Online Business Management Degree Programs

Students evaluating online business management degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels will encounter a wide range of options and business specializations. It takes initiative to sort through costs, degree requirements and types of online schools to determine the program that best matches management career goals.

The resources on this page can help students narrow down potential online business management programs and degree options. The in-depth guide below provides key details on associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs, their admission requirements, and the suitability of degrees when mapped to careers. Find the right online business management program for you, or learn more before diving in.

Online Business Management Degrees: A Comprehensive Guide for Students

Managers across the private, non-profit and governmental sectors are directly responsible for the ultimate success of an organization. The titles of America’s managers are extremely diverse and include sales manager, construction manager, human resource manager, information technology manager, industrial production manager, lodging manager, marketing manager, accounting manager, project manager and healthcare manager. Managers typically complete a post-graduate degree to advance into their leadership roles, although many start as mid-level supervisors or mid-level managers. Online degree programs for management careers and specializations begin at the bachelor’s degree level, although students can earn two-year associate degrees in business with a concentration in management. Let’s take a closer look at the online management degree timeline.

An Online Degree Timeline: Business Management

When investigating potential online business management degrees, students need to know that timeline for each degree level, and requirements for each school, can differ widely. To clarify, the progressive levels of management training, the sample timelines for undergraduate and graduate degree programs include the length of studies, the curriculum, and how the degree relates to employment opportunities.

Online Associate Degree in Management – Two Years

The management associate degree may also be called a “business management” associate degree. The degree title varies by institution and, sometimes, by curriculum. The two-year, 60-hour online business management program provides an excellent baseline of both business and general education knowledge for the first-time post-secondary student. Depending on the program, the A.A. management degree is comprised of 1/3 general education courses, 1/3 general business coursework, and 1/3 management studies. These two-year online business management degrees can reduce the cost of a bachelor’s program in half, provided the student enrolls in classes that are certified for transfer. Curricula typically include core classes in accounting, business entrepreneurship, marketing, human resources and communications. Graduates may find entry-level positions in businesses and non-profits, but most will have to continue their education to work in management.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Management – Four Years

Online business management degrees at the bachelor’s level typically require 120 credit hours and combine a two-year undergraduate general education in the liberal arts and sciences — with two-years of focused study in management topics. Students are expected to hold a minimum of 2.0 GPA and receive passing grades on senior projects or comprehensive exams. Lower division coursework typically builds on knowledge of general business theories, practices and career skills.

The degree resembles courses that comprise a traditional four-year business curriculum; however, the management major elects upper division courses that focus on key areas in organizational structure, leadership, financial management, business law, supply chain, project management and human resource management.

Other key courses for undergraduate management students:

  • Business analytics
  • Business communication
  • Change management
  • Ethics
  • Information technology for business
  • Innovation and sustainability
  • International business
  • Labor relations
  • Marketing
  • Negotiation skills
  • Organizational behavior
  • Process analysis
  • Strategic management

Depending on the program, bachelor’s online business management programs may require senior capstone projects demonstrating managerial acumen, or for-credit internships that provide students with hands-on experience in a business setting.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graduates of four-year online business management programs can assume entry- to mid-level management roles in finance, construction, human resources, sales, health services and information technology. To advance in the field to executive or C-level positions, professionals with master’s degrees are the most appealing to recruiters, especially candidates with advanced certifications.

Master’s Degree in Management – Five to Six Years

Colleges, universities and for-profit business schools are the principal institutions offering graduate-level online business management degrees. Programs can take from one to three years to complete, depending on the length of the program and the time the student may have to working toward graduation. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (creators of the GMAT entrance exam), students thinking about a graduate management degree should consider their current abilities, career goals, work experience, and what they have to offer the graduate community. There are two major master’s degrees typically pursued by business management students: Masters in Management (M.S. or M.I.M.) and Master of Business Administration (M.B.A)

Depending upon the program, there can also be specializations and a unique degree focus within institutions offering online business management degrees. The distinctions:

  • Masters in Management (M.S. or M.I.M.). More an academic and theoretical degree than the M.B.A., the M.S. in Management focuses on research, analytics, and may require completion of a scholarly thesis or dissertation. It can provide the essential foundation for work toward a doctoral degree or for taking a research position in or outside academia. The program is designed for students who have little or no prior business management experience.
  • Master’s in Business Administration (M.B.A.). The more than 2,000 MBA programs in the country focus their curriculum on practical management issues and leadership skills, preparing graduates for promotion to key roles within business organizations. While some 30 percent of the curriculum is similar in both types of master’s level programs, the M.B.A. allows students to focus on real-life management problems. The final graduation requirement may include a business plan, financial analysis and assessment, or other business-related deliverable. Most M.B.A. applicants are older than those enrolling in M.S. programs and they have two to five years of direct business experience.

Doctor of Management Degree – Eight Years +

The Doctor of Management (D.M. or Ph.D.) represents the pinnacle of academic accomplishment in the study of business management theory and applications. These programs are designed for experienced managers, theorists and educators who wish to conduct research and scholarship at the highest level. Graduates can assume roles such as post-secondary business professors, consultants for business/governmental/nonprofit organizations, as global operations managers, college deans and chief executives. Online business management programs that lead to doctorate degrees typically take four years to complete. Coursework can include studies in executive-level staff management, the use of research techniques and technologies, of pertinent laws and policy.

Doctoral programs require 48 graduate hours of combined courses and dissertation research. Students take comprehensive examinations following their second year and are required to deliver and defend a scholarly dissertation toward the end of the program. Most doctorate programs are offered solely on campus, however a growing number of online business management degrees are available for students with work or family commitments. Even these programs may require a limited campus presence. Entrance requirements vary by institution but are similar to those required for entry into academic master’s degree programs.

Characteristics of Top Online Business Management Programs

When sorting through potential schools offering online business management degrees, students should look for the positive denominators common to the stronger programs: accreditation, supportive services, and seamless online course delivery systems.

The Power of Accreditation

Accreditation is the formal, voluntary process by which schools, colleges and universities submit to a review of their academic quality and financial resources. The U.S. Department of Education has endorsed six regional accreditation agencies for evaluating college programs. In addition to these regional accreditations, schools offering online business management programs typically carry accreditations from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), and The Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

Potential employers look at college accreditation and so do schools evaluating whether to accept college transfer credits for a student’s previous scholarship. Finally, colleges without accreditation are not allowed to participate in federal financial aid programs.

Support Services for Students and Alumni

Not all institutions offering online business management programs provide solid support services to students and graduates. The stronger programs, however, are known for their alliances with business associations, recruiters, and potential employers. They offer job fairs, career counseling, mentoring, job placement assistance, and internship opportunities within the communities they serve – to students and alumni. Some offer examination preparation courses for degrees and certificates within the management professions. A strong program will typically provide full and part-time options for online degree students along with a range of financial aid opportunities.

Faculty and Research Resources

In evaluating online business management programs, students would do well to ask for the school’s documented record of graduation rates and faculty expertise. The rankings tool can help round up a short list of top schools. But it is also a good idea to read online faculty profiles at schools offering business management programs. Does the professor have a history of work in the management field, a track record of publications, certifications or advanced degrees? Many online programs feature the same faculty that lead courses in campus-based programs. However, it’s good to know if instructors have online teaching experience. Does the online program grant access to resources including relevant libraries, faculty blogs, and pertinent research facilities?

Online Course Delivery Systems

Most schools offering online business management programs will have course demos online to allow prospective students to evaluate the class delivery system ahead of enrollment. Look for 24/7 access and course delivery features that include chat, email, streaming lectures, voice and video conferencing and an easy-to-navigate interface. Is there round-the-clock technical support for the online system? What additional services are available online, including contact with tutors, financial aid offices, and the college business school or management department? Added up, the assets of the faculty and online course delivery system can spell the difference between a quality education and a frustrating experience.

Why Management Certifications Matter

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the largest number of conferred undergraduate and master’s degrees, 2011-2012, were in business. It’s not surprising, therefore, that many employers and recruiters are raising the high bar for qualifying candidates for management roles. One of the most highly regarded ways to augment post-graduate management degrees and to benchmark experience is through voluntary professional certification.

Student Interview: Online Business Management

Management professionals and students tend to be focused, driven people. But what happens when a student has children and work obligations that keep them from pursuing and advanced degree? Amanda Selph, Human Resource Manager at Hydratech Industries, is currently earning an EMBA through one of Auburn University’s online business management programs. The program includes an on-campus orientation component.

Degree: Degree program and university: EMBA, Auburn University. Pending completion date: May 2016.

1. What drew you to your university and especially to the online management program?

Auburn University provides an education that allows students to maintain their personal lives, giving them the opportunity to better themselves, their families, their careers and, in turn, society. The university is respected among my peers and is known for an innovative curriculum that cultivates professionals sought for their knowledge.

2. Which factors (curriculum, schedule, program reputation, career goals, course delivery system and methodology) influenced your choice

The EMBA program structure is complementary to my current professional career. To receive a world-class education while working allows me to immediately implement and carry out the curriculum taught during the program. I strive to remain the top of my field.

3. What were the concrete benefits of your online program and courses? Were the technology and online delivery systems effective/appropriate?

As a full-time worker and mother of two active boys, being able to complete work on my schedule was extremely important. The residency component of the program was attractive because it gave me time to be a student and to network with my peers. The online course technology allows me to get my education, and the program itself allows me to be part of the Auburn family.

4. Did the online program meet your goals for academic rigor and were you offered opportunities to develop mentorships or a peer community?

From Day-One, I had access to more than 60 new friends that I can reach out to via Linked-In, email, posts, and phone calls. I now have my own network of sources that are varied as the world is wide.

5. What are your plans after completing the program or, if you have graduated, how would you describe the outcome in terms of degree acceptance, career advancement, and professional accomplishment?

I have already used discussion topics from classes. I have the advantage of immediately implementing what I have learned to make myself more valuable in the work place. When I’m done with my education, Auburn’s reputation for its professional students will allow me to expand my job opportunities both in my current and additional fields.