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What's The Difference Between Business Management and Business Administration?

In your search for a business degree program, you may have noticed some schools offer a business administration degree, while others provide a business management degree. What is the difference between business administration and business management? Does that difference matter to you? How do you know which one is the right choice? As it turns out, in most cases, the differences are subtle because many schools don't differentiate between the two. However, many do, and in those cases, it's best to be completely informed.

Before we get started, know that most undergraduate business programs will provide you with the same comprehensive foundation of business education. We'll call it the "Core 5." The Core 5 consists of accounting, finance, economics, marketing, and management courses. You'll learn these functional areas because they'll give you insight into how business works. Some schools will include business law in the core curriculum as well.   

Once you've had access to the Core 5, the direction your business degree program takes is where business management vs. business administration comes into play. Let's take a look.

Business Management vs. Business Administration

What is a Business Management Degree?

A business management degree, if indeed the management function is what the program is concentrated on, should focus on skills related to managing the day-to-day operations of a business such as monitoring processes, organizing teams and tasks, understanding how other functions of business such as accounting and finance impact daily operations, planning projects and milestones, providing recommendations and expertise to senior leadership, and managing and leading people.

Business management, first and foremost, is about managing people, places, things, and ideas. To best manage people, places, things, and ideas, business management degree programs will place a heavier focus on the skill of management and leadership itself - an essential and crucial proficiency for any business (private, public, or non-profit) to have. Everyone needs effective managers, hence why business management careers are plentiful and why there are many business degree programs to choose from.

So, if you want to enhance your business management skills or move into a management position at your place of work, advancing your business management career comes down to learning and applying the skills and competencies of the management function.

What is a Business Administration Degree?

A degree in business administration, if indeed the program distinguishes between management and administration, provides a broad background in business functionalities and allows you to focus on a specialized area of business. For example: after taking the core business curriculum, you'll be able to select a specialization in accounting, finance, management, or entrepreneurship, to name a few. Once chosen, the remainder of your courses in the program will be focused on that functional area. In credit hour terms, a 60 credit hour program would have 15 credits worth of core courses (the Core 5) and 45 credit hours of discipline-specific courses.

Business Management vs. Business Administration: Course Requirements

As stated earlier, both business management and administration degrees typically include the same core subjects, including marketing, accounting, economics, finance, and management (the Core 5). These subjects give students a background in how businesses work, from how products are obtained and produced, how they are advertised and sold, to how money is properly managed and utilized to grow the business.

A student of business management will commonly then go on to take supplementary courses in operations such as human resources, information systems, communications, logistics, and decision-making. These courses help prepare a business management student for a job supervising or managing other people - a business management career.

A student of business administration will commonly then go on to take supplementary courses primarily in a functional business area related to the Core 5 such as accounting, finance, economics, marketing, or management. These courses help prepare a business administration student for a job in one of the specialized areas.

Business Management vs. Business Administration: Specializations

Whether they're management or administration-focused, most business programs will offer specializations students can choose from. Even management degree programs focused intently on management proficiency may provide students with various concentration options. You'll still be able to take a set of specialized courses in accounting (for example) if you so choose.

For example, students who pursue a business management degree would take the Core 5. They then would take additional courses focused on management such as human resources management, project management, operations management, and business leadership. Once complete, they can also choose a specialization. This specialization could very well be management or advanced management, where they'll learn about decision-making and advanced management theory. However, they could also choose a concentration like marketing, where they'll learn about pricing theory, consumer behavior, demand analysis, advertising and promotion management, market segments, and more.

Suppose a student elected a specialization in entrepreneurship. In that case, courses might include small business accounting, business law, business plan writing, capitalization and investment, supply chain management and purchasing, contracts and procurement, and more. A human resources management specialization, on the other hand, might include courses related to attracting and retaining talent, total compensation packages, workforce development and training, and employee care.

Business Management vs. Business Administration: Career Paths

It is worth mentioning that no matter what degree type you choose, both a business management and business administration degree will adequately prepare you for the next step in your career. The difference between business administration and business management comes down to focus area. What would you prefer to focus on? The skills related to managing people, projects, and operations? If so, choose management. Or is it finance? If so, select administration.

Above all else, have a career path in mind before you decide. If you choose business administration and focus on finance as your specialization, then your career path will be closely associated with the field of finance (or whatever concentration you choose). If you select management, then your career path will be closely related to general management careers, of which there are many!

What Can You Do with a Degree in Business?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, business and financial occupations are on the rise and are expected to grow 8% between 2020 and 2030 as a result of an increasingly complex global business landscape. Graduates with a degree in business management and business administration are prepared to succeed in a variety of career paths across many fields and industries, including human resources, business analysis, administrative services, operations, and sales.

Some top jobs graduates can expect to be qualified for include:

  • Accountant
  • Auditor
  • Budget Analyst
  • Business Development Specialist
  • Claims Adjuster
  • Financial Analyst
  • Human Resources Specialist
  • Management Consultant
  • Office Manager
  • Operations Manager
  • Sales Representative

Business Programs at Champlain College Online

Here at Champlain, we focus intently on the management side of business. Our business management programs are designed for working adults and are directly applicable to the organizational challenges you face every day. Increase your value to your workplace with one of our business management programs across various academic levels.

Associate Degree in Business Management

Whether you're new to the field of business or you're embarking on your first credential in the field, our online associate degree in business management will arm you with the business acumen necessary to succeed in the vast and varied world of business. Not only will you gain foundational business skills and in-demand soft skills, but you'll also be taking a step toward a full bachelor's degree.

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Bachelor's Degree in Business Management

Our online bachelor of science in business management is distinctly designed to help you reach your professional goals. Learn core business functions in accounting, finance, economics, and marketing to address complex and systemic issues in today's ever-evolving business landscape. Even better, you'll have the opportunity to differentiate your bachelor's degree with a specialization in one of nine tracks:

  • Blockchain
  • Cybersecurity Fundamentals
  • Healthcare Administration
  • Human Resource Management
  • Information Technology Fundamentals
  • Marketing
  • Project Management
  • Supply Chain and Security
  • Web Design

Learn More >

Graduate Certificate in Business Management

If you've already earned a bachelor's degree and you're looking to propel your career forward, our graduate certificate in business management might be right for you. In this standalone program, you'll learn to practice advanced management concepts with a specific focus on leadership and the global economy.

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Regardless of which program you choose, earning your degree at Champlain College Online provide you will with the knowledge and skills you need to succeed throughout your career.


About the Author

Albert Orbinati

Albert Orbinati, PhD, is Assistant Professor and Department Chair for the Business Management and Human Resource Management programs in the Division of Champlain College Online at Champlain College. His 20+ year career includes progressive leadership positions in secondary and post-secondary education, and the U.S. military. Dr. Orbinati holds a BA in Urban Planning from Binghamton University, an MBA from Champlain College, an MA in Adult Education from Central Michigan University, and a PhD in Adult Education from Capella University.

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