According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. currently hosts more than 30 million small businesses and 59 million employees of small businesses. Within the first quarter of 2018, U.S. small businesses added approximately 1.9 million new jobs to the economy.

In addition to friendly economic and tax policies favoring entrepreneurial ventures, more colleges now offer small business degrees that help students gain necessary knowledge and skills for the future. Keep reading to learn about what it takes to earn an associate degree in small business management, how the program prepares graduates for their careers, and where to find support throughout the process.

Should I Get an Associate in Small Business?

When deciding whether to earn an associate degree in small business management, degree seekers must weigh options to find their perfect program. One significant consideration includes coursework delivery format. While online programs generally appeal to working professionals, campus-based programs often attract recent high school graduates seeking the traditional college experience of living in dorms, interacting with peers and professors in person, and participating in student clubs.

Regardless of the delivery method, all small business associate degrees help students develop the skills necessary to start and successfully run an entrepreneurial venture of their own. Basic knowledge includes financial management, accounting, leadership, marketing, and business law. Many students also participate in an internship component.

Graduates of associate degree in small business management programs derive value both while attending and after leaving school. In addition to networking events, many schools also bring in successful small business owners to talk about their experiences and allow students to ask questions. As learners move closer to graduation, the career services center can help students find necessary resources for launching their first venture, including local mentors, information about raising funds, and how to complete due diligence for an idea.

What Can I Do With an Associate in Small Business?

A small business associate degree helps with more than enabling a graduate to start their own business. These individuals can translate the skills and knowledge gained in school to many different career options. The careers listed below help students think outside the box in terms of using their degrees for employment.

Financial Clerk

Working in any type of organization with a financial component, financial clerks manage records, handle bills, create invoices, assist customers, and help complete financial transactions for their company. They may also offer additional clerical support to other employees, depending on the company.

Median Annual Salary: $38,680*


Receptionists serve as the first point of call for any customer or client visiting the company's office. These professionals often answer and direct phone calls, organize appointments, welcome visitors to the office, oversee any parking and/or transportation needs, maintain a visitor log, and manage organizational processes.

Median Annual Salary: $28,390*

Customer Service Representative

Working either over the phone or on a company's website, these professionals interact with customers to help understand their needs, address any problems, connect them with the relevant party, and oversee any complaints. Customer service representatives also maintain records of their interactions for reference at a later date.

Median Annual Salary: $32,890*

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Choose an Associate in Small Business Program

Associate in small business programs grew in number over the last two decades, providing students with a variety of education options. When looking for the best program, many factors affect the decision. While most full-time associate degree in small business entrepreneurship programs require 60 credits -- which translates to about two years of study -- some also provide part-time options for students juggling personal and professional responsibilities. Unsurprisingly, cost also ranks high on the list of student concerns. Learners who receive in-state tuition at a community college near their home save thousands of dollars when compared to counterparts who cross state lines for schooling.

Students interested in finding out more about distance learning options can review Best Colleges' list of top online associate in small business programs. If students choose to pursue campus-based programs, they must also consider overall cost of living expenses and available job opportunities.

College Board found that room and board charges for two-year colleges averaged $8,400 for the 2017-2018 school year, but learners often find it cheaper to live off-campus. Upon graduation, students must take into consideration if their location is conducive for their intended entrepreneurial. If not, they may need to consider relocating.

Programmatic Accreditation for Associate in Small Business Programs

Many students know about institutional accreditation but may be less familiar with programmatic accreditation. While the former ensures that the school as a whole meets specific benchmarks, the latter refers to individual programs and departments. Within associate degree in small business management programs, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) represent the top accrediting agencies.

To receive a seal of approval from the ACBSP or the AACSB, programs must go through a rigorous and independent review process that demonstrates best practices and adequate preparation of graduates. This process can take multiple years and requires a school to make significant changes if it does not pass the first time. Because lack of proper accreditation can make credit transfers difficult, make sure to find a school that meets all accrediting standards.

Associate in Small Business Program Admissions

After choosing an associate degree in small business management program, the next step involves going through the admissions process. Online course admissions tend to be more in-depth since the admissions panel needs a clear sense of the student's focus and determination as it applies to coursework. For those who plan to attend a brick-and-mortar campus, students simply submit an application and corresponding fee alongside any requested documentation, such as transcripts, a personal statement, and/or letters of recommendation. Most admissions specialists require that students apply to between four and eight programs, but this number depends on both the student and available programs.

Admission Materials

  • Application: Though filling out an application does not take long, students should allow themselves at least a week to gather necessary paperwork and write any required essays. Other information required includes basic contact details and previous education received.
  • Transcripts: All colleges want to know what type and level of education the student previously completed and how well they did in classes. Students must request for official transcripts to be sent from any high school or college attended, usually at a small fee.
  • Application Fee: Almost all colleges charge a processing fee for applications, although some learners may get these fees waived if they demonstrate academic merit and/or financial need.

Educational Paths for Online Small Business Associate Programs

After completing a small business associate program, many students decide to continue their educations at four-year institutions. While two-year programs provide foundational knowledge for running a successful venture, bachelor's programs help round out learners' knowledge and prepare them for careers. Baccalaureate programs, in many cases, allow for higher starting salaries. A MarketWatch study found those with associate degrees receive starting salaries that average $37,100, while those who continue in school two more years earn an average of $46,900 annually.


Continuing in the same vein as the associate degree, bachelor's in entrepreneurship programs dig deeper into topics and assignments, such as creating a business plan and financial projections.


Some students find themselves drawn to this critical aspect of running a business. These programs help students harness creative methods of communicating with clients, sharing the value of their company's product, and increasing sales.

Business Administration

This wide-ranging program covers the main pillars of running a business, including business law, accounting, finance, management, marketing, leadership, and professionalism.

What Else Can I Expect From an Associate in Small Business Program?

When reviewing potential associate in small business programs, degree seekers often get a sense of similarities and differences. Some programs may focus more on a particular aspect of the field, while others embrace a wider approach that allows for learners to touch on many different topics.

Courses in an Associate in Small Business Program

Though coursework varies based on the individual school and the overarching goals of the program, students who want to know more about likely coursework can review the list below to get a sense of what to expect upon enrollment.

Introduction to Business

Learners discover the foundations of businesses, including what makes them run smoothly and how they evolve over time. Students examine various aspects of business, such as IT, human resources management, finance, marketing, and operational management.

Principles of Marketing

This course delves into the basics of business marketing, with special emphasis placed on mining consumer demographics, using data surrounding lifestyle choices, the value of promotions, and various modes of product distribution. Some courses require learners to create a strategic marketing plan for a case study company.

Sales Principles

With a focus on helping students learn how to move from prospecting to selling, this course looks at various ways of providing value to the consumer and the company. Degree seekers learn about past, present, and future modes of sales.

Human Resources Management

With a focus on ensuring students understand the basics of HR, this course discusses topics like creating effective job postings, developing recruitment methods, overseeing interviews, creating an onboarding process, and ensuring appraisal and continuing education programs exist to help employees gain additional skills during their tenure.

Project Management

Entrepreneurs must understand how to delegate tasks and effectively manage projects. This course looks at common qualities of project managers, available software, team-building methodologies, task management, budgetary concerns, and how to move a project from start to finish.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Small Business?

When divided into full-time semesters, most students spend two years earning their degree. Part-time students typically require three years to graduate. Because part-time learners enroll for additional semesters, they may pay a few added fees, but their overall tuition cost should stay the same.

Some students want to graduate more quickly. If this sounds like you, consider taking (and passing) as many AP classes in high school as possible, as these often transfer and count toward college credits. Finding an accelerated program may provide shorter semesters that allow for more credits to be completed in the same time frame. Others provide year-round course schedules rather than taking the summer months off. If learners want to graduate more quickly or slowly than the standard time, they should talk to each school for scheduling options.

How Much Is an Associate in Small Business?

While the accreditation, ranking status, and course offerings of a small business associate degree play a major role in a student's decision making process, it means very little if the student cannot afford to attend college. Fortunately, colleges offering two-year degrees usually provide tuition rates far lower than their four-year counterparts.

According to College Board, degree seekers pay between $9,900 and $34,700 each year, depending on if they attend a local public college or a private institution. Two-year college tuition for in-state learners, conversely, averaged $3,500 for the 2017-2018 school year. While that may still seem like a high cost when multiplied by the two years required to earn the degree, College Board also found that full-time learners at these institutions received $3,900 on average in grants and tax credits, meaning many students paid little to nothing for tuition.

Outside of the actual coursework fees, learners should also consider fees surrounding housing, transportation, food, textbooks, materials, and technology costs. Students who need to save money may consider living at home during this time if they recently graduated high school. Others may want to consider finding roommates or working a part-time job while in school.

Professional Organizations in Small Business

Because many small business owners lack the camaraderie provided by a larger company, professional organizations offer a great way to meet peers in your field and form connections. These groups also provide opportunities to grow in your abilities as an entrepreneur through professional development classes, often including access to in-house publications about the state of entrepreneurship. In addition to the groups listed below, students should check into entrepreneurship clubs through their school.