Online Business and Management Degrees

Online Business and Management Degrees

Business and management is one of the most popular fields among college students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 364,000 bachelor’s degrees and 185,000 master’s degrees in business were conferred during the 2014-15 academic year. These figures represented the highest number of degrees in any field at both the bachelor’s and master’s levels.

Degrees in business and management are linked to lucrative careers and strong job growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that employees in business and financial occupations earn a median annual salary of $67,710, while those working in management occupations earn a median annual salary of $102,590. The BLS projects these occupation fields will increase by 8 to 10 percent between 2016 and 2026, resulting in roughly 1.58 million new jobs.

Online business and management degrees are available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. Many students earn specializations for their online business degree in fields such as marketing, accounting, human resources, health care management, entrepreneurship and project management. Read on to learn more about options for online management and business degrees at different collegiate levels.

Types of Online Degrees in Business and Management

Both undergraduate and graduate students can earn a business management degree online. An associate degree in business typically requires two years of fundamental coursework in areas such as management, accounting, marketing and human resources. This degree can prepare graduates for entry-level roles or provide the foundation for a bachelor’s degree in business.

Bachelor of arts degrees in business include coursework in the liberal arts, while bachelor of science degrees in the field focus on math, science and other technical elements. Students can also choose to earn a bachelor’s of business administration degree online, which typically focuses on leadership skills and management elements of business. Each type of bachelor’s degree generally requires four years for completion.

At the graduate level, students may earn a master of business administration if they want to focus on finance, marketing and other areas of business operations. Alternatively, a master’s in organizational leadership typically concentrates on communication, leadership theory and other core areas of management. Doctoral degrees in business and management are also available; a doctorate in business administration is optimal for students seeking jobs in corporate leadership, while a Ph.D. in business is best suited for those planning to work in academic research.

In addition to general degrees in business and management, students at all academic levels may earn specialized business degrees in niche areas such as marketing, human resources, supply chain management and project management. Specialization availability varies by institution.

Online Associate Degree in Business Management

Though program lengths vary by school, most associate degrees in business and management span 60 to 68 credits and require two years to complete.

The core curriculum introduces students to foundational areas of business, such as marketing, accounting and finance, and human resources. These fields are often available as associate degree specializations as well. Coursework may also touch on economics, business technology and international business.

Internships are not normally required for students pursuing an associate degree in business, but many schools offer internships as part of their curriculum. An associate degree in business prepares students for entry-level occupations, including administrative and executive assistants, payroll coordinators and sales supervisors. Many associate degree holders advance in their careers after earning a bachelor’s degree and gaining a few years of entry-level experience.

Online Associate in Business Administration Overview

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Online Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Management

According to the BLS, a bachelor’s degree is considered the minimum requirement for most occupations in management and business and finance. Additionally, employees with a bachelor’s tend to earn higher starting salaries than associate degree holders in most areas of business.

Students earning a bachelor’s degree in business management online typically focus on leadership and strategic communication. The curriculum generally includes coursework in business ethics, organizational behavior and other areas of advanced management, along with general business courses in management information systems, global business, accounting and marketing. Degree specializations are also common at the bachelor’s level; some common concentration options include entrepreneurship, marketing and human resources management.

Most online bachelor’s programs in business and management span 120 to 128 credits and take roughly four years to complete. Many require or encourage students to complete an internship with a local organization, where they receive supervised training and real-world management experience. Additionally, some programs culminate in a capstone project for which students must use their knowledge and expertise to address a problem or issue in contemporary business.

An online bachelor’s in business management is suitable for many careers, including human resources managers, financial managers, accountants, market research analysts and management analysts.

Online Bachelor’s in Business Management Overview

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Online Business and Management Master’s Degrees

Online students seeking a master’s in business and management can choose an MBA or a master’s in organizational leadership.

Online MBA programs are typically geared toward students pursuing executive or managerial careers in business and tackle all elements of management and business administration. Coursework areas for MBA degrees generally include accounting, finance, statistics and marketing. Common MBA specializations include finance, supply chain management, marketing and entrepreneurship.

Alternatively, an online master’s in organizational leadership typically focuses on strategic management and communication. Topics of study often include leadership theory, team development and workplace diversity. Students in organizational leadership master’s programs usually may also choose a specialization, such as professional and executive coaching, human resources management or project management.

Most online MBAs and master’s programs in organizational leadership can be completed in roughly two years. However, both degrees are widely available in accelerated pathways that take 18 months or less to complete. Online MBA programs frequently include internship or capstone project components, whereas master’s in organizational leadership programs don’t include these elements or offer them as electives.

An MBA or master’s in organizational leadership can prepare students seeking roles as top executives. Additionally, some employers prefer hiring candidates with a master’s in organizational leadership over those with a bachelor’s for occupations such as computer and information systems managers and health care executives. Popular careers for online MBA recipients include human resources specialists, operations research analysts, financial analysts and IT managers.

Online Master’s in Organizational Leadership and Management Overview

Online MBA Overview

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Online Business and Management Doctoral Degree

According to Mark Stoddard, Director of Operations for the Association of MBAs, a doctorate of business administration builds on the MBA and other master’s degrees by introducing students to advanced research concepts in the fields of business and management. Doctoral degrees can also help students stand out to potential employers because MBA holders are so commonplace in the workforce. An online DBA prepares students for roles as chief executives, organizational development directors and other positions of senior leadership. This differentiates the DBA from Ph.D. programs in business and management, which are geared toward those seeking careers in academia or research.

The curriculum for most online DBA programs includes coursework in areas such as qualitative and quantitative business research methods along with advanced topics in finance, international business and organizational leadership. DBA online programs typically culminate in a dissertation project, which students must present and defend in front of a committee. Up to three onsite residencies may also be required. Online DBA programs vary in length, but most can be completed in three to five years of full-time coursework.

Online Doctorate in Business Administration Overview

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Accreditation for Online Business and Management Programs

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the purpose of accreditation is to “ensure that institutions of higher education meet acceptable levels of quality.” Accreditation is a comprehensive assessment of a postsecondary institution’s academic programs. Students must attend accredited colleges and universities in order to qualify for federal student aid. Additionally, accreditation status may affect a student’s ability to transfer credits from one school to another.

Independent organizations known as accreditors conduct the accreditation process. Institutions may receive two types of accreditation: institutional and/or programmatic. Institutional accreditation is bestowed on the school as a whole by a regional or national accrediting agency. Regional institutional accreditation is typically given to degree-oriented and nonprofit institutions with an academic focus, including state universities, while national accreditation normally applies to vocational and professional schools and for-profit institutions. Programmatic accreditation is primarily awarded to individual departments or schools at larger institutions.

Two organizations officially recognize accreditors: the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, a nongovernmental organization. Both the Department of Education and CHEA maintain lists of all recognized regional, national and programmatic accreditors.

A small number of programmatic accreditors oversee accreditation for online business and management programs. These include the International Accreditation Council for Business Education and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. Additionally, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission – a national accreditor recognized by the Department of Education and CHEA – provides accreditation to online programs at all degree levels.

Accredited online business management degree pathways usually display accreditation information somewhere on their website. Students should ensure the school and online business and management program they choose has received full accreditation in order to ensure they qualify for federal aid and credit transfer opportunities.

Business and Management Concentrations and Specialties

Online business and management programs at all academic levels offer a wide selection of degree specialization options. Specializations focus on niche areas of business and management and can help students gain a competitive edge when applying for jobs in these fields. Though requirements often vary by degree level, specializations typically require three to five courses in addition to the core coursework for the degree. Details for four of the most common business and management specializations are found below.

  • Marketing: A marketing specialization, which is widely available at the undergraduate and graduate degree levels, typically includes coursework in topics such as advertising and branding, strategic communication and consumer behavior. Many marketing concentrations also integrate web advertising and commerce into their curricula.
  • Human Resources Management: HR managers oversee their organization’s various administrative functions. This specialization – most commonly found at the graduate degree level – prepares students for the HR manager career path through coursework in employee recruitment, conflict resolution, and benefits and compensation.
  • Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurship specializations are primarily geared toward students who plan to launch startup companies or become small business owners. The curriculum for this concentration typically includes product development, business communication and marketing. Additionally, some programs offer technology entrepreneurship specializations.
  • Health Care Management: The niche field of health care management focuses on the day-to-day management and operations of hospitals, medical research centers and other health care facilities. Bachelor’s in business management and master’s in organizational leadership programs commonly offer a health care management specialization.


Maddi Salmon bio:

Salmon is a content marketing manager at Go Fish Digital, a digital marketing agency. She started her career as an accountant in Los Angeles but soon realized she couldn’t spend all day staring at a spreadsheet (now she spends only part of her day doing that). She’s based out of Raleigh, North Carolina, but was born in Southern California and raised in Vermont.

1. What made you interested in earning a business management degree after your initial plan to pursue a career in accounting?

Ultimately, it came down to career flexibility – a business degree opens more doors and gives you broader training (e.g., some marketing, some entrepreneurship, etc.), whereas an accounting degree is focused on just that. Don’t get me wrong – accounting is a wonderful path if that is your path, but it just wasn’t mine.

Accounting was my initial path because I’d gotten a start in it young, which gave me better job opportunities as a college student. Because I had experience using QuickBooks, I was able to land jobs related to bookkeeping or accounting rather than work at a coffee shop (which I did earlier in my life). However, the career path I wanted to pursue wasn’t rooted in a specific industry, such as accounting. I wanted a degree that prepared me to take on a variety of roles starting out and gave me range to pursue different paths.

2. What were some of the most crucial skills and competencies you gained in your business management program that you use in your job on a day-to-day basis?

At USC Marshall, there was a big focus on communication, presentation skills and group work, which are all incredibly important for any career that follows a business degree. The various classes I took in different subjects (e.g., marketing) were helpful to give me a sense of different career options, but nothing was more useful than the foundational interpersonal skills.

Communication can be the difference between someone who seems like a recent graduate and someone who presents as a professional. It was something that took practice, but it was the most important lesson I learned in my business program. And as frustrating as group work can be, it’s so important to understand how group dynamics work and how to solve problems effectively with multiple other people. It’s something I use every day in my position at Go Fish Digital. Furthermore, I regularly speak in front of groups and give presentations – it was so valuable to practice these skills in college.

3. What was the job search like after graduating? How did you end up at your current company?

I found the job search to be very wide open for people with my degree, though I had a specific job in mind: marketing. My search wasn’t a direct shot at the position I wanted, but it was done very intentionally and my work experience was hugely valuable. Initially after college, I took an accounting position at a marketing firm, knowing I’d want to end up in marketing. While there, I took on extra projects, such as promoting the blood drive, which gave me bullet points to add to a marketing-focused resume down the line.

Next, I took a sales position at a large tech company, which moved me closer towards marketing and gave me valuable experience that relied heavily on effective communication. While there, I sought out a leadership role on my team and got to know others. I met someone who connected me to a position at my current company, which is where I’ve been ever since. Even though I didn’t start in marketing, I used every opportunity up until this point to build my experience to be prepared.

4. Did you feel adequately prepared for the job search after graduating?

I did, partly because of the training my business program provided and partly because of the steps I’d taken myself. At USC Marshall, there’s a big push during your junior and senior years to participate in job fairs and other recruiting events. There were also classes and assignments where we prepared our resume and practiced interviews. All of these pieces were valuable for the process, but what I did outside of that also played a big role in me being ready for the job search.

During college, I held a job continuously, whether that was a bookkeeping role or an internship or a job at Starbucks. For this reason, I had experience going through the interview process with actual employers, plus I had a good number of jobs to include on my resume after graduating. When employers asked me hypothetical questions about work situations, I could reference a real one I’d gone through rather than referencing a school experience or just answering in hypothetical terms.

5. Have you considered going back school for a graduate degree? Do you think it’s worth it with this degree in terms of job prospects?

I’ve considered it but likely won’t pursue a graduate degree. From what I’ve seen, there is so much opportunity for those with a bachelor’s in business and who gain valuable work experience, so for me it doesn’t feel necessary. However, an MBA would be valuable if you were going to start a business of your own. It not only gives you additional training, but it also introduces you to more people to add to your network.

6. What additional advice would you give students who are considering a bachelor’s degree in business management?

Getting this type of degree is so valuable in the job search, but don’t let that be all you have on your resume. During college, look for every opportunity to take on a part-time job or internship or to help someone you know with their small business. Any way you can gain additional experience will be incredibly valuable when looking for a job after college – even a part-time job at Starbucks will be a good thing to have. Plus, the more experience you have, the better sense you’ll have of what you want to do in your career.

Salaries in Business and Management

Common Careers in Business and Management

Administrative services managers
10% (+28,500 jobs)
Advertising, promotions and marketing managers
10% (+23,800 jobs)
Budget analysts
7% (+3,800 jobs)
Compensation and benefits managers
5% (+800 jobs)
Construction managers
11% (+44,800 jobs)
Financial managers
19% (+108,600 jobs)
Food service managers
9% (+27,600 jobs)
15% (+13,400 jobs)
Human resources managers
9% (+12,300 jobs)
Human resources specialists
7% (+38,900 jobs)
Industrial production managers
-1% (-900 jobs)
Lodging managers
4% (+1,900 jobs)
Management analysts
14% (+115,200 jobs)
Medical and health services managers
20% (+72,100 jobs)
Sales managers
7% (+28,900 jobs)
Top executives
8% (+193,100 jobs)
Training and development managers
10% (+3,600 jobs)
Training and development specialists
11% (+32,500 jobs)
Source: BLS

Business and Management Salaries by Experience

In addition to degree level, salaries for business and management employees vary significantly by job title and years of experience. Using data from PayScale, the table below lists average annual salary expectations for some of the most common business and management occupations at four professional benchmarks.

Operations Manager
Human Resources Manager
Office Manager
Business Development Manager
Financial Analyst
Project Manager


1. Can I get a business management degree online?
Business management degree online programs are widely available for undergraduate and graduate students. Students can also choose from a broad selection of degree specializations at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. These concentrations may include marketing, finance, accounting, human resources and project management. In addition to standard online coursework, many business management programs include a final project and on-site requirements, such as an internship.

2. How long does it take to get a business management degree online?
The expected completion time for a business management degree depends on the student’s academic level. Associate degrees normally require a two-year commitment, and bachelor’s degrees take most students four years to complete. Typical online MBA and master’s in organizational leadership programs span one to two years, and students earning a DBA online can usually finish in three to five years.

3. How much does a business management degree cost?
A typical associate degree in business management online costs between $6,000 and $26,000 for two years of full-time study. Average costs for more advanced degrees in business management are more expensive. These include $32,000 to $74,000 for a bachelor’s, $13,000 to $32,000 for a master’s in organizational leadership and $27,000 to $60,000 for a DBA. The cost of an online MBA varies to a wider degree. The cheapest online MBA programs are priced at less than $10,000, while the most expensive options exceed $100,000.

4. What can you do with a business degree?
Career opportunities for business and management graduates largely depend on their academic major, along with any degree specialization. According to the BLS, a bachelor’s degree or higher is needed for the majority of positions in management and the business and financial sector. These include roles in marketing, accounting, human resources and logistics. Additionally, those who complete a business and management program are generally qualified to advance to the next highest degree. For example, a bachelor’s degree is often a prerequisite for master’s programs in organizational leadership, while a master’s in a business field may be required for DBA online programs.

Business and Management Scholarships

Many students rely on scholarship aid to help them afford the high costs of college education. In addition to general scholarships, which are available to applicants regardless of their academic major, some awards are reserved for those entering or currently enrolled in business management programs at different academic levels. Ten scholarships for business and management students are outlined below.

ACMPE Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: The Medical Group Management Association offers scholarships to students who are current MGMA members and enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program in business administration, health care administration or another related field. A total of 11 individual awards are available.
Degree Level: All
Amount: $1,000 to $5,000

Blacks at Microsoft Scholarship
Who Can Apply: BAM Scholarships are open to high school seniors of African descent planning to attend a four-year institution and pursue a degree in engineering, computer science, computer information systems or business-related fields such as finance or marketing. This scholarship is renewable up to four years.
Degree Level: Bachelor’s
Amount: $5,000 per year

Frederick and Demi Seguritan Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This award from the Asian Pacific Fund is available to first-generation Asian-American candidates who are enrolled as full-time, first-year students in college. An interest in business is required, but this does not need to be the candidate’s major field of study. The scholarship is renewable up to four years.
Degree Level: Bachelor’s
Amount: $5,000 per year

Fukunaga Scholarship Foundation
Who Can Apply: This scholarship is open to students from Hawaii pursuing degrees in business administration or a related field at any accredited four-year institution.
Degree Level: Bachelor’s
Amount: $20,000

General Electric and Lloyd Trotter Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: This award is open to members of the National Black MBA Association pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree at any U.S.-based institution. Other requirements include current enrollment, good academic standing and legal U.S. residency.
Degree Level: All
Amount: Up to $10,000

Howard Bernstein Scholarship Fund
Who Can Apply: This award is open to college juniors and seniors studying the material handling, engineering, distribution, supply chain and logistics industries.
Degree Level: Bachelor’s
Amount: $5,000

Melvin Kruger Endowed Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship is open to students at two- or four-year institutions planning to pursue careers in business management, construction management and other fields related to roofing and construction.
Degree Level: Associate or bachelor’s
Amount: $5,000

National Dairy Promotion and Research Board Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship is available to college sophomores, juniors and seniors attending programs focused on dairy management. Accepted majors include business-related fields such as marketing, business and economics.
Degree Level: Bachelor’s
Amount: $2,500

National Society of Accountants Scholarship Foundation
Who Can Apply: The NSA offers this scholarship to students who are U.S. or Canadian citizens earning a degree in accounting from an accredited two- or four-year institution. At least a 3.0 cumulative GPA is also required.
Degree Level: Associate or bachelor’s
Amount: $500 to $2,200

Project Management Institute Educational Foundation Scholarships
Who Can Apply: The Project Management Institute offers more than 40 scholarships, including general awards for any student pursuing a degree related to project management and scholarships reserved for candidates in specific PMI chapter areas.
Degree Level: All
Amount: Up to $7,500

Professional Organizations in Business and Management

Professional organizations can be valuable resources for students earning degrees in business and management and recent graduates. These organizations often host in-person conferences and seminars, provide networking opportunities for members and offer webinars and courses that satisfy continuing education requirements. Many also offer job boards and other career services. Three leading organizations for business and management professionals are listed below.

  • American Management Association: AMA offers a wealth of resources for individual members, including live web seminars, a comprehensive resource library and opportunities available through the AMA Women’s Leadership Center. The association also provides services for organizations and government agencies. Student membership costs $95 per year, and e-membership includes access to online materials at no extra charge.
  • United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship: Geared toward entrepreneurship educators, USASBE’s members include teachers, academic scholars and program directors. Job seekers and employers can use the association’s online career services to find positions and suitable candidates. USASBE also hosts an annual conference.
  • Association for Financial Professionals: AFP offers two certification programs for finance professionals: the certified treasury professional and the certified corporate financial planning and analysis professional. The association also publishes AFP Exchange magazine and hosts an annual conference that draws more than 6,000 attendees each year.

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