In both online and on-campus settings, business is the country’s most popular field of study. And with good reason.

This versatile credential will set you up for success in almost any field—from healthcare to human resources, marketing to management. Even better, you can earn your business degree online.


Who Should Get a Business Degree Online?

Online degrees are ideal for busy working adults. There’s no commuting, no relocation and no need to quit your job. You’ll study whenever suits your schedule. Are you an early riser? Log in when the house is quiet and everyone else is still asleep. More of a night owl? Hit the (online) books after the kids have gone to bed.

You just can’t beat the flexibility of online learning.

Studying online, you’ll earn the same business degree that you’d earn in an on-campus program. Whether you’re pursuing a bachelor’s or an MBA, the diploma requires the same coursework and the same number of credit hours.

Online & On-Campus Business Degrees: A Comparison
Online program Traditional program
Flexible class schedule X
Rolling, year-round admissions X
Qualifies for accreditation X X
Offers real-time interaction with professors and classmates X X
Requires commuting X
May require relocation X
Yields a respected degree X X

Online Associate’s Degree in Business: What You’ll Study

Build a foundation for success with a two-year degree that covers the basics of business.

A few of the classes you’ll study include:

1. Business Foundations

Start exploring the modern business world with this survey of the organization, culture and operation of today’s business. Get an overview of the ways in which business has changed over the years; ethics; technology; leadership; HR and more.

2. Business Communication

This intro-level course is all about clarifying your message, whether it’s verbal or nonverbal, a business email or blog post. Practice adapting workplace messages to various audiences (internal vs. external, peers vs. executives) and dig into the ethical and international issues affecting business communications.

3. Statistics

Business success is in the numbers. In this class, you’ll learn how to sample and evaluate business data: Is it a valid and reliable tool on which to base a business decision? Expect to produce visual tools such as tables and charts to organize and display all kinds of business data. You’ll also get a handle on probability theory and linear regressions as they apply to decision-making.

4. Accounting (series)

Get a strong grasp of the business basics: income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, retained earnings statements and more. Not planning to become an accountant? This class is essential to business-minded students: It trains you to examine numbers from a manager’s perspective.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Business: What You’ll Study

Going for your bachelor’s business degree online? Here are some of the topics you’ll cover:

1. Business Ethics

This thought-provoking class challenges you to untangle complicated business issues with your classmates. From fair labor practices to outside sourcing, you’ll look closely at how values, law and social responsibility overlap in the business world.

2. Business Law

How can you tell if a business contract is solid or shaky? How does employment law affect day-to-day business operations? Examine real-life legal cases—from labor disputes to hiring procedures—to learn how the U.S. legal system applies to the business world.

3. Human Resources Management

How do effective workplace teams happen? An HR management course covers the essentials, from recruiting strategies to employee performance appraisals and conflict management. Plus, take a look at the legal and ethical issues that influence the discipline.

4. Management Information Systems

The right information system can give a business the competitive edge it needs to succeed. In this class, you’ll review the latest and greatest IT systems on the market; investigate hardware and software components; dive into e-business concepts.

5. Management Theory and Practice

Put business management concepts into practice as you apply theory to real-world workplace dilemmas. You’ll sink your teeth into a range of topics, from defining success, dealing with change, and taking measurable action on business goals.

6. Managerial Economics

In this class, you’ll discover how to apply economic thinking to a multitude of business challenges, such as: What do customers really want? What products will be most popular? How should products be priced? Get practice with business tools such as demand analysis, cost estimation and forecasting.

7. Organizational Behavior

How does a person behave differently when in an organization or outside it? Why are some people “insiders,” while others remain on the sidelines? This class looks into business leadership styles, technology, power and politics. Juicy topics might include group dynamics, workplace conflict, strategic planning and employee retention.

8. Principles of Finance

If you know how to look at them, numbers will reveal whether a business is sinking or swimming. Apply the lessons you learned in accounting class to analyze business performance, financial management, budgeting strategies and more. Plus, get a solid grounding in the U.S. monetary system and capital markets.

9. Principles of Marketing

It’s more than slick graphics and memorable slogans. An intro-level marketing class will train you to analyze consumer behavior; examine different promotional channels; and consider the many factors that go into the creation and implementation of any marketing strategy.

Online Master’s Degree in Business: What You’ll Study

The MBA is the most popular online graduate degree in the country. It blends challenging coursework with amazing opportunities to make new business connections.

Most programs require that you have at least two years of work experience when you enroll. Studying part-time while you work, you can earn this advanced degree in three to five years.

You’ll start your online MBA with core classes such as:

  • Analytical Tools
  • Business Law
  • Business Strategy
  • Economics
  • Financial Accounting
  • Introductory Finance
  • Marketing Strategy and Analysis
  • Operations Management
  • Applied Business Research and Statistics

Then, depending on your interests and career goals, you’ll move on to coursework in a specialty area.

6 Benefits of Getting your Business Degree Online

When you imagine school, do you picture yourself cramming for exams? Sitting in a lecture hall filled with hundreds of students? You might be pleasantly surprised at how online learning has changed school for the better. From cost savings to course length, many online business programs offer benefits that you might not find in the traditional setting, such as:

  1. Credit for work and life experience – Have a solid track record in the work world, but not much college credit to show for it? Many online schools will count your experience toward a degree. In some cases, you can test out of basic classes. Be sure to inquire with the schools you’re considering.
  2. Accessible teachers – Online instructors make themselves available to students during specific hours, and via class discussion boards. There’s no back row in a virtual classroom; and all students have an equal opportunity to participate and interact with peers and professors.
  3. Manageable schedules – Forget the commute to class. In an online format, you can log in and learn whenever it’s convenient: before work; after the kids are asleep; on weekend mornings. Break free from the old school and discover the new cool!
  4. No final exams – Many online schools have realized what students have known all along: Test-taking isn’t always the best way to measure knowledge. Instead, you might find yourself collaborating with classmates to create projects throughout the duration of a course. In many cases, you can showcase your skills rather than risking it all on one big test.
  5. Short course length – The semester system is gradually going the way of the dinosaur. Online business programs often cater to adult learners with shorter, quick-turn courses that last as few as five weeks. It’s a great way to keep the momentum going as your work toward your degree.
  6. Lower tuition costs – It seems logical. Freed from the expense of maintaining brick-and-mortar buildings, schools should be able to deliver online courses more cheaply than the on-campus versions. Now there’s proof. According to a 2015 study from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, online courses at small and large institutions cost “significantly less” than on-campus courses at the same schools.

Fast Facts: About the Business Degree Online

Average number of class logins required per week: Two to five

Average time spent doing course work: 13 – 20 hours per week

Class formats:  In a synchronous class, all students log in at one set time to interact with the professor and each other. In an asynchronous course, each student logs in independently to complete the course work, although virtual group discussions can also be scheduled.

Tech skills: There’s no need for advanced tech savvy in an online course. If you can log into the Internet and use a word processing program and email, you’re set. Most online degree programs will allow you to test-drive the class software before enrolling.

Computer requirements: A computer, Internet access, a basic Internet browser and email. Each specific degree program will specify its operating system requirements, though most require:

  • Windows XP or Mac OS X or higher
  • High-speed Internet connection
  • Sound card and speakers or headset
  • 5Ghz processor or higher
  • Video card
  • 1 GB of RAM

Human contact: Most online degree programs make it easy to get in touch with your professors and fellow class members via phone, email, social networking sites like Facebook, and discussion threads.

How to Choose an Online Business Degree Program

As you investigate possible schools, ask plenty of questions to find the program that’s best suited to your goals. Here are some important topics to raise with any school:


  • What classes are required for the business degree?
  • Can you test-drive the course deliver software before enrolling?
  • Is it possible to speak with an instructor in the business studies department?
  • Is there an alumni network you can contact for first-hand insights about the student experience?

Acceptance Criteria

  • How does the school decide which students to accept?
  • What are the prerequisites for business classes?
  • Does the school require an entrance exam such as the SAT or GMAT?
  • Do work and life experiences factor into admissions decisions?
  • Will the school accept college credits you’ve already earned?

Student Resources

  • Does the school offer career counseling services?
  • What are the school’s graduation rates?
  • What about its job placement rates?
  • Does the instructional staff include both part- and full-time faculty?


An outside seal of approval, accreditation signals that a school has met standards for excellence and rigor. It’s an important marker of quality. The federal government offers loans and grants only to students enrolled in accredited schools.

Ask if the school you’re considering has received accreditation, and which kind. Do your homework carefully. Some unscrupulous players have been known to create their own (fake) agencies, complete with phony logos. Don’t just take the school’s word about accreditation; double-check with the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, both of which keep lists of above-board agencies.

There are two primary types of accreditation for U.S. colleges:

  • Regional – this is the gold standard of accreditation, with just six regional associations in the country. Credits earned at regionally accredited schools are the easiest to transfer to other schools.
  • National – The Distance Education Accrediting Commission focuses on online educators, granting accreditation to those with a proven commitment to educational excellence and student achievement.

For business schools, two other agencies offer accreditation:

  • The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is highly selective, accepting fewer than five percent of global business programs into its elite ranks.
  • The Accreditation Council for Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) looks carefully at outcomes such as employment rates in order to rate a school’s overall quality.

Who Will Know That I Got My Business Degree Online?

Unless you volunteer the information, no one—including potential employers—need know that you studied in an online program for your degree. A business degree is a business degree, whether you earn it online, on campus or in a combination of the two.

But are online business degrees respected in the workplace? Consider this: Across the country, more than six million students took at least one online class in 2016. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of on-campus students has declined by 5 percent, losing a total of 931,317 students who attend class traditionally. In short, online learning has gone mainstream.

[What do employers really think? Is an online business degree legit?]

Take the Next Step

Convenient and effective, an online business degree blends practical coursework with the flexibility that working adults demand. Now that you’ve got the lay of the land, take the next step. Discover the online business degree program that’s just right for you.