How Long Does It Take to Get a Business Degree?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Depending on the type, earning a business degree can take anywhere from two to six years. Find out how much time you could expect to invest.

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Earning a business degree typically takes two to six years. The amount of time you can expect to invest in getting your business degree depends on the type of degree you’re pursuing.

For example, earning an associate degree typically takes two years, while earning a bachelor’s degree may take four years. Earning a graduate degree, such as an MBA, could take an additional two years or more. However, some master’s programs offer accelerated options that could allow you to earn the degree in just one year. 

Your enrollment status also affects how long it takes to get a business degree. Full-time students usually get their degrees faster by completing more credits each semester. But, if you’re a prospective student with a busy schedule, taking classes part-time might be a better option. Part-time status gives you more flexibility (and the ability to earn while you work), although it might take longer to earn a degree.

Getting your degree is a time investment, but it can be well worth the time and effort. You can learn skills that translate to many different fields, from manufacturing to hospitality to health care and more. Although there’s no guarantee that you'll make a considerable salary, Kiplinger did include business degree programs on its 2019 list of the Best College Majors for a Lucrative Career [1]. 

A 2018 study by the Association of American Colleges & Universities suggests that employers largely believe it's important to have a college education. Additionally, 85 percent of hiring managers stated that college degrees are worth the time, pointing to the advanced preparation and well-rounded knowledge base that the college experience provides. [2]

How long does a business degree take?

Associate degree in business

Pursuing an associate degree typically requires you to complete 60 credit hours. If you're a full-time student, this usually takes about two years of completing 15 credits per semester over four semesters. If you're a part-time student, it could take up to three years, depending on how many credits per semester you’re able to take. 

Bachelor's degree in business

The length of time it takes to get a bachelor’s in business degree can vary depending on the program, the school, and other factors. The average bachelor’s degree program requires you to complete 120 credit hours. If you’re a full-time student, this could take four years of completing 15 credits per semester over eight semesters. If you’re a part-time student, it could take up to seven years or longer.

Master's degree in business

Most business master's degree programs require 30 to 40 credit hours, but some may require you to complete up to 60 credit hours. If you're a full-time student, you might earn your master's degree in two years. If you’re a part-time student, it could take anywhere from two to four years. 

Doctoral program in business

The highest business degrees include Doctor of Business Administration degree (DBA) and a PhD in business. These programs may require around 60 credit hours. If you're a full-time student, it could take an average of four years to get your degree. If you're going part-time, it could take six to 10 years or longer.

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Factors that affect length

Your goals, priorities, and other factors can affect the time it takes to get your business degree. For example, some schools and programs require more credit hours than others. Additional factors that may increase the time it takes to get a degree include:

  • Switching schools or majors, which means some credits might not transfer

  • Dropping classes

  • Needing additional time to complete degree requirements, such as a master’s thesis for an MBA or a dissertation for a doctoral degree

Factors that may help you earn your degree faster include:

  • Taking more credits per semester

  • Earning college credits in high school

  • Taking summer classes

  • Taking accelerated programs like an accelerated MBA, which allows you to get your degree in eleven to sixteen months on average

Online vs. on-campus learning

You can decide to enroll in online programs or pursue the more traditional on-campus experience to earn your business degree. Both options come with advantages and drawbacks, but ultimately you should choose the one that works best for you. 

On-campus learning may give you more opportunities to network and get more face-to-face interaction with instructors and your classmates. However, on-campus business classes generally require you to be present at a specific time on specific days. If you're fitting your degree program around a work schedule or other commitments in your life, this might not be ideal. 

Online business degree programs may offer more flexibility, although some courses may require time commitments. If you can choose courses that allow you to learn at your own pace, you might be able to complete more credit hours per semester. 

Alternatives to a business degree

 Getting a business degree isn’t your only option for opening doors to jobs in the business world. If you have a degree in another subject or want to prove your proficiency, you might pursue a certificate in specific topics or skills. Or, you could take individual courses to build your skills and knowledge base. 

Certificate programs

Certificate programs give you credentials to prove that you've completed specific business-related courses. These programs can help you develop technical skills associated with whatever the subject matter. Certificate programs may take six to twenty-four months to complete, depending on the program and the pace you're able to go. 

Individuals courses for skill building

Taking online courses is another way to gain the skills without spending time in a full degree program. Depending on your field and goals, taking a class or two could help advance your career. For example, you might take a course in negotiation skills to sharpen your skills in that area. 

In addition to building your skills, this can advance your goals toward getting a degree later if the course credits transfer. The average length of time varies from course to course.

Explore business degrees

Take the next step toward a career in business by exploring how an online business degree from a top university could fit into your life. Experience what it’s like to be a degree student by enrolling in an open course, such as Business Sustainability in the Circular Economy or The Digital Marketing Revolution, before you apply.

Article Sources

1. Kiplinger. “25 Best College Majors for a Lucrative Career, https://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/business/t012-s001-best-college-majors-for-a-lucrative-career-2019/index.html.” Accessed December 9, 2021.

2. Association of American Colleges & Universities. “Employers Agree: College Degrees Are Worth It, https://www.aacu.org/aacu-news/newsletter/2018/september/facts-figures.” Accessed December 9, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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.

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