2020 Best Online Business Degrees
We highlight the best online bachelor's degrees, ranked based on tuition and alumni salaries provided by PayScale. More detailed information about career paths in the business field and specialty degrees is also available. For rankings of the best online MBA programs, including programs in various specializations like international business and accounting, visit our MBA rankings hub.
2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Business Degrees
This list highlights the 24 best value colleges offering online bachelor's degrees in business. University of Alaska Fairbanks is the #1 school, with an average alumni salary of $116,400 and charging only $9,690 for their Bachelor of Business Administration - General Business. At #8, Southern Utah University has the least expensive tuition on the list, costing only $6,006 per year for its Bachelor of Science in Business Management.
2020 Online Colleges Offering Business Degrees - Ranking Details
Online Business Degree Overview & Career Information
Undergraduate certificates and associate degrees in business can cover both general or career-focused business areas. For example, an associate degree in business usually covers general college-level liberal arts topics, as well as economics, management, leadership, accounting, and other basic business topics. Other certificates can be used to pick up specific business skills, such as bookkeeping or human resources knowledge.
Online bachelor’s degrees in business provide a broader introduction to the interdisciplinary nature of business, as well as the chance to specialize the degree. Bachelor's graduates understand how to communicate in business settings, interpret financial data, effectively market a business, and think about business in a global context. Some bachelor’s programs have pre-designed focuses in areas like information technology or human resources management.
Master’s degrees in business come in a few different forms and are a great option for students who would want to learn about advanced business topics or switch from another career to business. The online Master of Business Administration (MBA) is one of the most popular options. MBA degree programs offer a variety of advanced business topics, such as ethics, finance, and quantitative analysis. Other master’s programs focus in a particular business area, such as accounting, human resources, or management information systems, and can provide more depth.
Online doctoral degrees in business are designed for students who wish to work in academia, either conducting research or teaching others. These lengthy programs require that students create a research project that looks at an aspect of business and generates a new understanding of how businesses function.
Online Associate Degrees in Business
The associate degree in business is a practically oriented program, covering the interdisciplinary skills required to manage a business enterprise. These programs typically include 60 credit hours of coursework and may be Associate of Science or Associate of Arts degrees. The terminal Associate of Science degree includes a majority of career-oriented classes. The Associate of Arts program contains a smaller business core and more general education classes; the credits in these programs are usually suitable for later transfer to a four-year degree. Applicants to the business associate program usually need a high school diploma or the equivalent.
The curriculum in the business program includes a foundation of theoretical and practical classes that support running a successful business. Classes in micro- and macroeconomics discuss the movement of capital in the United States and throughout the world, while finance courses focus on financial instruments and market systems. Courses in accounting discuss developing a budget, recording financial transactions, and analyzing financial statements. Management courses discuss organizational behavior and leadership skills for working with employees. Some associate programs allow students to focus on a particular area of business, such as entrepreneurship, sales, marketing, or international business.
The associate program in business provides a general skill set that allows graduates to go on to a variety of professional roles. General management or administration positions in small businesses are common options, as are positions in sales and marketing. Other possible roles include real estate appraiser, information systems specialist, bookkeeper, or human resources assistant.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Business
Students in the business bachelor's program gain an understanding of the interdisciplinary skills necessary to run a business. These programs require the traditional 120 credit-hour course load, which takes four years to complete. Applicants need a high school diploma or GED; many programs also require ancillary materials such as a resume, statement of purpose, and standardized test scores.
Business students take a wide array of classes that expose them to the many facets of business. Courses in economics, finance, and accounting teach students how to develop budgets and understand the market system. Classes in advertising, marketing, and public relations discuss the development of a business's public image. General administration, business management, leadership, and communications courses round out the degree's core of classes. Depending on the program, students may also be required to complete an experiential learning component. Common hands-on requirements include internships, co-op work experiences, and project-based courses.
Graduates can use their training to apply for entry-level positions in small and large businesses. Opportunities exist for business graduates in general administration, marketing, human resources, accounting, and information technology departments. Other graduates find their place in government agencies, hospitals, financial institutions, and non-profit organizations. Graduates can also start their own small business.
Online Master's Degrees in Business
Online master's degrees in business provide a more focused business education than other available graduate business programs, like the popular Master of Business Administration (MBA). While the MBA covers an interdisciplinary set of classes relating to business management, business master's programs focus on topics like business communication, healthcare administration, organizational leadership, and international business. The master's in business takes one to three years to complete and requires between 10 and 20 classes. For the best educational outcomes and future career opportunities, it's best to choose a program that has been accredited by AACSB. Applicants need a bachelor's degree, and many programs also require professional experience and standardized test scores.
The required courses in the business master's vary based on the program's focus. For example, a program in international business may include courses in global management, international economics, and international finance. The core of an entrepreneurship program, on the other hand, might explore feasibility analysis, venture capital financing, and enterprise innovation.
Many master's programs in business require an internship, work experience, or capstone project. An international business program may require students to study at a sister school abroad, while a healthcare management degree might require an internship at a local hospital. Capstone projects require students to integrate knowledge from throughout the degree to develop a complex project. Entrepreneurship students, for example, might develop a mock business plan or financial plan for a start-up.
Graduates can use the business master's degree to advance in their current workplace or to shift into a different business area. The master's can help employees move into roles such as director, general manager, or department manager. Professionals with significant experience in a particular area of business can use the master's credential to launch a career in consulting.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Business
Individuals with a knack for operating businesses and advising others on how to run companies efficiently are well suited for doctorates in business. Doctoral programs generally take four to seven years to complete and require individuals to complete approximately 60 credits at an online school or on-site university. Most schools grant acceptance to individuals who have completed a master's degree and the minimum amount of prerequisite coursework.
There are typically two common types of doctoral degrees in business: a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and a Doctor of Management (DMgt) degree. Both degrees feature advanced principles and practices that help students understand the business aspects of every industry; however, a DBA is considered a terminal degree that provides insight on a variety of business-related practices, as well as practices in the academic setting. A DMgt is specifically designed to prepare individuals for executive business management positions in a corporate industry. As a result, the majority of DBAs are more research-based, whereas DMgt degree programs offer ample classroom instruction. Every program requires the completion of a certain amount of independent study, as well as an original dissertation. Common coursework includes a variation of advanced classes in accounting, marketing, finance, research methods, and business techniques.
Graduates of doctoral programs in this field can go in several directions, such as postsecondary teaching, consulting, research, or executive dealings. They may also work in a number of settings, such as universities, private corporations, financial institutions, and retail companies. Many doctoral students intend to start their own companies.
Online Certificates in Business
Online certificates in business are usually offered at the graduate level through business schools and universities. These certificates may cover general business principles or they may cover a more focused business topic such as construction management, human resources management, or information systems. The course requirements for a business certification vary by school, but most require three to eight courses and can be completed in a year or less.
The curriculum for a business certificate will depend on the program’s specialization. A general certificate, for example, might require classes in accounting, management, marketing, and finance. A certificate in hospitality and tourism might include courses in organizational behavior, marketing, and hotel operations. Other possible certificate focuses include real estate, sports management, leadership, risk management, and benefits and compensation. Many certificates are geared toward current working business professionals who want to pick up additional professional skills in a shorter time frame.
A graduate certificate program may help students advance in their career and workplace. For example, a human resources specialist could use a certificate to move into a benefits and compensation management position. Others may use a certificate to fill gaps in their knowledge to better perform their current roles. For example, a current manager could use the information systems certificate to budget for information technology purchases and manage information systems personnel.
Selecting an accredited business program can help students ensure that they will receive a high-quality education that will be respected in the business world. Employers will likely give more consideration to a candidate who has graduated from a recognized and respected educational institution. Accreditation is also necessary for students who plan to pursue federal financial assistance or transfer credits to other schools in the future.
Regional and national accrediting agencies evaluate schools based on their curricula, faculty qualifications, research programs, and student resources, among other things. Programmatic accrediting agencies evaluate specific degree programs, such as business programs, based on their ability to meet established academic standards for that particular discipline.
In the case of business degree programs, it's wise to choose one that has been accredited by either the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs. Both of these agencies are recognized by the US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as being legitimate independent accrediting bodies for business and business-related academic programs. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) is another recognized accrediting body that awards accreditation for institutions that specifically offer online programs.
If you are innovative, driven by the desire to create new things, and love the challenges entailed in product or service development, an online degree in entrepreneurship may help you to become a successful entrepreneur. An entrepreneurship degree is also a good fit if you’re already established in business but wish to take your business to the next level. Entrepreneurship programs enhance the ability of students to identify and exploit business opportunities in a dynamic business environment. Online entrepreneurship degrees are available at both undergraduate and graduate levels.
Career opportunities for entrepreneurs are virtually unlimited: You may become a successful small business owner in the automotive, computer, fashion, healthcare, or horticulture field, or any other industry that holds interest for you. The program could also prepare you to become a consultant or franchise owner.
Coursework required during entrepreneurship degree programs teaches students the concepts and principles that prepare them to start, acquire, or develop a business. Courses also focus on the challenges in entrepreneurship as well as strategies for effectively resolving such problems. Students will build their knowledge and skills in areas such as accounting, business law, business management, computers, finance, human resources management, and marketing. Specialization courses may include advertising, international business, negotiation, new business venture management, product development and innovation, public relations, small business development and planning, strategic thinking for entrepreneurs, and venture capital and private equity.
Bachelor’s programs require students to engage in a capstone experience or an internship as part of the learning requirements. This gives students the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and skills gained from instruction. Students enrolled in master’s programs must engage in a culminating experience after the completion of coursework. This may consist of a comprehensive exam, applied project, thesis, or other requirement as specified by the program. Graduate certificate programs offer students the opportunity to expand their existing knowledge and develop skills in a specific area within entrepreneurship. This is accomplished by completing a concentrated graduate-level course of study within the entrepreneurship program.
Insurance is a wide-ranging industry that affects every type of business. All business owners need to protect their investment from physical threats (such as fire or theft) and lost income due to business interruption if disaster strikes. Online insurance degrees are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels and help to prepare students for careers in a number of fields. Graduates from these programs may choose to focus on sales, insurance underwriting, or management. Although not all employers require insurance sales agents to hold a bachelor's degree, many have completed their postsecondary education. Underwriters and managers usually have at least a minimum of an undergraduate degree.
Undergraduate certificate programs include courses in a number of topics, including insurance planning, life and health coverage. Students learn about annuities, long-term care, and property coverage products. Courses also cover insurance regulations and ethics for agents and financial advisors. Bachelor's degree students who choose to major in insurance will take a number of core business courses as part of the requirements to complete their degree. Understanding the fundamentals of marketing and finance is a good platform for learners entering this industry. Students may also be expected to take courses in accounting, microeconomics, macroeconomics, statistics, business law, and information systems.
At the master's degree level, students take a core curriculum that includes courses in risk management, business conditions analysis, and personal financial planning. Specialization courses vary, depending on the school offering the program. Some schools offer a course in international risk management, which gives students the opportunity to expand their educational horizons by taking a trip abroad.
Online international business degree programs equip students with the fundamental managerial skills to succeed in international business. The coursework introduces students to various accounting, banking, marketing, and monetary systems that exist in the global business environment. Programs give students the opportunity to develop an understanding of the business ethics, human resources, management fundamentals, and marketing concepts required to succeed in the global business environment. Areas of focus in international business programs include accounting, banking, cultural protocol, economics, exporting, finance, foreign languages, government contract management, healthcare management, importing, information management, management, and marketing.
Program graduates can take up managerial positions in public and private firms as well as in the non-profit sector in the global arena. Job titles for graduates of international business degrees include export sales representative, international business development manager, international marketing representative, and international sales manager. Online international business programs are available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree levels.
Bachelor’s degree programs place heavy emphasis on introducing students to barriers in global business, which includes cultural, legal, political, social, and technological barriers. Students also develop an understanding of international trade and investment opportunities. Bachelor’s and master’s degree programs usually require students to complete a capstone project or internship. This is an excellent opportunity for students to demonstrate their grasp of course content.
The curriculum for master’s programs covers areas such as creation and distribution of goods and services, domestic and global economic environments, financial reporting, analysis and markets, and human behavior in organizations. Doctoral programs focus on developing research and writing skills, which are essential for high-level leadership positions in global academic and business settings. In addition to taking an integrated sequence of courses, doctoral students must also complete a dissertation and take a comprehensive exam. Doctoral degree programs are a good choice if you’ve earned your master’s degree in the field and intend to take up high-level leadership positions in the global environment.
Online Small Business Management Degrees
Those who are interested in starting their own businesses may be interested in earning a degree that offers a small business management or entrepreneurship emphasis. Degree options range from certificates in small business management and entrepreneurship to bachelor's degrees in business administration with a concentration in small business management.
Students who are enrolled in these types of programs can expect to take classes on a range of business-related topics, from finance and marketing to economics. Additional coursework that focuses specifically on small business management will include classes on such topics as hiring and managing employees, business ethics, creating a business plan, advertising a small business, and other topics that a small business owner or entrepreneur needs to know.
After successfully completing one of these degree programs, students often pursue a variety of small business ventures, such as starting their own sole proprietor business, opening franchises of an existing company, or working at another individually owned small business. For entrepreneurs who are interested in using their small business management degree to launch their own company, additional licensing or certification may be necessary, depending on what they wish to do and where they live. The U.S. Small Business Administration maintains a great list of resources for the aspiring entrepreneur, from business plan guides to tips on obtaining financing, tax information, as well as instructions on how to register your small business.
The skills and knowledge acquired during a business degree program make graduates suitable for a wide array of career options. The following is a list of just some of the career opportunities available to students who complete an online business degree program:
- Administrative Manager: Administrative managers are responsible for overseeing how an office runs, including small items such as paperwork and mail delivery, and larger items such as processes and office maintenance. The job duties will depend on the particular organization, but they will often include coordinating with all employees, making sure the office has enough supplies, and making sure the office is up to standards, codes, and regulations.
- Compensation/Benefits Manager: The human resources arm of a company is vital to employee motivation and overall happiness at work. A compensation or benefits manager will generally oversee the human resources department and make sure that each employee is getting paid fairly and on time. They will also help keep employees motivated with well-earned benefits and items such as a retirement plan and paid vacation time.
- Financial Manager: Finances are a huge part of any organization, because even if earning money isn't an organization's main goal (e.g., a non-profit company) they still need money to keep the doors open and the employees paid. A financial manager will ensure that a company's money is spent wisely, and they will report to executives or board members on the progress of the company, often offering solutions for any financial distress.
- Marketing/Advertising Manager: Almost every business in the world needs marketing. As a marketing or advertising manager, you'll be working with the sales team to make sure all numbers are being met and that everyone on your team is doing their job and meeting their goals. You may also serve as the facilitator between those who are selling your product and those who are buying what you have to sell.
- Training/Service Manager: Once employees are hired at a company, they need to be trained. Training is crucial, as it's an employee's introduction to what will be his or her job in the days ahead. A training manager will oversee this orientation process and update and improve it as necessary.
- Management Occupations. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Accessed April 8, 2020. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/home.htm.
- Insurance Sales Agents. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Accessed April 8, 2020. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/insurance-sales-agents.htm.
- U.S. Small Business Administration. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.sba.gov/.
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with Small Business Management Emphasis Degree Requirements. Adams State University. Accessed Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.adams.edu.
- Small Business Training. Ashworth College. Accessed April 8, 2020. https://www.ashworthcollege.edu/career-diplomas/small-business-management/.