Generally speaking, getting a college degree in business, business administration or in another closely related field is a great way to earn a strong salary. Certainly, that explains the popularity of this undergraduate degree program. In fact, with the exception of the catch-all Liberal Arts major, the combined number of students currently seeking a business or business administration degree makes this the single most popular college major. Today, more than 356,000 students are pursuing a degree in business. Most candidates are attracted to the business degree by its versatility, the opportunities it provides for strong career growth, and the somewhat unlimited potential for wage growth depending on the pathway you choose.
Speaking of pathways, when it comes to majoring in business, there are countless educational avenues you could travel. We strongly recommend choosing your path based on what most interests and excites you. But as you narrow the focus of your studies to your area of concentration, you should also know what to expect in terms of salary potential. We’ve compiled a list of popular areas of business study that offer some of the highest returns on your educational investment. But first, let’s learn a bit more about the Business Administration major.
What is a Degree in Business Administration?
In some cases, the degree programs identified below will fall under the umbrella major of business administration as with concentrations like Organizational Leadership and Project Management. In other cases, the degree program noted below will constitute a separate course of study, but will likely incorporate a number of core business administration courses as with concentrations like Healthcare Administration and Construction Management. In either case, a good portion of your credit load will be made up of fundamental business practice and business theory courses.
To this point, the business administration degree is the study of business in both practical and theoretical terms. Typically a 120-credit degree program, most candidates can complete a business degree in four to six years, during which time you’ll study topics like business management, financial planning, and organizational leadership alongside practical topics like sales, marketing, accounting, budgeting, operational analysis, and more. Many undergraduates will go on to earn an MBA through an advanced degree program, which can significantly improve your earning potential and your access to leadership roles. However, a great many students will be ready to enter the workforce immediately with a bachelor’s degree in business.
Indeed, the reason for the business major’s immense popularity is both its versatility and its connection to various high-paying job opportunities, particularly as compared to other undergraduate degrees. As the list below will demonstrate, business majors will have the chance to concentrate on areas such as project management, marketing, human resources, small business administration, and much more. Likewise, concentrating your studies in specific areas such as healthcare administration, construction management, or industrial production management can improve your qualifications for highly specialized leadership roles and, consequently improve your earning potential.
Most regionally accredited four year public and private-nonprofit colleges offer business degree options both online and on-campus.
There’s No Such Thing As “Business As Usual”
A business degree can be almost anything you want it to be. This is important to bear in mind as you proceed. To the point, though this list is sequenced in descending order beginning with the highest median salary listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this should not necessarily be read as a straightforward ranking of the “best paying business majors.”
This is for several reasons. First, as will become quickly apparent while you read on, there are countless professional pathways that you can take after earning any one of these degrees. It is exactly that versatility that makes these such excellent and potentially profitable majors. Your salary potential will be impacted to an extent by the role, industry, area of specialization, organization, and even the region where you apply your education.
You should also consider that the sheer versatility of most business-related majors means that you can do almost anything with your degree and your knowledge. Business is a broad field, but one of the common features across numerous business majors is the freedom it can provide you to define your own future. As you read on, you’ll note that each degree can lead to a diverse set of career opportunities, each with its own salary potential. This means that each of these degrees offers you a chance to match both your unique set of interests and your salary goals. And it also means that the sky’s the limit for both what you can do and how much you can earn.
In short, you can do whatever you want with a business administration degree whether you wish to start your own business, manage a chain of hotels, provide financial consultation to wealthy private investors, and much more.
If you’re more of an entrepreneur in spirit, you may want to jump directly to our tips on How to Start a Small Business in 10 Steps.
If you’re looking for a bit more direction as you enter into your business-related degree program, check out these programs, which are among the highest paying business majors.
Marketing is at once among the most versatile, dynamic and best-paying concentrations in the business discipline. This is because it can encompass a wide spectrum of career paths including those in promotions, advertising, web development, consumer analysis and much more. Moreover, like many of the most lucrative business concentrations, marketing applies to every commercial industry from the retail and service industries to healthcare, athletics, entertainment, and beyond.
Not only that, but marketing principles can be applied to a broad spectrum of careers in areas like political consultation, real estate development, and broadcasting. Wherever you choose to apply your degree in business with a concentration in marketing, you stand a chance of earning a strong salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Median Pay for Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers was $141,490 in 2020. Other high paying roles in the field include opportunities for Sales Managers (2020 Median Pay—$132,290), Public Relations and Fundraising Managers (2020 Median Pay—$118,430), and Market Research Analysts (2020 Median Pay—$65,810). The BLS projects that marketing professionals will see a roughly 10% growth rate in job opportunities, adding 31,800 new jobs by 2030.
Like marketing, sales skills can be applied in an exceedingly wide range of fields. But what distinguishes sales among other business fields is the potential for your income to grow directly in step with your own performance. This is because most sales positions combine a base salary with a potential to earn commissions on actual sales. This means that there is tremendous opportunity for high earnings, especially among those who rise to roles of leadership in sales. To this point, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that Sales Managers earned a Median Pay of $132,290 in 2020.
Naturally though, what you can earn by commission will depend upon the nature of your marketplace and exactly what it is that you sell. Certainly, the commission for a single real-estate transaction can be worth more than a month of commissions on appliances sales. There are countless industries and organizational types where you might be able to apply your skills, knowledge, and interpersonal talents as a sales professional. Top options include opportunities for those who wish to become Sales Engineers (2020 Median Pay—$108,830), Real Estate Brokers (2020 Median Pay—$60,370), Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives (2020 Median Pay—$65,420), and more. The BLS projects a 7% rate of growth for those with leadership aspirations and sales acumen.
3. Human Resource Management
Human Resource Management majors can play a significant role in the leadership structure, culture, and operational functionality of their respective organizations. It is perhaps because HR management can encompass so many responsibilities that those who hold this position usually earn a fairly robust salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Median Pay for Human Resources Managers was $121,220 in 2020.
The same generally high rate of pay applies to those who leverage their undergraduate degree in HR to work as Compensation and Benefits Managers (2020 Median Pay—$125,130), Training and Development Managers (2020 Median Pay—$115,640), or Labor Relations Specialists (2020 Median Pay—$73,240). According to the BLS, the field of HR is projected to experience a 9% rate of growth, adding 14,800 jobs by 2030.
4. Industrial Production Management
Because so many production jobs have departed from the U.S. economy, opportunities in this area are limited, and competition is fierce for top leadership roles. However, for those who do achieve a leadership role in industrial production management, the compensation is generally worth the effort. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Median Pay for Industrial Production Managers was $108,709 in 2020. Another reason that this is a particularly competitive area is because job opportunities will likely grow at a slower than average rate of 5% over the next decade, adding just 10,000 positions by 2030.
The BLS does offer a positive note, however, indicating that regular turnover due to retirement rates in the current workforce will result in a steady annual flow of available job opportunities during that time. It’s also worth noting that an educational focus in industrial production management can help you build toward an array of other promising careers, including Architectural and Engineering Manager (2020 Median Pay—$149,530), Industrial Engineer (2020 Median Pay—$88,950), and Health and Safety Engineer (2020 Median Pay—$94,240).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Median Pay for Economists was $108,350 in 2020. It’s important to note that the title of economist is generally held only by those who have earned a master’s degree in the field. However, the BLS does point out that a bachelor’s degree in business with a concentration in economics could provide a gateway into an array of well-paying entry level roles, particularly in roles with government agencies.
Indeed, the BLS indicates that with a bachelor’s degree in business economics, you could qualify to work as an Actuary (2020 Median Pay—$111,030), Operations Research Analyst (2020 Median Pay—$86,200), or Budget Analyst (2020 Median Pay—$78,970). And if you do choose to pursue an advanced degree, you will likely be greeted by an array of promising career options. With a projected growth rate of 13%, opportunities for economists will increase at a faster than average pace between now and 2030.
6. Organizational Leadership
Organizational leadership can obviously mean a lot of different things, from starting your own small business or managing a department inside a larger company to ultimately serving as a vice president or Chief Financial Officer. Wherever your professional path leads, a concentration in organizational leadership will likely provide you with the practical, interpersonal and strategic training to oversee projects, delegate responsibilities, and balance big-picture priorities with day-to-day operational priorities. Those with a particular aptitude for business leadership are typically in line to earn extremely robust salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Median Pay for Top Executives was $107,680 in 2020.
Those with organizational leadership training may also qualify as Financial Managers (2020 Median Pay—$134,180), General and Operations Managers (2020 Median Pay—$103,650), or Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents (2020 Median Pay—$72,270). But it should be noted that these salaries really only scratch the surface. For executives and entrepreneurs alike, there are few limits on what you could actually earn over time.
Career opportunities also abound. For instance, working as a Financial Manager offers room for tremendous potential, not just in terms of salary, but in terms of available opportunities. At a 17% rate of growth, the demand for financial managers will result in the creation of roughly 118,200 roles for enterprising leaders in the next decade. Opportunities for Top Executives are also expected to grow at a rate of 8%. While this rate of growth is just about average for all occupations, opportunities will abound for enterprising leaders, with the field projected to add about 209,500 opportunities by 2030.
7. Healthcare Administration
Healthcare is a field brimming with job openings and professional opportunities at every level. The demand is especially high for qualified healthcare administrative leaders, those with training in business practices and principles with a specific focus on the healthcare industries. Those who advance to leadership roles in the field will earn a strong long-term salary and will experience meaningful opportunities for career growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Median Pay for Medical and Health Services Managers was $104,280 in 2020.
Other opportunities for those with a degree in healthcare administration, or business administration with a focus on healthcare, may qualify to work as Administrative Services and Facilities Managers (2020 Median Pay—$98,890), Insurance Underwriters (2020 Median Pay—$71,790), or Social and Community Service Managers (2020 Median Pay—$69,600). Those who choose to apply their education directly as healthcare administrators will benefit from an incredible growth rate of 32% over the next decade, with 139,600 new jobs expected by 2030.
8. Construction Management
Construction management, like healthcare administration, is a high-growth area that combines generalized business principles with a more specific area of operation. For those with a concentration in construction management, opportunities abound in sectors such as commercial development, public works, residential housings, infrastructural planning and more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Median Pay for Construction Managers was $97,180 in 2020.
A degree in construction management could also help put you on the path towards a career as an Architect (2020 Median Pay—$82,320), Architectural and Engineering Manager (2020 Median Pay—$149,530), or a Landscape Architect (2020 Median Pay—$70,630). For those aspiring to a role in construction management, the projected growth rate of 11% is slightly higher than the average for all jobs. More importantly, this amounts to the addition of 51,400 new jobs in a field that already employs nearly half a million Americans.
It goes without saying that there’s a lot of money in money. Studying finance is a great way to both understand how money works and to make a pretty good amount of it. Those who earn a business administration degree with a concentration in finance will study at the cross-section between business and securities; between investment and innovation; between the stock market and the retail market. Learning how to advise others on savvy saving, investment, and banking strategies can lead to a strong base salary.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Median Pay for Personal Financial Advisors was $89,330 in 2020. While the general field for personal financial advisors offers only a 5% rate of growth between now and 2030, those with a bachelor’s degree in finance, or in business administration with a focus on finance, may also qualify for roles as Financial Analysts (2020 Median Pay—$83,660), Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents (2020 Median Pay—$64,770), and Insurance Underwriters (2020 Median Pay—$71,790).
10. Project Management
Project Management is another extremely far-reaching business concentration because it can be applied to virtually every professional sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Median Pay for Project Management and Business Operations Specialists was $77,420 in 2020. But earnings in this role may vary considerably depending upon the field in which you apply your skills, knowledge and degree.
For instance, Computer Systems Design and Related Services earned an average pay of $101,500 in 2020, while those working in the Management of Companies and Enterprises took in an average pay of $88,130 and those working in the Management, Scientific and Technical Consulting Services earned an average of $86,200 in the same year. The highest growth area for project managers, says the BLS, is the Federal Executive Branch, which is currently host to some 186,010 project management roles.
If you’re interested in pursuing a degree with high earning potential but you’re not sure that business is the right area of study for you, check out our look at the College Degrees With the Highest Entry-Level Salary.