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Best Associate Degrees in Business Management

May 10, 2021

What is a Business Management Associate Degree?

As technological innovations continue to change the business world, one constant is the need for managers. In virtually every industry, companies and nonprofits need individuals capable of supervising and leading others while handling many of the unglamorous parts of a business like accounting, ordering inventory, and scheduling employees to work. These types of jobs are the ones that an associate degree in business management often prepares you for. These degrees educate students in both soft and hard skills so that they can efficiently and profitably run a business and lead it wisely. Along the way, graduates gain skills in various areas of business to aid them in achieving this goal. An associate degree in business management may be an Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), or Associate of Applied Science (AAS).

Why Should I Get a Business Management Associate Degree?

A business degree of any type is among the most beneficial to students looking to fairly easily find employment after graduation. Professional employees continue to be in demand in the 21st-century workplace, much as they were for the latter half of the 20th century. Managers, even more so, are in demand to lead this growing workforce. That makes earning an associate in business management a reasonable pursuit from a career standpoint.

It is also a sound choice for those wanting to begin working sooner rather than later or unable to commit to a four-year program. Many associate degrees can be earned in approximately two years if you go to school full time, making it possible to begin working sooner than if you obtained a bachelor's or master's degree. In the case of business management associate degrees, many of these are specifically designed to make students competitive when applying for entry-level jobs. While you may need to work your way up in a company to get to a management position, this degree will typically make you a solid candidate for promotion and hiring because of the skills you learn in it.

Even if you plan to pursue a bachelor's or master's after your associate's, an associate degree can be a smart financial choice. They're typically much cheaper than higher-level degrees and are often filled with courses that are primarily designed to be transferred.

How to Choose a Business Management Associate Program

Students may consider numerous factors when selecting a business management associate program. One of the most prominent elements to weigh is a program's curriculum. Usually, a business management program covers a fairly wide range of skills in its classes, which gives students a competitive advantage when searching for jobs. Similarly, as technology continues to progress at a rapid pace, it may be important to choose a program that teaches its graduates about the latest relevant technology in this field. Being tech-savvy, whether that takes the form of taking computer-focused classes or simply learning the basic programs used in classes, is a must in today's workforce.

It is also important to examine how students learn these skills. Some programs may use only traditional classroom learning to instruct their students, and that may be effective for some learners. Others may benefit more from other types of learning experiences, which may also help challenge even more traditionally-minded students. These experiences may include having guest speakers from businesses in the community come talk on campus, taking field trips to some of those businesses, touring different types of companies, and fostering connections with professional organizations. Furthermore, beyond typical coursework, some business management programs may use hands-on simulations, mock interviews, and model projects for nearby businesses to educate students. All these may help prepare graduates for the real world more than simply reading a textbook, listening to lectures, taking tests, and other traditional academic pursuits, so consider this when selecting a program.

Application and Admissions for Business Management Associate Degree Programs

The application and admissions process for students enrolling in a business management associate degree program varies from college to college. Normally, the application includes mainly basic personal information such as your name, address, and social security number, along with your chosen degree program and campus, if applicable. Applications also often have a section dedicated to your academic performance in high school. Some business management programs may require you to have a minimum grade point average. Typically this is not too rigorous, falling between a D and C average on most grading scales. Similarly, applicants might need to submit a high school transcript or equivalent document as part of the application process.

Once that is done, students may then have more steps to finish in the admissions process. This may include taking a placement test focused on core topics like math and English to determine what classes in those subjects the student will need to take in college. Some schools allow students to not take these types of tests depending on their ACT scores. New students may also need to attend a new student orientation of some sort that may include a tour of the campus and your first meeting with your academic advisor as part of the admissions process.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Business Management Associate Degree?

It usually takes around two years to earn an associate degree in business management if you attend school full time. This is because these programs normally require students to complete about 60 credit hours of coursework to graduate, and colleges usually recommend students take roughly 15 credit hours per semester. It may be possible to accelerate this process by taking more classes in a semester or taking classes over the summer, but that may not be possible because of prerequisites for some of the higher-level courses. Speaking with an adviser at the school is the best way to map out a degree plan that meets your needs.

How Much Does an Associate Degree in Business Management Cost?

Again, the cost of earning an associate degree in business management varies from school to school. The two main expenses associated with earning an associate degree are normally tuition/fees and books. In the former case, colleges often bill students per credit hour and may list their cost as the amount per credit hour. For books, some schools have a borrowing program, while others require students to buy their textbooks. While these factors depend on the school and its location, another benefit of an associate degree is that it often costs much less than a bachelor's or master's degree. Usually, it is possible to earn an associate degree in business management for between $10,000 and $15,000. Financial aid can take care of the lion's share of these expenses for qualifying students. We'll cover more on financial aid and scholarships below.

Associate Degree Coursework

As described above, associate degrees in business management conventionally aim to give students the foundational skills needed to work in many economic sectors or transfer as a junior to a four-year program. This often involves students taking a wide range of classes to know how to manage all aspects of a business from bookkeeping to employees. Possible courses include:

  • Accounting
  • Finance and budgeting
  • Business law
  • Principles of economics
  • Business computer systems
  • Principles of management
  • Principles of marketing
  • Human resources management
  • Introduction to Microsoft Office
  • Supervision

How Much Can I Earn With an Associate Degree in Business Management?

It is impossible to give a specific answer to the question of how much someone with an associate degree in business management can earn because business management is a global field and there are so many disparate jobs for which individuals with this degree may qualify. Generally speaking, a business management career will allow professionals to work in a growing field that pays fairly well. The specific job titles and sectors these people can work in, however, can vary from finance and retail to manufacturing and advertising.

Given that, the best way to determine the earning potential of those with an associate degree is to examine the median salaries of those positions they may hold. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2020 that the median annual wage for a human resource specialist was $63,490.

That job was on the higher end of the spectrum for common careers for business management professionals. The BLS reported the median hourly pay for customer service representatives was $17.23 in May 2020. Between these poles lies a position such as an insurance sales agent, which the BLS reported had a median annual salary of $52,180 in 2020.

Begin a Career as a Human Resource Assistant

While it may be possible to get a high-paying job as a human resource specialist after obtaining an associate degree in business management, those positions often require candidates to have a bachelor's degree. A more reasonable expectation for graduates of these programs would be getting a job as a human resource assistant, as this is usually a more entry-level position. In this role, individuals may be responsible for compiling and keeping personnel records, recording data for each employee, preparing reports for employment records, filing those records, and searching employee files to provide information to authorized people within the company. Human resources assistants are found in myriad industries. The BLS reported in 2020 that the median hourly wage of these professionals was $20.79, while the median annual salary was $43,250.

Begin a Career as an Advertising Sales Agent

Another common field for those with an associate degree in business management is sales. In this case, several positions may not require more education than an associate degree, with an advertising sales agent or advertising sales representative being one such example. These people sell advertising space to businesses or individuals, which may involve contacting potential clients, making sales presentations, estimating the costs of advertising, ensuring clients proof advertising materials, and maintaining relationships with current customers. Advertising sales agents will sometimes work outside the office because they are having meetings with clients. These individuals are needed in both print and digital mediums. The BLS reported in 2020 that advertising sales agents had a median yearly wage of $54,940. Some of that may be from a salary, but these professionals also earn performance-based pay through incentives like bonuses and commissions.

Accreditation for Business Management Associate Degree Programs

Programmatic accreditation demonstrates to the student, employers, and other schools that a degree is of high quality. Organizations like The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, which are two of the most widely-respected accrediting bodies in this field, use a rigorous process that can include examining faculty, curriculum, and student resources to determine if a program merits accreditation.

Transfer Options After Completing a Business Management Associate Degree

Accreditation can also play a key role for those students seeking to continue their education beyond an associate degree in business management. These students may pursue more advanced degrees in business management, business, organizational communication, project management, organizational leadership, and a host of other options.

If a program is accredited, there is a much higher chance that more classes will transfer. It is also common that junior colleges that offer associate degrees have transfer agreements with other higher learning institutions, especially those that confer bachelor's degrees in subjects related to the ones the junior college offers. Transferring to a school that has such an articulation agreement with your college should make matters easier, but there may still be some credits that do not transfer. Check with your school to see what courses are transferable to other institutions.

Career Advancement in Business Management

Transferring to another school to earn a more advanced degree may be advisable for those wanting to advance in the business management field. Business management opportunities for advancement may only be available for those who have a bachelor's degree or higher. To return to an example mentioned previously, human resource specialists usually need a bachelor's degree, while human resources assistants may not. If you start as an assistant and then earn your degree, you may have a higher chance of earning a promotion with your current employer or standing out among other candidates with less professional experience than you.

Education is not the only way, though, to advance in business management. Sometimes, experience is more highly valued than education. For instance, those who work in customer service can often earn promotions by excelling in their entry-level role. Combined with an associate degree in business management, it is entirely possible to at least move a few rungs up the corporate ladder within some organizations with only time and an associate degree.

What Are Other Business Management Degree Options?

While moving to the next level within the undergraduate realm and earning a bachelor's degree may be the most obvious route for many who earn an associate degree in business management, the education possibilities extend beyond this. They can include graduate and post-graduate level work, in addition to certificates. As described above, this continued education may be necessary or at least helpful for advancing in your business management career, earning more money, and opportunities for increased responsibility along the way.

Bachelor's Degrees in Business Management

A bachelor's degree in business management may most frequently take the form of a Bachelor of Science (B.S.), though it is also often a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A) degree with an emphasis in Business Management. These programs dive deeper into many of the topics covered in most associate degree programs and expand students' capabilities. For example, they may cover topics like marketing in more depth, though a business management degree is different from a business marketing one. It normally takes around four years to earn these degrees, but the salary and earning potential for a bachelor's in business management is often higher than their associate degree-possessing counterparts.

Master's Degrees in Business Management

At the graduate level, the most well-known degree is a Master of Business Administration (MBA), but it is possible to earn a Master of Science (MS) in Business Management. There are similarities and differences between these two types of degrees, but both can be useful for professional advancement. Degrees at this level often focus on theory and practice, teaching students about the latest concepts while providing hands-on, practical experience. It can take two or more years to earn a master's in business management.

Doctoral Degrees in Business Management

The most common doctoral degree in business management is a Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA). The next most popular offering from many schools may be a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Business Management. These programs are normally very focused on research, making them ideal for those wanting to become a professor in this subject or work in the highest-level positions in the industry. They can take upwards of three years to complete.

Certificate Programs in Business Management

For those looking to boost their resume or begin working even faster than an associate degree in business management affords, a certificate in business management may be the way to go. These programs can usually be completed in around a year in less. These highly focused programs cover the absolute basics of business management such as organizational behavior, finances, economics, applicable computer programs, and business law. Those seeking promotion or entry-level employment may benefit from these degrees, as may those who currently hold a management position but did not receive a formal education in business management.

Scholarships & Financial Aid for Business Management Associate Degrees

When applying for financial aid, students must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application helps students to find the federal loans, grants, or work-study requests that they qualify for.

When it comes to scholarships for those earning an associate degree in business management, two main sources of funding are your school itself and private organizations. In the former case, many colleges offer scholarships funded by private donors, tuition and fees monies, or the government. Some of these may be specifically for business management majors, while others may not. Either way, these are some of the most widely used forms of financial aid and are therefore very competitive.

For private organizations, opportunities are often based on merit and may require students to submit application materials like an essay, letters of recommendation and transcripts. Be sure to use scholarship search engines like CareerOneStop to ensure you do not miss out on these types of financial aid opportunities.

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