Business administration is by far the most popular undergraduate major among U.S. college students, due to its versatility and high salary potential. If you’ve got a mind for finance and budgets, as well as the people skills to navigate a competitive industry, then you should consider earning a degree in business administration.
Part I. The World of Business Administration
A degree in business administration can open doors to a wide range of careers. That said, many programs will require you to pick a specialization sometime after your first year of general classes. Here’s an overview of just a few of the directions your degree in business administration can take you.
Types of Careers in Business Administration
- Human Resources: The human resources department is responsible for the personnel of a business or organization. HR specialists perform a range of functions related to employee recruiting, management, and training.
- Accounting: Perfect for money-savvy, detail-oriented individuals, a career in accounting entails the systematic recording, reporting, and analysis of the financial transactions of a business.
- Management: If you enjoy managing people and/or information systems, then specializing in management might be your best option. In order to be a successful manager, you’ll need to be comfortable in a leadership position, juggling every aspect of a business, from the personnel to finances and everything in between.
- Sales and Marketing: As a marketing expert, you’ll be responsible for finding out what people want and how much they’re willing to pay for it. Sales comes down to actually getting out there and closing the deal. This is a specialization for business majors who are gifted in knowing what people want and figuring out the best way to appeal to their interests.
- Information Systems: This can refer to any number of aspects of a business or organization’s day-to-day operations — including hardware, software, and trained personnel — and how it’s all organized to facilitate the coordination, planning, and decision-making for the company. This is a job for tech-savvy, big-picture students.
- Business Law and Ethics: Especially if you’re looking to continue your education with a law degree or an MBA, a solid foundation in business law and ethics is a highly sought after specialization. With this degree you’ll learn about the legal, social and ethical issues involved in small business operations, nonprofit organizations, financial practices, and other facets of business.
- Budget Development: Budget analysts specialize in preparing, evaluating, and developing budgets in accordance with the financial needs and limitations of their business or organization. Those who work in budget development will work with multiple departments and executive managers in order to achieve and maintain the best possible plan for their company or organization.
Career and Salary Outlook
Because the business administration degree lends itself to so many different careers, it’s hard to pin down a specific salary. Those with an undergraduate degree in business administration can reasonably expect to make between $31,000 and 41,000 in their first year, with the potential for much higher earnings in the future; again, this will depend on experience and specialization.
Depending on the specialization, employment in careers related to business is expected to grow between 20% and 35%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As with any lucrative field, strong competition for jobs should be expected.
Part II. Top U.S. Business Administration Programs
Since business administration is such a popular degree major, there are plenty of college and university programs available. Increasingly, online degrees are a convenient and affordable choice for students who require more flexibility. While there are many possibilities when it comes to business school, individual programs vary considerably in terms of cost, faculty, and specializations offered.
Arizona State University
- Accreditation: The W.B. Carey School of business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
- Specialized degrees: B.S. degrees are available in one of seven business disciplines. B.A. degrees combine core business classes with a specific concentration, such as communication, global politics, legal studies, public service and public policy, statistics, sustainability, tourism management, or urban policy.
- Industry Perception: The W.B. Carey School of Business is one of the largest business schools in the country and is internationally recognized for its prestigious faculty and their research productivity. U.S. News and World Report ranked ASU’s business school among the top 30 in the nation.
- Cost: Estimated total yearly cost is $25,642 for residents and $38,895 for nonresidents.
- Financial Aid: In addition to financial aid, students may be eligible for scholarships, grants, loans, student jobs, and other special programs.
- Accreditation: DeVry University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (HLC/NCA).
- Specialized Degrees: B.S. degrees are available both online and at various campuses across the nation. DeVry offers 13 specializations within the business degree program.
- Industry Perception: DeVry University prides itself on the fact that 90% of graduates from DeVry’s business administration program are employed and making the average expected salary.
- Cost: Students can expect to pay $72,084 for their bachelor’s degree obtained online and $76,540 for onsite classes.
- Financial Aid: Most students will qualify for financial aid. Additionally, scholarships, grants & state funded programs, loans and payment plans may be available to those who qualify.
Penn State University
- Accreditation: Smeal College of Business is accredited in business and accounting by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
- Specialized Degrees: Students admitted to the Smeal College of Business will choose from seven different specializations after their first year to obtain a B.S. Students can also choose to minor in international business, legal environment of business, supply chain information sciences and technology, or information systems management.
- Industry Perception: Penn State University ranked #12 by U.S. News & World Report in its “Top Public Schools” list in 2012. TheBestSchools.org ranked Penn State’s online degree the best overall.
- Cost: Pennsylvania residents will pay $21,675 per academic year; nonresidents pay $34,886. Online students attending full-time pay $6,237 per academic semester.
- Financial Aid: Financial Aid is available to most students. Endowed scholarships may be available to some.
University of Notre Dame
- Accreditation: Mendoza College of Business is accredited in business and accounting by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
- Specialized Degrees: Undergraduate students in the Mendoza College of Business can choose to specialize in Accountancy, Finance or Marketing. Management majors can specialize in Consulting, Entrepreneurship or Information Technology Management.
- Industry Perception: Bloomberg BusinessWeek ranked the Mendoza College of Business #24 in 2010. The M.B.A. program is known for its selectivity and high success rate for its graduates.
- Cost: Students should expect to pay $44,605 for tuition and fees for the 2013-14 academic year, and an additional $12,512 for room and board.
- Financial Aid: In addition to financial aid, around 48% of incoming students receive some form of gift aid from the university.
- Accreditation: Kaplan University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).
- Specialized Degrees: Kaplan offers a Bachelor of Science in business administration or accounting.
- Industry Perception: Kaplan University has a reputation for its affordability and personalized instruction. Derek Somersville, a graduate of the business management program, comments: “The instructors were great and they brought out the best in me.” Additionally, TheBestColleges.org ranked Kaplan as the #2 online program for business.
- Cost: The total cost for an online degree is $66,780.
- Financial Aid: In addition to financial aid, you may be eligible for scholarships and grants.
Part III. Launching a Career in Business Administration
Once you’ve decided that a career in business is the thing for you, you’ll need to hone in on a specialization, either before you choose a school or by the end of your first year. Knowing specifically what type of work you want to do in the field of business from the start will help streamline your success.
Organizing the Job Search
- Career Counseling: Nearly all colleges and universities provide career counseling for their graduating students, so why not take advantage? A career counselor can help identify your specific strengths and weaknesses and help guide you on your job search.
- Cover Letters and Résumés: Remember that you’re not the only one in town with a degree in business. Your specific résumé and cover letter is your first and best chance to distinguish yourself from the other applicants. A good cover letter will be specifically tailored to the company you’re applying for. Your résumé should highlight both your academic and professional achievements to date. Looking at sample business résumés is a great place to start.
- Personal Branding: In an ever-changing job market, it’s important to stay on top of the latest developments. You’ll want to consider your social media presence. Should your résumé be available online? Do you have a personal website? Remember: business is still conducted primarily in person, so it’s important to look and act the part.
5 Insights From Business Insiders
- The most sought after skill from CEO on down is the ability to communicate with people. The person who can do that in business will always be in demand. – John Callen, New York based executive recruiter
- Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected. – Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple
- I find that too many students underestimate what they have to offer. Maybe it is ignorance about the real world or lack of confidence. Either way, it blocks their ability to show me why I should hire them. – IBM recruiter
- The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity. – Peter F. Drucker, business management theorist, author and educator
- Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience? – Thomas John Watson Sr., first CEO at IBM and inspiration for name of the computer Watson
The Business of America is Business
For creative, innovative, ambitious people who don’t mind a little competition, pursuing a career in business administration might be just the ticket. Whether you’re planning to join the workforce immediately after graduation, launch your own business, or use your undergraduate degree as a springboard for more education, the variety of course work in business administration will give you the foundation you need to move forward.