Business administration is a wide field that incorporates many types of management positions. From major corporations to independent businesses, every operation needs skilled administrators in order to succeed.
Motivated, organized personalities will thrive in business, where environments are often high-powered. Knowing how to deal with stress will help you keep your cool—and keep your business in the black.
What does a business administrator do?
In business, day-to-day operations are as important as long-term plans for the future. A career in business touches on information technology, leadership dynamics and increasingly on ethics and international relationships. There’s incredible room for growth in the field. When you find the right "fit," you’ll find that working your way up the ladder may be both challenging and rewarding. Plus, skills you acquire in one capacity will translate into others as your career path evolves.
Many top business executives will get their start working in office administration or in hospitality, retail, sales or operations management. Executives and administrators work in every industry, from one-person businesses to firms with thousands of employees.
On the job, business administrators:
- Establish and carry out departmental or organizational goals, policies and procedures
- Direct and oversee an organization's financial and budgetary activities
- Manage general activities related to making products and providing services
- Innovate by applying new technologies in the workplace
- Consult with other executives, staff and board members about operations
- Negotiate or approve contracts and agreements
- Appoint department heads and managers
- Analyze financial statements, sales reports and other performance indicators
- Identify places to cut costs and to improve performance, policies and programs
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, Top Executives.
Some typical arenas for work include general management, hospitality management, office administration, operations management, retail management and sales management.
What education or certification will I need to work in business administration?
An associate's degree in business will prime you for entry level positions in the field. Earning a bachelor's will advance your knowledge with skills of organizational leadership, managing people and strategic planning. With a bachelor’s under your belt, you'll qualify for a variety of business roles right out of school.
Many people choose to continue their education by earning a Master in Business Administration (MBA), a highly respected advanced degree that indicates a commitment to leading in the field. Your master's will usually take one to two years to obtain.
Top executives may complete a certification program through the Institute of Certified Professional Managers to earn the Certified Manager (CM) credential. To become a CM, candidates must meet education and experience requirements and pass three exams. Although not mandatory, certification can show management competency and potential leadership skills. Certification also can help those seeking advancement or can give jobseekers a competitive edge.
Depending on the type of business field you enter, there may be additional certifications to earn. For example, the International Facility Management Association offers a competency-based professional certification program for administrative services managers. Completing the program may give prospective job candidates a competitive advantage.
Learn more about business administration curriculum on What You'll Study.
What career paths can I take in business administration?
Graduates with an associate's degree in business qualify for entry level careers, including basic management and administrative roles in private, public and nonprofit organizations. Many find employment as management trainees or managers in the sales or retail industry. Others work as project assistants, office managers and technology-oriented support specialists.
With a bachelor's degree in business administration, you'll qualify for an array of leadership positions and other advanced roles in private, public and nonprofit organizations. You'll have the option to work across industries as a business analyst, human resources generalist, operations manager or marketing specialist. Some business administration graduates also venture into entrepreneurship, creating their own successful businesses from the ground up.
Your management opportunities increase exponentially with an MBA, the most popular degree awarded in business. Some job titles include corporate controller, executive director and independent consultant.
Those who wish to gain further education can pursue the Doctor of Business Administration, which takes three to six years to complete. Like a PhD, a DBA equips professionals with expertise in leadership and management principles, and a higher level of competence in conducting research. This advanced degree primes students for working in management at the senior-executive level, as well as in teaching and research at universities.
There are so many options for working in business administration, and so many ways to get your foot in the door, that motivated people can rise to the top and make lasting, positive contributions to business.
Here are some common types of top executives:
- Chief financial officers: Account for a company's financial reporting. They direct the organization's financial goals, objectives and budgets. They may oversee investments and manage assets.
- Chief information officers: Responsible for the overall technological direction of a company, which includes managing information technology and computer systems.
- Chief operating officers: Oversee other executives who direct the activities of various departments, such as human resources and sales.
- Chief sustainability officers: Address sustainability issues by overseeing a corporate sustainability strategy. For example, they may manage programs or policies relating to environmental issues and ensure the organization's compliance with related regulations.
- General and operations managers: Oversee operations that are too diverse to be classified into one area of management or administration. Responsibilities may include formulating policies, managing daily operations, and planning the use of materials and human resources. They make staff schedules, assign work, and ensure projects are completed. In some organizations, the tasks of chief executive officers may overlap with those of general and operations managers.
Learn about Pay & Job Projections for administrative services managers and top executives. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook places employment of administrative services managers at 12 percent through 2022, about as fast as average for all occupations. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
Are you interested in business but unsure whether the administrator's role is for you? Similar careers where economics, people and operations meet include hospitality, office administration, retail and sales management, financial management and accounting.