Was your favorite part of high school the stock market simulation? Do you see a future as an actuary, a financial services manager, or in human resources management? Are you somewhat obsessed with 30 Under 30’s list of America’s Coolest Young Entrepreneurs? It sounds like you might be headed for a career in business.
If this is the case, you are probably thinking about pursuing a business degree or pondering which types of business degrees could be a great fit. It’s important to know, though, that there are different levels of business degrees and the level of degree you achieve will be closely tied to the level of career you can pursue with it.
Before you dive headfirst into your business career, take some time to learn about the degrees that you might choose to pursue, what career paths are available through each, and which schools offer top programs for them.
Associate Degree in Business
An associate degree in business is the most entry-level of the types of business degrees. It typically takes two years to earn if you pursue it full-time. Though it won’t qualify you for any high-level business careers, it does serve as a solid stepping stone to get you off on the right foot.
An associate degree in business also increases your earning potential. One analysis of the job market for those who hold an associate degree in business showed that they had access to over 100,000 more jobs than a high school graduate, and that they earned an average of $6,864 more each year.
Here’s the nitty gritty, followed by two of the best programs for an associate degree in business:
Cost: $3,000-$13,000 per year
Possible Specialties: Business management, business administration, accounting, hospitality, marketing, hospitality management
Possible Careers: Administrative assistant, assistant store manager, relationship banker, store manager, executive assistant, sales supervisor, real estate agent
Top Programs for an Associate Degree in Business
Choosing where to get your associate degree is a big decision. Considering things like cost, return on investment, and specialties available will help to narrow your search. Here are our favorite programs for this educational path.
Southern New Hampshire University
Offering a wide variety of options from an associate degree program in marketing to business administration, Southern New Hampshire University has something to fit everyone. It’s no surprise that this is a popular pick — SNHU offers over 200 career-focused programs with more than 100,000 students enrolled. Another bonus: Most associate degree programs are offered online, so you can earn your degree from anywhere, and credits start at just $320/credit hour.
Purdue Global Online
Purdue Global Online offers online associate degree programs in business administration and accounting. Here, industry professionals review coursework to ensure it meets industry standards, and internships allow you the opportunity to build experience while learning. Once you choose your degree program, you can also choose from concentration areas including entrepreneurship, small business management, and customer service. At Purdue, the cost for each credit hour is $371.
Bachelor’s Degree in Business
A bachelor’s degree in business is the most common of the types of business degrees. It’s a natural next step after high school for students with business career goals. A bachelor’s degree in business typically takes four years to earn if you work towards it full-time, and you’ll graduate ready to take on most entry level business positions, with plenty of upward mobility.
Like an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree also increases your earning potential and broadens your career opportunities. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median average salary for careers that require a bachelor’s degree in business as an entry-level requirement range from about $60,000-$80,000.
Here are all the details you need to know about a bachelor’s degree in business:
Cost: $10,000-$30,000 per year
Possible Specialties: Human resource management, marketing, entrepreneurship, international business, finance
Possible Careers: Accountant, auditor, financial analyst, insurance underwriter, financial advisor, marketing research analyst
Top Programs for a Bachelor’s Degree in Business
Settling on where to get your bachelor’s degree is never an easy choice. A bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for higher degrees and often serves as your ticket to the MBA program or doctorate program of your dreams. Here are our top picks to set you on the right course.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Commonly thought of as a scientific institution only, MIT actually offers degree programs across nearly all subject areas, including humanities and business. MIT offers top business programs in specialties such as accounting, supply chain management, management information systems, and production/operations management. Tuition at MIT is $53,790 per year, or $830 per unit. Though it comes at a price, MIT offers a top-notch business program with a reputation to match.
University of Texas at Austin
Of course, the price tag at MIT isn’t feasible for everyone, but luckily UT-Austin offers a program of similar quality at a fraction of the cost, especially if you’re an in-state student. Here, annual tuition is $42,082 for out-of-state students, or $11,852 for Texas residents. At UT-Austin, students will enjoy the resources of a large university and a higher acceptance rate. In addition, it is also home to a top MBA program, the McCombs School of Business, so successful undergrads may continue on there.
Master’s Degree in Business
The most common master’s degree in the field of business is the Master of Business Administration (MBA). This is not the only option for those who want to earn a master’s degree in a business-related field, but it is by far the most recognized and respected. An MBA program takes two years to complete and a bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite.
An MBA is also one of the highest earning master’s degrees out there. In fact, many graduates of business degree programs who hold a master’s will earn well over $100,000. Earning an MBA can be money well spent. Here’s what you need to know before you make the investment:
Cost: $50,000-$80,000 per year
Possible Specialties: Consulting, financial services, technology, healthcare, real estate, manufacturing
Possible Careers: Information technology manager, sales manager, marketing manager, business operations manager, international business, business management
Top Programs for an MBA
Given how much you’re going to spend on an MBA, it’s wise to consider a number of different choices before settling on one. Here are a few of our favorites to consider.
Kenan-Flagler Business School at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
At UNC-Chapel Hill, MBA candidates can take advantage of a public school price tag and a top-notch program. The program offers more than 15 areas of concentration to choose from, and upon graduation 74% of students are employed full-time. The school boasts an impressive package that builds leadership skills and business strategies through hands-on simulations. The full program is offered on a traditional schedule or in a weekend and evenings format.
The Graduate School of Business at Stanford University
For those who can budget for it and earn a coveted acceptance, the Graduate School of Business at Stanford is undeniably the cream of the crop when it comes to MBAs. With more than 20 concentrations to choose from, there is bound to be an option to suit every interest. Programs range from the more traditional choices like finance and general management to more specialized picks such as e-commerce and sports business management. Of course, a top notch degree will also cost top dollar, and Stanford’s annual tuition for the MBA program is $74,706.
Doctorate in Business
A doctorate in business is the highest of the types of business degrees. It’s the culmination of business education and leadership within the business world. Doctoral programs in business, like the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), learn sophisticated skills and practices and are prepared for top-level positions in the business world.
A higher level of education comes with the potential for higher reward, too. Full-time students will generally achieve a DBA about four years after achieving a bachelor’s degree, but this may be time well spent. Top executives in the business world earn close to $200,000 per year. If you intend to pursue a DBA, check out the details below.
Cost: $50,000-$80,000 per year
Possible Specialties: International business, global supply chain management, business intelligence, human resources, project management
Possible Careers: Chief executive officer (CEO), management consultant, senior business analyst, senior management analyst
Top Programs for a DBA
There are a lot fewer DBA programs to choose from than bachelor’s degrees or MBAs. This is likely because far fewer people pursue this level of training. Still, quality programs are out there, and finding the right fit for you is important. Here are some top DBA programs for you to consider.
Harvard Business School
The name Harvard is often considered synonymous with success, so it probably comes at no surprise to find it on this list. DBA candidates at HBS can choose from specialties in eight areas including things like business economics, organizational behavior, and health policy management. All students accepted to the program receive a fellowship that includes tuition, single-person health fees, and a living stipend, making this program feasible for nearly all budgets, if you can get in.
University of Maryland College Park
University of Maryland College Park’s interdisciplinary program spans six departments to offer advanced understanding of the industry from multiple angles. Students can study international business, accounting and information assurance, managerial economics, and more. The program here is so good that in 2017, Financial Times ranked it the ninth best business program in the world. Financial support for the Ph.D. program at University of Maryland College Park comes in the form of a graduate assistantship for each accepted student, with an annual salary of $32,500.
How to Choose the Types of Business Degrees That Are Right for You
There’s no simple formula to choose which track you should pursue for your business career.
Start by considering which level of career you see yourself in. If you aren’t sure, you may want to start small, earn an associate degree, and then see how you like your experience getting started in the business world. You can always advance from there.
If, on the other hand, you want to become a high-powered executive, you’ll need to pursue the appropriate coursework to gain knowledge of business ethics, financial management, and organizational leadership. In addition, you’ll need soft skills like management skills and decision-making skills to help you make sound business decisions.
Most bachelor’s degrees will brush on these facets, but if you pursue a MBA and choose a targeted specialty, you’ll be even more prepared. Then, take that knowledge to another level and earn a doctorate if you want to take your business career even further.
Finally, as you choose your schools, don’t forget to check out the rankings available at College Rank. Here, we consider potential salary after graduation, program accreditation, and overall affordability to help compile college rankings backed by data.
For more rankings related to the different types of business degrees, don’t miss any of these lists:
- The 15 Best Online Masters in Human Resources Degree Programs
- The 20 Best MBA in Entrepreneurship Degree Programs
- The 20 Best Online Masters in Accounting Degree Programs
- The 20 Best Online Masters in Finance Programs
- The 20 Best Online Masters in Supply Chain Management
- The 20 Best Online MBA Programs
- The Top 10 Online Bachelors of Human Resources Degree Programs
- The Top 15 Masters in International Business Degree Programs
- The Top 20 Masters in Project Management Degree Programs
- The Top 20 Online Sports Management Masters Degree Programs
- The Top 8 Online Hospitality and Tourism Bachelor’s Degree Programs
- The Top 9 Online Masters in Hospitality Management