You can earn your business degree online at almost every stage: associate, bachelor’s, and master’s.
Business is a popular degree choice. Of the 2 million bachelor’s degrees conferred in the United States during the 2019-2020 school year, the highest percentage were in business . Likewise, business remains the most popular field of study at the master's degree level .
Earning your degree online comes with several potential benefits: you don’t need to relocate, you can continue working, you may have greater scheduling flexibility, and your overall program costs may be lower. In this article, we’ll go over the types of online business degrees you can earn and discuss what you can expect from an online business program so you can decide whether it’s the best choice for your education.
You can earn your business degree online at almost every stage: associate, bachelor’s, and master’s. While you can earn a terminal degree in business, such as a PhD in Business or a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), there are far fewer of these advanced programs available online. With that in mind, we’ll focus on the three more common online business degrees you can pursue.
You can earn your Associate of Science (AS) in Business Administration online in order to pursue entry-level jobs in business or transfer into a bachelor’s degree program.
At the associate level, you will need to work through your general education requirements before you can concentrate or specialize in business administration. It typically takes a minimum of 60 credits to earn your associate degree, with a portion of those (a minimum of 12 credits) going toward your concentration or focus.
In your business concentration, you can expect to take introductory-level courses on:
Principles of business
An associate degree takes around two years to complete when you attend full-time. The average one-year cost for tuition and fees at an in-person institution was $3,800 in 2021, according to College Board . However, the total online cost can range between $6,000 and $26,000, according to US News .
An online associate business degree may be a good option if you want an academic degree to list on your resume and the topic knowledge you’ll gain from your business courses, but don’t necessarily have the time it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree—or need a break before pursuing one.
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You can either earn a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in business administration online, and opt to major or concentrate in one of several related business subjects, such as business studies, marketing, finance, human resources, or accounting.
With your bachelor's degree, you can pursue several entry-level jobs with your degree or begin a business master's degree program, though it’s worth noting that many MBA applicants spend time acquiring professional experience before returning to school.
After you complete your general education requirements, which tend to make up the first two years of study, you can expect to spend one-third to one-half of your college credits working toward your major.
In your business major, expect to learn about foundational business subjects, such as:
Micro- and macroeconomics
Principles of marketing
Introduction to statistics
A bachelor’s degree takes between four and five years to complete when you attend full-time. The total cost of an online bachelor’s is between $38,496 and $60,593, according to US News & World Report . Compare that to the average cost for just one year of tuition and fees alone—$10,740 at a public school and $38,070 at a private school—which doesn’t include additional costs like transportation, housing, or books .
An online bachelor’s degree may be a good option if you want to qualify for more entry-level business jobs or advance in your business career. Most roles in the business and finance sector require a bachelor’s degree in order to get started on that career track.
You can earn your Master of Science (MS) in business online, but by and large, the most popular business master’s degree is the Master of Business Administration (MBA). Many online MBA programs, including the iMBA from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, provide access to the same faculty, courses, and materials as in-person MBA programs.
In your master’s program, expect to take more advanced business courses that deepen your knowledge of topics like international markets or corporate finance. You can also expect an emphasis on leadership, since many people use the degree to pursue managerial and senior-level roles.
Beyond your core coursework, many MBA programs offer concentrations or specializations, which are similar to a college major. Some common MBA concentrations are:
An MBA takes around two years to complete when you attend full-time. The costs can also be lower than studying in person. The top 10 online business school programs of 2021 in the US cost anywhere from $35,375 to $141,320 for the entirety of the program, according to the business school publication Poets&Quants . Some in-person MBAs can exceed a total cost of $200,000.
An online master’s degree may be a good option if you’re seeking career advancement beyond entry- and associate-level roles, or if you’d like the intense skills development and networking opportunities that many MBA programs foster.
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Although many recruiters still view in-person bachelor’s or master’s degrees more favorably than an online degree because it’s been the most typical way to earn that credential, as more education moves online—and more colleges and universities offer online programs—that perception has started to shift. A 2018 survey found that 71 percent of employers had hired a candidate with an online degree .
As such, earning your business degree online can qualify you for the same salary and in-demand jobs as an in-person degree would. The median annual wage for roles in business and finance was $76,570, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is $30,000 more than the median annual wage for all occupations .
Here are some more benefits unique to online learning:
Flexibility: Unlike the rigid structure of in-person classes or the demands of relocating, an online business degree may offer more flexibility. For those who have other responsibilities, such as work or family, it can be a useful means of learning. In fact, 91 percent of online MBA students continue to work full-time while earning their degree .
Social networking: Many students earn their degree from an in-person college or university because of the social opportunities they gain from that experience. But a growing number of online degree programs foster interaction through discussion forums, virtual meetings, and more.
Begin applying what you know in real-time: If you plan to work while earning your degree, you can begin applying what you learn in real-time. Rather than waiting to graduate to implement what you’ve studied in your coursework, you can practice in a way that could inform and even strengthen your education.
Develop important skills unique to online learning: Whether online or in-person, earning your degree helps you develop valuable workplace skills. But online learning can help you hone specific skills, such as time management, an ability to work independently, and self-discipline.
Learn more: Is a Business Degree Worth It?
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Before you think about which type of online business degree you’d like to earn, it’s important to consider why you want to earn one in the first place. What do you want to achieve with a business degree? How might attending an online program help you reach your career goals?
Many programs publish annual employment reports, sharing data like the companies and industries that have hired past graduates, the percentage of graduates who received full-time job offers, and the type of work graduates go on to do. For each program you consider applying to, take time to review their recent employment reports and see how well their outcomes align with your desired results.
Here are some additional factors to consider as you compare online business degree programs.
What about business would you like to study, and what type of coursework will best prepare you to achieve your goals? As you research online business degree programs, look at the concentrations they offer, the required coursework you’d need to complete, and the tentative timeline you’d have to follow. Make sure those parameters align with your resources and larger professional goals.
However social you want to be in your potential degree program, it’s worth inquiring about how courses are taught and the opportunities you’ll have to network—with your classmates, alumni, and even professional speakers who may be hired for webinars, workshops, or other supplementary events. Your education is more than what you learn from a course. The chance to build and expand your network can also be an important factor.
Many online colleges and universities offer career support services similar to what you’d experience at an in-person institution. These kinds of resources can be helpful as you transition out of your program and seek new opportunities to apply your education. Many institutions provide career placement information so prospective students can see what former students have done with their degree. Look into what each program offers.
Earning your business degree online can add a valuable credential to your resume and more specialized subject knowledge to your wheelhouse. Browse online business degrees on Coursera, available at both the bachelor’s and master’s level in several concentrations, to find an affordable option that fits your life.
National Center for Education Statistics. "Most Popular Majors, https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=37." Accessed February 14, 2023.
National Center for Education Statistics. "Graduate Degree Fields, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/ctb/graduate-degree-fields." Accessed February 14, 2023.
College Board. “Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2021, https://research.collegeboard.org/pdf/trends-college-pricing-student-aid-2021.pdf.” Accessed February 14, 2023.
US News & World Report. “Online Business Administration Associate Degree, https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/business-administration-associate-degree.” Accessed February 14, 2023.
US News & World Report. “What You’ll Pay for an Online Bachelor’s Degree, https://www.usnews.com/higher-education/online-education/articles/what-youll-pay-for-an-online-bachelors-degree.” Accessed February 14, 2023.
Poets&Quants. “The Best Online MBA Programs of 2021, https://poetsandquants.com/2020/11/09/the-best-online-mba-programs-of-2021/.” Accessed February 14, 2023.
Northeastern University. “Education Credentials Come of Age, https://cps.northeastern.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Educational_Credentials_Come_of_Age_2018.pdf.” Accessed February 14, 2023.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Business and Financial Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/home.htm.” Accessed February 14, 2023.
US News & World Report. “The Average Online MBA Student, https://www.usnews.com/higher-education/online-education/articles/2017-05-23/us-news-data-the-average-online-mba-student.” Accessed February 14, 2023.
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.