Business Administration Career and Degree Guide
Business Management Degrees
Are you ready to move from the cubicle to the corner office? Whether you're looking to break into a business management career or turbo-charge the one you've got, a business management degree will equip you for success in almost every sector of the economy.
Hundreds of schools offer this versatile credential, and your options run the gamut from online-only, to the traditional brick-and-mortar format, to a hybrid blend of the two.
Because people skills are such a critical part of successful management, most business classes are organized around teamwork. Expect to collaborate closely with your classmates on projects that bridge the gap between theory and hands-on practice.
Business Management Skills and Qualities
Whether they work in cybersecurity or supply chain logistics, strong managers have several qualities in common. A degree in business management will hone your abilities in these areas:
- Communication – both written and verbal
- Critical thinking
- Teamwork and collaboration
- Problem solving
- Strategic analysis and decision-making
- Resource management – including people, money and time
- Financial acumen
Meet a Business Management Grad: Grant Daniels
After a few years in the workforce, and a couple of false starts on his path to a degree, this sales manager found his fit with a bachelor's in business management.
Like many high school students, Grant Daniels wasn't sure what kind of career he wanted to pursue. A bright student with a great academic track record, he tried community college for a year, then took some time off before embarking on a journalism degree at a large state university.
But a traditional degree program just wasn't the right fit. Dismayed by the large class sizes (as many as 400 students in a lecture hall) and concerned about the practical value of a journalism course, he moved on to Orange County, California. That's where Grant finally found the solution to his degree dilemma: an on-campus business management program with the University of Phoenix.
After so many twists and turns in his school journey, why study business management?
"The field is so versatile," says Grant. "It prepared me for so many career paths." No longer a fresh-faced high school grad, his degree choice was also driven by two important factors: practicality and efficiency. He wanted a credential that would set him up for a lucrative career, and he was ready to move quickly to earn his degree.
Benefits of a Business Management Degree
Upon returning to school, Grant found that a lot had changed. There was no more cramming for final exams, and no slogging through weeks and weeks of classes. Here are some of the happy discoveries he made upon returning to school as a post-traditional student:
- No final exams. Instead of sweating through make-or-break tests at the end of every course, Grant proved his knowledge of course materials by doing presentations throughout each class. With topics ranging from accounting to innovation, he excelled at showcasing his burgeoning business savvy in real time.
- Practical application. Grant's business management classes went beyond theory to include case studies on real-life corporations, such as Richard Branson's Virgin Group. It's a "super empire," says Grant, who studied the Virgin approach to branding, marketing, financing, innovation and more.
- Teamwork. Grant collaborated with fellow students on everything from writing papers to creating presentations. "It helped me develop the ability to work in a group and to learn to see what's important to other people," he says.
- Manageable schedule. Classes met just one evening a week for four hours. (Online business management degree options offer even greater flexibility for working adults.)
- Short course length. Each business management class at the University of Phoenix lasted only five weeks. If the topic wasn't to his liking, Grant realized, "Just stick it out. In five weeks, we were on to the next thing!"
- Small classes. Class size averaged 20 people, which fostered a discussion-friendly environment. The intimacy was a refreshing change of pace from the huge lecture halls at the state university Grant had attended earlier.
- Accessible teachers. Instructors made themselves available both in person and online, Grant remembers. X years later, he's still in touch with one especially supportive professor.
- Online textbooks. Grant was surprised to learn that all his course materials were available online. There was no additional expense for books, and nothing to try to sell back at the end of a semester. (And there were no semesters, either!)
Business Management Degree in Action
Now working as the business development manager, Grant puts his degree to use every day. He credits the heavy emphasis on project work during school as key to his success: "I use those skills every day when reaching out to new companies, making cold calls, getting them to answer my emails—everything," he says. "Because I studied so many things in a business management degree, I can quickly see how a company works as a whole."
Business Management Degree Coursework
Hands-down the most useful business management degree is the four-year bachelor's program. By pursuing a flexible online or hybrid option, you can progress through classes at your own pace, while still keeping your job and family commitments.
Already have some college under your belt? Many online schools offer bachelor's degree completion programs aimed at working professionals. Check to see if your credits will transfer, and what documentation you'll need to provide.
Depending on the school, the core coursework in a bachelor's business management program will likely include some combination of the following:
- Business Communication – From decoding verbal and nonverbal messages, to writing clear emails and blog posts, you'll learn the elements of effective workplace communications in this intro-level course. Practice adapting messages to their intended audience, and consider how ethical and international issues affect business communications.
- Principles of Accounting – Good managers are fluent in the language of numbers. In accounting classes, you'll learn the tools to diagnose the financial health of any business, including balance sheets, income statements, retained earnings statements and cash flow statements. Even if you don't want to become an accountant, this class will train you to think about numbers from a management perspective.
- Business Law – What makes a contract legally binding? How does employment law affect day-to-day business operations? From labor disputes to landmark legal cases, learn how the U.S. legal system applies to the business world as you examine actual cases with your classmates.
- Management Theory and Practice – Bridge the gap between theory and the real world as you practice applying management concepts to dilemmas drawn from real-life workplaces. Topics might include: dealing with competition; defining expectations of success; and the complex process of turning business goals into wins.
- Business Ethics – How do ethics—the philosophy of deciding what's right and what's wrong—intersect with morality, law and social responsibility? Sink your teeth into thought-provoking business cases and untangle complicated issues with your classmates.
- Principles of Marketing – There's more to this field than you might think. From analyzing consumer behavior to choosing channels of promotion, an introductory marketing class will give you an understanding of the complicated business decisions that go into creating and implementing marketing strategies.
- Human Resources Management – What goes into creating an effective workplace team? From recruitment to employee performance evaluations, you'll learn about the many tasks involved in developing, nurturing and utilizing a high-performing team.
- Organizational Behavior – One of the most complex animals on the planet, an organization is influenced by everything from leadership styles to technology, power and politics. Investigate topics such as conflict management, strategic planning and group dynamics through the lens of organizational behavior.
- Managerial Economics – Managers need to think on their feet, often in uncertain circumstances. Learn how to apply economic thinking to a variety of business challenges, from discovering what customers want, to predicting demand for products. Practice using tools and techniques such as forecasting, cost estimation and demand analysis to make effective business decisions.
- Management Information Systems – How can the right information system give business a competitive edge? Get an overview of current IT systems, hardware and software components, and e-business concepts. Learn how managers can harness technology for help in planning, controlling and decision-making.
- Principles of Finance – Learn how businesses are managed financially and learn the skills to make savvy decisions about financing. Expect a thorough grounding in the U.S. monetary system, capital markets and budgeting techniques.
Business Management Degree Specializations
A business management degree is incredibly versatile, enabling you to pursue work in a vast range of industries. Once you've finished the basic coursework, it's time to choose your specialty. Depending on your interests, you might pursue higher-level classes in:
- International Business
- IT Management
- Organizational Leadership
- Project Management
- Public and Non-Profit Management
- Public Relations
- Real Estate Sales
- Supply Chain Management
- Public Relations
No matter which career you decide to pursue, a degree in business management will prepare you to meet the challenges of a fast-moving, technology-driven work world. You'll develop the leadership skills, business savvy and collaborative approach that will set you up for success in everything corner of the economy—from HR to healthcare, government to "green" business.