Business management majors study topics such as general business principles, financial analysis, data analytics, organizational effectiveness, and strategic planning. The field offers jobs in finance, banking, and business administration, including positions at the executive and C-suite levels. This guide provides information about the various business management careers available to graduates of relevant accredited programs.
Why Pursue a Career in Business Management?
Enterprises and public-sector organizations continue to need capable professionals with business management degrees. From the perspectives of opportunity and earning potential, these degrees rank among the most versatile and valuable educational credentials a person can hold.
Those well-suited to careers in business management share several distinct characteristics. Sound analytical and decision-making skills are crucial, helping good business managers make confident decisions based on available information. Commitment, integrity, creativity, and an enduring willingness to work hard also bode well for those working toward business administration and business management careers.
Business Management Career Outlook
Graduates with a business management degree may qualify for many different careers and benefit from high levels of demand in virtually every industry. Business is a highly competitive field at the management and executive levels, but the sheer volume of opportunity offsets fierce competition for top jobs. Enterprises of all sizes and types need the expertise and leadership that strong, well-trained business managers provide.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that many management-related career paths will enjoy outstanding rates of growth in the coming years. For example, the BLS projects a 14% increase in management analyst positions between 2018 and 2028, which far outpaces the average projected growth for all occupations in the U.S. The following table offers further specifics, breaking down popular business management career paths by median earnings across a professional's career cycle.
|Human Resources Manager||$50,570||$59,290||$67,824||$72,656|
Skills Gained With a Business Management Degree
While business management curricula vary by school and education level, many programs cover similar skills and concepts. Typically, business management students learn to supervise employees, direct an organization's operations, evaluate performance, and reach organizational goals. While learners develop these skills in school, they can also hone their abilities after graduation through professional training programs and certifications. Below are some key business management skills.
Through programs in business administration and management, future managers develop the leadership skills they need to run departments and oversee teams. They study common leadership strategies and develop a unique leadership style. Business management programs teach students to set organizational goals, motivate teams, and manage change within a company.
Business managers need sound decision-making skills in order to steer organizations in the right direction. Business students learn to analyze situations, factor in important data and information, and make strategic decisions. They also learn to consider the moral and ethical ramifications of decisions.
- Personnel Management
Business management professionals, especially those who specialize in training and development, need to foster collaboration in the workplace. Business administration programs often cover strategies for supervising personnel, motivating employees, and assembling effective teams. Additionally, programs teach students the basics of human resource management and development.
- Analytical Skills
Professionals in many business management careers must analyze situations and craft solutions. Marketing managers may need to develop strategies based on consumer trends, while information technology professionals must analyze technology issues. Business management programs help learners develop the problem-solving abilities necessary to approach a variety of business scenarios.
- Communication Skills
Business management students learn to effectively convey ideas verbally and through visual presentations. Business administration programs often include courses on business writing and public speaking. Many business professionals meet individually with clients, participate in conference calls, and attend large meetings.
Business Management Career Paths
Since business management is such a broad field, many students pursue a concentration aligned with their career goals. Earning a career-specific concentration can help graduates impress employers and land specialized positions. Students may focus on an area such as project management, nonprofit management, or human resource management. Learners interested in working at an investment bank or insurance company can also pursue a concentration in financial management. The list below features some common career paths.
Students who specialize in finance may find work in corporations such as banks, lending institutions, and other financial services companies. A finance concentration generally includes classes on financial markets, investments, and corporate finance. Learners may also pursue career possibilities in venture capital and private equity.
Business management majors who focus on marketing learn to effectively promote products and services through product design, pricing, advertising campaigns, and social media strategies. Managers concentrating in marketing build market research skills related to consumer behavior and sales forecasting. Graduates with a marketing specialization often pursue careers in independent marketing companies and corporate marketing departments.
- Global Business
Careers in global business integrate many aspects of business -- including finance, marketing, communication, and leadership -- from an international perspective. Students learn to negotiate with foreign companies and suppliers, lead culturally diverse teams, and strategize for multinational companies. International business managers may also specialize in global monetary policies and emerging markets.
Business students planning to build a new business venture, work at a startup, or manage a small business often benefit from concentrating in entrepreneurship. Through entrepreneurship classes, aspiring business owners learn to draft business plans, obtain funding, and chart their own career paths by turning ideas into successful enterprises.
How to Start Your Career in Business Management
By definition, the field of business management positions professionals for leadership and executive roles. Thus, while some people manage to achieve success by earning a bachelor's degree and then working hard to advance their skills and gain experience, others increasingly opt to earn an advanced degree. With fierce competition in hiring, holding a credential like an MBA degree often functions as a differentiating factor in the eyes of employers.
Practicing professionals with bachelor's degrees often find their advancement potential maxes out at mid-level management positions. Thus, many elect to return to school to upgrade to an MBA or another advanced degree to qualify for better, more lucrative, and more challenging roles and opportunities.
Associate Degree in Business Management
Associate degrees in business management qualify graduates for entry-level administrative positions. Typically, associate degree-holders find positions as administrative assistants, executive assistants, food service managers, and office clerks. Graduates may also work as bookkeepers, office managers, and HR employees. Professionals usually need to gain experience and/or pursue additional education to advance to a mid-level position.
These degrees take approximately two years to complete and require about 60 credits. Associate in business management programs include general education classes in topics such as history, English, and social science. Learners also take business classes in areas including economics, accounting, and communication.
What Can You Do With an Associate in Business Management?
- Administrative Assistant
These assistants perform administrative and clerical tasks, including answering phones, organizing meetings, filing documents, and managing schedules. Executive assistants, who often need a college degree, support senior managers and typically hold more responsibility than other administrative assistants. While some companies hire high school graduates, many employers prefer hiring administrative assistants who hold a postsecondary degree.
- Office Manager
Aspiring office managers may only need a high school diploma, but some employers require these professionals to hold a degree in business or management. Office managers maintain records, manage office facilities, and coordinate operations between departments. They need excellent communication, managerial, and problem-solving abilities.
- Food Service Manager
While some food service manager positions require only a high school diploma and years of service industry experience, many positions require some level of college education. Food service managers oversee operations in establishments such as restaurants and hotels. They supervise employees, manage budgets, order supplies and ingredients, and ensure that the establishment complies with regulations.
Sources: BLS and PayScale
Bachelor's Degree in Business Management
A bachelor's degree in business management offers significant advantages over an associate degree in the field. Bachelor's degree-holders may pursue a variety of entry-level jobs in business and finance, including roles as financial analysts, human resources specialists, and management consultants.
After a few years on the job, bachelor's degree-holders can advance into management positions, which include more responsibility and require professionals to supervise other employees. Bachelor's programs in business management help learners develop a broadly applicable skill set; however, some programs also allow students to specialize in a specific career area. The table below describes a few common bachelor's degree in business management careers.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Business Management?
- Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Manager
These management professionals work in advertising agencies, public relations firms, and corporate marketing departments. They coordinate campaigns that promote products. Their job responsibilities include conducting market research, developing strategies, and coordinating with other departments. These managers usually possess prior experience in advertising, marketing, and/or sales.
- Management Consultant
Management consultants advise organizations on ways to increase efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Most management analysts work for large consulting firms that serve many client companies. Consultants collect information, analyze financial documents, and propose solutions to managers. A bachelor's degree typically qualifies individuals for consulting jobs, although some employers may prefer candidates with a master's degree.
- Financial Analyst
Financial analysts need a bachelor's degree related to accounting, economics, finance, or business. These professionals help individuals and organizations decide how to invest assets. Their daily responsibilities often include analyzing market trends, examining financial statements, and meeting with corporate executives.
- Sales Manager
Employers typically hire sales managers who hold a bachelor's degree and 1-5 years of sales experience. Sales managers supervise sales teams, train new salespeople, evaluate employees, and determine sales goals. They may work for companies that sell products to other businesses or for companies that sell directly to consumers.
Accountants typically need a bachelor's degree in accounting or a similar field. These business professionals prepare and analyze financial documents for individuals, government agencies, and corporations. Management accountants, sometimes called cost accountants, help business managers oversee budgets, cut costs, choose investments, and understand the organization's overall financial situation.
Master's Degree in Business Management
Earning a master's degree in business management can lead to high-level leadership positions in various fields. A graduate degree demonstrates expertise in management and leadership strategy and helps low-level and mid-level professionals assume more responsibility in their organizations.
Students considering a graduate degree should understand the differences between available business programs. Master's programs in organizational management teach students to manage change and corporate culture. Alternatively, learners can also pursue a master's in management or an MBA. Prospective master's students can review the business management careers list below to learn about job possibilities.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Business Management?
- Training and Development Manager
Some employers require training and development managers to hold a master's in business with a concentration in human resources management, training and development, or organizational development. These professionals design, plan, and oversee programs that help employees develop professional skills. They evaluate workers, supervise instructors, and assess training programs.
- Top Executive
Top executives can work at large and small organizations in almost any industry. They develop big-picture goals and strategies for their organization or department. Their daily duties include meeting with important clients, analyzing financial statements, and consulting with other senior managers. Executives often hold an MBA or a similar graduate degree.
- Public Relations and Fundraising Manager
Public relations managers work for PR firms and departments, where they maintain and improve an organization's reputation and image. Fundraising managers help secure donations by developing strategies, applying for grants, and meeting with donors. Managers in this field generally need a bachelor's or master's degree and at least five years of experience.
- Human Resources Manager
Human resources managers oversee HR departments that recruit, interview, hire, and train new employees. They also confer with top executives to determine hiring strategies. Additionally, human resources managers may arrange professional training events. These professionals need at least a bachelor's degree, and some high-level positions require a graduate education.
Doctorate Degree in Business Management
A doctoral degree in business is the highest level of education in the field. While many doctoral students first earn a master's degree, some students can transition directly from a bachelor's program into a doctoral program. A doctorate in business management demonstrates advanced mastery of business management theory and/or practice.
There are a few main types of business doctoral degrees. A Ph.D. program in business focuses heavily on research and requires extensive independent study and a dissertation. Ph.D. students typically plan to work in academia or another research-intensive field, and graduates often become professors or secure government positions. Alternatively, students interested in the practical side of business can pursue a doctor of management or a doctor of business administration. The table below details a few business management careers and salaries for doctoral degree-holders.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Business Management?
- Postsecondary Business Teacher
Higher education institutions typically require professors to hold a doctorate. Professors with a doctoral degree in business management often teach business administration or management classes. These educators design lesson plans, deliver lectures, and attend conferences. They may also conduct research in their field.
Economists can work for the federal government; state and local governments; and private, research-focused organizations. Many also work for finance and insurance companies. These professionals research economic problems, gather data, and analyze information. They examine current economic conditions to advise businesses, governments, and individuals. Economists typically need a master's or doctoral degree.
- Postsecondary Education Administrator
Some college professors take on more responsibilities by becoming postsecondary education administrators. Academic deans, provosts, and department chairs coordinate faculty research, manage budgets, and participate in hiring decisions. Business professors may run undergraduate business departments or graduate management schools.
How to Advance Your Career in Business Management
Accumulating knowledge by gaining practical experience is probably the single best way to advance your career in business management. As the salary table in the preceding section notes, typical earnings rise dramatically in the later stages of a professional's working life.
However, there are several other steps you can take if you want to accelerate your growth potential. These include pursuing continuing education courses and obtaining optional certifications from respected professional organizations and business schools. Networking and building personal relationships can also help you get ahead and advance your career.
Certifications and/or Licensure
Of the many available careers for a business management major, few require formal licenses. Accounting paths represent one notable exception. Many types of accountants -- including certified public accountants and certified management accountants -- require licenses to practice their professions.
More commonly, business management specialists elect to pursue optional certifications from professional organizations and other institutions. The CBM (certified business manager) designation offers a useful example. Offered through institutions with specialized accreditation, this certification signals elite operational management skills. Many MBA programs also build the CBM and/or other professional certifications into their curricula, enabling learners to save time and money while diversifying their academic qualifications.
Established business management professionals can advance their careers through continuing education in multiple ways. Two common options include upgrading your degree and completing an undergraduate or graduate certificate program.
A degree upgrade most readily applies to those who hold bachelor's degrees but find themselves bumping up against the ceiling of their current career potential. In such cases, returning to school to get an MBA represents the clearest and most direct path to breaking the barriers to landing higher-paid and more prestigious positions with greater levels of responsibility.
Certificate programs, sometimes configured as "professional programs," represent another alternative. They take less time to complete than degrees, and they also tend to cost a lot less money. Thus, these options may appeal to those who want to learn new skills and boost their academic qualifications without leaving their current positions. Increasingly, business schools offer part-time and online MBA programs that deliver similar benefits, delivering valuable flexibility that makes it possible to earn a marketable and upgraded degree without putting your career on hold.
In addition to continuing education programs and optional certifications, emerging and established individuals can take advantage of professional organizations and other networking opportunities to advance themselves. Networking is crucial for career development in most business careers, and building your personal and professional networks is a good way to invest your time.
Students may qualify for discounted or even free membership to business-oriented professional organizations. Examples of organizations that specialize in management-related fields include the American Management Association and the Association of Business Process Management Professionals International.
How to Switch Your Career to Business Management
Switching your career to business management will likely necessitate a trip back to school unless you already possess a degree in business administration, management, finance, economics, or a similar area. Business is highly competitive by design, and professionals in management positions need authoritative credentials and specialized knowledge.
If you already hold a four-year bachelor's degree but did not major in business, you can accelerate your transition by seeking out an MBA program that does not require an existing business degree. Many reputable business schools open their MBA tracks to applicants of all academic backgrounds. Otherwise, you can start your transition by obtaining a bachelor's degree in business management or business administration.
Where Can You Work as a Business Management Professional?
Nearly all industries need talented and skilled managers who can direct operations, supervise employees, and develop business strategies. Business management graduates find work in small and large enterprises in fields including healthcare, real estate, publishing, and banking. Additionally, organizations in the nonprofit and government sectors employ managers who can properly allocate funds, manage finances, and motivate employees. Generally, business management professionals with advanced degrees enjoy greater career flexibility.
- Management of Companies and Enterprises
This broad industry encompasses professionals who direct operations in a variety of businesses. The responsibilities of business managers depend on the type of company they work for.
- Management Consulting
Management consulting firms help client organizations improve efficiency and enhance management strategy. Managers in this field may meet with clients and lead teams of management analysts.
- Financial Services
Financial services firms include banks, investment firms, insurance companies, and lending organizations. Business management graduates who work in finance may oversee a team, department, or entire company.
Nonprofit organizations focus on promoting a cause rather than making a profit. Managers oversee operations involving raising money, awarding grants, and increasing awareness about particular issues.
- Advertising, Public Relations, and Marketing
Managers in the advertising and marketing industries plan campaigns that promote services and products. Public relations managers oversee teams that protect an organization's image and reputation.
Interview With a Professional in Business Management
Nick Ducoff is the co-founder and CEO of Edmit, the SXSW EDU award-winning company helping families make smarter college financial decisions.
Nick has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, which described Edmit as "a website that predicts aid packages and provides advice on the value of different colleges." Previously, Nick was a vice president at Northeastern University, a founder/executive at two startups that were both acquired, and an attorney. He received his JD with honors from the University of Texas and his BBA from Emory University.
- Why did you decide to pursue a degree and a career in business management? Was it something you were always interested in?
One of my grandparents was a businessman and another was a lawyer. I wasn't sure which I wanted to be, so I sought foundations in both. I applied to colleges with undergraduate business programs and planned to attend law school after graduating.
- What did your career path look like after graduating? How did you end up where you are now?
I attended law school after college but found law school wasn't really for me. The dean of the law school (Bill Powers, who became president of the University of Texas at Austin) and my dad encouraged me to stick it out, which I'm glad I did.
I graduated with honors and then practiced law at a big firm, where I was able to marry my interests in business and law, working with startups and venture capital firms. I got the entrepreneurial bug and left a very lucrative and rewarding law firm to start my first company. That company was acquired, as was another startup I did after that.
I was recruited to lead new ventures at Northeastern University, where I started the first university coding bootcamp in data analytics. I saw how students struggled to understand how to evaluate the return on investment of their education, so after three and a half years as vice president at Northeastern, I started another company, which I'm now the CEO of, called Edmit. This company helps families make smarter college choices.
- What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your work? And challenging?
I love making a positive impact on people's lives, so the past seven years in higher education have been very rewarding. One customer recently said, "You gave me a lot of hope and confidence for my current financial dilemma." We hear feedback like that every day, which is awesome. The work is also very challenging, but if it wasn't, it wouldn't be as much fun.
- What advice would you give to students considering a career in business management?
According to the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, business majors are among the highest paying, leading to average annual wages of $37,000 or more at the entry level and an average of $65,000 or more annually over the course of a career. Obviously, money isn't the only reason to choose a major, but if career earnings are important to you, business, STEM, or health majors might be a good choice. A business major is also very versatile.
- What would you say are some of the most important skills required to work in a business management position?
The concrete skills you'll get from a business degree, such as accounting or finance, might not be as important as the soft skills you'll pick up from your group projects, such as negotiation, time management, and teamwork, according to an article by Monster.
- Any last thoughts for us?
When you're ready to start your first company or if you're looking for a job at a startup, look me up and I'd be happy to help!
Resources for Business Management Majors
The following professional and educational resources offer a wealth of information to aspiring and emerging business managers. They include professional organizations that host networking events, free open courseware to improve your knowledge base, and publications to help you stay up to date in the fast-paced business world.
- Professional Organizations
Association for Financial Professionals: AFP advocates for and provides resources to professionals in treasury and finance. The association offers virtual career development seminars, a career center, and publications that help members stay up to date on the developments in the profession. Members can also network with nearly 7,000 corporate finance workers at an annual conference.
American Management Association: AMA is dedicated to helping business managers advance their careers. The association provides professional training in 25 areas, including leadership, analytics, project management, HR management, and information technology management. Through AMA, business management graduates can access newsletters, articles, webcasts, whitepapers, and skill assessments.
American Business Women's Association: Founded in 1949, this organization supports businesswomen through continuing education and networking opportunities. Members benefit from more than 5,000 annual networking meetings in cities throughout the country. The association also offers a job board and resources on topics such as resume writing.
Project Management Institute: In addition to certifications, PMI offers professional resources such as a job board. Members can also access online courses, a podcast, webinars, and three project management industry publications. The institute hosts a global conference and other events throughout the year.
Association for Talent Development: ATD hosts a job board where members can post openings and look for new positions. The organization also posts members-only articles that help talent development professionals build new skills and advance their careers. Business management students and graduates can attend one of ATD's many workshops and networking conferences.
Society for Human Resource Management: SHRM offers resources that help HR students and graduates plan and develop their careers. The association also operates a job board and delivers continuing education programs -- both online and in person. SHRM hosts a general conference and events focused on topics such as employment law and inclusion.
American Marketing Association: AMA provides marketing professionals with information about trends in the industry, job search strategies, resume-writing techniques, and networking tips. The organization also maintains job boards for marketing professionals and academics. Management graduates can advance their careers by earning the AMA's professional certified marketer certification.
Sales Management Association: This organization supports professionals in sales leadership, sales operations, and other sales-focused positions. Members receive access to a job board, a member directory, courses, and research reports. The organization also hosts a Sales Force Productivity Conference and a Sales Thought Leadership Conference.
American Advertising Federation: The AAF serves advertising professionals of all experience levels. The organization boasts a student membership option that helps college students look for internships and jobs and receive advice from advertising professionals. The AAF also operates a job bank where students can post resumes, look for positions, and sign up for job alerts.
- Open Courseware
Applied Macro- and International Economics - Massachusetts Institute of Technology: This course, hosted by one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, uses case studies to explore applied macroeconomics. As of July 2020, the course includes two modules; you can continue to enrich your knowledge by taking a second free course.
Leadership Development - Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Using a seminar format, this free online course helps learners develop and expand their leadership abilities and potential. Oriented around teamwork, the class prompts students to understand the principles of effective leadership. In their final project, learners develop and receive feedback on personal leadership development plans.
Introduction to Corporate Finance - Columbia University: This free, survey-style class is suitable for people interested in learning the basics of corporate finance. It may also appeal to self-motivated investors seeking to inform and improve their opportunity evaluation strategies.
Becoming an Effective Leader - The University of Queensland: In this class, students examine leadership theories and learn to identify various leadership styles. Participants also learn to become ethical leaders capable of inspiring others.
Journal of Management: Founded in 1975, this peer-reviewed academic journal hosts informative articles and the latest research studies looking into various aspects of management, business leadership, and entrepreneurship. It also covers emerging insights in the field of industrial and organizational psychology, which many successful business management professionals apply to their work.
Academy of Management Journal: Another peer-reviewed academic journal, this periodical has been a mainstay of the scholastic world since 1958. It holds a relatively high impact factor -- a metric used to trace the reach and visibility of scholarly publications. The journal also ranks among the 50 publications the Financial Times uses to compile its annual authoritative list of the best business schools.
Fortune: Headquartered in New York and tracing its history to 1929, Fortune ranks as one of the most iconic and high-profile business publications in the world. This magazine combines popular appeal with insightful information and deep dives into the inner machinations of the international business community. It places a strong focus on entrepreneurship and personal success.
Business Insider: Since its 2007 founding, Business Insider has quickly become one of the most authoritative sources of business news, information, and commentary on the internet. A digital publication, Business Insider publishes an American edition in English and multiple international editions in various languages. It also maintains affiliations with several sister sites, including Tech Insider and Markets Insider, which track developments in the technology industry and global financial markets.
Journal of International Management: Designed for a readership that includes business educators, scholars, and working professionals, this journal focuses on global issues affecting the business community. Examples of topic areas include cross-cultural business and management strategies, organizational behavior, and human resource concerns for companies that operate across borders.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is business management a good major?
With a business management degree, you can pursue many well-paid, challenging careers. Companies in practically every industry constantly seek out qualified individuals with this educational background. In terms of earning potential and return on investment, business management is one of the best majors out there.
- What is the average salary for a business management degree?
Given the breadth of available careers for a business management major, it is difficult to generalize typical salaries; this degree may qualify you for many different roles with varying pay rates. However, the BLS reports that the median annual wage for business and financial professionals is almost $70,000.
- What you can do with a business management degree?
With a business management degree, you can follow job paths that lead into leadership and executive roles at companies of all sizes. As a less conventional alternative, you could also opt for self-employment and work as a business advisor, analyst, or consultant. Many people with business management degrees also pursue careers in human resources.
- How do you start a career in business management?
Proven methods of launching a career in business management include earning a specialized degree, either specifically in the field of business management or in a closely related area, such as finance, business administration, or economics. Many programs include practica, field placements, and/or internships, allowing you to showcase your skills, build your network, and qualify for entry-level positions.