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Business Administration vs Business Management: What Is the Difference?

Published on: February 7, 2022

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Business administration and business management are two potential career areas for those considering getting a business degree. Before deciding on the business program that is right for you, it’s essential to understand the difference between these two engaging options.

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What Is Business Administration?

A bachelor’s or master’s degree in business administration sets you up with a wide range of skills related to business operations. The job of a business administrator is to oversee the various processes of the business and to keep things running as smoothly as possible.

A business administrator also steers the company's direction to keep it in line with the goals and priorities set by stakeholders. The success of the business relies heavily on day-to-day operations, and business administration is the key to managing them.

What Is Business Management?

A business manager focuses more on designing the path than steering it. This is the company’s decision-maker (or decision-makers since there may be a team of business managers). They develop the infrastructure that makes up the business and its future. They may monitor the core operations to see if tweaks are necessary to improve profitability or structure.

What Is the Difference Between Business Administration and Management?

On the surface, it may seem like these two jobs are the same thing since they do have similar goals. Both an administrator and a business manager work to keep the company running efficiently. They also are both critical for business success, but they play different roles in obtaining that success.

According to Stephanie Shayne, EdD, MBA and Director of Husson's School of Business & Management & Graduate Programs, "business administration and business management are both degrees that offer a foundation in business concepts, but the focus of each degree is slightly different.

Business management focuses on organizing and managing a company's resources (including human capital).  Business management is people-centric. Business management degrees put a lot of emphasis on communication, human resource management and general-management theories.  Important skills include interpersonal communication skills, the ability to manage teams and work with others and the ability to formulate and communicate a mission and vision for the company.

Business administration degrees tend to be more technical in nature and focused on the nuts and bolts of running a business.  Business administration programs typically offer students the opportunity to focus in specialized areas such as finance, accounting or marketing among others.  Important skills will vary depending on the area of focus.  For example, students interested in finance or accounting will need strong math skills, while those interested in marketing will need to rely on creativity and communication skills.  Regardless of focus, it is important for those working in different areas of business to understand how their decisions and their departments or roles interface with other aspects of the business and the organization overall.

Difference Between Business Administration and Management College Degrees

It’s not surprising that the path to these degrees is similar as well. Someone looking at course curriculum for each would see many of the same subjects, including:

  • Accounting
  • Business Law
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Business Ethics

There are differences, too, though. For example, someone working towards a bachelor’s degree in business administration will also take:

  • Spreadsheet applications
  • Advanced economic courses
  • 30 additional hours of elective courses, some of which should focus on business and computer information systems

Also, a student entering the business-administration program will likely choose a concentration and select classes to support that choice. A student who wants to concentrate on management will take sales, small business management and risk management courses.

If a student concentrates on marketing, classes will include marketing research, marketing management and integrated marketing communications and advertising.

Once they graduate with their bachelor’s degree in business administration, they can pursue a master’s degree. That would add additional skills to their resume, such as:

  • Advanced Economics
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Management Communications
  • Global Strategic Management

A Master of Business Administration requires at least 36 additional credit hours.

Class curriculum changes if you pursue a bachelor’s in business management. Though it can include many of the same core courses, other areas of study are also emphasized, including:

  • Business Strategy
  • Business Strategy in Practice
  • Marketing Fundamentals

Both programs would likely require an internship or professional project, but each would focus on the appropriate job title and skills.

Difference Between Business Administration and Management in the Workplace

Administration means running day-to-day operations. The definition of management, however, is taking control of something. A business administrator runs the company's day-to-day operations while the business manager focuses more on overall leadership. One person can do both things in a small business. Larger companies, though, will probably have both an administrator and a manager.

Someone with a degree in business management might head a small team of employees or a department and work their way up to more advanced leadership positions, such as CEO. A large company may also have multiple managers that collaborate.

A business administrator is more of a solo job. Their entry-level position might be in human resources or the marketing department. They can move up to be department, location or company administrator.

Career Options and Job Outlook

Both career choices will make you a business leader. Each offers a different path, though.

Careers in Business Administration

Career paths for those with a business-administration degree tend to be more specialized, such as:

  • Staff accountant — Responsible for overseeing accounts payables, receivables and budgets.
  • Business analyst — Analysis of data regarding operations and production to find ways to improve efficiency and lower costs.
  • Marketing specialist — Someone who oversees the company marketing staff and campaigns.
  • Human resources administrators — Manages the employees, does hiring and firing and resolves conflicts.

BLS estimates business administrators make close to $100,000 a year with a bachelor’s degree. They also project a 9% growth over the next ten years, which is average. They expect an additional 28,600 jobs to be added by 2030.

Careers in Business Management

The study of business management doesn’t focus on a specialization the way business administration does. The positions can be more general, such as operations manager or focused like financial reporting manager. Some common positions open to someone with a business management degree include:

  • Operations manager -- oversees an entire organization or multiple departments, such as accounting, job costing, sales and information systems.
  • Financial reporting manager -- works with the financial and legal departments to control costs.
  • Management analyst -- maps out the day-to-day operations of a company and creates procedures and audits to manage performance.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), compensation and job availability in business management depend on many factors, including industry and position. Sales managers, for instance, have a median pay of $132,290 with an average growth rate.

On the other hand, a financial analyst makes around $83,660 and a management analyst $87,660. Both careers have either average or faster than average projected growth rates over the next decade.

Business Administration vs. Business Management: Important Skills

Both of these are leadership roles and many of the skills required are similar. For instance, they both must be good communicators and have leadership abilities. They both require critical thinking and problem solving skills, as well. There are differences, too, though.

Business Administration Skills

Someone in business administration must be:

  • A strategic planner
  • Analytical
  • Organized
  • Able to work in a fast-paced environment
  • Good at resolving problems quickly
  • Active listener
  • Empathetic
  • Detail-oriented

If you are considering a career in business administration or management but are unsure which is suitable for you, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you enjoy dealing with the nuts and bolts of a project?
  • Do you like keeping others organized?
  • Are you methodical?

If you answer yes to these questions, you may have the skills to be a good business administrator.

Business Management Skills

A business manager must be:

  • A motivator
  • Creative and an innovative thinker
  • Able to delegate tasks
  • Able to see the big picture

A business manager often works with the public, other companies and stakeholders, as well. That means they must communicate effectively and represent the company.

A business management candidate might answer yes to these questions:

  • Do you look at the big picture?
  • Do you enjoy motivating others?
  • Are you a people person?
  • Do you have a vision?

These are all traits well-suited to business management. Are you the conductor or the engineer? Only you know which is the right choice. If you are still unsure, find out more about the business administration (bachelor’s and master’s degrees) and business-management programs available at Husson University today.

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