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How to Pursue a Career in Business Administration
Business administrators work across multiple industries in vital positions to help keep businesses operating smoothly and profitably. It's a broad field that includes many careers, from project managers to data analysts.
Steps to a Business Administration Career
Choose a degree.
There are two undergraduate degree options for business administration professions—an associate and a bachelor's degree. An associate degree will help you jump into a career and cost less. However, a bachelor's is the minimum for many business administration roles, and you'll like need one to move into management.
Associate degree: It takes about two years to complete and focuses on business basics with introductory courses in a range of business subjects.
Bachelor's degree: A four-year business admin degree will give you a deeper foundation. If you know what field you want to pursue, you can pick a concentration such as financing, accounting, healthcare administration, or project management.
Choose a program.
The right program for you is one that meets your career goals, learning style, lifestyle, and budget. As you browse programs, there are a few important questions to ask:
Is the program accredited?
Accredited programs provide a quality education, will allow you to transfer your credits later in your education, and will make you eligible for federal financial aid.
Does the program offer an internship?
Internships can be a great way to get real-world experience before graduation and to start developing a professional network.
Does it offer classes online?
Online degree programs make it easier to make school fit with work, childcare, or any other responsibilities that are part of your daily life.
"I would really look at factors like value," says Ralph Griffith, an associate professor of entrepreneurship at Lenoir-Rhyne University. "Look at the cost of the program and the length of the program. Then I would look at accessibility. Do you have to finish in a set time frame or can you kind of slowly work on the program? Is it available online or do you have to be on campus? Is there a residency requirement? So, there's a lot of other things to look at when dealing with a program because I've seen very, very successful people come out of very small schools."
Complete prerequisites and earn admission to a program.
Admissions requirements will vary depending on the school and degree you choose. For instance, while you'll need a high school diploma to enter an associate or a bachelor's program, a bachelor's program is more likely to have GPA requirements. Bachelor's programs are also more likely to ask for:
• SAT and ACT scores
• Math and science prerequisites
• An admissions essay
• Letters of recommendation
Complete your studies and an internship.
A business administration degree will give you the foundational knowledge you need to start your career. Some of the classes you take will depend on your degree path, your school, and the concentration you select. However, there are some core courses that are part of all business administration programs.
Expect to study:
• Business communication
• Business ethics
Internships aren't normally required to complete a business administration degree, but some schools do offer them and they can be a great opportunity to gain experience. An internship can also be an important addition to your resume and help you make connections to tap during your job hunt after graduation.
Find your first job.
You'll be ready to take on entry-level roles once you graduate. The positions you'll be qualified to pursue will depend in part on your degree. These are just a few examples of roles to look for.
• Assistant store manager
• Office manager
• Payroll and benefits administrator
• Financial analyst
• Administrative services manager
• Human resources manager
Boost your credentials with a certification.
Earning a certification can pay off—in terms of salary and professional opportunities. They allow you to demonstrate your skill and expertise in a specific area of business administration. Most certifications require some professional experience, so they're a good goal to aim for once you've been in your field for a few years. Some popular business administration certifications:
• Project Management Professional (PMP) for project managers
• Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) for data analysts
• Professional in Human Resources (PHR) for human resources managers
Pursue advanced opportunities.
One of the best ways to move up in your career is by earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA). In fact, business administration professionals who want to move into executive, leadership, or other high-level roles will most likely be required to have this graduate degree. MBAs are designed to give students a deeper knowledge of all aspects of business, including finance, human resources, marketing, supply chain management, and more.
Similar to a bachelor's degree, you can add a concentration to your MBA to match your career goals. Once you have your MBA, you'll be ready to take on roles with increased responsibilities at larger organizations. Often, this also means you'll earn a higher salary.
Is Business Administration Your Future?
Careers in business administration are a great fit for ambitious and motivated people. There is a wide range of jobs under this career umbrella, but there are a few things they have in common.
Business administrators often work behind the scenes, making sure that business goals are met, customers are satisfied, budgets are balanced, products are shipped, and safety is maintained.
Business administrators take on operational roles to help companies run effectively and efficiently. They often work behind the scenes, making sure that business goals are met, customers are satisfied, budgets are balanced, products are shipped, and safety is maintained.
If your goal is to someday be a leader, Griffith says you'll need a combination of hard skills and soft skills.
"The hope of most people is that with experience and credentials, they'll be promoted through the company. And so sooner or later, you'll have a responsibility to manage people," says Griffith. "Leaders are required to have what we call soft skills. Hard skills are things like creating a marketing plan, doing analytics, building a website, or managing the accountants for that company.
"But the soft skills are managing humans. That's really the tough stuff. The art form of businesses and administrating is really working with human beings and leading empathetically."
Where Business Administration Professionals Work
Business administration professionals can be found in nearly every industry. These are just some of the workplaces you can expect:
How Long Does It Take to Start a Career?
The length of time it will take to start your career in business administration will depend on which degree you choose.
On average, it will take two years of full-time study to earn an associate degree and four years to earn a bachelor's degree.
Job Outlook and Salary
While some business degrees, such as accounting or project management, lead to a specific career, a business admin degree allows you to pick from an array of careers with a variety of salaries. Your experience, where you live, and the industry you work in can also influence your pay.
This chart gives an example of the range of salaries for business administration careers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
|Career||Median Annual Salary|
|Medical and Health Services Managers||$101,340|
|Human Resources Managers||$126,230|
|Financial and Investment Analysts||$91,580|
Demand for careers such as human resources manager is in line with the national average for all jobs, but other careers are seeing dramatic growth. Here are the 2020-2030 BLS job growth projections for the careers in the chart above.
|Supply chain manager:||30%|
|Health services manager:||32%|
|Human resources manager:||9%|
While some business degrees, such as accounting or project management, lead to a specific career, a business administration degree allows you to pick from an array of careers with a variety of salaries.
Using professional resources can help you keep up with trends in your field, make connections, and find opportunities to advance your career.
Griffith says that one of the best places to look for resources is your employer.
"One thing I would say related to this is to get into the organization and find a mentor," he says. "Find someone who laughs at your jokes, someone who has a similar personality, someone who went to the same school as you, or someone from a similar background. Whatever the connection is, find somebody in the organization. Ask them for their recommendations, ask them what associations they would join, and ask them to help you get the lay of the land. It's amazing how much people are willing to help others."
He also suggests joining professional and social organizations.
"Large companies will have internal organizations" Griffith notes. "They could be pride organizations, wine clubs, all sorts of things. There's often some way to kind of get together with people that will allow you access to those associations and connections. It might be that you should join the Rotary, Kiwanis club, or Jaycees because those are big for business professionals in your city. So go in and get a lay of the land. Don't dive in on day one. Listen and get a feel for the place, the politics, and the people."
National resources for business administration professionals include:
The American Management Association offers professional development, free events, certification, and more.
TED Business Podcasts offer in-depth knowledge for business administration professionals.
The Harvard Business Review is a source for top-level business content, including industry news, business theory, advice, strategies, and more.