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Business administration is a wide-ranging field that encompasses a variety of leadership and management roles in both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Business administrators may serve in a variety of capacities for the companies they lead, including the following:

  • Business operations
  • Marketing and public relations
  • Human resources (HR)
  • Finance
  • Management
  • Sales

Some administrators may specialize in a particular area, while others may coordinate or oversee efforts across or between departments within an organization or between organizations. The chief executive officer (CEO) or president of a company oversees the efforts of divisional managers and guides the business as a whole. Depending on one's career path and specialty chosen, responsibilities may include some or all of the following:

  • Hiring and training employees
  • Overseeing project management from inception to completion
  • Delegating tasks
  • Evaluating employees' performance and providing feedback
  • Performing financial calculations in a variety of contexts
  • Assessing market trends and determining a course of action
  • Developing effective working relationships with other business leaders
  • Promoting the public face and reputation of the company's brand

While a bachelor's degree in a related major may be sufficient for entry-level positions, typically senior administrators have significant work experience. Many also have advanced degrees, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA). It is common for MBA programs to consider hands-on experience as a criterion for admission, meaning that students can expect to devote significant time developing their skills and advancing in their careers whether or not they intend to seek a graduate degree.

Coursework in Online Business Administration Degree Programs

While required coursework depends on a student's career goals, as well as the school and program they select, there are some subjects common to online business administration programs.


Accounting is the measurement, processing and communication of financial information about economic entities, which include businesses and nonprofits. Accounting courses teach students how to record and report business operating, financing and investing events. While students majoring in accounting may have a more in-depth study of the field, students more interested in business administration will likely take general coursework that teaches them the skills to read and understand reports prepared by others.


While entrepreneurship is the process of designing and launching a new business, many of the skills necessary for successful entrepreneurship are applicable in the setting of established companies. Students may learn how to develop business plans, secure financing, identify market opportunities, negotiate and network. More advanced coursework may focus on decision-making and uncertainty as well as product development. Entrepreneurship courses may serve as capstone experiences involving hands-on experience through the launch of microbusinesses.


Management is the coordination of people's efforts in order to accomplish goals effectively and efficiently. Perhaps the keystone to a successful enterprise, management involves clear communication as well as an understanding of the design and structure of organizations. Ethical issues, problem solving and legal requirements may also be covered in management coursework. Additionally, some management courses may include internship components so students can learn by doing.


Marketing communicates the value of a product, service or brand to consumers for the purpose of promoting sales. Ranging from word-of-mouth, in which customers convey their experiences and opinions during the course of their natural daily interactions with others, to sophisticated multi-layer and multi-platform campaigns, effective marketing is vital to the success of any business. Marketing coursework may include ethics, the fundamentals of market research, consumer behavior, public relations and professional selling.

International business

Students cannot assume that doing business in other countries or regions of the world is similar to doing business in the United States. Language is not the only barrier. Different cultures place value on different products and behaviors, and what is successful in one country or context may not be valued in another. Additionally, different countries have different legal requirements that must be taken into consideration before doing business there. Coursework in international business addresses considerations in foreign business settings -- including financial, economic and socioeconomic, physical, sociocultural, political, legal, labor, competitive and distributive matters -- within the context of strategic management issues.

Some types of coursework, such as accounting and marketing, may be technical and mathematically rigorous. In addition to coursework, workplace experience is essential, so students should be prepared to seek out internships or similar opportunities while in school.

Interview With a Business Administration Professor

Bridget Niland PortraitWe spoke with Bridget Niland, who formerly served at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, after working as a trial attorney with the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. She is currently an associate professor of business administration and sport management as well as the director of athletics at Daemen College. She shared her insights about how to strategically pursue a degree in business administration or a related field.

What are the skills, interests and personality traits necessary for a student to be successful in the field of business administration?

"Business is based on relationships with others. The best business people are often those who have an outgoing personality and are, by nature, goal-oriented. I have witnessed a number of students who are effective communicators rise quickly in the business world. It also helps to relate well to persons of various backgrounds."

What is the most rewarding part of a career in this field? Why should students pursue a career in this field?

"Business people often get the chance to build new businesses or take an existing industry to a new level of success. The output of business is very obvious and can be measured in not only dollars, but also the satisfaction of customers.

"Business is what drives the economy and also allows for great creativity and interaction with others."

What advice would you give to students considering this field of study?

"Not all business programs are created equal and students should be judicious about the school at which they select to study business. Students should look for schools with strong ties to an industry or community. Internships and career preparation should be part of the curriculum."

Career Outlook for Professionals With Business Administration Degrees

Business administration encompasses a wide variety of practice areas and potential careers. However, many students choose this major with the goal of becoming top executives.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of top executives is projected to grow 11 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. However, employment growth will vary widely by industry. Although required education and training also vary widely by industry, generally at least a bachelor's degree and substantial work experience are required.

The BLS also reports that the median annual salary for top executives in 2014 was $110,760. These salaries generally ranged from $72,750 per year for the lowest earning professionals to $173,320 for the highest earning professionals. States with the highest employment in this profession include California, New York, Florida and Illinois.


Top Executives, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives.htm#tab-1

11-1011 Chief Executives, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes111011.htm

Pursue your Business Administration major today…