Do you really have to spend four years in college to earn a business bachelor's degree? What about an MBA?
In short, how long does it take to get a business degree? Our guide walks through how much time you'll spend earning an associate or bachelor's degree in business.
It also covers the many graduate options for business students, including master's in business, MBA, and DBA programs.
Time to complete: 6-18 months
A business certificate takes 6-18 months, depending on the student's enrollment status and the number of credits required.
Shorter programs that require around 15 credits take under a year, while longer certificate programs with 25-45 credits can take more than one year. Online business certificate programs typically take the same time as on-campus programs.
A business certificate is not a degree. It introduces learners to core business concepts. Many schools offer business certificates in bookkeeping, accounting, business analytics, and small business management. During a certificate, students take business classes with no general education requirements.
Undergraduate certificates target students with little to no prior business experience or education. Graduate certificates help professionals who already possess an undergraduate degree master a specific element of the field.
If you're seeking focused business training, an online certificate can help you reach your educational goals with a flexible enrollment option. However, most entry-level business careers require a bachelor's degree. After earning a business certificate online, you may be able to transfer into a business program.
Time to complete: Two years
An associate degree in business typically takes two years for full-time students. Students pursuing their associate degree part-time may require three years. Online associate programs also generally take two years.
Students with an undergraduate business certificate or prior college credits can often graduate in less time.
During an associate degree in business administration, learners study foundational topics like accounting, management, marketing, and finance. Students also take general education courses that strengthen critical thinking and analytical skills.
A business administration associate degree meets the requirements for careers as a bookkeeper, financial clerk, or customer service associate. Graduates can also transfer to a bachelor's program to increase their career opportunities.
Time to complete: Four years
Business majors typically earn a bachelor's degree in four years.
Part-time students often take longer, with most finishing the degree within six years. Undergraduates with transfer credits or an associate degree can complete a bachelor's in business in around two years. Online business programs may offer an accelerated bachelor's degree in one to three years.
During a bachelor's degree in business, undergraduates study operations management, organizational leadership, and strategic decision-making. Many programs offer concentrations such as entrepreneurship, human resources management, accounting, and marketing.
Students can also earn their business administration degree online.
A business administration degree leads to careers as a financial analyst, accountant, management analyst, or market research analyst. With experience, a bachelor's degree also prepares professionals for promotions to supervisory roles.
Time to complete: Two years
Earning a master's in business generally takes two years for full-time graduate students.
However, many master's programs offer a one-year route to a graduate degree. Part-time students often take two to three years, depending on the program. Online master's in business programs typically require one to two years.
Business schools offer many master's degree options. Earning a master's in a specialized field like accounting, marketing, human resources, or finance provides focused, advanced training. A master's degree helps professionals advance in their current field or move into a new field.
With a master's in business, graduates work as marketing managers, financial managers, CPAs, and business consultants. Many employers prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree for management-level roles.
Time to complete: Two years
Traditional MBA programs take two years for full-time students. Part-time MBA programs generally take 2.5-3 years. Students can also enroll in an accelerated MBA program. Most accelerated programs require 12-18 months.
Both on-campus and online MBA programs typically offer multiple enrollment options.
An MBA offers graduate-level training in leadership and management. MBA courses include financial management, operational management, and strategic leadership. Most business schools offer MBA concentrations in consulting, business analytics, finance, and accounting, among others.
As a versatile business degree, an MBA opens many career doors. With an MBA, graduates work as risk managers, business intelligence managers, and consultants. The degree emphasizes managerial skills like team leadership and long-term decision-making.
SEE: Is an MBA worth it?
Time to complete: Three to five years
Earning a DBA, or doctorate in business administration, typically takes around three years. A Ph.D. in business often takes four to five years. Part-time students take longer to earn their degrees.
Some programs offer accelerated doctorates that may take as little as two to three years.
A doctorate in business administration is the field's terminal degree. During a doctorate, graduate students take classes, pass comprehensive exams, and complete a dissertation project.
A DBA emphasizes practical skills for business leaders, while a Ph.D. focuses on research. With a DBA, graduates work as executives and entrepreneurs. A Ph.D. leads to opportunities as a business professor or researcher.
Once you understand how long it takes to earn a business degree, what's the next step?
Research the cost of a business degree and your career options after graduation. And check out our resource on MBA scholarships to learn more about financing your business degree.
Alexandra is a driven, high-spirited, unapologetically energetic, and optimistic person. She prides herself on her devotion to becoming a better business leader and human. She has an insatiable hunger for knowledge, asks a million questions, and thrives on making change.
She has reached many populations throughout her career. She's studied recidivism, helped prior criminal offenders reintegrate into society, and built trusting relationships while working at a homeless shelter.
Her passion for education also shines through in her work. She taught younger children for many years, but has since turned her focus to higher education. She loves collaborating with others to be a disruptor in the education industry, creating and delivering programs that are unlike others — all while building a better future for her clients and students.
Alexandra Tapia is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.
Last reviewed May 3, 2022.