The U.S. economy has been slowly recovering after the near collapse of the financial system and the recession ended. Fortunately, things are looking up. The National Association for Business Economics predicts the economy should grow by 3.1 percent in 2015, the first 3 percent growth in over a decade. In fact, the national unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent in February 2015, the lowest unemployment rate since May 2008. Commenting on the state of the economy, U.S. Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, noted "We have the wind at our back and confidence across so many sectors of our economy."
In today's globally connected and rapidly growing economy, a business degree can prepare individuals to pursue a range of career opportunities in nearly every sector, from health care to finance, education to manufacturing. Overall, business-related occupations are projected to see employment gains of 12.5 percent nationally between 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That means approximately 1.8 million job openings for business degree graduates should become available during that time. The central goal of business degree programs to is develop a student's understanding of business operations, analytical, critical thinking and decision-making skills, as well as project and resource management abilities to position them for success in any industry they choose.
Types of Online Business Degrees
The business degree has long been one of the most popular educational options in the United States. In fact, from 2000 and 2010, the number of students graduating with a bachelor's degree in business increased by 63 percent, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. In 2013, more than 400,000 students graduated with a degree in business. For prospective business students, there are three common educational avenues:
- Bachelor's degree: the most popular option, with 197,921 degrees
- Master's degree: the second-most popular option, with 134,458 degrees
- Associate degrees: the third-most popular option, with 74,030 degrees
Students may select from a variety of business programs, including fully online and hybrid -- requiring some face-to-face instruction. Below is an overview of each business degree type, including curriculum, average tuition, and potential career paths.
The associate degree is a two-year program of study that is typically available in three formats:
- Associate of Arts (AA)
- Associate of Science (AS)
- Associate of Applied Science (AAS)
Both the AA and the AS are considered academic degrees, and can be transferred to a four-year program in business. The AAS is considered a professional degree, one designed to prepare graduates for direct entry into a career in business. The goal of the associate degree is to provide students with foundational knowledge of business practices, including organizational behavior, management theory, marketing, economics, performance management, business law, and human resources. To that end, curriculum introduces students to courses in areas of study such as macroeconomics, managerial accounting, applied statistics, human resource management, business administration, marketing principles and more.
Example career paths: Bookkeeper, Executive Assistant, Guest Services Manager
Traditionally a four-year program of study, the bachelor's degree in business is designed to provide students with a strong foundation across several business disciplines. It is aimed at students desiring preparation for careers both within business and related fields of practice. The actual title of the degree may vary by university, such as:
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA)
- Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA)
- Bachelor of Science in Business Management (BS)
Regardless of the title variant, the bachelor's degree typically requires between 120 and 128 credit hours to complete, with curriculum divided between general education and business-specific coursework. Students take courses in core business areas, such as accounting, project management, economics and marketing, as well as a range of elective classes in topics such as international business, finance, business technology, entrepreneurship and more.
Example career paths: Accountant, Market Research Analyst, Event Planner
The master's degree in business, commonly known as the Master of Business Administration (MBA), is one of the most popular graduate degree options in the country. An advanced program of study, the MBA is designed to enhance the leadership, management, and industry-specific skills of working professionals or recent business undergraduate students. There are several types of MBA programs, including full-time, part-time, Executive MBA, and Global MBA programs. Generally speaking, most MBA programs can be completed in as little as 24 months of study, but can be condensed to 12 to 16 months, depending on the type of MBA.
Example career paths: Financial Analyst, HR Director, Operations Research Analyst
Business degree concentrations
A business education is inherently broad in nature, developing broad skill sets and fundamental business management knowledge in students. In turn, the degree is highly customizable and allows students to pursue additional training and coursework across a spectrum of concentrations and specializations.
- Business Administration
- Healthcare Administration
- Human Resources
- Public Relations
Career Outlook for Graduates of Online Business Degree Programs
Although the average projected occupation growth of all business-related careers is only 12.5 percent nationally, there are numerous individual career paths expected to experience growth well into the double digits. Financial services is the top business industry based on projected job growth rates. Below is a list of ten business-related careers along with the May 2014 median annual wage and projected job outlook nationwide for the decade of 2012-22, according to BLS data.
|Career||Projected Job Growth||Median Wage|
|Meeting, convention, and event planners||33.2%||$50,910|
|Market research analysts and marketing specialists||31.6%||$68,700|
|Personal financial advisors||27.0%||$108,090|
|Financial analysts and advisors||16.0%||$94,290|
|Training and development specialists||15.5%||$61,530|
- CNN, February Economy Report, http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/06/news/economy/february-jobs-295000-us-economy/
- Kiplinger, 2015 Economic Outlook, http://www.kiplinger.com/tool/business/T019-S000-kiplinger-s-economic-outlooks/
- Market Watch, Five Predictions for US Economy in 2015, http://www.marketwatch.com/story/five-predictions-for-us-economy-in-2015-2014-12-31
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monthly Labor Review, http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2013/article/occupational-employment-projections-to-2022.htm
- US News & World Report, Best Business Careers, http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/best-business-jobs
- National Center for Education Statistics, IPEDS, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/datacenter