Business people often use the words “administration” and “management” as synonyms in day-to-day conversation. As you look into taking additional business classes, earning another degree or creating a more specific career plan, it’s a good idea to know how individuals and institutions use these terms differently, in both academic and work-related settings.
Marylhurst College, which offers online degrees in both business administration and business management, provides a broad distinction between the two that implies administration emphasizes external processes while management focuses on external activities. In this scenario, management activities focus more on people than the processes that administration emphasizes. They list the following classes as core components of their business administration degree: accounting, finance, economics, business law, ethics, marketing, organizational behavior, strategic management and management information systems. Their business management degree focuses on teaching students leadership skills, how to oversee staff, and change and strategic management. Business management degrees often offer more specialization opportunities for students looking to enter a specific industry or profession.
Internal vs. External
One way to view the difference between administration and management is to view administrative work as relating to a business's internal operations and management as relating to external planning. For example, basic human resources activities, keeping computers functioning, accounting tasks and building maintenance are administrative functions. An expansion of the business, a merger or acquisition, price cutting, using new distribution channels and diversification into new markets are management functions.
The Totem Pole
Another way to view the difference between administration and management is to consider the role of mid- and lower-level office workers and top executives. Administrators usually carry out everyday processes and procedures, while executives manage innovation and change. High-level executives or department heads create policies, processes, procedures, goals and objectives for the people beneath them, while administrators manage processes and objectives given to them by their superiors.
Types of Jobs
Marylhurst lists jobs such as public administrator, education administrator, database administrator and budget analyst as administrative functions. Others might include administrative assistant, receptionist or coordinator-level positions that support department heads. The college lists marketing manager, sales manager, general manager and advertising manager as business management jobs. These positions might evolve into director-level positions. Other management positions include those in the executive suite, such as chief executive officer, chief financial officer and chief operating officer.