Study Business Administration: Doctorate, Master's & Online MBA Info

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What will you learn in a business administration degree program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and doctorate and potential careers.
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Business Administration Master's and Doctorate: Degrees at a Glance

Business administration studies cover a variety of business concepts, giving you a general foundation useful for many different careers in industry. You may have an opportunity to get specialized training in a particular area of business, such as finance, economics, accounting or organizational management. A master's degree in this subject can lead to management and analysis careers in the business sector, while doctoral degrees are generally intended for university-level teaching and research.

While job prospects for business administration professionals vary by specialty, outlook is generally expected to be optimistic. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a faster-than-average growth of 22% for management analysts from 2010-2020. Jobs for professors were also predicted to grow at a rate of 17% in the same decade. Keep in mind that, according to the BLS, universities are moving away from tenured positions, so you may face strong competition for these jobs.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in mid- and high-level business leadership positions Professionals seeking to increase their management skills or become professors
Common Career Paths (with approximate median salary) - Business process consultant ($98,000)*
- Management analyst ($78,000)**
- Chief executive ($167,000)**
- Operations manager ($95,000)**
- DBA programs prepare students for similar careers as MBA holders
- Business administration professor ($88,000)*
- Dean of business ($155,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years, full-time About 4-5 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - About 7 core business courses
- At least 2 elective or specialization courses
- Capstone or thesis course
- Roughly 4-6 core/foundation courses
- Around 6 concentration courses
- Teaching component
- Comprehensive exams
- Dissertation
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- Applicants with non-business bachelor's degrees may need to complete foundational courses
- Bachelor's degree
- Master's degree in or related to business administration
- Several years of work experience
Online Availability MBA programs are commonly available online; Master of Science programs aren't offered online currently Yes

Sources: *Salary.com (figures as of September 2012), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Master's in Business Administration

Although Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs are widely available, you can also find standard Master of Science (M.S.) programs in business administration. The M.S. program usually gives you more room to focus on a particular subject, although MBA programs may offer concentration options as well. Common concentrations include project management, information systems, corporate finance, entrepreneurship and human resources. M.S. and MBA programs are usually flexible and are offered in full- and part-time formats.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Flexible format allows working professionals to pursue a graduate degree program that fits their schedule
  • Accelerated programs can be completed in as little as a single year (most master's programs take 2 years to finish)
  • Broad range of business management concepts are covered in the program, which can be applied to many different industries and career options

Cons

  • Management positions generally require years of experience in addition to education
  • Many of the careers you're qualified for don't require a graduate degree
  • Programs are usually based on didactic instruction and rarely offer hands-on learning experiences

Courses and Requirements

MBA and M.S. programs in business administration usually include a set of core business courses covering topics like managerial accounting, marketing strategies, economics and leadership. Both programs usually contain some elective courses, but the actual number of course options you'll have depends on your curriculum plan. Elective courses may include information systems security management, corporate governance, cost accounting, investment banking and negotiation. Some programs are strictly based on coursework, while others may require a thesis, practicum or capstone course.

Online Options

Although M.S. programs aren't typically offered completely online, MBA programs are commonly available over the Internet. Since most MBA programs are focused on coursework and don't offer many hands-on learning opportunities, business administration studies are well suited for distance-learning formats. Your course options are usually the same as those offered in on-campus programs, so you don't have to worry about having a limited selection of electives or concentration options.

Standing Out with this Degree

You may want to look into obtaining certification to get ahead of other job candidates. For example, if you work in management consulting, you may benefit from earning the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation offered by the Institute of Management Consultants USA. You'll need to pass the required online exams and have extensive experience in management consulting before you can obtain this credential.

Additionally, if you work in management, you want to join the American Management Association (AMA). The AMA offers seminars in various business topics, such as communication skills, business analysis, presentation skills and time management. It also offers podcasts and articles that can help you keep up with new developments in the field, particularly in advancements in technology. In fact, information technology plays a major role in business management, so you may benefit from enrolling in AMA's or another organization's e-learning programs focused on technology, as well as taking computer courses during your graduate studies.

Doctorate in Business Administration

Business administration studies at the doctoral level can be found in Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs. The PhD program is mostly geared towards students who wish to become business professors or conduct business research as a scholar or consultant. DBA programs can still prepare you for research and teaching positions, but these programs also include coursework designed to prepare you for top-level management positions. DBA and PhD programs usually offer specialization options, such as finance, marketing, information systems or operations management. Some DBA programs are built for working professionals, offering night and weekend courses so students can pursue the degree while still working.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can lead to tenured teaching jobs or research positions at schools and businesses
  • Most programs offer concentration options and allow you to choose the area of business in which to conduct your dissertation research
  • The DBA may make you more appealing to employers when seeking top-level management positions

Cons

  • Few high-level business jobs require a doctorate
  • Strong competition for tenured positions*
  • Admissions is limited and competitive; some doctoral programs only admit a couple of students per year

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 projections).

Courses and Requirements

The DBA and PhD in business administration programs usually include some core business courses, such as international marketing, globalization, business ethics and leadership. You'll also take about 5-7 additional concentration courses. After taking graduate-level courses for your first couple of years, you'll usually take a series of comprehensive or preliminary examinations before you can begin working on the dissertation. The latter part of your program is spent researching and working with a faculty member to construct and defend a dissertation.

Online Options

While DBA and PhD programs do exist in online formats, they're often offered through for-profit institutions. The course structure is basically the same in the on-campus program, and you'll even have the opportunity to complete a dissertation. You may still need to travel to campus at some point during the program to complete a residency; the actual length of the residency may vary between schools.

You may want to verify that any programs you're considering are accredited by an agency approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education. Some schools may also offer hybrid options, giving you a chance to complete some coursework online while still going to campus regularly to meet with your professors and peers.

Standing Out with this Degree

Doctoral business administration programs already incorporate a required teaching experience; however, if you're interested in becoming a professor, you may want to take on additional teaching assignments during school. The more experience you have when you graduate, the more appealing you'll appear to potential employers. Individuals pursuing the DBA can keep gaining work experience while attending the program, since course plans are generally flexible and work around your current work schedule.

You may also benefit from supplementing your business education with technology coursework. In the increasingly digital age, a strong grasp of technology is mandatory for a career in academia. As a business professor, you may need to teach your students how to use accounting and financial management software as well as spreadsheets and databases. You may also want to familiarize yourself with course-management tools, like Blackboard and WebCT.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. in Management
      • Master : Business Admin
      • MBA: Project Management
      • Master: Management/Project Mgmt
      • MSM in Leadership
      • MSM in Organizational Design and Development
  • Online Programs Available
    2. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin: Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Operations Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Agile Project Management
      • Master of Science in Measurement and Evaluation
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Management - Project Management
      • Master: Management
      • Master of Business Admin - Entrepreneurship
      • MBA: Operations Management
      • MBA: Project Management
      • M.S. - Management: Organization Leadership and Change
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MA in Public Management
      • Master of Science in Government Analytics
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin - General Business
      • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
      • Master of Business Administration - Strategic Management
      • MBA - Management
      • MBA - Project Management
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Nonprofit Management
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Project Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Management
      • Master of Project Management
      • MS - Organizational Leadership
      • Master of International Management
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.B.A. with an Emphasis in Project Management
      • MBA
      • MBA and MS in Leadership (Dual Degree)
      • MBA: Leadership
      • MS in Leadership
      • Master of Science in Business Analytics

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • M.S. in Management
  • Master : Business Admin
  • MBA: Project Management

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American InterContinental University

  • Master of Business Admin: Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Operations Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Project Management

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American University

  • Master of Science in Agile Project Management
  • Master of Science in Measurement and Evaluation

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Colorado Technical University

  • Master: Management - Project Management
  • Master: Management
  • Master of Business Admin - Entrepreneurship

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Johns Hopkins University

  • MA in Public Management
  • Master of Science in Government Analytics

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Saint John's University

  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business

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Northcentral University

  • Master of Business Admin - General Business
  • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
  • Master of Business Administration - Strategic Management

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Herzing University

  • MBA
  • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
  • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR

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