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A Guide to International Business Degrees

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You can get a degree in international business at every degree level. Whether you choose an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree will depend on several factors, including your career goals.

You'll also want to weigh your interests, budget, and the time it takes to complete a degree to pick the best option for you. The good news is that degrees in international business will prepare you for roles in a wide range of industries, so you'll have many career paths to consider.

In this Article

International Business Degrees

International business degrees provide a flexible curriculum, often with the option to specialize in a specific field. That combination will give you a wide range of careers and industries to look at, from general business administration to hospitality to human resources.

While the coursework may overlap to some extent, each degree builds on a foundation and provides deeper knowledge and skills at each succeeding level.

"A degree in global business allows you to do business more efficiently and effectively with the rest of the world," says Ralph Jagodka, MBA, EdD, professor of business management at Mt. San Antonio College. "Those skills are increasingly important today, and they will be tomorrow."

While the coursework may overlap to some extent, each degree builds on a foundation and provides deeper knowledge and skills at each succeeding level.

Associate Degree In International Business

An associate degree in international business is a two-year program that can prepare you for entry-level positions as an assistant or trainee. It can also serve as a foundation for a bachelor's degree if you choose to pursue a four-year degree later.

Bachelor's of International Business

A bachelor's degree is a four-year program that is typically required to work in business management or roles that involve planning and overseeing others. A bachelor's degree helps students develop critical thinking skills and provides a strong foundation in business.

Master's in International Business

A master's degree in international business emphasizes business leadership from a global perspective, with a focus on issues related to conducting business across cultures. It is designed for business leaders who want to work in international business development.

Master of Business Administration (MBA) International Business

An MBA in international business focuses on a broader advanced business curriculum that includes international elements. An MBA covers all aspects of business at the leadership level.

PhD or Doctorate in International Business

PhD and doctorate programs in international business focus on preparing you for an academic career in a university rather than teaching you the skills to manage people in a multinational corporation.

The answer to that question may depend on many factors, including your lifestyle, personal interests, and career goals. You'll also want to weigh these considerations.

  • Your timeline to enter the job market.

If you want to jump into the job market quickly, you may opt for an associate degree and then decide to pursue a bachelor's degree while you work. Likewise, you can earn a bachelor's degree and pursue a master's after you have some work experience.

  • Education costs.

The cost of your degree will depend on your budget as well as your access to resources such as scholarships, student loans, financial aid, and employee tuition reimbursement. If you earn an associate or bachelor's degree, your employer may pay your tuition if you decide to return to school to advance your education.

  • What kind of position you're seeking.

While it's possible to work in international business with an associate degree, you'll have better options for entry-level positions with a bachelor's degree. A master's degree might be your choice if you have a bachelor's degree and are considering changing to a career in international business or want to move into leadership/executive positions, such as director of finance or accounting.

  • Salary.

As with most professions, higher education is usually the path to higher salaries in international business. But there are other factors in play as well. Your role, work experience, and cross-cultural knowledge may all contribute to the salary you earn.

Remember that your first degree doesn't have to be your last. Many successful international business professionals start with an associate or bachelor's degree, then progress to an advanced degree after they gain work experience, zero in on their interests, and firm up their career goals.

Online Degree Programs

At any level, an online degree can be a great choice if you can't commit to attending classes in person. Online learning can help you gain the education you want while meeting family responsibilities or working full time. It can also be a good option if you don't live near a college campus.

Recorded classes often allow you to learn and study at your convenience, as long as you meet assignment and exam deadlines. Some online degree programs allow you to pass and move on from courses at your own pace. This can help you finish your degree faster versus completing courses in a more restrictive semester schedule.

Online learning can help you gain the education you want while meeting family responsibilities or working full time.

While you should be able to complete most of your classwork online for an international business degree, internships usually are in person. Internships can give you real-world experience, make you more marketable, and help you make contacts at the international level, says Jagodka, who has extensive professional experience in international business management in the private sector. "It can be a life-changing experience," he says.

The requirements and flexibility of online degrees vary by program. It's important to understand how much freedom you'll have to complete your degree requirements on your own time. At any level, you must also have the self-discipline, organizational skills, and family and employer support necessary to manage your own workload.


No matter what type of international business program you choose, make sure the school is accredited. Accreditation means that a school meets the academic standards necessary to provide an education that will prepare you for your profession.

School accreditation is important for several reasons:

  • You must attend an accredited school to qualify for federal financial aid.
  • Credits from an unaccredited program may not be accepted for transfer to another program or used as prerequisites for higher-level degrees at an accredited school.
  • Employers usually prefer and may even require a degree from an accredited institution to qualify for employment.  

In addition to school accreditation, a degree program may qualify for separate accreditation. This is usually awarded by a professional organization related to the program. 

Accrediting Agencies

The following national organizations grant school and/or program accreditation:

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) awards accreditation for business and accounting programs at the undergraduate, master's, and doctoral degree levels.  

Accreditation Council for Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) awards accreditation at the associate, bachelor's, and graduate degree levels for business and accounting programs.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is an association of college and university presidents and institutional representatives that recognizes 60 U.S. institutional and program-accrediting agencies. CHEA recognition assures that the accrediting organization is following standards consistent with academic quality at the schools they review.   

anna giorgi

Written and reported by:

Anna Giorgi

Contributing Writer

ralph jagodka

With professional insight from:

Ralph Jagodka, MBA, EdD

Professor of Business Management, Mt. San Antonio College

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