Guide to Business Administration

Business administration is a popular degree title, one pursued at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Programs are found at thousands of colleges and universities. But what exactly is a degree in business administration for?

Many Dimensions of “Business Administration”

Programs in business administration provide students with an education that covers all facets of business, including accounting and finance, statistics, marketing, and human resources.

Students study the theory and principals that fuel every day business decisions, such as budgeting, hiring, management, and organization.

A key aspect of the business administration degree is how it demonstrates the interaction between different business functions. Students commonly work in small groups to simulate real-world business situations, solve problems, and think about every day issues such as ethics and diversity.

Where Graduates Work

Business administration programs are ideal for those interested in starting their own business or for those interested in management positions in a variety of corporate settings.

Graduates of business administration programs are sought after by government, health care, international, and non-profit organizations, to name just a few.

Many business administration programs offer students an opportunity to pick an area of concentration, such as finance or economics, to further focus their career goals.

Degrees Available

A bachelor’s degree in business administration provides a great foundation for one to continue their studies and work toward a Master of Business Administration, or MBA.

The MBA is one of the most common graduate degrees pursued. It offers students in-depth study of business strategies and concepts, leadership skills, and networking opportunities. The popularity of the degree is due, in part, to the salary gains you can make for the rest of your career.

MBA programs typically last one to two years. In the first half, they provide students with a generalized curriculum that covers all facets of business. The second half is often marked for specialization in areas such as accounting, insurance, strategy, economics, finance, management, human resources, organizational behavior, marketing, sports management, operations management, international business, real estate, or entrepreneurship.

Other business administration programs include associate degrees for students looking for a two-year introduction of sorts to the world of business management, as well as doctoral degrees for those interested in business-related research and teaching opportunities.

Undergraduate Degree Requirements

To earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration, students generally need to complete a “business core,” the group of classes every business student should know, including accounting, finance, economics, management, and marketing.

A degree is then rounded out through general education requirements (including courses on history, science, and communication) and business electives. Most bachelor degree programs take four years to complete in North America and three years in countries such as Australia, though there are accelerated program options at many colleges and universities.

Associate degrees are also offered for business administration majors. Generally, an associate degree program lasts two years and is comprised of the business core and electives and does not include general education requirements.

Core business subjects

The business core is typically comprised of management, communication, marketing, finance, and technology courses. Management classes include topics such as organization, leadership, business law, strategy, and operations.

Business communication classes often emphasize business writing, while the financial component includes financial and managerial accounting, micro- and macroeconomics, statistics, and often, general math, such as algebra or calculus.

Electives / majors

Many business administration degrees offer students the opportunity to select an area of concentration. Selecting a concentration allows students to focus their elective requirements in one area. Common business administration concentrations include marketing, finance, accounting, human resources, and economics.


Another important component of the business administration degree is an internship. Some programs build an internship into one of the final semesters, while other programs offer elective credit to students who complete an internship during the summer before their senior year.

Many programs offer significant credits for internship experience. Internships are widely available for business administration majors. For example, many major retail stores offer paid internship opportunities for those interested in management.

MBA Degree Requirements

The traditional master of business administration (MBA) degree is a two-year, 50-60 credit hour program comprised of a core curriculum and electives that meet the requirements of a specialization. Today, the standard program in Australia has been reduced to 12 units, which is equivalent to three semesters of full-time study.

Many online MBA programs use a seven-week format in which students complete a unit every seven weeks or, before a brief pause and then moving on to the next unit.

Core curriculum

During the first year of an MBA program, students complete a core curriculum. Similar to undergraduate core business administration programs, classes generally include macro and microeconomics, marketing, financial and/or managerial accounting, decision-making, ethics, statistics, strategy, organizational behavior, leadership, and operations.


In the second year (or toward the end of the first, in some programs), MBA students begin taking electives that contribute toward a degree specialization. MBA candidates can choose from a variety of specialties, depending on what is offered at their school, that include corporate finance, entrepreneurial management, real estate, marketing research, investment management, global business, energy management, organizational behavior, and more.

Alternative program structures

Colleges may offer joint MBA degree programs that pair the MBA with another degree, such as the juris doctorate (JD) for law students. Such a program blends a two-year MBA program with a three-year JD program into a compact four-year program. MBAs can be combined with a variety of degrees, including the doctor of medicine, master of communications, and master of health administration, as well as with PhD programs.

While the two-year MBA program is referred to as the traditional program, some schools offer a one-year intensive program, as well as part-time programs for those with full-time work commitments. MBAs are increasingly available through online study as well.