Study Business Management: Diploma, Associate & Online Degrees

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What will you learn in a business management diploma or associate's degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a diploma or associate's degree and potential careers.
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Business Management Diploma and Associate's: Degrees at a Glance

Most occupations in the business management field require a bachelor's degree. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that a number of entry-level opportunities require only a high school diploma and offer median salaries between approximately $35,000 and $80,000 with the appropriate experience ( Though not many careers specifically require a diploma or associate's degree, earning these credentials can help you stand out from other job candidates who have not completed any formal training. A diploma may be better suited to individuals who already have work experience, while an associate's degree is a good option if you want to pursue a bachelor's degree later down the road.

Positions that don't require formal training include administrative assistant, administrative services manager and sales representative. Keep in mind that few management occupations you'd qualify for with only a diploma or associate's degree are expected to experience faster-than-average job growth over the 2010-2020 decade, according to the BLS.

Diploma Associate's
Who is this degree for? Individuals with some work experience who are interested in entering the field or are considering a career change People who want to gain entry-level training or begin the educational foundation for a 4-year degree
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Administrative services manager ($80,000)*
- Bookkeeping, accounting or auditing clerk ($35,000)*
- Property manager ($53,000)*
- Advertising sales agent ($45,000)*
- Executive secretary or administrative assistant ($46,000)*
- Insurance sales agent ($47,000)*
Career paths for the associate's degree are similar to those of the diploma, although there might be more advancement opportunities for candidates holding an associate's degree.
Time to Completion 1-1.5 years, full-time 2 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - General education and core courses - General education and core courses
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Diploma in Business Management

Business management is a complex occupation. Diploma programs teach a breadth of knowledge in business finance, administration, marketing and operations. If you're interested in a specialization, some programs offer concentrations, such as human resources, service sector or operations management.

Diploma programs introduce the basic theories and practices in business management. You can expect to take core and elective courses in business law and ethics, management principles and leadership. Some programs offer internship opportunities, which provide the practical, hands-on training required to function in a business environment.

Pros and Cons


  • Jobs for which you may qualify offer good salaries for minimal training
  • Programs may offer the option to specialize in a specific area of business
  • Programs can be completed in a short amount of time


  • Many career opportunities only require a high school diploma
  • Credits may not be transferrable to an associate's degree program
  • Programs may not provide financial aid

Common Courses and Requirements

Course requirements provide the foundation in the operational, human capital and financial components of business management. Some schools offer a team project, which helps develop team-oriented communication and management skills. You can expect to learn the concepts and practices involved in the decision-making process and the economic principles that affect modern business models.

Examples of courses you might take in a diploma program include the following:

  • Basic psychology
  • Management principles
  • Managing performance
  • Communication in business
  • Psychology of sales
  • Business technology
  • Taxation

Online Diploma Options

Online business management programs exist, but may award a certificate rather than a diploma. These programs may be delivered purely through distance education. Some programs require the completion of foundation courses in business mathematics and writing strategies, but these courses may not offer credit.

Getting Ahead with This Credential

Modern businesses blend state-of-the-art technology with traditional business theories, and technology has streamlined many communication and financial tasks. Technical skills are invaluable in business management as a tool to administer and control communications, operations and finances. In addition, demonstrable skills in business finance and human resources will set you apart.

  • Obtain certification in relevant software programs - business management professionals use word-processing, spreadsheet and desktop publishing programs heavily to create reports and marketing materials.
  • Attend relevant workshops or conferences - workshop training in public speaking and evaluation techniques provide additional experience.
  • Seek certification in an area specific to your interests - organizations, such as the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers and the American Payroll Association, offer credentials that validate the skills of entry-level job candidates.

Associate's in Business Management

Associate's degree programs in business management allow you to focus your studies by providing in-depth coverage of sub-fields, such as management or human resources. Some programs combine business management with accounting and offer the skills and competency to obtain a relevant credential, such as Tax Preparer Certification. You can also expect to work with essential software, such as financial, word-processing or publishing programs, depending on your selected specialization.

Diploma and associate's degree programs offer similar foundational coursework in business, leadership, employment law and the principles of management. However, associate's degree programs further explore standards in ethical business practices. You will learn to utilize information technology to solve complex business problems. Programs also offer training on how the economy affects private industry and government agencies through a study of economic principles.

Pros and Cons


  • Offers more flexibility and in-depth training than a diploma program
  • Program provides a stepping-stone to a bachelor's degree program
  • Employers may look more favorably upon an associate's degree than a diploma


  • You may be competing for some positions with candidates who hold bachelor's degrees
  • Some jobs you can qualify for may not require formal training at all
  • Some programs offer strict curricula that may not offer flexibility or electives

Common Courses and Requirements

Associate's degree course requirements, which are usually made up of around 60 credits, include general education, management and occupational coursework. You can expect to take courses in business administration, communications, human resources and labor relations. Your program may require the completion of general education courses in the social sciences, speech, art, technology, mathematics and English composition. Some programs also require an internship or final project.

Associate's degree programs offer an in-depth approach to learning the intricacies of business administration, finance and team management. You can select elective coursework to focus on an area of specialization.

Online Degree Options

Online associate's degrees in business management exist and offer a curriculum similar to that of traditional programs. You may have the option of selecting a hybrid program that combines campus-based and online coursework.

Getting Ahead with This Credential

Corporate sustainability - the practice of implementing business strategies that consider the consumer, social, cultural and eco-friendly mechanisms of industry management - is fast becoming a common business administration approach. As businesses seek to effectively manage resources, develop employees and lessen environmental impact, the demand for business managers with corporate sustainability training is increasing. You could consider pursuing Corporate Sustainability Manager (CSM) certification or joining an association, such as the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, to increase your marketability.

Many corporations operate on an international scale. An understanding of how businesses operate globally might provide additional employment opportunities. You could consider taking courses in international marketing, negotiation and logistics management.

Degree Alternatives

Technology plays a significant role in the administration of business finance and communications. An associate's degree in business technology provides training in business management technology, office management technology and accounting technology. Programs can prepare you for entry-level opportunities in supporting management roles or for work as a computer support specialist. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that computer support specialists could expect an 18% increase in job opportunities from 2010-2020. Computer support specialists earned a median annual salary of approximately $48,000 in May 2011.

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