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Online Business Degrees

Online business degrees can prepare graduates to enter the business world, or help current employees towards career advancement. Programs generally combine theoretical instruction with case studies of how actual companies handled real-world challenges. A business degree can make a student's credentials more competitive while providing decision-making know-how that may be applied to a wide variety of fields.

Online Degrees in Business

Time management is a crucial business skill, and online business schools offer students an opportunity to practice efficient time management while they pursue their degrees. Additionally, online business degree programs typically give students the flexibility to adapt learning to their schedules, which is perfect for anyone trying to fit studies around work or other responsibilities.

While there is no standard educational requirement for entry and advancement in the business world, a bachelor's degree would generally be considered the minimum requirement, while an advanced degree such as a master's of business administration (MBA) is often necessary to compete for higher-level positions. Business degrees can provide a job candidate with a background in the terminology and concepts likely to be encountered in business situations, and signal to potential employers that the candidate is serious enough about the field to have pursued a formal degree in it.

Business Degree Specializations

While some online business degrees offer a broad survey of business concepts, many concentrate in particular specialties relevant to the business world, such as management, marketing, human resources, and finance. Business degrees online include both undergraduate and graduate programs in general and specialized business studies. Here are just a few examples of the wide range of business degrees available:

  • Bachelor's Degree in Business Management - Bachelor's degrees typically require the equivalent of four years of full-time study, which can be spread over a longer time period in part-time programs. A business management program will tend to focus on developing the type of analytical and decision-making skills necessary to best deploy an organization's resources given the competitive and demand environments.
  • Bachelor's Degree in Human Resources - Human talent is often considered an organization's most important resource, and a degree in human resources can teach a student about the wide variety of issues involved in handling an organization's workforce. These issues include employment law, compensation and benefits, staffing and training, and labor relations. A four-year bachelor's degree should provide a solid background in the fundamentals of human resources, while an advanced degree might be preferable for more specialized aspects of human resources.
  • Master's Degree in Finance - Naturally, there are a number of financial industry jobs that require specialized knowledge, but in addition, every business deals with finance on some level. Whether it is simple budgeting and cash flow management, or analyzing complex mergers and acquisitions, a master's degree in finance can help prepare a student for the critical financial issues that businesses face every day. Master's degrees are generally completed over the equivalent of two academic years (not counting the typical prerequisite of a bachelor's degree), though business professionals often pursue these degrees part-time while also gaining practical experience.
  • Master's of Business Administration - An MBA teaches the formal discipline of organizational management. It generally involves some exposure to all major functional areas of an organization, including operations, finance and accounting, marketing and sales, and human resources. Besides providing a groundwork of knowledge, MBA programs also put an emphasis on analytical decision-making, to produce executives who can turn their knowledge into effective business strategies. A student may pursue a two-year master's degree (or part-time equivalent) immediately after completing a bachelor's degree, though it is often preferred to combine this academic knowledge with some practical work experience.

Related Careers in Business

Careers in business are often closely related to a student's area of academic specialization. Here are some examples of careers that could correspond with the degrees described above:

  • Logisticians - These are people who manage the practical aspects of moving supplies and products through a company's production and distribution facilities. A bachelor's degree in business management, logistics, or supply chain management would be a good background for this field.
  • Human Resource Specialists - These professionals handle the basic functions involved in staffing an organization, from recruiting to administering employee benefits and personnel policies. A bachelor's degree should be sufficient to get started in HR, though a master's degree may be useful for advancement.
  • Financial Managers - Responsibility for managing an organization's finances can include formulating strategies to maximize return on investment or make the most efficient use of cash flow. While a bachelor's degree may be acceptable for some positions in this field, a master's degree would be a more competitive credential for higher-level roles.
  • C-level Executives - So-called C-level executives, including Chief Executive Officers, Chief Operating Officers, and Chief Financial Officers, make the highest-level strategic decisions for an organization. Job performance and reputation are probably the most critical factors in winning these positions, but with MBAs becoming increasingly common among top-level executives, this credential would be helpful in competing for one of these highly sought-after spots.

Business Career Trends

Business conditions, and thus career opportunities, are somewhat subject to economic cycles. In addition, top-level jobs will always be relatively scarce, though highly rewarding. Generally speaking, however, there are ample opportunities throughout entry-level and middle management business positions in a wide variety of industries. The following are growth trends for the positions described above, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics figures (bls.gov, 2012):

  • Logisticians - 26 percent nationwide from 2010 to 2020.
  • Human Resource Specialists - 21 percent nationwide from 2010 to 2020.
  • Financial Managers - 9 percent nationwide from 2010 to 2020.
  • Top Executives - 5 percent nationwide from 2010 to 2020.

Sources:
Do MBAs Make Better CEOs?, by Francesca Di Meglio, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-12-28/do-mbas-make-better-ceos, December 28, 2012
Financial Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm, March 29, 2012
Human Resource Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/human-resources-specialists.htm, March 29, 2012
Logisticians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/logisticians.htm, March 29, 2012
May 2012 Occupation Profiles, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_stru.htm#11-0000, June 12, 2013
Top Executives, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives.htm, March 29, 2012
Do MBAs Make Better CEOs?, by Francesca Di Meglio, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-12-28/do-mbas-make-better-ceos, December 28, 2012

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