In a world that sometimes seems split between hyper-educated MBAs and dropout entrepreneurs running companies with skyrocketing valuations, the humble business bachelor’s degree doesn’t always get a lot of love. With a four-year commitment from enrollment to graduation, it can feel like it takes forever, and is often seen as just a ticket punch on the way to an MBA.
But that’s all wrong. In fact, a bachelor’s degree in a business concentration is exactly the kind of batman-utility-belt you need to start scaling the rungs in almost any field.
That’s part of the reason that business majors are the most popular choice for undergraduates in the United States today. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2017 one out of every five bachelor’s degrees awarded in the country were in business.
That amounts to more than 145,000 general business administration and management degrees awarded in that year, with each of those graduates exposed to dozens of different disciplines, giving them a chance to succeed in potentially hundreds of different types of careers.
And by succeed, we mean “make money.” NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, projected that 2020 starting salaries for graduates with business degrees would be almost $60,000 per year. That’s at least 16% more than the average salary for American workers overall as surveyed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which means your business degree will start paying off from day one.
What job will that be? Well, almost no one goes to college knowing exactly what path they will pursue after they graduate. But a bachelor’s in business offers you the skillset to take your career in almost any direction without the time and expense many people encounter when going back to school later in life to study-up in a more practical field than the one they started in. You almost can’t go wrong with a business degree.
That’s because business—any kind of business—is all about organization, planning, and finance. Successful business leaders have to integrate domain specific knowledge with general knowledge in areas like:
- Taxation and Regulation
And they have to do it all with an eye on the bigger picture… society, culture, technology.
Guess what a business bachelor’s degree trains you to do?
That’s right… all of that. And with an online degree program, you are learning it on your own time, in your own place, in your own way.
What Kind of Jobs are Open to You With a Bachelor’s in Business?
The answer to this question is the very thing that makes bachelor’s degrees in business really shine: with a bachelor’s in business under your belt you can get your foot in the door in almost any industry, working in almost any managerial capacity. No, they probably aren’t going to put you in the C-suite on your first day… but mid-level management and leadership positions of all stripes are up for grabs.
Business majors are in big demand today. The National Association of Colleges and Employers 2019 Job Outlook Survey found that 83% of employers were planning to hire bachelor’s-level business school graduates… the highest proportion out of any field surveyed.
Part of the reason for that is simply the enormous number of jobs you can compete for once you have a business degree under your belt. In fact, the swath of positions you can step into with a bachelor’s in a business field is far too broad to outline here. But you can get a sense of it with some of these common job titles:
- Management consultant
- Event planner
- Business development coordinator
- Sales associate
- Marketing coordinator
- Program manager
- Project coordinator
- Team leader
- Office manager
- Program analyst
Or you can always strike out on your own; become an entrepreneur and start your own business. Give yourself whatever title you want! The sky is the limit.
What Kind of Salary Can You Expect With a Bachelor’s in Business?
Just as there are a nearly infinite amount of job titles that can come with a bachelor’s degree in business, there are a wide range of potential salaries too. But there is one thing they have in common: they’re all better than what you would earn without that degree.
Robert Half, a recruiting and placement firm, lays it out clearly in their 2020 Administrative Salary Guide. They track salary levels in a variety of business roles with adjustments based on education and experience. Bachelor’s holders are most likely to start at the median level, with adjustments upward based on their real-world experience:
Senior Executive Assistant
- Base – $63,750
- More Experience – $73,750
- Most Experienced – $91,000
- Base – $44,000
- More Experience – $46,250
- Most Experienced – $69,500
- Base – $44,750
- More Experience – $63,250
- Most Experienced – $92,250
Customer Service Manager
- Base – $42,500
- More Experience – $47,000
- Most Experienced – $69,750
These numbers can vary based on location and industry as well. For example, Robert Half outlines the following salary ranges in the country’s major metros for the respective job titles:
Senior Executive Assistant
- New York: $81,841 – $127,855
- Los Angeles: $76,890 – $120,120
- Chicago: $72,230 – $112,840
- Dallas: $64,658 – $101,010
- Miami: $61,745 – $96,460
- Saint Louis: $58,541 – $91,455
- Atlanta: $61,745 – $96,460
- Seattle: $73,978 – $115,570
- New York: $61,820 – $97,648
- Los Angeles: $58,080 – $91,740
- Chicago: $54,560 – $86,180
- Dallas: $48,840 – $77,145
- Miami: $46,640 – $73,670
- Saint Louis: $44,220 – $69,847
- Atlanta: $46,640 – $73,670
- Seattle: $55,880 – $88,265
- New York: $62,874 – $129,611
- Los Angeles: $59,070 – $121,770
- Chicago: $55,490 – $114,390
- Dallas: $49,673 – $102,398
- Miami: $47,435 – $97,785
- Saint Louis: $44,974 – $92,711
- Atlanta: $47,435 – $97,785
- Seattle: $56,832 – $117,158
Customer Service Manager
- New York: $59,712 – $97,999
- Los Angeles: $56,100 – $92,070
- Chicago: $52,700 – $86,490
- Dallas: $47,175 – $77,422
- Miami: $45,050 – $73,935
- Saint Louis: $42,712 – $70,099
- Atlanta: $45,050 – $73,935
- Seattle: $53,975 – $88,582
There are also some non-quantifiable advantages that come with your business degree. Studies by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce in the wake of the 2007-2009 Great Recession found that business majors had lower unemployment rates during the downturn than those with degrees in any other field. So even if your salary isn’t blowing it away, you can enjoy the job security that few others can claim.
How to Pick the Perfect Business Degree Program for Your Goals
One of the best things about picking a business bachelor’s degree is the sheer variety of programs that are open to you. There are more than 540 AACSB-accredited business schools located in the United States alone, many of them with multiple types of business bachelor’s programs on offer. And that’s only one specialty accreditor of three.
In fact, it’s exactly that variety that can make this a hard question to answer. You’re going to have to pick one, but which one? There are a few things to consider.
Understanding the Subtle Differences in Business Bachelor’s Programs
The broad breakdown in business degree programs is between arts and sciences.
- Bachelor of Science (BS) – BS degrees tend to focus on the technical aspects of business education. You can expect more practical concentration in the economics, math, managerial studies, and other mechanical elements that make up business studies.
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) – BA degrees still offer a full education in the technical elements of business, but they also devote significant class time to the classical liberal arts elements of a college education. History, foreign languages, writing, and other creative and critical thinking courses will be required.
- Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) – A BBA is usually more like a BS degree with a stronger focus on technical education in business. But it can vary considerably based on the particular school and curriculum, so investigate the required coursework.
There are dozens of different business degree concentrations available, including:
- Business management
- International business
- Project management
- Operations management
Similarly, the titles may represent various courses of study at different schools, so look into the specifics before you enroll.
Building the Best Bachelor’s Curriculum For Business Success
Business has become more specialized in recent years, but there is a reason why the general business degree is still in such high demand: it represents a generic skillset well-suited to solving problems of commerce and production that can be applied in almost any field.
The secret sauce to business bachelor’s degrees is their liberal arts roots. History, social studies, writing, and reading comprehension all build the kind of critical thinking and communication skills that are crucial to business leadership positions. Your value as the kind of person who can build and bring together a team to accomplish big things is rooted in a diversity of knowledge.
The core classes you need to fill out that skillset will include:
- General Education – These courses are the general studies requirements that every bachelor’s degree must cover, including subjects like college-level calculus and algebra, English and writing, psychology and sociology, computer technology, history, social studies, and basic sciences. Although they might not seem immediately relevant, these humanities and science courses are part of the broader background of general knowledge that helps business majors fit into any industry!
- Business communications – This specialized study in communication theory and writing will help you develop clear and informative documents, reports, memos, and other types of business communications.
- Business ethics, laws, and regulations – Regulations and laws are the landscape in which business operates, and successful business leaders understand exactly where those rules apply and how to navigate them. More importantly, they learn to do so with integrity and ethics that demands the respect of both staff and business partners. These courses help you develop those qualities.
- Introductory accounting and finance – Business is a money-making endeavor, and if you can’t get the numbers to add up, you don’t have a business at all. Learning the essentials of bookkeeping and financial operations keeps your fingers on the pulse of your department, your business, and your industry.
- Marketing and operations – The nuts and bolts of a business are outlined in these courses, which explain how business operates and how businesses connect with their customers in any field.
- Leadership and strategy – Business majors are prized for their ability to take the long view, to see the possibilities and lay out a course of action to beat the competition. These classes teach you how to strategize and advocate for your plans.
More specialized degrees will dive into more detailed courses on their core subjects, like marketing, finance, import/export considerations, foreign exchange, or any other special subjects they involve.
The Importance of Specialty Accreditation in Business Bachelor’s Degrees
With so many schools offering business degrees at the bachelor level, one of your toughest obstacles is simply figuring out which of them delivers a robust education that’s worth the price you will pay for it.
Since you can’t go audit every business program in detail to evaluate them, you need to pay attention to their accreditation status.
Almost every major American college will already have a general education accreditation from one of the six major regional accreditation agencies recognized by the Department of Education and CHEA (Council for Higher Education Accreditation). That’s the essential standard by which a college education in the United States is evaluated today, making sure that schools have the kind of objective grading, instructor hiring, administrative procedures, and academic rigor that employers demand.
But a specialty accreditation goes further. These are offered by three agencies with extensive business ties and expertise that look at individual programs or business schools exclusively, and apply their knowledge to determining if those degrees fulfill the kind of cutting edge training that the business community demands.
The ACBSP was founded in 1989 to accredit business schools, with an eye to the quality of teaching and learning taking place over anything else. Recognized by DoE and CHEA, the council evaluates programs on the basis of their comprehensive coverage of basic principles of business and accounting, along with up-to-date information on how business gets done today, and the accessibility of courses.
ACBSP maintains two separate categories for accreditation, one in finance and the other in business, so look for the appropriate type of accreditation for the degree you are investigating.
The IACBE uses a hands-on process to work through business and accounting programs on-site to ensure they meet the highest standards of ethics and professionalism at both the instructive and administrative levels. Created to fill a gap in international business specialty accrediting, the IACBE is nonetheless recognized by CHEA as having the right standards for American business schools as well as foreign programs.
That gives IACBE an edge in evaluating programs with multinational training aspects, and they are also known for casting a keen eye over programs that have a heavy component of nonprofit training in them.
As the oldest of the three agencies, the AACSB has a track record extending back to 1916. The association does not accredit for-profit schools, and only around 5 percent of business programs have earned its acknowledgement. That exclusivity is part of why many consider it the premier agency when it comes to business program accreditation. Like the ACBSP, it maintains separate accreditations for business and accounting programs. It also accredits both institutions as a whole, and specific program specializations, meaning you should check the status of both the B-school and the specific major you are applying for.
AACSB accreditation isn’t just tough to get, it’s also hard to keep; continuous improvement and annual reporting requirements ensure that these schools and programs remain at the cutting-edge of business education.
Why Online Programs Are The Future in Business Education
It’s always going to be true that some people prefer learning in a traditional classroom environment. But business moves a lot faster than schools these days, and online education is one of the best ways to keep up with the pace.
Online programs have a kind of flexibility that appeals to on-the-move business professionals. Programs typically offer an ability to move at your own pace, so whether that means doubling up and getting through in half the time, or stretching your education out to give yourself time to work in your current career or develop your hot business idea, online degrees can fit your needs in ways that traditional programs never could. With both real-time, synchronous lectures that mimic the traditional class environment and cutting-edge asynchronous courses that use sophisticated learning management systems to deliver content 24/7, you can pick the style that helps you learn best.
It’s not just the pace that is flexible. Since you don’t have to actually show up in a classroom at a particular time and place, you can study anywhere, at any time with schools that deliver asynchronous courses. That keeps your lifestyle flexible as well. You don’t have to pick up and relocate across the country to go to the B-school of your dreams anymore, and you won’t have to quit your day job either. If you have the grit for it, it’s no problem to complete a four-year program studying on nights and weekends at your kitchen table.
No matter what your motivation, earning an online bachelor’s in business is the first step to a long and lucrative career in just about any industry.