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Associate degrees in business administration: What to expect

An associate degree in business administration is a career investment. Consider both online and traditional programs, course and program requirements, and prospective job opportunities.
Written by Tanika Johnson, Contributor

Whether you're a high school graduate or working professional, starting your higher education is a big decision. If you're eyeing a career in business but don't want to spend four years earning a bachelor's degree, an associate degree in business administration might appeal to you.

This business administration associate degreeguide explores online and traditional programs, course requirements, and hands-on learning opportunities and internships. It also goes over important soft and hard skills for business leaders seeking career advancement. 

What is an associate degree in business administration?

An associate degree in business administration gives you a broad foundation in business fundamentals. Students may pursue an online or traditional associate degree in business administration. 

Students complete courses in accounting, business fundamentals, and management together with business ethics, principles of finance, and business law. 

Both online and traditional programs also require general education and elective courses.

How long does a business administration associate degree take to complete?

Both full-time online and traditional programs associate degree programs typically require two years. Working professionals studying part-time basis may take up to four years.

How much does this degree cost?

Tuition and fees may range between $6,000 and $26,000. Depending on the college or university, there might be additional technology, textbook, and supplemental course fees. Research business school scholarships and fill out the FAFSA to help offset your costs. 

Some colleges and universities offer free laptops, rentals, and discounts. The cost of the laptop is typically included in the cost of tuition and fees. 

With an associate degree or other higher education, qualified professionals may earn higher salaries and qualify for more senior positions than those who hold only a high school diploma.

Skills taught in a business administration associate degree

During your studies, you'll have the chance to gain practical knowledge and applied experience in business solutions. 

If you aspire to excellence, it is critical to learn and apply hard and people-oriented skills. Below are abilities a successful leader should possess, which you can cultivate during a business administration associate degree.

Hard skills

People (soft) skills

  • Data analysis
  • Project management
  • Marketing skills
  • Financial management
  • Financial literacy
  • Team-building
  • Creative thinking
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making 

Who is a good fit for a business administration associate degree program?

Are you an aspiring leader in your workplace? Do you possess strong analytical and problem-solving skills? 

Perhaps you are new to the industry and aspire to be a transformative leader. Or after reflecting on your talents and career goals, you might be ready to boost your company's business operations by gaining more detailed knowledge. 

If so, a business administration associate degree might be an excellent fit for you. 

Associate degrees aren't right for everyone, but luckily there are several alternatives.

If you want in-depth knowledge and opportunities to choose interesting electives, research a bachelor's in business administration degrees.

If you want to learn business fundamentals on an even shorter timeline, consider earning a business certificate online. These non-degree credentials typically take less than a year to complete and may help you qualify for entry-level positions.

If you're already experienced in business, hold a bachelor's degree, or are seeking management positions, research in-person and online MBA programs.

Group of students standing together in classroom and smiling.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

What is an associate degree in business administration like?

Expect courses that build on practical knowledge of business and current trends and consumer and accounting theory. You will learn supply and demand, important math functions, and the legal components of business. 

As the program progresses, you'll participate in research projects, presentations, and team-oriented activities, along with hands-on learning opportunities and internships. Students are expected to actively participate in both oral and written assignments. 

Common courses

  • Introduction to business
  • Business law
  • Accounting 
  • Management concepts
  • Principles of finance

What can you do with an associate degree in business administration?

After earning an associate degree in business administration, graduates may explore careers in business operations and management.

New graduates can pursue entry-level positions such as: 

  • Relationship banker
  • Assistant store manager
  • Sales manager
  • Customer service supervisor
  • Project manager
  • Sales consultant 
  • Account executive
  • Retail sales manager
  • Administrative assistant
  • Project manager

What's the difference between an AA and AS in business administration?

With an associate of arts (AA) degree, students complete courses in general studies, liberal arts, or pre-professional studies. An associate of science (AS) degree offers more specialized courses in finance, marketing, human resources, and other business specializations. 

How much money can you make in business administration?

According to Payscale, the median annual wage for graduates with an associate degree in business administration is about $53,000.

Is getting a business degree worth it?

Yes. A business degree can lead to more job prospects, career advancement, and salary increases.

This article was reviewed by Krystal Covington, MBA 

Krystal Covington, a woman with medium-length, curly hair, smiles at the camera.

Krystal Covington, MBA, is a business growth strategist with 15 years of experience in marketing and public relations. Her company, Go Lead Consulting, provides clients foundational tools to build new client and customer relationships. 

Covington founded Women of Denver, one of the largest privately held membership organizations in Denver, Colorado. Her program helps women increase their business acumen, sharpen leadership skills and connect with other high-achieving women. Covington received her MBA from Western Governors University in 2012.

Krystal Covington is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network. 

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