep looking for new ways to ensure professional success. One of the most important ways to do this involves networking with peers. Forming relationships with like-minded individuals can lead to a new job or raise. Workers can also join a professional organization, like the American Management Association or the International Association of Administrative Professionals.
How to Switch Your Career to Business Administration
Professionals in other fields may consider switching to a career in business administration. Bachelor's degrees that are closely related to business administration include marketing, entrepreneurship, international business, and project management.
If someone does not possess a bachelor's degree in one of these fields, they can still transition into a business administration career by earning a certification, certificate, or master's degree. Many reputable universities offer online MBA programs for non-business professionals; these programs generally take about 24 months and may involve some synchronous coursework.
Where Can You Work as a Business Administration Professional?
Business administration graduates enter the job market with many career options, which tend to increase as a worker gains more education and/or experience. A versatile business degree prepares graduates for opportunities in 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 have 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 include auditing, preparing financial statements, and designing accounting systems.
- Management of Companies and Enterprises
Businesses in this sector manage companies or secure their financial assets. They may acquire a controlling interest in a business or influence management decisions.
- Financial Services
The financial services industry includes the institutions and firms that provide services like money management, personal investment, and insurance. Banks, money markets, and stockbrokers also fall under the financial services umbrella.
- Management Consulting
This sector offers advisory services to public and private organizations. Consultants assess operations and recommend plans of action regarding organizational design, IT strategy, corporate strategy, sales, and marketing efforts.
Nonprofit organizations require similar leadership, direction, and consulting roles as for-profit enterprises.
Interview With a Business Professional
Click here to learn about a BA in business administration graduate who works as a talent acquisitions professional.
Resources for Business Administration Majors
Business administration majors can take advantage of many resources to prepare for success in their coursework and future careers. The following sections cover popular professional organizations, open courseware, and publications.
- Professional Organizations
Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business: AACSB provides programmatic accreditation for business and 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.
Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs: 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.
American Management Association: 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 a discounted student tier.
American Marketing Association: AMA connects marketing professionals across North America through 70 local chapters and 17 academic groups. Members share ideas, knowledge, and experience in person and virtually. AMA offers certification, conferences, training, and career resources and tools for professional development.
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants: 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.
American Business Women's Association: 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.
Association for Financial Professionals: 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 financial planning and analysis professional. Its annual networking conference hosts over 6,500 corporate finance professionals from around the world.
American Association of Finance and Accounting: This association's member search firms specialize in recruiting and staffing finance and accounting professionals. The alliance dates back to 1978 and includes over 40 metropolitan search firms based in the U.S. and Canada.
National Association for Business Economics: This professional association for business economists and others who use economics 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.
Society for Human Resource Management: 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.
- Open Courseware
Digital Marketing - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: This introductory course emphasizes digital marketing, product strategies, and marketing analytics fundamentals. Enrollees have the opportunity to complete an applied learning project with a top online internet retailer. Additionally, curriculum outcomes include the ability to create and promote digital services to a broad audience.
Competitive Strategy and Organization Design - Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen: Prospective students interested in strategic thinking, pricing, and game theory can enroll in this class. Covered topics include organizational behavior and how to create a customer base. The course pairs learners with partner companies to gain practical experience through online learning.
Project Management and Other Tools for Career Development - University of California, Irvine: This course prepares students for careers in business administration with topics in project planning, change control, and risk management. Learning outcomes include the ability to allocate project resources and collaborate with peers through writing. Additionally, nearly 40% of learners who complete the course start new careers.
Internet Giants: The Law and Economics of Media Platforms - University of Chicago: Students learn how the law and technology interact, and coursework focuses on incidents when Microsoft and Google violated U.S. and international laws. Other coursework involves smartphones' influence on privacy and internet neutrality. The course takes approximately 46 hours to complete, and learners can turn in assignments on a flexible schedule.
The Wall Street Journal: The Wall Street Journal delivers business news to millions of readers each day. This newspaper features sections on corporate news, technology, media, investing, and personal finance. Additionally, The Wall Street Journal's Tuesday-Thursday editions feature information on new careers in business administration.
The Economist: Since 1843, The Economist has published a weekly magazine that focuses on current affairs, international business, and politics. This publication takes a politically centrist stance on most issues and may appeal to college-educated readers working in the business field. Each issue of The Economist includes an in-depth look at a topical issue, such as how technological development affects the financial world.
Bloomberg Businessweek: Originally BusinessWeek, this publication dates back to the stock market crash of 1929. The magazine and its online counterpart cover major news headlines, financial trends, and special sections, such as how small businesses can survive during an economic downturn.
Ad Age: Ad Age is a useful resource for aspiring and current advertising professionals. It reports on the latest trends and developments in the advertising field. Free articles explore how companies attract new customers through innovative advertising campaigns. Ad Age also highlights international brands and how they reach customers in different countries.
Forbes: A biweekly American business magazine, Forbes educates readers on the latest investing, marketing, and financial news. The magazine is published in 27 languages.
Harvard Business Review: The Harvard Business Review's articles may appeal to business professionals in all fields. The magazine and its companion website cover topics such as working from home, how businesses respond to global crises, and advice from top business leaders. Readers can also subscribe to the magazine's free podcast.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is business administration a good major?
Business administration is a well-paying, in-demand field. Additionally, a business administration degree conveys many transferable skills that graduates can use in other career paths.
- What is the average salary for a worker with a business administration degree?
According to the BLS, the Salary for workers in business and financial operations occupations is about $70,000. However, salaries vary throughout the United States, as the cost of living differs in each state. Also, more experienced business administrators -- including those with advanced degrees or multiple certifications -- can earn significantly more.
- What can you do with a business administration degree?
A business administration degree gives graduates the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in many different business settings. They can also expand their potential career opportunities by completing a complementary minor or a second major. This allows them to learn in-demand business skills and insider knowledge of a different field.
- How do you start a career in business administration?
In addition to earning a business degree, an individual can prepare for careers in business administration by completing one or more college internships. Internships convey in-demand skills and allow students to network with managers and other business professionals. A successful internship and excellent grades can help degree-seekers attain attractive entry-level careers.