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Difference Between Business Administration vs. Business Management

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Although some people use the terms “administration” and “management” interchangeably, they refer to two different concepts. Understanding these concepts is important not only when choosing a program of study in business school – many offer degrees in both business management and business administration – but also when looking for a job. The difference between your choice of business management or business administration degree influences not only the courses you take but also the roles, responsibilities and functions in your overall career.

Business Management Defined

Business management refers to the supervision of other people. Management is defined as the process of controlling people or things and ensuring that they function as intended and within established parameters. Managers keep things running smoothly, and when problems arise, find ways to solve them. Those who go into this field tend to be interested in working with people and in using their communication and interpersonal skills to contribute to business operations. Business management incorporates principles of human resources, communication, organizational leadership, business planning, organizational behavior and other topics, which allow a manager to oversee people and support the business operations effectively.

Business Administration Defined

Where business management focuses on people, business administration is geared toward overseeing the overall business operations. Business administration focuses on keeping a business running smoothly and efficiently in all aspects, from finance and marketing to strategic planning. Unlike business management, which tends to be more theoretical, business administration focuses on practical applications that lead to a specific career. For example, studying business administration often leads to roles in accounting, finance or marketing, where you’re involved in the nuts-and-bolts tasks required to maintain operations.

Overlapping Concepts

Part of the confusion related to business administration vs. business management stems from the fact that both programs include the same set of core principles. Students in either discipline may study economics, ethics, business communication, finance, accounting and other business topics before moving on to more specialized coursework. There is also overlap when it comes to career paths, in the sense that many jobs are open to you whichever option you choose. Most entry-level positions are open to individuals with either business degree, meaning that a business administration degree won’t preclude you from getting management positions and vice versa. When it comes to higher-level positions, experience is just as important, if not more so, than the specific degree you earn.

Job Opportunities in Business Administration vs. Business Management

Earning either a business management or business administration degree creates opportunities in a wide range of careers. Some common roles include human resources specialist, financial analyst, research analyst, marketing specialist, budget analyst and accountants. Salaries vary widely, although business administration graduates tend to have an edge at entry-level positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that some entry-level roles for business administration graduates, such as financial examiners or accountants, can easily reach six figures, even before you earn a master’s degree. However, business management jobs aren’t necessarily low paying, either, as managerial roles can pay close to $90,000 per year or more.


An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer and editor, specializing in careers, business, education, and lifestyle topics. The author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), which covers everything from career and financial advice to furnishing your first apartment, her work has also appeared in Young Money, Lewiston Auburn Magazine, USA Today, and a variety of online outlets. She's also been quoted as a career expert in many newspapers and magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Parade. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.

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