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How to Learn Business Administration: The Best Courses, Training, and Other Resources

Malin Dunfors - December 07, 2020

If you want to have a career in business, you cannot really go wrong with learning business administration.

A background in business administration is useful in basically any industry, from advertising to aviation. It will give you a broad knowledge base, and versatile, sought-after skills, such as leadership, decision-making, and multi-tasking. You will be able to pursue a wide range of job opportunities, from employment at non-profit organizations to public sector or government work.

If you have dreams or plans to start your own business, then studying business administration will equip you with many useful practical tools to help you get started.

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What Is Business Administration?

Often, business administration is confused with business management. If you look at an organization, business administration is the qualitative part, while business management is quantitative. Business administrators oversee the details, while business managers focus on the bigger picture.

A business administrator is responsible for overseeing day-to-day work, which often includes business operations, accounting, finances, marketing, and human resources.

What Is Business Administration Used For?

Business administrators are usually in charge of a specific department or area. The most common areas within business administration are.

  • Administration. At a small company, the business office manager takes care of everything related to administration, such as recordkeeping, security, and maintenance of the office and facilities. At a larger-sized company, there may be several managers, each in charge of their own department.
  • Transportation, logistics, distribution, and storage. These managers deal with distribution services, transportation, purchasing, and warehousing. Typically, they also resolve customer service issues and vendor problems.
  • Sales. A sales manager is the head of the sales team. Their responsibilities include projecting sales and setting goals, analyzing sales data and compiling reports, and hiring, training, and managing sales representatives.
  • Community and social services . Community and social service managers generally work for government agencies or nonprofit organizations. It is not uncommon for these managers to work with specific groups, such as children, the elderly, or veterans. If you work for a small organization, you might also be responsible for implementing specific programs.

Types of Business Administration

In large organizations, there are many specialized career paths that business administrators can explore.

Business Consultant

A business or management consultant advises managers on how to improve efficiency and profitability. They analyze revenue, employment data, expenditures, and financial reports. Then, based on their findings, they recommend new processes or organizational changes, and liaise with managers to ensure that the changes are implemented successfully.

Financial Analyst

A financial analyst gathers data from earnings releases to assess the financial status of a company. They make recommendations for improvements based on the data they have reviewed.

Market Research Analyst

A market research analyst’s main task is to help a business understand who its customers are, what kind of products they are interested in, and how to successfully market and promote goods to that audience.

Marketing Manager

A marketing manager handles a business’ marketing efforts and programs, which includes identifying new and potential clients and customers, monitoring market trends, and developing pricing strategies.

General and Operations Manager

A general manager, or operations manager, is in charge of the daily operations in a public or private sector organization. They create and implement company-wide policies.

Learning Business Administration

A stack of newspapers. The world business section is visible.
There are a few ways you can learn about business administration, from getting a traditional college degree to studying online.

Getting a bachelor’s or master’s degree in business administration will give you a solid foundation in business principles, such as business law, accounting, and marketing. Most graduates will find work as administrators, supervisors, and managers.

If you find it difficult to balance your home life and work life, you may choose to complete your degree online instead. Or, if that seems too big a commitment, there are also many certificate programs and shorter programs available online that combine business knowledge with hands-on learning.

Anyone entering today’s fast-paced, globalized business world should also know the basics of corporate social responsibility and the green economy.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Business Administration?

If you are taking a university degree, you will be looking at a minimum commitment of four years. If you are taking a diploma or a certificate course, you might spend half as much time.

If you have already started your own business, your learning curve could be even steeper. You might have time to take the odd course here and there, but mostly, you should be focused on developing your knowledge on the job as you build your company.

How to Learn Business Administration: Step-by-Step

Are you still unsure of where to start? If so, allow us to break it down for you in a step-by-step guide.

  1. Get down to the basics. First, you need to learn basic business concepts, which will depend on what industry you’re interested in. In general, you will most likely find it useful to study basic finance, marketing, accounting, management, and human resources skills.
  2. Read a business publication. One of the easiest ways to start learning about business is by reading books, journals, newspapers, and magazines. Make it a habit to read the business section in your local newspaper, as well as major publications. Most libraries will have hard copies and digital issues of well-known business publications like WIRED , Bloomberg Businessweek , Harvard Business Review , and Forbes .
  3. Subscribe to a newsletter. Sign up online for business newsletters such as Morning Brew , which will give you a daily dose of news from Silicon Valley to Wall Street.
  4. Listen to a business podcast. Learn about business on the go by tuning into a business podcast. What’s to stop you from learning while you vacuum, go for a run, or pick the kids up from school? There are hundreds of business podcasts out there. Some cover current trends, and others are hosted by female or minority entrepreneurs providing practical advice.
    Here are a few podcasts that are guaranteed to give you the lowdown on the world of business: NPR: The Indicator, BBC: World Business Report, and The Tim Ferriss Show.
  5. Enroll in a short-term business course. Several universities and community colleges offer summer or evening courses in business administration. These are a great option for people who work full-time but still want to learn business fundamentals. Common short-term business course topics include general business studies, retail management, and sales.
  6. Watch a TED Talk. TED Talks include both short videos or longer talks about almost any business topic you can think of. Currently, there are 461 talks available on business subjects, so we doubt you’ll get bored anytime soon.

The Best Business Administration Courses and Training

For those looking to pursue a formal education, getting a BBA is a great option for learning business. Most bachelor’s programs are four years, and cover business on a macro- and micro-level. In addition, they will often give you the opportunity to complete a minor specializing in marketing, accounting, finance, or another related field of your choice.

If four years is too much of a commitment for you, either time-wise or financially, getting an associate degree is another good option. This guide outlines the degree requirements for different business careers.

Besides completing a degree, you can also take an online business course. There is one for every budget. They either provide a comprehensive overview or will allow you to specialize in a certain topic.

To make sure that you are enrolling in a course that will give you the best value for your time and money, choose one that is offered by an accredited university.

Best In-Person Business Administration Classes

In-person classes are usually part of an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or an MBA program. But you can also take classes as part of a certificate program.

Look into what your local educational institutions have to offer, taking into account that some courses might be on hold or temporarily online due to COVID-19.

IIT Bombay and Washington University

In 2018, the Financial Times ranked this executive MBA program sixth on its list of the best EMBAs in the world. Aimed at entrepreneurs and senior professionals, the program is offered jointly by Washington University in St. Louis and  IIT Bombay. It teaches innovation and leadership by bringing together a diverse group of business leaders from around the world.

It includes 17 residential classroom sessions offered at Taj Lands End or the IIT Bombay Campus. In addition, the course features a two-week international residency at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. and at Washington University.

Best Online Courses

Below is a list of some of the excellent courses available online, ranging from beginner level to advanced.

Georgetown University

This course will help you understand the impact that globalization has on international businesses and the increasingly complex challenges it creates. Faculty and senior executives from Georgetown who are currently working at multinational companies will relate their experiences and provide insight. A certificate is available at the end for a small fee.

University of British Columbia

What does it mean when an investment is described as risky? What method should you use to value assets? This course will answer these savings and investment-related questions and more while also teaching you how to make sound financial decisions on behalf of a company.

Best Free Business Administration Courses

If you are starting your own business, you might be ambivalent about spending a lot of money to take a course. But even so, you must acquire the necessary business skills. This is where free business administration courses could come in handy. Try some of the courses below to study entrepreneurship, management, and finance.

Saylor Foundation

The Saylor Foundation is a non-profit organization, based in Washington, D.C. It collaborates with accredited universities and colleges to offer affordable credentials and courses. The above courses are just a small sample of a total of 19 business administration courses offered by Saylor, ranging from a freshman-level to post-graduate.

Business Administration Books

Business books can introduce you to new ideas, new habits, and different ways of approaching work for a large organization. Below are Career Karma’s top business administration book picks.

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All , Jim Collins

Ten years after releasing his bestseller Good to Great, Jim Collins is back with another book. This time around, he has studied why some companies thrive in uncertainty while others do not. Using data, he shows that even in the most chaotic circumstances, becoming or remaining a great company is an active choice.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World , Cal Newport

Professor Cal Newport mixes actionable advice and cultural criticism in this book about distractions. He argues that cultivating a strong work ethic and changing your habits and way of thinking can be incredibly beneficial to your business. Not only for the business-inclined, this book also includes advice for creative people.

Business Administration Certifications

One of the best things you can do to jumpstart your business administration career or progress to the next level is to earn a certificate.

Online Mini MBA Certificate Program at the University at Buffalo School of Management

This applications-oriented program is essentially a compressed business administration MBA. It will give students the foundations they need to make sound business decisions. Through 17 modules, you will gain a solid understanding of business and management practices. You must complete all sections in order to receive a certificate.

Online Business Administration Resources

For both beginners and experts, these business administration resources can be extremely useful. Below are some examples of websites that will teach you new business skills and allow you to practice your existing ones.

LexisNexis is perhaps best known as a legal platform and database. It gives you access to information from over 60,000 businesses, including news and legal documents. Some of their products are especially useful for business administration professionals.

Nexis Newsdesk is a media monitoring service that will help you gather insight into markets and competitors. Nexis is a premium service for online news and business resources. You can explore it with a free seven-day trial.

Is it worth it to get a business degree in 2020? What are the top 10 highest jobs you can land with a business major? YouTube has answers to these business questions and countless more. Explore YouTube’s business-related videos, from short clips to feature-length videos from creators based all around the world.

Should You Study Business Administration?

Two women stand in an office, looking through a notebook.
Studying business information can have many useful applications regardless of which career you choose.

Even if you are only slightly interested in pursuing a business career, the answer to this question is still yes. Whether you decide to complete a degree in business administration or just attend a couple of night classes, it is an extremely versatile field that can come in handy in many ways.

It is similar to studying a broad field like communications if you want to work in media or a creative field. The knowledge and skills you will gain through business administration studies will make you much more employable no matter which industry or career you end up in.

About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.

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Malin Dunfors

About the author: Malin is a writer at Career Karma, where she covers topics such as digital marketing, animation, and HTML. A digital journalist by trade, Malin has used her degrees from Emerson College and Hawaii Pacific University to offer her skills to BNN Bloomberg, Runner's World Magazine, Financial Post, Impact Magazine, and the Canadian Olympic Committee, before joining the Career Karma team in November 2020.

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