Business Degree Rankings

Business degrees continue to be among the most popular majors due to their versatility and return on investment. Whether it’s a bachelor’s, master’s, or a Doctorate, students learn essential skills needed for a wide variety of careers. Below we take a look at common admission requirements for business degrees at each level.

Bachelor’s

The vast majority of business degrees are administered through a college or university’s business department or school, housed within the greater university. Because of the popularity of business degrees, the admission process at the undergraduate level will most likely range from somewhat selective to extremely selective. Students who intend on applying to a business program will have to complete specific prerequisite courses, along with other admission requirements, such as an interview and minimum GPA standard. Most institutions require students to have a 2.5-3.0 minimum cumulative GPA and complete a series of business courses, such as marketing, accounting, macro/microeconomics, finance, and a college-level math course like statistics or calculus.

Master’s

Master’s programs have varying admission standards, depending on the type of business degree and the selectivity of the institution. Most programs require the student to have an undergraduate degree that is related to the program they are applying to. For example, a student applying to a master’s in accounting program will likely need a bachelor’s degree in business, accounting, economics, or another business discipline. Programs that allow students with any type of bachelor’s degrees will require candidates to have completed a lengthy list of foundational courses in economics, finance, accounting, mathematics, and marketing, and management. Many programs also require standardized test scores such as the GMAT or GRE. Letters of recommendation and personal statements are also required to apply.

Doctoral/Ph.D.

A business degree doctorate is designed to prepare business professionals for top leadership positions. A Ph.D. business program typically prepares its graduates for careers in academia. Because of the divergent purposes, the admission requirements are different. A business-related doctorate requires students to have at least three to five years of management experience and a maser’s degree in a business-related discipline. Ph.D. programs do not generally require students to have a master’s degree of any kind or any professional experience. Both degrees typically demand GRE or GMAT test scores, letters of recommendation, and personal statements.

Careers

Business degrees are known for their utility and career-readiness. Skills and knowledge of accounting, economics, marketing, management, and the like parlay well into jobs because they are very specific types of skills and are needed in virtually any organizational setting.

Accounting Careers

The complexity of accounting functions means there are several different types of occupational options for those with accounting degrees. Sample jobs include accounting systems specialist, budget analyst, controller, capital accountant, certified public accountant, and actuarial accountant. Accountant jobs are pervasive within all industries, enabling job seekers to find their preferred setting.

Marketing Careers

Marketing is an essential function for most organizations. A marketing degree can be utilized to enter a wide range of career paths from public relations, sales, advertising, event planning, and more. Students can often take specialized courses within their degree that will prepare them for a specific market career. Occupations include account executive, brand consultant, media buyer, market research analyst, advertising executive, and event planner.

Management Careers

Quality leadership and management skills are always in high demand no matter the industry or the state of the economy. A business degree in management teaches students the skills and knowledge needed to effectively manage and lead individuals, teams, and organizations. In addition to the degree, individuals also need professional experience before assuming a management position. Careers include human resources manager, financial manager, sales manager, information systems manager, and more. To qualify for executive-level management positions, a master’s degree is typically required.

Finance Careers

Finance is a broad term that encapsulates a number of activities associated with banking, investments, capital markets, and monetary systems. Finance degrees typically involve leveraging money and financial instruments to earn a profit for an organization or its stakeholders. Some of the most popular finance careers include financial planner, financial analyst, investment banker, budget analyst, and credit analyst.

Economics Careers

Economic careers can be found in several industries including banking, accountancy, and business and financial services. There are also several career options in the public sector. Common career pathways for those with economics degrees include government economist, financial risk analyst, data analyst, economic researcher, investment analyst, and financial consultant.

Degree Cost

According to research, the average cost for a bachelor’s degree in the United States is $21,000 for public schools (in-state) and $48,000 for private schools. For online bachelor’s degrees, the average cost ranges from $39,000 to $60,500. While these are averages, experts warn that these numbers, and the difference in prices, should be taken with a grain of salt. The on-campus prices reflect tuition and fees only and do not reflect room and board, transportation, and other expenses, which add considerable costs. Aspiring college students should pay close attention to each institution and how they structure tuition, fees, and other costs. In addition, financial aid packages vary greatly, so it is critical to understand the aid options available, as it is common for students to actually pay less out of pocket for a more expensive school due to its ability to offer generous amounts of aid.

Degree Levels

There are three main categories of business degrees available for postsecondary students, ranging from bachelor’s and master’s to doctoral. These degrees are offered in sequential order and can take anywhere from 2-8 years to obtain.

Bachelor’s Degree in Business

A bachelor’s degree in business is offered in several different majors such as finance, accounting, marketing, general business, and more. It is an undergraduate degree designed to be completed after high school. Bachelor’s degrees in business typically require general education courses in science, mathematics, English, humanities, and social sciences, in addition to business-related courses. A bachelor’s degree can be completed in four years and qualifies graduates for entry-level or management-level positions depending on the organization.

Master’s Degree in Business

Master’s programs in business are designed for people wishing to specialize in a particular business area. Master’s degrees are designed to be completed in 1-2 years but may take up to seven years, especially online options where students need to balance full-time jobs along with their coursework. Master’s degree programs generally require the applicant to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Some programs require professional work experience. Earning a master’s degree qualifies graduates to work in management and executive-level positions.

Executive Master’s Degree in Business

A specific type of master’s degree in business, the Executive Master’s in Business (EMBA) is for mid- to late-career professionals seeking advanced training. These students matriculate to programs with considerable work experience. Designed for the busy working professional, EMBA programs may be online, have courses scheduled for evenings or weekends, or a mixture of all of those options. The typical EMBA program is built to be complete in 1-2 years.

Doctoral Degree in Business

A doctoral degree in business administration (DBA) is the highest business degree one can obtain. These programs may require the applicant to possess a master’s degree in a related business field or, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree. Doctoral degrees generally take the longest to complete due to their advanced nature. Most degrees can be finished in 3-8 years. A doctoral degree in business is an applied degree designed to enhance the skills and knowledge needed to perform on the job. Along with coursework, students undertake advanced research through the completion of major papers, a dissertation, or a major portfolio project.

Ph.D. in Business

A “Ph.D. in business” is often used interchangeably with a “doctoral degree in business”, but they are not the same. A doctoral degree in business is an applied degree, whereas a Ph.D. in business is to prepare the graduate for a career in academia engaging in academic research and teaching. A business Ph.D. also takes anywhere between 3-8 years and requires intensive academic research and a dissertation.

Earnings & Pay

A college education has always been an excellent return on investment. The Georgetown University on Education and the Workforce shows individuals with a bachelor’s degree earn one million more dollars over their lifetime than those with just a high school diploma. And those with graduate degrees earn over 1.3 million more. When we look at various business degrees at different education levels, the data also shows the economic power of education through string wages. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of all occupations is approximately $37,690 based on 2017 data. Compare that with the average starting salary of $54,700 for the top 11 business degrees, it is apparent a business-related bachelor’s degree pays off immediately.

Graduate degrees pay off even more. When looking at the nine highest paying graduate business degrees, the data shows an average starting salary of more than $72,000, nearly double the average salary of all occupations.

Graduate School

Whether it’s a master’s degree or Ph.D., graduate school is a monumental effort that takes a great amount of determination. Obtaining either of these degrees puts the individual in exclusive company. Data shows 8% of the United States population has a master’s degree. Less than 2% have a Ph.D. So what is graduate school like for masters and Ph.D. students?

Master’s

A master’s degree program is similar to undergraduate education in structure, as it revolves around classes consisting of lectures and assignments. Unlike bachelor degree programs, master’s courses, such as seminars are far more interactive and have the expectation that the student will actively engage in discussions with fellow classmates and professors. In addition, master’s students spend a lot of time forming new knowledge and making their own discoveries, compared to an undergraduate degree where students perform less research and study the findings of others in their field. Obtaining a master’s degree culminates in a dissertation where the student engages in their own research and writes a lengthy paper that they defend in front of select faculty. The typical master’s degree consists of ten courses and takes between 1-5 years to complete depending on program structure and enrollment level.

Ph.D.

The highest achievement of all academic degrees, the Ph.D. is quite the endeavor. A Ph.D. in business is designed to prepare the graduate for a career in the academy or research. While students take courses, Ph.D. programs are focused on individual learning and engaging in independent research with the guidance of a faculty mentor. The average Ph.D. program in business takes 3-8 years.

A doctoral program in business is more of an applied degree. Students engage in research, but the focus is on preparing them for advanced careers in upper management and administration, rather than a career in academia. Doctoral business programs may require a dissertation of original research or a project that has more practical application to the student’s current or future occupation.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for individuals with a business-related degree (bachelor’s or master’s) is expected to be 7% from 2018-2028, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For context, the average growth rate for all occupations is expected to be 5%. During this time, approximately 592,000 business-related jobs are expected to be added to the economy. Individuals with accounting and bookkeeping skills can expect better-than-average job prospects, as well as those with financial and data analysis skills and knowledge. The further globalization of the economy and an emphasis on data-driven decision-making should drive demand for these particular skill sets. Moreover, those willing to relocate to major metropolitan areas should see increased job opportunities.

Possible Majors

Business degrees come in a variety of majors, ranging from international business to entrepreneurship. While a college degree pays large dividends in terms of future earnings, some majors are more profitable than others. Individuals considering the pursuit of a business-related major should consider the economic factors of the particular major and whether or not they would enjoy the coursework and career. Data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the top ten business majors according to projected growth.

1. Management Analysis: projected growth of 14.77%
2. Project Management: projected growth of 12.85%
3. Marketing: projected growth of 12.82%
4. Finance: projected growth of 11.5%
5. Accounting: projected growth of 11.5%
6. Entrepreneurship: projected growth of 9.58%
7. E-commerce: projected growth of 8.75%
8. Business Administration: projected growth of 8.75%
9. International Business: projected growth of 7.9%
10. Human Resources Management: projected growth of 7.7%

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Rankings

Maxim Sorokopud
Author

Melissa Anderson
Expert

Julie McCaulley
Editor-in-Chief