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What Is Business Administration? Your Path to the C-Suite

Last updated: September 6, 2019
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For many future entrepreneurs and aspiring C-level executives, applying to business school is a natural route to take. However, once you begin looking into your options, you may notice that there’s a huge variety of business degrees to choose from ⁠— many of which sound extremely similar. For example, what is business administration? And how does it compare to business management?

Most business degrees will adequately propel you into the business leadership career you’ve always wanted. However, if you want to find a degree perfectly suited to your skills and interests that still challenges you to learn more, it’s important to consider all your options.

In this article, we’ll break down what you can learn and do with your Bachelor’s of Business Administration, so you can compare this popular route to other business degrees you may be considering.

What Is Business Administration?

what is business administration: man walking with leather brief case

The term “business administration” refers to the management of everyday operations within a company. However, this field of study covers far more than the simple clerical tasks, money management, and paperwork required to get by in a single day. It also teaches students about business theory and the practices that have led today’s top companies to success.

As part of a business administration program, you’ll get coursework that helps you put your business operations knowledge into practice in all divisions of a company. You’ll learn all the basics of finance, marketing, research, and more. You’ll also get to know what role you really have to play when you earn a coveted management title.

During your time in your degree program, you’ll also gain problem-solving skills and other soft skills that can be applied to many types of careers. Taking on this bachelor’s degree will make you a good candidate for many leadership roles. If you have your own business ideas, it will give you the knowledge you need to start your own small business as a team of one.

Business Administration vs. Business Management

what is business administration: workflow strategy

Even after reading about what business administration is, it may not be clear how the study truly differs from business management. Some people use these two terms interchangeably, as the soft skills you learn are quite similar. However, there are subtle ways in which a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) can be a better fit than a Bachelor of Science in Business Management (BSBM), and vice versa.

A BBA is most suited to students who want to gain leadership skills in a specialized area, whereas a BSBM is more suited to students who want to learn general management skills. A good way of looking at it is that BBA students become great fits for chief technology officer (CTO) and chief marketing officer (CMO) positions, whereas BSBM students may be the general business leaders who are more likely to take on CEO positions.

Either degree will teach you the same decision-making and operations management skills you need to gain an entry-level business career or start a well-rounded, successful business. However, you may choose to pursue a BSBM if you’re more of a creative, idea-focused leader with natural communication skills that you want to grow. On the other hand, a business administration degree will prepare you to become the organized, logical thinker who leads by creating a well-functioning company.

What Can I Do With a Business Administration Degree?

girl walking on campus with backpack and stack of books

As we mentioned before, pursuing a BBA allows you to become a versatile candidate for many future opportunities. In this section, we’ll describe how you can enter a specialized career track, as well as how much you can earn in different careers.

Specializations

Depending on the degree program you ultimately select, you may be able to select a specialty in the business field as soon as you’re enrolled. This concentration will ultimately shape your career path and make you a more attractive candidate for that specific part of the field.

If you want to understand the whole of operating a business but are most interested in a specific department, many business schools will allow you to learn about one of these fields in-depth:

  • Data analytics
  • Economics
  • Financial management
  • Healthcare administration
  • Human resources
  • Marketing
  • Project Management

Careers

graduation class tossing graduation caps in the air

After you’ve graduated with your business administration degree, you’re already qualified for a handful of full-time, entry-level positions that will lead to high-paying opportunities as you climb up the ladder. Here are three common career paths for business administration graduates, as well as the average salary of people in those positions, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Financial examiners: It’s fairly common for people with BBAs to be involved in finance-heavy roles. This includes jobs in accounting, financial advisement, and more. A financial examiner position is a good fit for someone who’s skilled at reviewing and giving advice on any type of transaction or loan. You’ll also likely be in charge of legal compliance for all money-related activities. This career can pay over $80,000 per year and is a great start toward a chief financial officer title.
  • Human resources specialists: These professionals are initially tasked with recruitment and employee screening. They are also in charge of creating a good culture for the company. You can expect to make about $60,000 per year. As you move up the ladder into a management position, your salary may rise to over $100,000, or even more if you enter a chief HR officer position.
  • Market research analysts: Much like financial examiners, people in this role review and advise on work in their expert area. To improve a company’s outlook, they often research potential growth and consider what affects consumer decisions. This role pays over $60,000 on average and can be your starting point toward a chief marketing officer title.

You may also choose to take on a career directly related to your concentration. For example, you can find a career in the healthcare field if you studied healthcare administration. This is what many students choose to do after graduation, as their emphasis makes their resumes more attractive to the companies they apply for.

Of course, BBA grads can also follow the direct career path of their major and become business administrators. In this career, you’ll likely work on planning and organization between departments, including communicating with HR, finance teams, and more. These are usually entry-level jobs, though they give you room to advance into higher roles like executive or department administrator.

Many BBA graduates, especially those who choose a specialization in entrepreneurship, may also end up owning their own business, using their skills to effectively manage or perform the roles of all departments. Launching a startup requires a bit of investment and sometimes even small business loans, but unlike traditional careers, you don’t have a cap on how much you can earn if you’re willing to put the work in.

Frequently Asked Questions

girl in graduation cap and gown

Shooting for a business administration degree is a great, proactive step toward any leadership position in business, no matter which industry you land in. Here are some common questions you may want to consider before applying to the college of your choice:

1. Are there any requirements I need to meet to get into a business administration program?

Most BBA programs have the same requirements as other bachelor’s degree programs. In order to be accepted, you likely need to have a high school diploma or a GED equivalent. And you’ll likely need to meet minimum high school GPA and testing score requirements, as well as complete an application. Beyond this basic checklist, your preferred colleges may have their own requirements, as well, especially if you’re looking to enter a highly acclaimed college.

2. Which master’s degree should I get if I graduate with a BBA?

After graduating with a BBA, some students choose to continue their business education by furthering their knowledge of the same subject matter. Many colleges offer Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs that receive plenty of applicants each year. If you still want to continue beyond that, you can increase your future salary and chance of getting higher-level positions by pursuing Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) programs.

3. What are the top schools to receive a bachelor’s degree in business administration from?

Most college rankings place the University of Pennsylvania as the top school for business administration, though the following schools are always close behind:

We recommend touring and speaking to staff members and students before choosing a school. While colleges with high rankings may look good on paper, a campus with the right coursework and culture will help you more effectively learn and apply the knowledge related to your ideal career path.

Achieve Your Dream Business Career

Business administration degrees are in high demand, and graduates with BBAs are equally sought after by employers. The major provides enough versatility for you to do well in any business-related job title. At the same time, the specialty you choose and your expertise in keeping a workplace functional and organized can make you stand out from the crowd.

If you’re an entrepreneur seeking a degree program that will help you build and scale a company, a BBA may be a great path for you to learn how to do so. Or if you already have an idea for a company in your head, read our article on how to start a business — even if you have no money to invest.

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