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Business Administration vs. Business Management: What's the Difference?

Revised: April 18, 2024

As you explore business programs, you might notice that there are both business administration and business management programs available. But what's the difference between business administration and business management—and which one is better suited to your professional goals?

While business administration and business management certainly share some similarities, there are some notable differences in educational outcomes and potential career paths. With a better understanding of how these fields differ, you can decide which business path may be right for you.

Business Administration vs. Business Management

In simplest terms, business administration is focused on the day-to-day operations of running a business. Business management, on the other hand, typically goes beyond  everyday operations to look at the "big picture."

Potential Career Paths and Industries

There are plenty of potential career paths for those in both business administration and business management. Those with degrees or certificates in business administration often end up working in such roles as:

  • Business analyst
  • Marketing specialist
  • Financial manager
  • Human resources administrator
  • Accountant

Meanwhile, typical career paths in business management include:

  • Operations manager
  • Management analyst
  • Financial reporting manager
  • Account manager
  • First-line supervisor
  • Business manager
  • Strategic planner
  • Supply chain management specialist

Salary Comparison

The type of salary you can expect to earn in business administration or business management can vary greatly depending on several factors, including the amount of experience you have, your highest level of education completed, and even the location and cost of living in your area.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for those with a business degree is $69,000 as of 2021.

However, those in business management positions often have higher salary expectations. For example, the median annual salary of a marketing manager based on 2022 BLS data is $138,730.

Educational Outcomes in Business Management Programs

If you're considering a degree in business management instead of business administration, it's helpful to understand the specific educational outcomes expected in this field of study.

Leadership and Decision-Making Skills 

Those with business management degrees and certificates typically go on to work in leadership and management positions, so having strong leadership and confident decision-making skills is a must. In such a program, you'll learn how to apply your business acumen and analyze information to make informed decisions for the good of the company. Meanwhile, you'll build leadership skills that empower you to inspire others. 

Focus on Practical Application 

You'll learn a lot in business school, but applying business theory to everyday operations isn't always easy. One of the primary outcomes of any business management program should be a focus on the practical application of business theories and methods so you can confidently enter the workforce and address a wide range of business challenges. 

Emphasis on Optimizing Processes 

Business management professionals must always consider the big picture and find ways to make businesses run more efficiently and profitably. One important learning outcome of any business management program is to assess company operations and find innovative and effective ways to optimize processes as much as possible. 

Opportunities for Specialization in Specific Industries 

Another thing to keep in mind with a formal education in business management is that many of these programs offer opportunities for specialization if you have an interest in a particular industry. Some potential specialized areas of business management to consider include:

  • Business development and sales 
  • Healthcare administration 
  • Human resource management 
  • Information technology fundamentals 
  • Marketing 
  • Project management 

What Can You Do With a Degree in Business Management? 

Depending on your current level of education and where you are in your career-planning journey, there are a few different options to consider when it comes to business management degrees and certificates. 

Associate Degree in Business Management 

If you have a high school diploma or equivalent (such as a GED) and are looking to fast-track your education in business management, then an associate degree can be a great starting point. An associate degree takes the least amount of time to complete. It can qualify you for any number of leadership and supervisory positions. 

Bachelor's Degree in Business Management 

If you want to further your undergraduate studies, a bachelor's degree in business management usually takes about four years to complete. However, this type of program is more comprehensive than an associate degree, focusing on theory and practical applications that can be used to pursue management positions across various industries. 

Graduate Certificate in Business Management 

If you already have an undergraduate degree in business management and are looking to specialize or take your education a step further, then a graduate certificate in business management may be a logical progression. This type of program can be completed in as little as two terms and is a great way to set yourself apart in this competitive and dynamic field. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Business Administration and Business Management Pathways 

Still unsure whether a business management or business administration degree is right for you? Here are a few factors you can consider to help you decide. 

Your Interests 

Think about where your specific interests lie in business. Are you more interested in the day-to-day operations of a company, or are you the type of person who likes to focus more broadly on big-picture functions? If the latter applies to you, a business management degree may better suit you. 

Your Skill Set 

Consider your skills as you decide on an educational path, too. Do you already have strong leadership and communication skills? Are you well-versed in data analysis and decision-making? If so, then a business management degree may be right for you. 

Your Career Goals 

Where do you envision yourself working five years from now? Do you aspire to work as a business manager, strategic planner, or general management role? If so, a business management program is probably the best path. Alternatively, business administration may be your calling if you're more interested in a role that allows you to oversee more of the everyday functions of a business (such as information systems or human resources). 

How Can a Higher Degree Elevate Your Career? 

If you're interested in getting into business management or elevating your current career, don't underestimate the power of a degree or certificate. With a formal education, you'll be able to set yourself apart from other job applicants while expanding your skill set and building your confidence as a true business leader. At Champlain College Online, we offer several business management programs—including an associate degree in business management, a bachelor's degree in business management, and a graduate certificate in business management. Learn more about these online programs today, or get started now with your free application

Frequently Asked Questions 

What’s the Difference Between Business Administration and Business Management? 

Business administration tends to focus primarily on a business's day-to-day functions. In contrast, business management looks beyond that to big-picture operations. 

What Are the Job Responsibilities of Someone With a Business Administration Degree vs. a Business Management Degree?

Those in business administration roles usually oversee projects and manage smaller teams, ensuring they meet deadlines and everything runs smoothly. On the other hand, business management professionals usually manage larger teams. They are responsible for optimizing efficiency and improving overall operations within the company. 

What Skills Do You Need to Succeed in Business Management vs. Business Administration Careers? 

Both business management and business administration professionals will benefit from having strong leadership and communication skills. However, business administration professionals also need to be able to work in fast-paced environments, be detail-oriented, and solve problems quickly. Business management professionals, on the other hand, may benefit more from being creative and innovative thinkers and able to make objective decisions for the overall good of the company. Business management professionals also need to be able to delegate tasks to others to perform their jobs well.

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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