What Is Business Administration?

Anna Spooner
businesswoman

If you're interested in a career in business, a degree in business administration can help you move forward. It's important to understand what business administration covers and what courses and skills it includes. Then you can discover the opportunities you have with this type of degree.

Business Administration Disciplines

Business administration is an umbrella term that covers many different business disciplines. Someone who is studying business administration can receive focused training in a variety of areas:

  • Management: Management is the art of leading and inspiring others while helping the organization achieve its objectives.
  • Economics: Economics is the study of how the economy works and what factors influence growth or decline.
  • Finance: Finance involves learning about investments, stock markets, and how corporations maximize their profits.
  • Accounting: Accounting involves learning how companies keep their financial records.
  • Human resources: Professionals in human resources are responsible for hiring the right people, managing employee benefits, and providing guidance for policies and procedures.
  • Marketing: Marketing teaches you how companies go about getting new customers, developing their brand identity, and building market share.
  • Operations Management: Operations management focuses on how companies can become more efficient in their processes and optimize business functions.
  • Business Analytics and Information Systems: Specialists in this area help decision-makers analyze and understand the implications of enormous amounts of data.
  • Business Law: This field focuses on the variety of laws and regulations that businesses must abide by.

As AllBusinessSchools.com points out, you can also receive a degree in Business Administration without focusing in any one of these areas. Your studies would then include an overview of many or all of the above disciplines, without an emphasis on a single topic.

Business Degrees and Certifications

Business administration degrees are offered at every level of education, from community colleges to graduate degree programs.

Associate's Degree

A two-year associate's degree is described by AllBusinessSchools.com as focusing on accounting, management, and business software. It can prepare you to move forward into your bachelor's program, or you can use the education to qualify for an entry-level job in retail, sales, or a corporate office.

Bachelor's Degree

A four-year bachelor's degree in business can help you qualify for a variety of professional roles. If you focus on one of the disciplines within business, traditional roles include careers in banking, finance, human resources, and management. With a more general degree in business administration, you can work for another company or even start your own venture as an entrepreneur.

Advanced Degrees and Certifications

Once you've been in the business world for several years, you may find that an advanced degree or certification helps you advance your career, gain a promotion, or move into another field.

Key Skills

team meeting

When you are looking for work in business administration, you will find that job descriptions typically require specific skills, many of which are taught in business courses. Key skills taught in business school include:

  • Analyzing business problems: Problem-solving is an important skill in a business environment. The case studies you review throughout your degree program will show you how companies respond to challenges. Studying how to effectively resolve common business issues will equip you to contribute to a company after graduation.
  • Interpreting financial statements: Even if you don't work directly in finance or accounting, understanding the financial position of your organization is vital. During a business administration program, you will learn to read and understand financial statements.
  • Developing marketing strategy: Marketing in today's world is complex. A business administration degree will help you understand what marketing avenues are available and how to create the best marketing mix for a company.
  • Drafting business plans: In many companies, leaders at every level are involved in the annual business plan. When you have studied business administration, you will know the elements of a business plan and be ready to contribute to the future of your company.
  • Being an effective team member: Earning a business administration degree requires you to work with others on a variety of projects. The skills you learn from working on these teams will help prepare you to work in a team environment once you start your career.
  • Leading others: You will study a variety of leadership theories in business school. Exploring different outlooks on leadership helps you hone your leadership style as you transition into the workplace.

Example Jobs for Business School Graduates

Because business administration covers such a wide range of specialties, the job options are incredibly diverse. You can work in a fast-paced field like investment banking or join an organization focused on giving back, such as a nonprofit agency. Examples of career paths you can explore with a degree in business include:

Accounting

A beginning job in corporate accounting might be working as an accounting clerk, doing basic paperwork and reporting.

As you move up in your career, you can become:

  • A senior accountant overseeing the clerks
  • An internal auditor, where you would control and test the company's accounting systems in an area such as budgeting or financial accounting
  • An accounting manager, overseeing the entire department
  • The Controller or Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the company

Management

New graduates are often employed as an assistant manager or management trainee. This position will involve working alongside an experienced manager and learning from him or her.

After gaining some experience, you may become:

  • A shift manager or the primary manager of a store
  • A regional manager
  • Director of a larger geographic area
  • A national executive

At each step, you become responsible for supervising employees within your span of control.

Finance

The first job in corporate finance is often to become a financial analyst. As an analyst, you will be under the direction of senior analysts and will work to understand financial data and help your boss present it to others.

As you advance in the finance department, you may find yourself:

  • Forecasting profits and losses
  • Preparing financial statements
  • Setting up the company's financial strategy

Other areas of financial work include commercial banking, where you might work as a loan officer, or investment banking, where you might help make investment decisions in a high-pressure environment.

Economics

busy broker

With a degree in economics, you can get started in the finance or accounting careers listed above. You may also choose to work in government or non-profit organizations, managing and evaluating their financial options. Strong data analysis skills are key to being a successful economist.

If you chose a career in economic policy or evaluation, you would likely start out as a research assistant. From there you could move up the ranks and gain additional responsibility and authority as a lead researcher, economist, or even a policy maker.

Human Resources

A career in human resources can be very rewarding. You are often working directly with employees, helping them grow and move forward in their careers. People skills are key in this profession.

Starting out in human resources may mean being a human resources clerk or assistant. You would help the other human resource staff with paperwork, interviews, and employee benefit arrangements. As you move up, you could become a:

  • Human resources generalist
  • Training and development coordinator
  • Payroll manager
  • Benefits administrator
  • Labor relations manager
  • Director or VP of human resources

Marketing

As a marketer, you will help companies build their brand and bring in new customers. You can work within a single company, or you can work for a marketing firm (such as an advertising or public relations agency) and serve many organizations.

You will likely start as an account coordinator or marketing specialist. You will help with research, customer service, and administrative tasks. Next steps in this career include:

  • Marketing manager
  • Brand manager
  • Director of marketing research
  • Director of public relations
  • VP of brand development
  • Chief marketing officer

Operations Management

Operations management positions tend to be in manufacturing and production companies. People who work in this field are involved in overseeing the supply chain and work processes to ensure that they are efficient.

An entry-level job in operations management with a four-year degree may be an operations management trainee. In this position, you would get an overview of the business and learn about work in a variety of departments. Advanced roles may include:

  • Superintendent
  • Materials manager
  • Facilities manager
  • Operations manager

Operations management is a field where you often need to start at the bottom and earn the respect of the employees and leadership before you advance. It's highly unlikely that you will be hired as an operations manager right out of school.

Business Analytics and Information Systems

If you love numbers and technology, working in business analytics and information systems could be the perfect career path for you. Using spreadsheets and specific analysis software, you will review the results of surveys, programs, and much more to help your company move forward.

Starting out in this field, you would likely get a job as a business analyst or database administrator. From there, opportunities may include:

  • Developer or programmer
  • Technology systems manager
  • System administrator
  • Network engineer
  • Director of information management systems

Business Law

An undergraduate degree in business law typically leads to further study to become a corporate lawyer. As a lawyer, you can start out as assistant counsel and move up to lead counsel within a company's legal department.

If you choose not to become a lawyer, you can choose to work as a paralegal or analyst. However, your earnings and career path may be limited if you choose not to pursue a law degree.

You may also choose to use your business law degree to enter a field such as finance, banking, or economics where your understanding of risk and the regulatory environment would be helpful.

Is Business School Right for You?

There are a lot of reasons to study business, and they aren't all about the money. As a business administration professional, you will have the opportunity to develop a career in a growing field. If you are the kind of person who wants help people improve their work, lead initiatives that make a difference, and serve customers, a degree in business administration could be the right step to take toward a rewarding career.

What Is Business Administration?