Small Business Management Degree Programs by Level

Oct 13, 2019

Essential Information

Associate's and bachelor's programs cover accounting, marketing, communication, finance and human resources management. Some programs include an internship or practicum to give students some management experience. Common prerequisites to associate's and bachelor degrees include a GED or high school diploma and a minimum GPA may be required as well. Master's programs require a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA as well as GMAT or GRE entrance exams.

Master's degree programs are sometimes offered as Master of Business Administration degrees with an entrepreneurship or small business management concentration. Students study similar topics as those included in undergraduate programs, but the courses are at an advanced level. After graduating from a program, students may pursue an optional professional credential, such as the Association of Professionals in Business Management's Certified Associate Business Manager (CABM) credential.

Associate's Degree in Small Business Management or Entrepreneurship

Most associate's degree programs in small business management or entrepreneurship are designed for individuals who wish to operate their own business. A number of programs require a minimal number of core general education courses. Core business and major courses range from 34 to 55 semester hours or an equivalent number of quarter hours. Sometimes a program includes a short internship.

Coursework covers the foundational aspects of operating a business. Examples of courses may include:

  • Accounting
  • Business finance
  • Business resources
  • Communication
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Managing employees
  • Marketing principles
  • Marketing research

Bachelor's Degree in Small Business Management or Entrepreneurship

Bachelor's degree programs include both general business courses and classes specific to small businesses and entrepreneurship. A few programs include a practicum as well. The program teaches students how to manage a business, create capital, organize assets, and relate to employees. Students may also learn how to create new business ventures, how to organize a business and how to utilize marketing techniques.

A number of courses for the bachelor's degree program are the same as those for the associate's degree program. Courses that may be found in the program include:

  • Finance principles
  • Financial accounting
  • Human resource management
  • Microeconomics
  • Strategic management

Master's Degree in Small Business Management or Entrepreneurship

Small business management or entrepreneurship master's degree programs may be tailored for prospective entrepreneurs who wish to purchase or start a business. Some small business management programs are part of an MBA degree, which will usually include a larger number of general business courses.

Coursework covers advanced business and entrepreneurship topics. Common classes may include:

  • Business laws and e-business
  • Funding types and sources
  • Influences on consumer behavior
  • Planning and building new ventures
  • Recruiting and hiring employees
  • Research methods

Popular Careers

Degree programs generally prepare graduates with job experience for entry-level management jobs. However, many graduates want to own their own business and may try to do so after graduation. For most industries, the government has determined that a business with no more than 500 employees is a small business.

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA,, in 2015, there were about 30.2 million small businesses compared to 19,464 large businesses. During this time, over 75% of all businesses were entrepreneurs with no employees. In spite of this, small businesses and large businesses each hired about half of the total private-sector employees on the market. However, between 2000 and 2017, small businesses created 65.9% of the new jobs. All this indicates that small business managers, whether they work for themselves or for someone else, have had a strong career outlook.

Graduates may also be able to find careers in:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Customer service
  • Retail

Continuing Education Information

Although many entrepreneurs may not feel the need for certification, some designations may improve prospective business or employment opportunities. One of the most basic credentials is the Certified Associate Business Manager (CABM) from the Association of Professionals in Business Management (APBM). The only requirement is passing a four-hour, one-part exam.

Once individuals have the CABM, they are eligible to test for the Certified Business Manager (CBM) credential. This is a 16-hour, four-part exam. Those with an MBA or eight years of full-time work experience do not need the CABM for CBM eligibility.

Small business management degree programs can be found at associate's, bachelor's and master's levels. After graduation, students may want to consider careers within bookkeeping, customer service or retail.

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