Business Administration vs. Business Management: Which Is Right for Me?

by SJVC on March 23, 2017 · 9:00 am

San Joaquin Valley College Student discusses the differences between a Business Administration and Business Management Degree Are you interested in pursuing a career in business, but aren’t sure where to start? If you have already begun searching for the perfect business program to achieve your career goals, you might already recognize the phrases “business administration” and “business management” — but you’re probably not sure what makes these two disciplines different from one another.

While both programs introduce students to business fundamentals, they have different focus areas. Business administration tends to be a better fit if you are looking to start an entry-level business career. If your career plans include management or operations — or if you’re already fairly well-established in your career — you may be better suited for business management.

In this post, we’ll explore both business administration and business management to help you decide which path is right for you.

What Will I Learn in Business Administration?

Students in a business administration program learn about foundational business topics including:

  • Accounting
  • Human resource management
  • Business law
  • Ethics

Most business administration students also learn to use computer programs such as Microsoft Office. From there, students also study more specialized topics. These specialized topics include:

  • Marketing
  • Financial management
  • Sales strategies
  • Customer service
  • Payroll management

Business administration programs can lead to a Certificate of Completion or A.S. Degree, depending on your completed credentials. Business administration programs can usually be completed more quickly than business management programs, meaning students can graduate and start working in their chosen careers sooner.

In this 2-minute video, meet an instructor and two students and learn how SJVC’s Business Administration program prepares students for the real world.

Careers in Business Administration

Studying business administration prepares students for careers like:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Accounting
  • Auditing clerks
  • Customer service representatives
  • Executive secretaries and administrative assistants

It can also prepare you for starting your own business.

Career Path for Bookkeeping and Accounting Support

Although software applications and web-based programs have changed the way companies do bookkeeping, the role itself remains a critical element in running a successful business. There’s still a demand for detail-oriented people who can manage day-to-day financial transactions.

These detail-oriented professionals are bookkeepers, and it’s not unusual for the bookkeeping function to be folded into other job descriptions, such as office manager, administrative assistant, financial assistant and other administrative job titles.

Career Path for Customer Service

Customer service is not only a career in itself, but it can lead to a path to other fulfilling careers in business. An entry-level customer service representative who is good at his or her job may look forward to working in roles including:

  • Customer service specialist
  • Product expert
  • Customer service supervisor/manager
  • Sales executive
  • Marketing coordinator

Career Path for Secretaries/Administrative Assistants

With advances in technology, the administrative assistant’s role has changed over the decades. The secretary role — sometimes referred to as an administrative assistant — has evolved from routine duties including taking meeting minutes, managing schedules and answering phones to one that may include maintaining databases, compiling reports, and facilitating communication within and outside their organizations.

Bottom Line: Should You Get a Certificate or A.S. Degree in Business Administration?

If you are looking to learn business basics and get practical skills that could potentially help you stand out from other job applicants, a business administration certificate or A.S. degree could be the right step for you.

You’ll learn computer literacy, refine your business communication skills, and explore the principles of management, marketing and human resources. The Business Administration program at San Joaquin Valley College teaches students accounting basics, business math, and business law and ethics.

What will I learn in Business Management?

Business management students also learn fundamental business topics, but then focus on management and operational processes as they progress in their program. They will study additional topics such as business and employment law, information systems, international business, leadership principles and more.

Graduates of business management programs will often work as:

  • General and operations managers
  • First-line supervisors of office and administrative support

Business management programs often lead to a bachelor’s degree or higher, depending on the student’s completed credential level. Business management programs usually take longer to complete than business administration programs, but there are some exceptions.

Bottom Line: Should You Get an A.S. Degree in Business Management?

If you are looking to earn a bachelor’s degree and potentially advance beyond that, or if you want to move into leadership within any organization, then a business management path may be right for you.

Careers in Business

Business Administration Career Option Highlights

Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants have the highest levels of employment in the following industries:

  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools
  • Local government
  • State government
  • Management of companies and enterprises
  • Financial investment and related activities

California employs the second-most executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants (New York holds the number one spot), with an hourly mean wage of $34.42, according to 2018 May BLS data. California is among the five highest paying states for executive assistants, with the top five states ranking as follows:

  1. District of Columbia
  2. New York
  3. California
  4. Connecticut
  5. New Jersey

Business Management Career Option Highlights

General and Operations Managers

General and operations managers have the highest levels of employment in:

  • Management of companies and enterprises
  • Restaurants and other eating places
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services
  • Computer systems design and related services
  • Local government

California employs the most general and operations managers, according to the BLS, with an hourly mean wage of $65.42.

Which Business Program Is Right for Me?

If you’re interested in a more specialized entry-level business role, business administration may be the right program for you. It will allow you to study broad business concepts and then identify an area of business that suits your skills and personality the best.

Business management is ideal for you if you’re looking to manage the operations or staff of a business. If you imagine yourself in a leadership role overseeing employees or running a business, this may be the program for you.

Business management programs may take longer to complete, specifically if you are pursuing a bachelor’s degree. You may first enter your career in a lower business management role, and then climb the ladder as you advance in your career and further your education. Some businesses may require employees wanting senior roles to complete a master’s degree.

How to Enroll in a Business Administration Program

SJVC offers a Business Administration program that provides a framework of business knowledge and skills that can help you adapt to any company’s operation. If that sounds like the right program for you, or if you would like to learn more about the career opportunities that are available after you earn your certificate or A.S. Degree, request more information today.

How to Reach for Your Dreams, from One Student to You

We know that making a decision about the next step in your education and career can be tough. You might enjoy this video from TED-Ed Student Talks, where one student offers her formula for reaching her dreams.

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