Your Guide to Business Administration Degrees

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Business administration is a lucrative career. Learn about the different kinds of business administration degrees and find which one works best for you.

[Featured image]:  A female,  with blonde hair, wearing a white shirt and glasses, is sitting in front of her desktop working on an assignment as she works towards her business administration degree.

Completing a business administration degree is a great way to advance your career, find a new job, or learn the skills needed to start a business. You’ll gain knowledge to help you better understand how a business operates at every level. It’s essential to understand the different types of degree programs and the benefits of each. This guide will help you determine which business administration degree is right for you. 

What is business administration? 

Business administration refers to the general study of business concepts, such as accounting, finance, management, and marketing. It also covers data-driven sciences, like accounting, as well as workplace skills, like management. If a topic is a necessary component of running a business, it falls under the domain of business administration. 

Why pursue a career in business administration?

If you’re interested in starting your own business, becoming an office manager, or want to manage different workers, pursuing a career in business administration can help you achieve your goals. 

A business administration degree is often flexible. If you want to enter the business sector but aren’t sure where you want to concentrate, pursuing a career in business administration can help you find a path to multiple roles. 

If you’re interested in math, leadership, and real-world problem-solving, business administration may give you a chance to use all those skills. Business administration is also a gateway toward a lucrative future. According to Payscale, the average base salary for new graduates with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree is $74,000 per year [1]. After a few years, depending on the position and industry, your salary could increase much higher. 

What will I learn in a business administration degree program?

Graduates of a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) will learn what’s needed to operate a business or to qualify for an entry-level position at nearly any department in a corporation. Because a business administration degree has courses from every discipline in a business school, graduates are prepared to work in a diverse array of fields, such as banking, advertising, marketing, manufacturing, and more. 

When you begin a business administration degree program, you may learn the following fundamentals such as: 

  • Sales 

  • Microeconomics 

  • Business and corporate finance 

  • Standard accounting practices 

  • Management techniques and theory 

  • Marketing principles, and more 

Some programs will emphasize new technology, while others will include classes in specialized fields like health care or ethical leadership. 

Types of business administration degrees

Colleges and universities provide three major types of business administration degree programs: those at the associate, bachelor's, and master's levels. Every business administration degree program delivers an overview of business fundamentals, but each varies in rigor, prestige, prerequisites, and more. Most programs allow students to concentrate in a specific discipline, adding a depth of expertise to the generalized knowledge they deliver. 

Read more: Is a Business Degree Worth It? Guide

Associate in business administration degree

An associate degree in business administration typically takes two years to complete and provides a broad overview of foundational business skills. You’ll learn the basic skills needed to qualify for an entry-level job. Although you may need more education if want to advance in your career, an associate degree in business administration is a less expensive way to learn business fundamentals and a quick way to prepare for more advanced options. Many of these degrees are career-specific, providing an entryway into specialized sectors like health care. 

Requirements: You’ll need a high school education or a GED. Some programs may require specific grade point averages or standardized test scores. 

Read more: Your Guide to the Associate Degree in Business Administration

Bachelor's degree in business administration

A business administration bachelor’s degree typically takes four to five years to complete and is designed to provide a firm grasp of business principles. In addition to in-depth work in a specific discipline, such as marketing, these programs require students to demonstrate a firm understanding of all business specializations. Some of the degrees include:

  • Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)

  • Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA)

  • Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration  (BABA)

Students who complete these programs may find themselves in high demand on the job market. Business administration degrees have become the most popular postsecondary education option in the US. The most recent data reveals that, of the 2 million bachelor’s degrees conferred in the 2018-2019 school year, 19 percent were business graduates [2]. 

Requirements: You’ll need a high school diploma or a GED, a GPA of at least 2.5, and reasonable standardized test scores from either the SAT or ACT. 

Master of Business Administration

Students who complete a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree usually take two years when they attend full-time. This degree is geared toward those who have already completed an undergraduate degree and who typically have a few years of real-world work experience looking to specialize in a specific field or discipline. MBA programs provide an education designed to help future business leaders make smart decisions. 

Many programs offer online options catered to full-time professionals to better accommodate their target market. 

Requirements: You’ll need to have completed a bachelor’s degree and submit scores from a standardized entrance exam, such as the GMAT or GRE. You may also need letters of recommendation, a minimum GPA at the bachelor's level, and relevant work experience. 

ROI for MBA graduates

While these programs are typically expensive, they provide tremendous ROI for graduates. In 2020, MBA graduates earned an average of $115,000 base salary after graduation [3]. Those who attend elite programs, major in certain specializations, or are willing to move to higher-paying locations can expect to earn more.


Read more: MBA Degree Salary: Guide

How long does it take to earn a business administration degree?

Business administration degrees typically take two to four years to complete. Associate degrees and master’s programs most commonly require two years, while bachelor's options usually take four years of full-time studies. 

Students who must work while earning their degree or don’t want to borrow money to finance their education can opt for online or hybrid learning options, which are more convenient but may extend the time required to complete the program. 

Skills you can learn with a business administration degree

After completing a business administration program, you’ll have sharpened your analytic and workplace skills. Not only will you learn the facts and foundational concepts of business practices, but you’ll also have the opportunity to increase your capacity for critical thinking and problem-solving. 

Because many business courses revolve around numbers, you’ll learn a lot of mathematics. Classes in accounting, finance, economics, and statistics often constitute the core of a business administration program and require students to become well-versed in advanced mathematical concepts and data analytics. 

A business administration program also places importance on the workplace side of running a company. Required courses in management and sales can help you learn how to lead, help, and understand people in a professional workplace. These skills can help you work more efficiently and effectively in groups and for others. 

Read more: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What’s the Difference?

How to start your career in business administration

To learn more about starting a career in business administration, discovering more about individual degree programs is a smart first move. Check out Coursera’s guide to Online MBA and Business Degree Programs for more information about the kinds of options available to you. 

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Article sources

1. Payscale. “Bachelor’s Degree, Business Administration Degree," Accessed July 7, 2022.  

2. National Center for Education Statistics. “Fast Facts: Most popular majors,” Accessed July 7, 2022. 

3. Graduate Management Admissions Council. “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Hiring of Business School Graduates," Accessed July 7, 2022.  

4. US Bureau of Labor and Statistics. “Business and Financial Occupations,” Accessed July 7, 2022. 

5.Indeed. “15 Highest-Paying Business Majors,” Accessed July 7, 2022. 

6. U.S. News & World Report. “Find MBAs That Lead to Employment, High Salaries,” Accessed July 7, 2022. 

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.