Business Administration Degrees: Diploma, Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

About this article
What kind of job can you get with a degree in business administration? Find out diploma, associate's and bachelor's degree requirements, online options and info on courses.
View available schools

Business Administration Diploma, Associate's and Bachelor's: Degrees at a Glance

Business administrators shape and steer a firm's strategic plans based on a complex analysis of the business environment. This analysis includes considering the sociopolitical and economic climate of the areas in which the company conducts business. These administrators must have an understanding of finance, accounting, marketing, operations and management. Business administration diploma and degree programs prepare you for this career not only by providing training in hard skills such as finance and accounting, but also by exposing you to human resource management, effective communication and the legal and ethical issues pertaining to conducting business.

As a graduate of a business administration degree program, there are a vast number of industries and positions in which you can work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that job opportunities in business industries will increase at an average pace during the 2010-2020 decade ( However, the level of education and experience an individual possesses are important determinants in hiring. Most employers prefer to hire individuals with a bachelor's degree. Therefore, diploma and associate degree holders may encounter difficulty finding employment.

Here's a comparison of the three education options:

Diploma Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this program for? -Working professionals seeking refresher courses in business fundamentals
-First time students seeking an understanding of basic business principles
- Students seeking an education covering a broad overview of business fundamentals - Students who wish to acquire a survey of business fundamentals and train in a specific area of business
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Data Entry Clerk ($27,690)*
- Administrative Assistant ($45,580)*
- Sales Representative ($53,540)*
- Retail Manager ($36,480)*
- Purchasing Agent ($57,580)*
- Sales Manager ($101,640)*
- Contract Manager ($79,540)*
- Financial Analyst ($75,650)*
Time to Completion Up to 10 months 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 6-8 business courses
- Approximately 12-15 business courses
- Roughly 30 core business courses
- Internship
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree and 1-2 years work experience
- High school diploma or GED
- High school diploma or GED - High school diploma, GED or associate's degree
Online Availability Yes Yes Yes

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

Diploma in Business Administration

Business Administration diploma programs come in two varieties. The first type of diploma program functions similar to business certificate programs in that it is structured for working professionals who have a bachelor's degree in any field and at least 1-2 years of professional experience. These programs provide budding professionals with a background in business fundamentals, and are designed to either prepare students for advanced job positions or refresh student's knowledge of the basics of business operations. Typically, these programs last 2-4 months.

The second type of diploma program is for less-experienced or novice workers seeking to gain professional skills for employment in office settings. These programs typically provide some business fundamentals classes, but also provide training in basic office administrative skills and software programs. They are designed to prepare students to work as office assistants or obtain a position in data entry. This type of program can last up to 10 months.

Pros and Cons


  • Short completion time
  • Provides similar instruction on business fundamentals as do associate's degree programs
  • Provides refresher courses for working professionals seeking advancement leverage


  • The second type of diploma program does not prepare students for management jobs
  • In certain industries, employers prefer that entry-level candidates have a bachelor's degree
  • Internships are usually unavailable in the second type of diploma program

Courses and Requirements

The curriculum of both types of programs include classes in economics and business finance. The first type of diploma program typically also offers business strategy and negotiations classes, while the second type provides instruction in word processing, spreadsheet and other office-related applications. Both programs include approximately 6-8 classes.

Examples of courses you might take:

  • Applied economics
  • Business negotiations
  • Business law
  • Computer information systems

Online Degree Options

Online programs are available, but are rare. When offered, these programs take the same length of time to complete and contain the same curriculumsto their on-campus counterparts.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

To stand out with these diplomas, consider completing an internship. Gaining hands-on experience working in business can prepare you to complete the job tasks you are likely to be assigned when you enter the workforce. This type of experience and knowledge may make you more attractive to employers.

Also consider completing coursework in business information systems, such as how to use the computer application programs relevant to business operations. This technical knowledge can help you stand out against your competition.

Associate's in Business Administration

In a business administration associate's degree program, you learn about business fundamentals, how to identify potential problems in supply and operations, the process for assessing and shaping business decisions and managing company personnel. Many junior colleges offer programs where earned credits transfer to bachelor's degree programs.

Pros and Cons


  • Short completion time of about 2 years
  • Curriculum usually includes instruction in business fundamentals, similar to what is taught in a bachelor's degree program
  • Credits may transfer to a bachelor's degree program, reducing the amount of time it takes you to earn that degree


  • Curriculum constraints may leave little time for specialization in a particular business discipline
  • In certain industries, employers prefer entry-level candidates with a bachelor's degree
  • Access to internships may be limited

Courses and Requirements

As an associate's degree candidate, you take between 22 and 25 classes, half of which focus on business fundamentals like accounting, management, macroeconomics and finance. You also complete classes in business law, management and business ethics.

Examples of courses you might take are:

  • Accounting
  • Economics
  • Management
  • Marketing

Online Degree Options

Hybrid and fully online associate's degree programs are available. The curriculum of these programs are essentially the same as traditional in-person programs. Furthermore, you may opt to take classes on a part-time basis.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Many employers prefer candidates with a high-degree of technical proficiency. Therefore, you may seek out certificate or training programs that cover using business computer applications, such as Microsoft Excel, SAP, or Having knowledge of how to use these programs may make you more attractive to employers.

Additionally, you can increase your marketability by completing internships. Having experience preparing business plans, running cost-benefit analyses or creating marketing plans can help you in your job search.

Bachelor's in Business Administration

Business administration bachelor's degree programs usually require you to complete courses in a specialization, such as finance, marketing, management or operations. Additionally, you typically complete an internship in your junior or senior year.

Pros and Cons


  • Most programs provide for specialization in at least one business area of your choice
  • Internships allow you to gain hands-on experience in the field
  • Core business curriculum prepares you to being working in many different industries


  • May not prepare you for all aspects of working in business; many careers in business require skills in negotiating and fostering professional relationships, which you may need to develop in your first position
  • Professional experience is a key component to advancement; there may be diminishing returns for having more years of schooling instead of commencing working after completing an associate's degree or diploma program
  • Because of the number of graduates each year, you may need to consider pursuing a minor or a second major in order to stand-out against the competition for positions

Courses and Requirements

Programs typically consist of 8-12 business fundamentals classes followed by 15-18 specialization classes. Internships are available, but usually not required. You may also need to complete a foreign language requirement.

Classes you may take include:

  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • Real estate
  • Accounting

Some programs also offer certificates programs in a specific area of business in addition to the degree program. These certificates programs may focus on international business, advertising or management.

Online Degree Options

Online business administration bachelor's degree programs are available. The curriculum of these programs is similar to that of traditional on-campus programs. However, by attending an online program, you may not have access to career counselors or internships.

Stand Out with This Degree

Professional experience and exposure to business technologies are important factors that can work in your favor when potential employers review your resume. Any opportunity for exposure to business management software, customer relationship management applications, standard financial applications and project management software may increase your marketability.

Popular Schools

Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • AASBA in Business
  • Associate: Business Admin.
  • AASBA -Entrepreneurship

Which subject are you interested in?

Keiser University

  • Associate of Arts - Accounting

What is your highest level of education?

Post University

  • A.S. in Management

Education Level:

Colorado Christian University

  • Business Administration, A.S.
  • Nonprofit Management, A.S.

What is your highest level of education completed?

Herzing University

  • Associate of Science - Business Management

What is your highest level of education?