Your ambitions aren’t limited to climbing the corporate ladder. You want to get started in the business world as soon as possible, and that means earning your degree faster. There are several ways students can speed up the time it takes to earn a bachelor’s in business degree, including choosing an online program of study.
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Business?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is the business administration definition? How long does it usually take to earn a bachelor’s degree in business?
A solid business administration definition is a program of study that equips students with the skills to work in management and administration roles in businesses and organizations.
A bachelor’s degree is commonly called a four-year degree, but students who put in the work to maximize their potential through accelerated online program formats can complete their undergraduate studies in three years, two and a half years or even less time.
Types of Business Bachelor’s Degrees
Many colleges and universities award bachelor’s degrees in the field of business as Bachelor of Business Administration, or BBA, degrees. Some business schools instead award a Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree.
Any of these degrees is sufficient to start working in the field of business administration. Generally, BS degrees include a stronger focus on scientific and technical skills, while BA programs emphasize a curriculum based on liberal arts courses, and BBA programs emphasize practical skills and applications for specific business career paths.
An undergraduate degree program in business administration typically encompasses general education courses required of all students, core business coursework required of business majors and coursework in an area of specialization and concentration. Business administration degree programs generally offer a curriculum that is broad in terms of providing students with foundational knowledge of all major areas of business yet also allow students to build expertise in their area of specialization.
The Typical Four-Year Bachelor’s Degree Plan
A bachelor’s degree is an undergraduate degree awarded upon completion of a curriculum that encompasses at least 120 college credits. Ordinarily, full-time students are expected to take a full load of courses – generally, 12 to 15 (or more) credit hours, or four to five courses – per semester in both the fall and spring semesters. A traditional semester is typically 15 to 16 weeks long.
Students who complete their course sequence according to this schedule can generally graduate in four years, assuming that they don’t change their majors (and thus, their graduation requirements), fail any courses or find themselves unable to take the courses they need in the proper sequence. A student who is double-majoring, completing a co-op or clinical experience or otherwise completing a heavier workload may take longer to graduate.
Statistics on Four-Year Completion of a Bachelor’s Degree in the U.S.
Although a bachelor’s degree is often called a “four-year degree,” many students don’t finish their studies within four years, even when they fully intend to do so.
While 90% of incoming college students surveyed said they planned to graduate in four years, only about 45% of college students actually achieve this goal, NBC News reported in 2021. In fact, fewer than two-thirds of college students complete their bachelor’s degree programs within six years.
Earning a Bachelor’s Degree Faster
Students can finish their undergraduate studies sooner, but doing so requires adjustments to the current bachelor’s degree program structure.
Sometimes students shave time off their college career by enrolling in courses in the spring and winter semesters as well as in the fall and spring. Because these semesters are shorter, condensing the course requirements into a shorter term makes for an intense workload. With little or no break in between semesters, students who study year-round run the risk of burning out and falling behind in their classes.
Another option is to enroll in additional courses each term, but this path, too, can prove unmanageably intense. It’s difficult enough to manage four to five college-level courses at once, especially if you’re also working, playing sports, balancing family obligations or just maintaining healthy habits and a social life. Juggling six, seven, eight or even more courses at once can quickly become unwieldy.
Students who are serious about earning a business degree online fast should look for programs that are specifically structured for accelerated progress. Often, students in these programs complete fewer courses at a time during shorter and more frequent terms. This structure allows them to focus on one or two courses at a time, complete all course material and projects in a matter of one to two months, and then move on to the next classes in their degree sequence.
Through this sort of accelerated course schedule, students can complete up to twice as many credits in one year as they would expect to complete under a traditional program structure.
Online Courses: The Fastest Way to Get a Business Degree
Prospective students who are eager to earn their business degree fast should consider online degrees as some of their best options for accelerated study. Both students who are fresh out of high school and working professionals tend to find that online programs offer the most flexibility, and accelerated study options are more likely to be offered in online formats.
There’s no way to earn a college degree fast without being willing to put in the work. After all, the fastest online business degrees still require the same number of credit hours as traditional degree programs, for the most part. You’re speeding up your education not by decreasing the requirements needed to graduate but instead by attempting to meet all of these demands in a shorter time.
The Fastest Online Business Bachelor’s Degree Programs
Online programs lend themselves particularly well to accelerated study, but not all online business degree programs have a shorter completion time than traditional programs. If you want to earn a business degree online fast, you need to choose a program that accommodates this goal.
Below are examples of some of the fastest online business degree programs in the United States.
Three-Year Bachelor of Business Administration Degree: University of West Alabama
Students typically complete the online BBA program at the University of West Alabama, based in Livingston, AL, in three to four years. Courses are delivered in eight-week terms, five of which are offered each year.
Students in the University of West Alabama’s online business degree program devote 15 of their 123 total credit hours to one of two concentration areas, international business or entrepreneurship and non-profit administration. The program equips students with skills for a variety of business job opportunities, including roles in human resource management, sales management, business consulting, market research analysis, business development and entrepreneurship.
The University of West Alabama is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Three-Year Accelerated Bachelor of Business Administration Degree: Temple University
The accelerated business management program offered through the Fox School of Business at Temple University can be completed in as little as three years. Unique core courses for business management majors at this institution include Power, Influence and Negotiation and Intrapreneurship in the 21st Century. The Fox School of Business at Temple University is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International).
Three-Year Bachelor of Science in Management: Arizona State University
At Arizona State University, a public research university based in the Phoenix, AZ, area, students pursuing online business degrees can choose an accelerated business management program. Over the course of three years of study, students in the accelerated program take classes that prepare them for roles ranging from business analyst to office manager, general manager, sales manager or even CEO.
Online classes at ASU are offered in an accelerated format, typically encompassing seven and a half weeks of study. Students maximize their progress toward fast degree completion by taking between six and ten credits of college coursework during each of the two sessions offered per semester – up to 18 total credits in the fall and spring semesters and seven credits per summer session.
32-Month Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration: DeVry University
At DeVry University, a private for-profit institution based in Naperville, IL, the online business degree can be completed in as little as two years and eight months. To do so, you must study year-round. Classes start every eight weeks, so prospective students don’t have to wait until fall or spring to jump into their studies.
The bachelor’s in business administration degree at this institution is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
DeVry University’s business degree curriculum emphasizes skills in management and administration, mathematical reasoning, critical thinking and judgment and decision-making for the business world. Business majors at DeVry choose from 11 different academic concentrations:
- General business administration
- Business intelligence and analytics management
- Project management
- Human resource management
- Sales and marketing
- Global supply chain management
- Small business management and entrepreneurship
- Hospitality management
- Health services management
30-Month Online Bachelor in Business Degrees: Western Governors University
Business majors at Western Governors University have options. The private non-profit online school, headquartered in Millcreek, UT, offers the following Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree programs:
- Business management
- Human Resource Management
- Healthcare Management
- IT Management
Western Governors University awards online degrees according to a competency-based model of education. This model allows students to earn their bachelor’s degrees fast – on average, in just two and a half years. Students also enter the program with 34 transfer credit hours, on average, so students who are brand new to college study may take longer to finish their education.
WGU’s online programs in business administration aren’t just among the fastest business degrees to earn – they’re also some of the most affordable, particularly for students who prioritize quick program completion times. The school charges a flat tuition rate per six-month term, so students can complete as many courses per term as they can handle. The faster you earn your degree at Western Governors University, the more money you save. Even though the pricing structure encourages students to complete as many courses per term as possible, the program is intended for working professionals, and students complete their coursework at their own pace.
30-Month Online Programs in Business: East Coast Polytechnic Institute University
The private for-profit ECPI University, based in Virginia Beach, VA, offers online business degrees in fields like business management, project management, leadership, human resources management, business analytics, accounting and operations and supply chain management. Students can also seek industry-specific business management degrees in areas like hospitality management and IT management.
The short five-week terms in which courses are offered at ECPI University allow students to complete their bachelor’s in business degrees in as little as two and a half years. To do so, students need to take two courses per term and study year-round.
Can I Earn a Bachelor’s in Business Degree in Less Than Two Years – Or Even One Year?
Earning what is commonly considered a four-year degree – and takes many students far longer to complete – in just three years or two and a half years is an accomplishment as it is. If you want to finish your bachelor’s in business degree program even faster, it is possible, but there’s a big caveat.
The online degree program options through which students can complete a bachelor’s in business degree in as little as two years, 18 months or, in some cases, just one year have one important factor in common. They are degree completion programs intended for students who already have a considerable amount of college credit – think 30, 60 or even 90 credits – to transfer to a new degree program.
For transfer students, a degree completion program can streamline the transfer process because the degree program is specifically designed for students in your situation. However, students embarking on a college education for the first time don’t qualify for degree completion programs, which are the fastest online business degrees a student can pursue.
Suppose, however, that you have plenty of college credit to transfer from prior coursework. How fast can you complete online business programs?
Two-Year Online Business Administration Bachelor’s Degree Completion Programs
Several online business degrees are offered as degree completion programs that students can finish within two years.
Generally, to complete a bachelor’s in business program in two years, students need either an associate degree or the equivalent number of credits – 60 – to begin with. Business degree completion programs may accept students with fewer credits to transfer, but these students won’t realistically be able to graduate within two years.
Examples of two-year degree completion bachelor’s in business degree programs include the following:
- Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration at California State University, Fullerton
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) at California State University, East Bay
- Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration at Aurora University
- Bachelor of Business Administration in Management at Florida International University
- Online Bachelor of Business Administration at Campbellsville University
- Bachelor of Science in Business Management at Immaculata University
- Bachelor of Science in Business Administration Online at San Diego State University (SDSU) Global Campus
18-Month Online Business Administration Bachelor’s Degree Completion Programs
Even among degree completion programs, bachelor’s in business degree options that take less than two years to complete are rarer. Among the fastest online business degree completion programs are 18-month programs like the following:
- Business Management Bachelor’s Degree at Rasmussen University
- Online Bachelor of Business Management Degree at Indiana Wesleyan University
One-Year Online Business Administration Bachelor’s Degree Completion Programs
The fastest any student can possibly expect to complete a bachelor’s in business administration degree program is one year. To do so, you would generally need 90 credits of college coursework – the equivalent of three years of full-time study – to transfer into your accelerated business degree completion program.
Many traditional and online schools limit the number of credits transfer students can carry over from another institution to fewer than the 90 credits required to finish a bachelor’s in business program within 12 months. One example of a school that permits students to transfer this large number of credits is Husson University, a private institution headquartered in Bangor, ME. Students of Husson University’s online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree completion program can complete this accelerated program in 12 to 24 months, depending on how many credits they have to transfer.
Coursework in Online Programs in Business Administration
Generally speaking, earning your degree fast doesn’t mean your curriculum is any easier. If anything, it’s harder to complete a bachelor’s in business degree program in under four years because you are taking on a more intense workload.
The courses you can expect to take in the fastest online business programs align with business administration degree requirements more generally. Examples of the types of courses and business subjects you will cover when pursuing an accelerated degree in business online include the following.
Having a strong understanding of business law is crucial if your future career involves agreeing to and administering business contracts, interviewing and hiring employees, marketing and advertising products or services and any number of other job duties. Earning a business management degree won’t qualify you to work as a business lawyer (although that is one path you could pursue after graduation), but taking at least a course or two that cover the most important aspects of business law will help you be an asset to a startup venture or existing small or large business.
Part of the purpose of a college education in business is to prepare business professionals and leaders who will thrive in the business world with integrity. Business administration courses pertaining to matters of business ethics are important. If anything, business ethics is becoming a more complicated and complex area due to the emphasis in the modern business world on corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability.
What is business administration if not the handling of routine business operations? Business administration courses that focus on business operations or operations management emphasize the fundamental tasks of operations and methods for analyzing and improving business operations strategies.
Strategic Planning and Management
Strategic management courses differ from classes in project management or leadership. In courses pertaining to strategic planning, students learn models, methods and processes for strategic planning and management, including both internal and external strategic planning. Having knowledge of strategic planning practices is particularly valuable for students who aspire to work in a C-suite or other senior-level leadership role someday. Strategic management is concerned with the long-term, big-picture future direction of the organization rather than its short-term goals and day-to-day operations.
Finance is one of the more important business administration subjects. Having some knowledge of finance, the field of business concerned with the management of wealth, is valuable even if you aren’t working in a finance role specifically. Core business administration courses often include the principles of finance and financial management.
Having some basic knowledge of accounting, the generation and interpretation of financial statements and reports, is valuable for anyone working in administration or management. The business core curricula of most business administration programs include at least courses in financial accounting and managerial accounting.
Human Resources Management
In any corporation or organization, the people who make your company run smoothly are among the most valuable resources you have. Core business administration coursework in human resources covers topics pertaining to hiring, training and retaining workers.
Business administration classes in organizational behavior cover topics pertaining to the theories and practical applications of human behavior in the social context of work organizations, as well as ways to shape the behavior of your workforce through managing events, activities and policies.
Leadership and Business Management
Your perception of yourself as a natural leader may be, in part, what steers you toward a business administration degree, but there’s always room for improvement. In an accelerated business management program or business administration program, coursework in the principles of management will expose you to the different theories of management and applications of management styles. The result is that you have the skills to cultivate a management style that is intentional, consistent and effective for accomplishing the goals you have for your organization.
Companies today are increasingly operating on a global scale, so international business is one of the business administration subjects commonly included in an undergraduate business core.
While an accelerated business management program may not be as math-heavy as areas like finance and accounting, being able to analyze quantitative data is important for calculating the return on the investments you make with each managerial decision, from expanding your line of products and services to changing processes and policies in hiring, productivity and marketing.
Management Information Systems
An introductory course in the principles of management information systems is one of the more technical business administration classes you are likely to take as a business administration major, covering topics like how organizations use information systems, what companies need in information systems and the practical application of computer skills to problems in business.
Effective management and administration are just about impossible without effective communication. Courses in business communication offer students an opportunity to develop strong skills for communicating through both spoken and written words for a variety of business purposes.
Other Ways to Earn a Business Administration Degree Fast
Besides online programs of study offered in accelerated formats, students interested in finishing their education quickly should consider options like the following.
Transfer Credits and Bachelor’s Degree Completion Programs
If you have previously completed some college coursework, transferring the credit hours you already have can help you finish your degree program faster. To make the most of your previous college courses, focus your school search on institutions that offer a generous credit transfer policy.
Depending on how much college coursework you have already completed, it may make sense to look at bachelor’s degree completion programs. These programs are specifically intended for students with transfer credits to apply to their new degree program.
If you’re just starting your college education and are looking for the fastest online business degrees, you may want to avoid the hassle of dealing with transfer credits in the first place. Although community college can be a wise choice for many students, especially cost-conscious ones, earning an associate degree first may not put you on the fastest path to a bachelor’s degree. If any of your credits don’t transfer, or if the courses you have taken aren’t considered equivalent to the courses required of your new program, you could end up having to take additional courses and potentially stay in school longer.
Prospective students who are considering pursuing an associate degree first should look for community college programs that have partnerships with four-year schools – ideally, those that offer accelerated online bachelor’s degree programs – that guarantee the acceptance of your transfer credits and courses.
Credit for Work and Life Experience and Demonstrated Competencies
It isn’t only prior college credits that can be applied to your current program of study. Some schools will take into account your life and work experience in gauging your progress toward graduation. This option is particularly beneficial for established business professionals who may have entered the business industry without a degree but found that their advancement potential has plateaued without having a formal education.
If you are interested in this option, look for business schools that offer credit for prior learning, or CPL. Often, you must complete exams known as Prior Learning Assessments (PLAs) to demonstrate your skills and knowledge. According to the American Council on Education, credit for prior learning can be awarded for a variety of training and education, including workplace training, professional certifications and examinations, military service, volunteer experience and independent study.
Another way to maximize the impact of the knowledge you already have is to choose a competency-based bachelor’s degree program. Competency-based education means awarding credit for the skills a student possesses rather than for passing a series of courses.
In competency-based learning, students master a skill or competency through the provided educational materials and their own experience and demonstrate their proficiency through an exam, paper or project that allows professors to assess their knowledge, according to Walden University. You don’t have to have extensive work experience to benefit from a competency-based business administration degree program, but the experience you have can certainly help you better understand practical skills and how to apply them effectively in the business industry.
Accelerated Business Programs Beyond the Bachelor’s Level
Baccalaureate degrees aren’t the only types of business degrees students can earn online at an accelerated pace.
Some online schools offer accelerated business degree programs at the associate degree level. For example, Lorain County Community College in Elyria, OH, offers online business degrees at the associate level that can be completed in just 15 months. The accelerated Associate of Science in Business degree at Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City, UT, takes as little as 14 months to complete.
Business professionals who already have a bachelor’s degree might look for accelerated master’s degree options in business administration. Some online schools offer Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree programs that students can complete in as little as one year. The University of Miami even offers an accelerated MBA program through which students can complete their graduate degree in just seven months.
There are different types of MBA programs. For example, executive MBA programs are master’s degree in business programs designed for working professionals who are already advanced in their careers.
Another option for an educational program that can give your career a big boost in a short timeframe is a certificate program. Online business certificate programs are shorter and more focused programs of study than full degree programs. While they may not carry the same amount of prestige as a master’s degree, certificate programs equip students with practical skills in an area of focus, such as management skills, technical skills or problem-solving skills for business administration.
You can also avoid formal education entirely and instead pursue the possibility of acquiring business administration certifications, such as international business certifications and business development certifications. Although some business administration certifications require a college education or are simply easier to qualify for if you have a degree, business professionals can also pursue some certifications from professional organizations without a degree. Study preparation programs allow test-takers to prepare for business certifications online, making it more convenient to get certified.