Associate in Business Degrees & Programs Guide

Associate Degree in Business Career Options & Salary

If you're thinking of going to college but aren't sure what major to declare, you might want to consider starting with an associate degree in business. An associate in business will give you a well-rounded base of knowledge you can utilize regardless of your job field, and you'll gain skills which can be useful in almost any career.

While most positions in upper management prefer to hire those with at least a bachelor’s degree, not everyone can afford the time and money it takes to earn a higher degree without joining the workforce. An associate degree is an excellent starting point for entry level-jobs and it will also give you a chance to focus on a specific career goal for your future education plans.

Although most enroll in school to boost their employment opportunities, an associate degree in business will also give you life skills that will put you at an advantage in understanding personal finances, such as loans and mortgages, helping you to better utilize your current and plan for your future financial situation.

Business Degrees & Career Paths


PROS

  • An associate degree can be completed in a relatively short time, giving you a quick boost into the job market.
  • If your high school GPA was less than stellar, an associate degree will give you the opportunity to bring your grades up to par before you try to get into a regular four-year college.
  • Those who hold an associate degree earn more on average than those who only have a high school diploma or GED.
  • Employers prefer to hire those who hold a degree in comparison to those with only a high school diploma.
  • Your associate degree can be completed at a community college, saving considerably in comparison to a four-year college.
  • Credits from an associate degree can be applied to your bachelor’s degree program when you decide to continue your education.
  • Earning an associate degree will help you learn to utilize your time and instill good study habits for future educational plans.

CONS

  • Most job positions specific to business and management require at least a bachelor’s degree, so you should plan to continue your education if you want to work in supervision or upper management.
  • You won't have specialized learning in business, just the basic core knowledge. Many positions require specialized knowledge on specific subjects within the realm of business.
  • Specialized certifications such as Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) typically require a bachelor’s or master’s degree as part of the qualification process.
  • Earning a degree takes considerable dedication and money, so you'll need good study and budget habits in order to keep your coursework up to date.
  • Returning to school can be hard to fit in an already hectic schedule, especially if you're already juggling a job, debts, and family life.

Certificate vs. Associates


A certificate program is like a crash course in business. Not to be confused with certification in one or more specific areas of business, a certificate is basically an associate degree without the core general education classes such as English and mathematics, which make it easier to roll into a bachelor’s degree.

A certificate program is helpful if you're looking for a short (less than two years) program to enable you to qualify for entry-level positions. The biggest downside is many certificate programs won't be transferable as credits towards a degree if you plan to attend college in the future, so you should look for this key component if you're considering such a program.

What Business Associate Degrees are Available?


There are three basic types of associate degrees and each offers a business major. The main difference is in the choice of coursework within each program.

  • Associate of Arts (AA)
  • Associate of Science (AS)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

In addition, some schools offer an Associate of Applied Business. Here's a brief look at the differences in degrees:

  • An AA degree will focus more on courses than emphasize critical thinking, such as humanities and social sciences.
  • An AS degree will have more courses in the fields of math and science, and usually fewer course requirements in general education.
  • The AAS degree is designed primarily to allow students to enter the workforce immediately after graduation.
  • An AAB allows a student to specialize in a certain area of business such as marketing, office administration, logistics, or financial management.

While it may sound confusing, the easiest way to choose which degree is right for you is to look at the prerequisites for each bachelor’s degree program at your school of choice. You'll want to choose an associate program that will be transferable to an undergraduate or graduate degree in an area of study that meshes with your long term goals; that way you won't take courses that don't transfer or miss courses required for entry into a higher degree program.

Admission Requirements to Enter an Associates Program


An associate degree program usually has less stringent admissions criteria than higher degree programs; some community colleges only require the student to have a high school diploma or GED in order to be accepted into the program. This should be one of the first things you check when choosing a college, as there is no set of standard rules for admission requirements across the country. Here are some other requirements schools may have for those seeking to enroll in an associate degree program:

  • A minimum high school GPA
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Minimum scores on SAT or ACT
  • A letter of intent
  • Background check
  • Minimum grades in prerequisite courses

How long does it take to earn an Associate Degree in Business?


Most associate degree programs require 60 semester credits, which is equal to two years (four semesters) of full-time attendance. Of course, if you can only take a partial class load, you'll take longer to earn your degree. If you opt to take some college level courses during high school, you may have enough credits to equal a full semester, allowing you to earn your degree in a year to 18 months.

If you are knowledgeable in one or more subjects, you can opt to use the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and take a standardized test for specific courses in one or more of 36 subjects. You should keep in mind that these are not accepted equally across every school, so you should check with yours to see which tests are available for you to earn credit with yours.

Potential Careers in Business with an Associates


  • Assistant store manager:
    The position of assistant store manager is usually a key-holder job and often a training position for store managers. They may be tasked with ordering stock, supervising and training employees, creating weekly schedules, constructing displays, and completing training modules as well as daily sales duties such as assisting customers and stocking shelves. The average annual salary is $48,700.
  • Sales support specialist:
    The sales support specialist does exactly that: they focus on sales driven issues such as streamlining customer support at help desks, preparing items for the sales team, marketing, maintaining records of clients or customers, and finding solutions to problems relating to products. Their average annual salary is $47,200.
  • Retail Store manager:
    The retail store manager takes credit or blame for the entire store. They may be tasked with setting and achieving sales goals, settling customer complaints, scheduling training modules, overseeing store budgets, authorizing discounts, and developing new sales plans to attract new customers and retain current clients. Their average annual salary is $48,300
  • Executive assistant:
    An executive assistant holds a busy and important position as they may be tasked with everything from scheduling interviews and other appointments, emails, preparing and filing reports, finding and booking travel accommodations, and other clerical functions as needed. They are often the hub of the office wheel and make sure everything runs smoothly and on schedule. Their average annual salary is $55,300.
  • Sales consultant:
    A sales consultant seeks out new customers for the product or services offered by their company. They are typically assigned a territory for perspective clients and usually must travel as part of their job. Although some sales consultants perform a majority of work by phone, it is typically a face-to-face sales position. Their annual average salary is $51,000.

Options to Advance


The options to advance with an associate degree in business are vast. Much depends on your chosen career; an assistant store manager may rise to store manager and then district or even regional manager, and the same holds true for similar positions.

You should plan your future schooling to match your career goals. Using store manager as an example, you might continue your education to earn a bachelor’s and master's degrees in administration or finance. The biggest benefit can be found once you're in the field: most employers will pay for, or reimburse you for earning, a higher degree, which means they will, in effect, be paying for you to earn a promotion.

Colleges That Offer Traditional Associate Degrees in Business


  • San Jose City College
    San Jose, California

    Associate business degrees at San Jose City are fully transferable to a bachelor’s degree program. You can opt to specialize in Human Resources, Finance, International Business, Marketing, or Manufacturing Management. You must maintain a "C" average in all classes to be eligible for transfer.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate in Arts (AA) degree in Business Administration
    • Associate in Science for Transfer (AS-T) degree in Business Administration
    • Administrative Assistant and Secretarial Science - <1 Year Certificate, 1-2 Year Certificate & Associate Degree
    • Business Administration and Management - <1 Year Certificate, 1-2 Year Certificate & Associate Degree
    • Business/Commerce – Associate Degree
    • Labor and Industrial Relations - <1 Year Certificate & Associate Degree
    • Small Business Administration and Management - <1 Year Certificate, 1-2 Year Certificate & Associate Degree
  • West Hills College
    Lemoore, CA

    The West Hills business program is a valuable foundation designed especially for students who plan to enhance or start a business of their own. The coursework provides an understanding of basic business operations as well as a solid understanding of the US economic system.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science in Business Management
    • Administrative Assistant and Secretarial Science - <1 Year Certificate & Associate Degree
    • Business Administration and Management - <1 Year Certificate, 1-2 Year Certificate & Associate Degree
    • Resort Management - Associate Degree
    • Retail Management - <1 Year Certificate & Associate Degree
  • Penn State Abington
    Abington, PA

    The Penn State associate program provides a very well-rounded foundation for students who plan to specialize in one or more of the many areas of business. All credits are fully transferable to a Penn State bachelor’s degree program.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Business/Commerce, General – Associate & Bachelor’s Degrees
  • North Seattle College
    Seattle, Washington

    The North Seattle business program is larger than most at 90 credit hours, and it’s designed for those who plan to attend a four-year university or college in the future. They offer both US Cultures and Global Studies as part of the business program as well.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate in Business Direct Transfer
    • Business Administration and Management – Associate Degree
    • Business/Commerce – Associate Degree
    • Office Management and Supervision – Associate Degree & Undergraduate Certificate
  • Olivet Nazarene University
    Bourbonnais, Illinois

    Olivet Nazarene offers two business programs, and both focus on business from a Christian world view. Both programs are fully transferable toward a four-year bachelor’s degree in business and give a solid foundation of general education classes.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Arts in Business
    • Associate of Applied Science in Business

Colleges That Offer Online Associate Degrees in Business


  • DeVry University
    Springfield, Illinois

    DeVry offers an associate degree with a twist: once you complete half of your required 60 semester credits you can choose to specialize in either Retail Management or General Business. Both specializations will transfer to a bachelor’s degree if you choose to continue your education after graduation.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science in Business
  • Colorado Technical University
    Colorado Springs, Colorado

    The business program at Colorado Tech offers a strong fundamental base in business and includes training for decision making skills as well as critical thinking aspects of business. Students learn how to apply the principles and concepts of business as they learn.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Science in Business Administration
  • University of Cincinnati Online
    Cincinnati, Ohio

    The program at University of Cincinnati is unique in that it focuses on business in regard to information technology. As such, it's an excellent choice for those who plan to open their own business or consulting service in the IT sector.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Applied Business in Business Information Technology
  • Purdue University Global
    West Lafayette, Indiana

    At Purdue University Global, you’ll have a full 11 business concentration areas to choose from so that you can customize your business degree to reflect your personal needs and career objectives. Purdue allows you to transfer up to 75% of your program requirements, so you can streamline your degree to reflect your current knowledge base and potentially save much on your tuition costs and attendance time.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Associate of Applied Science in Business Administration