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Business Administration vs Business Management: Key Differences To Know

By Charlene Lattea, WVU Online | Wednesday, April 19, 2023

What’s the difference between business administration and business management? See which degree program is right for you.

Business is currently the most popular major for college students. This may be because it is such a versatile degree and business majors have higher-than-average salaries after graduating.

But, as you begin to narrow down your degree choices, the different types of business degrees can be confusing. For example, what is the difference between a business administration degree and a business management degree?

Both are offered at most major universities and offer core competencies that introduce students to business fundamentals.

While these two degrees are similar, the differences are also worth considering. In this article, we will explain these two degrees in detail and help you decide which one is the right for you.

What is Business Administration?

Business administration provides a broad understanding of business processes for students who would like to learn the day-to-day operations of running a business efficiently.

This degree also usually allows students to specialize in areas such as human resource management, healthcare, or hospitality and tourism.

It teaches theory, but also emphasizes a wide range of practical skills, including leadership, analytical thinking, strategic planning, entrepreneurship, accounting, finance, human resources, and marketing.

You might be wondering if business administration is a good major to pursue. We think it is a great fit for people who are looking for an entry-level business career, or who would like to pursue careers in a variety of different settings. It is also great for people who want to open their own businesses.

We think it is a great fit for people who are looking for an entry-level business career, or who would like to pursue careers in a variety of different settings. It is also great for people who want to open their own businesses.

What is Business Management?

A business management degree covers the process of organizing and managing a company’s resources, including staff, revenue, information, and more.

Business managers are experts at making decisions for the company and focus more on designing and monitoring the overall business strategy and infrastructure, rather than dealing with day-to-day operations.

This degree prioritizes general management and communication skills because graduates will be supervising both employees and large projects.

It might be a good major to pursue if you are better at communicating face-to-face with others. As a future business manager, you will be a master of conflict resolution and diplomacy.

What is the difference between Business Administration and Business Management?

On the surface, business administration and business management degrees may look similar. Both provide job skills that keep a company running efficiently, which is critical for business success.

But, look closer and you will see that, while these degree programs have similar goals, each defines a distinct career path.

Business administration is concerned with the nuts and bolts operations of running a business, while business management is about overall leadership and seeing the bigger economic picture.

If you want to move into leadership within any organization, then business management may be right for you. But if you want to specialize in a particular area, then you’ll want to look at business administration.

Now that we know the key differences between these two fields of study let’s break them down further.


What are the differences in coursework between these two fields?

When they begin their programs, students in both business administration and business management will take similar core, fundamental courses to provide them with a basic foundation in business knowledge.

Students in WVU’s BSBA in General Business begin with studies with accounting, micro- and macro-economics, sociology and psychology, statistics, computer applications, economics, math courses such as algebra and calculus, and business communications.

As the programs progress, curricula will grow more specialized for both paths. For example, at WVU, you can get a BSBA in Marketing or in Hospitality and Tourism.

Because they will be involved in the day-to-day operation of a business, business administration students may take advanced accounting and economics courses, financial management, sales strategies, customer service, project management, consumer behavior, and payroll management.

Business management students also learn fundamental business topics, but then focus on advanced topics related to leadership, such as management and operational processes, human resources management, business strategy, international business, leadership principles, business and employment law, information systems, logistics, and more.

Both programs usually require an internship or professional project to give students real-world experience and a chance to use their new skills, and take approximately four years to complete.


By the time they graduate, students will know what qualifications are required for various business positions and will have the education and skills to succeed.

Many of the skills they develop are similar, but again, there are differences.

A graduate in business administration must have skills in strategic planning, and be analytical, organized, able to work in a fast-paced environment, a quick problem solver, an active listener, empathetic, and detail-oriented.

They must be methodical, have technical skills, and enjoy dealing with the day-to-day operations of a business and keeping employees organized.

A graduate in business management, on the other hand, must be a creative and innovative thinker, and a person with vision who is able to see the big picture, as well as being a motivator of employees and able to delegate tasks in an efficient manner.

A business manager works with the public, as well as with stakeholders in the business, and employees of other companies, and they must be able to communicate effectively and be a good representative for the business.

This often means having social skills and being a "people person."


Both degree choices will turn you into a business leader, but the paths are different depending on the degree you choose. Choosing one degree over the other does not limit your career prospects, and you can expect similar median salaries of approximately $50,000 to $100,000 per year, or more, as well as job security.

Although there is some overlap, these are some of the careers that will be available in each field:

Careers in Business Administration

  • Accountants – prepare financial statements and oversee accounts payable, receivables, and budgets;
  • Business analysts – produce financial and marketing intelligence and find ways to improve efficiency and lower costs;
  • Marketing specialists – research information to determine potential sales of a product or service, and plan a marketing or advertising campaign;
  • Human resources administrators – coordinate human resources activities and staff of an organization;
  • Financial managers – plan and direct the financial activities of an establishment;
  • Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks – compute, classify, and record numerical data to keep financial records complete;
  • Customer service representatives – interact with customers to provide basic or scripted information in response to routine inquiries about products and services;

Careers in Business Management

  • Operations managers – oversee the operations of an entire organization or multiple departments, such as accounting, sales, or job costing;
  • Financial reporting managers – work with the financial and legal departments to control costs;
  • Management analysts – conduct evaluations and design systems and procedures to assist management in operating more efficiently and effectively;
  • Sales managers – plan and direct the actual distribution or movement of a product or service to the customer;
  • Marketing managers – coordinate marketing policies and programs, determine the demand for products and services, and identify potential customers;
  • Account managers – serve as the liaison between companies and their customers, addressing customer needs and concerns;
  • First-line supervisors – directly supervise and coordinate activities of retail sales workers in an establishment or department.

Business Administration vs. Business Management: Which Is Right For You?

Once you decide that a business degree is worth the investment for you, it is time to decide which degree to pursue. But how do you know which program is right for you?

To make this decision, you must take into consideration your own goals for the future, as well as your interests and skills.

Ask yourself these questions:

What interests me and what would I enjoy doing every day?
If you enjoy completing complicated work projects, then business administration may be right for you.
If you want to lead teams of people, then business management may be for you.

What are my strengths and weaknesses?
Do you have the communication and organizational skills to manage people? If so, you may want to be a business manager.
Are you better at seeing the overall picture and breaking things into workable parts in order to complete a job? If so, you may want to be a business administrator.

What career do I see myself in five years from now?
If you see yourself in a specialized business role, such as marketing, or hospitality and tourism, or human resources, you may want to focus on business administration.
If you would like to be leading employees or a sector of a company’s operations, or you see yourself as a leader within any organization, then you may want to focus on business management.

Pursue Your Business Degree at WVU Online:

Contact the Coaches at Our Learning Engagement Center
After reading this article, if you are unsure about your goals, or how to identify your interests and skills, be sure to reach out to one of our WVU Online admissions coaches. They are trained to help you look at your individual situation and make the right choice for your future.

Request Information about Programs of Interest
Complete this form, and we'll send you program information. If you want, give us your phone number, and we'll call and answer any questions you have.

If you are ready, be sure to explore everything our WVU Online business programs have to offer, to determine if they will help you reach your goals.

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