What is Business Management?
To run properly, every organization needs individuals who can step up to the plate and help organize the smallest details of business operations. As organizations grow and formalize their procedures, they tend to bring on more hires who have formal business management training to help guide their day-to-day tasks. Business management graduates are adept at communicating organizational needs, organization, data analysis, strategic thinking, and execution, which allows them to serve in for-profit, non-profit, and government functions alike. While the number of skills that business management students are trained in are very broad, they also benefit from being able to pursue flexible career paths that can allow them to transfer between many different business functions throughout their careers. Many business management graduates begin their careers in more generalist roles, like becoming a business analyst or business consultant, though students with a clearer picture of where they wish their career to head may choose a more specialized pathway, like becoming a recruiter of financial analyst. Regardless of which initial pathway a business management student takes, they will tend to become more specialized over time, taking on important roles like mid-level management, VP of Finance, or even CEO.
Since the field of business management is so broad, students will often be able to build fulfilling careers with a general degree in business management or business administration. This is corroborated by data drawn from Alabama’s leading schools, whose business schools report the ‘general business administration and management’ major as one of the most popular tracks that students prefer. Other popular business majors, which also fall under the general umbrella of business management careers, include finance, human resource management, accounting, and marketing. Students with a clearer vision of which area of business management they wish to pursue post-graduation may wish to choose a more specialized business major. This is because many employers may prioritize hiring students with more exposure to specialized knowledge when hiring for the aforementioned areas, though students with a general business management degree can still be qualified to compete for more specific roles. Many Alabama schools also provide some important alternative management degree options including management science; international business/trade/commerce; and logistics, materials, and supply chain management degrees, which may speak to the skillsets that employers in the state value.
Business Management Education in Alabama
Associate Degree in Business Management (AS)
Business management is a field that values a person’s communication, leadership, and decision-making skills, making it one of the most flexible career areas. While some of the more technical business functions, like finance, accounting, or data analytics, may require some prerequisite academic training, most positions can be attained with on-the-job training and work experience. As such, students who choose to pursue an associate degree in business management should be able to find fulfilling entry-level positions upon graduation. Common job titles that students with an associate degree in business management are qualified for include administrative assistant, customer service associate, assistant store manager, relationship banker, sales support specialist, and executive assistant. Undertaking an associate degree in business management can also translate into competitive salaries, with Payscale noting that the average associate-level graduate in this field earning $51,226 a year.
Bachelor's Degree in Business Management (BS)
The most popular degree level for students looking to pursue a career in business management is the bachelor’s degree, which opens up possibilities for working in almost every entry- and early career-level business position. Students will tend to apply for roles like business analyst, financial analyst, and marketing analyst upon graduating from college, progressing to roles like marketing manager, sales manager, and account manager later in their career. Some employers will have further educational requirements for hiring into mid-career roles, but students with only a bachelor’s degree in business management can often circumvent some of those educational requirements if they work their way up through the organization, have a wealth of related work experience from a related prior position, and/or have a strong network. There are a few exceptions in the more technical business management career pathways, where some employers may require hires to achieve specific certifications, like passing the CPA exam for accounting firms or completing the CPA to progress forward in the chain of command for investment advisory capacities. According to Payscale, the average annual income of workers with a bachelor’s degree in business management is $66,451, which is a significant improvement over only holding an associate degree.
Master's Degree in Business Management (MS or MC)
While a master’s degree in business management or an MBA is certainly not a requirement to building a long, fulfilling business career, obtaining additional business education can certainly help early career professionals accelerate their job titles and potential lifetime earnings. Specifically, the MBA is one of the most popular graduate business management degrees, with many organizations stating that they prefer or even require candidates applying for mid-level management positions to have completed an MBA. It’s important to note, though, that unlike many graduate programs where students continue directly after college, most MBA programs require their students to have at least 2-3 years of professional work experience before returning to school. This makes attending graduate school in the field of business management more of an applied experience, more grounded in real-life cases and scenarios compared to some other graduate programs. Post-graduation, MBA students are usually qualified for positions like finance associate, operations associate, marketing manager, brand manager, and in rare cases, VP-level positions. According to Payscale, the average MBA holder earns about $89,854, with many earning six-figure salaries.
PhD Degree in Business Management (PhD)
A Ph.D. in business management is rarely a requirement for applying to a business role, even at the managerial level. Since business management is such a hands-on field, most companies will prefer to see applicants with more years of actual work experience than to expect them to have achieved their doctorate in the field. Often, those with a Ph.D. in business management will pursue careers in academia, where they spend the majority of their time teaching business students and conducting research to forward the literature in the business management arena. Outside of becoming professors at business schools, those with a Ph.D. in the field may work as consultants to companies that are in their field of expertise. According to Payscale, workers with a Ph.D. in business management will earn an average salary of $117,833 per year.
Become a Business Manager in Alabama
Studying business management opens the door for a variety of work options for students, allowing them to build careers in almost any industry. Students should carefully hone their interests while in school by taking elective courses and trying out a variety of internships if possible, which can help them hit the ground running post-graduation. The flexibility of business management careers can sometimes be a detriment for students who do not have a clear vision of where they want to end up, and they may spend years jumping between business functions before settling on their final career path. For students with a general interest in business management but not a clear idea of which specialization to pursue, completing more functional certifications, like the PMP offered by the Project Management Institute, can offer a wealth of transferable execution skills that can benefit them no matter which industry or business function they look to go into. For students who are still thinking about the type of organization they wish to work for post-graduation, below is an overview of different organizations that hire business management graduates.
Public agencies look to hire business management students to help them keep complex organizations running smoothly throughout all fifty states and even internationally in embassies. Students who are public service-minded will enjoy pursuing a management position in governmental departments, which span industries like education, health, and environmental protection, giving the best of both worlds.
- For-Profit Firms:
Of the different types of organizations to hire business management students, for-profit companies are the most well-known and tend to hire the most graduates. Students working for companies will need to be careful to apply for industries that they enjoy, such as technology or real estate, as well as choosing a functional position that fits their interests. Private companies tend to pay the highest salary amongst the different types of organizations that hire business management candidates.
- Non-Profit Organizations:
Non-profits, including charities and arts organizations, will hire business management candidates to help ensure that their daily functions and finances are in order. This is a good option for candidates who enjoy serving others and improving communities, even if they might be paid less than if they pursued equivalent job titles elsewhere.
- Startups and Entrepreneurship Opportunities:
Students with a business management background will obtain core skills needed to run the operations, finance, marketing, and communications of an organization of any size. Many candidates who enjoy the freedom to decide their own schedules and work towards a dream project will choose to build their own business or join a start-up.
Top College Programs in Alabama for Business Management
- Columbia Southern University:
Columbia Southern University is a large, private school located in Orange Beach, Alabama that offers ten different business degree specializations. Of its different degree-granting schools, the business school is its largest, graduating more than 3,000 students in 2019 between its certificate, associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral students. Of its business majors, the general degree in business administration and management is the most popular, followed by organizational leadership and human resources management.
- The University of Alabama:
The University of Alabama is a large, flagship public school of the state located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama that offers a robust business management program. Business is also by far the most popular subject area for students attending the university, with more than 2,900 students graduating with business degrees of some sort in 2019. The most popular specialization is the general degree in business administration and management, chosen by nearly 600 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral students in 2019. Other popular focus areas include marketing management, finance, accounting, and business/managerial economics.
- Auburn University:
Auburn University is a large, public university in Auburn, Alabama that offers some of the most diverse business majors in the state. Although the most popular business major at Auburn is also the general degree in business administration and management, graduating more than 550 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral students in 2019, the university offers many more specializations for students with a clear idea of which pathway they wish to pursue. Other popular major areas include accounting; finance; family and consumer sciences; human resources management; international business; logistics, materials, and supply chain management; management science; and marketing.
- Troy University:
Troy University is a large, public university located in Troy, Alabama with a very strong business school that graduated 353 bachelor’s and 137 master’s candidates in general business administration and management in 2019. Troy also offers a robust array of business specializations including accounting, business/commerce, economics, finance, and human resources management.
- The University of Alabama at Birmingham:
The University of Alabama at Birmingham is a leading large, public state university with a very strong business program. In 2019, the school provided 314 bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate students with degrees in business administration and management. Students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham can also choose to specialize in areas like accounting, business administration, management and operations, business/managerial economics, finance, human resources management, marketing, and selling skills and sales operations.
Careers for Business Management Graduates
- Management Information System Specialist:
With businesses bringing more technology and data-driven components into their daily operations, management information system specialists are crucial to successfully bridging a firm’s IT offerings and its other business functions. MIS specialists are tasked with planning and coordinating the daily activities of teams that perform electronic data processing, systems analysis, programming, and information systems maintenance.
- Project Manager:
Project manager is the job title bestowed upon many important mid-level management members of every department and team within an organization. Project managers are expected to oversee ongoing projects within their functional area (finance, operations, human resources), ensuring that all teams communicate properly and complete their responsibilities in a timely and budget-friendly fashion. They are in charge of monitoring progress, keeping stakeholders informed, and splitting available resources amongst team members.
- HR Manager:
Talent acquisition, training, and preservation are crucial components of ensuring that an organization runs and grows smoothly. Human resource managers are responsible for tasks ranging from interviewing candidates, onboarding new hires, handling employee benefits and compensation, helping to settle workplace disputes, and working with employees on the termination process.
- C-suite Executive:
C-Suite executives are a team of the most powerful decision-makers in an organization, though these job titles are most commonly used to refer to individuals who work in for-profit companies. Titles include chief executive officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, chief information officer, and chief technical officer. Each C-level officer will run the functions of their corresponding department, which is often comprised of many teams of vice presidents and managers.
- Non-Profit Manager:
Like government and for-profit companies, non-profit organizations rely on managers to ensure that their work is carried out smoothly and properly. The non-profit manager is thus tasked with managing service programs for non-profit organizations and tracking the funding and financing status to ensure that project teams have enough money to carry out the work that they are doing. Non-profit managers can also take on important roles like communicating with partner organizations.