Business can be a lucrative and exciting career field, so it’s no wonder prospective students are often eyeing a future in the business world. The question is how to best prepare for this path. An associate’s degree in business administration is one of the fastest online associate’s degrees you can pursue, requiring two years of study on average or as little as 12 months in an accelerated program. While an associate’s degree in business administration can certainly open doors, those doors may not lead to the opportunities you wanted. Whether an associate’s degree is enough or you need a four-year degree to land the business role you have in mind depends on what exactly you want out of your career.
Business Jobs Requiring a Higher Level of Education
If you look at the educational requirements for most occupations in the business and financial fields, you will see that a bachelor’s degree is often necessary for even entry-level roles in business, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). If you want to be an accountant, a financial analyst, a human resources specialist, a loan officer, a management analyst, a purchasing agent or a personal financial advisor, there’s a good chance that your associate’s degree won’t be enough to reach your ultimate career goal.
An associate’s degree isn’t even in the top three educational paths reported by personal financial advisors, purchasing agents, management analysts, loan officers and other business professionals, according to O*NET. Just 14 percent of accountants and a tiny two percent of financial analysts report having an associate’s degree, with most holding a bachelor’s degree and more than one-third having a master’s degree.
Business administration is a broad field of study that encompasses coursework in all of the different areas of business, from finance and accounting to marketing and management. Because these programs of study have to cover the foundations of so many different aspects of business, you may not get to coursework much beyond the basics in any one discipline. Although some associate’s degree programs in business administration include an opportunity to specialize your coursework, even these concentrations usually encompass only a few courses.
While the curriculum of a four-year bachelor’s degree program in business administration is longer in part because you may need to meet more extensive general education requirements, it is also longer because it is more comprehensive in nature. Graduates from a four-year program are already equipped with knowledge and skills that graduates with only an associate’s degree don’t have. While it’s possible to learn these skills on the job as you move up from entry-level roles to more advanced professional roles, there’s no guarantee that will happen. These professional business roles are highly sought after, and a lot of your competition for these jobs will have the four-year degree you’re lacking.
If your ultimate goal is a management position, you’re even more likely to need a four-year degree. Managerial jobs at established companies that don’t require a bachelor’s degree are scarce. Assistant manager may be the highest you can rise without a bachelor’s degree.
The Jobs Available With an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration
If not having a bachelor’s degree bars you from so many business roles, what exactly can you do with an associate’s degree? There are plenty of jobs you will be qualified for with this background, but you should know that these roles fit more neatly into the category of office and administrative support positions than true business professional roles.
For example, you may not be qualified to be an accountant, but you could work as a bookkeeper or accounts payable clerk. You may work in a business setting, perhaps alongside accountants, but the work you do is more clerical in nature. Instead of strategy, you focus on maintaining records or processing invoices.
Similarly, many types of financial clerk roles are open to you with an associate’s degree. You may not qualify to be a personal financial advisor, but you could work as a brokerage clerk, and you might find work as a loan clerk or loan interviewer even if you don’t have the requirements to become a loan officer. Among the jobs you can do with an associate’s degree in business administration are positions like accounting assistant, administrative assistant, customer service associate, operations coordinator and project coordinator.
Another option is to use the knowledge of business foundations you gain through your associate’s degree studies to help you launch your own business.