Business Administration vs. Business Management: What’s the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

February 21, 2022

People gathered around a table, busily working.

As you search for careers in business it’s important to research different types of business careers to decide which best suits your skills and abilities. Business administration and business management both have distinct qualities that can lead you down different career paths. In this article, we explore the differences between business administration and business management and look at a few common job options for each career path.

What is business administration?

Business administration refers to the regulation of tasks related to running a company. It may include managing employees, making decisions related to company growth, overseeing the day-to-day operations of a business, directing staff toward common objectives and efficiently organizing all aspects of the company for effective operation. It’s a wide field that includes a variety of different positions. Nearly every type of business, from a small startup to a major corporation, relies on business administration professionals to ensure success.

Related: Business Administration: Definition and 27 Career Paths

What is business management?

Business management focuses on the overall care and supervision of a business’ greatest asset—its employees. People who work in business management often hold leadership roles in which they oversee the day-to-day duties of team members within their department. They often are directly involved in how businesses are organized and run, how they operate, how to develop growth strategies and how to market them.

Effective business management can create a work environment that encourages employee communication and helps employees plan, direct, control and organize different goals. Experts in business management often help employees develop skills and facilitate collaboration to further company objectives.

Related: Business Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Business administration vs. business management

Here are a few common differences between business administration and business management:

Degree program differences

When studying business administration, students often learn about standard business subjects. Once they have a grasp on the different general business roles, they select one and declare it as their major area of study. For example, a student may major in business administration and choose accounting as their specialty. Upon graduation, this student may pursue an accounting role. Often, when students study business administration, they hope to learn more about business as a whole to determine which specific position they would like to pursue.

When studying business management, students take courses to help increase their leadership skills in addition to exploring specialties within the business field like human resources, communications, ethics and management. Business management students often also participate in events or organizations that help them develop their leadership skills, such as student organizations within the business department, student government or different academic clubs.

Work environment differences

Business administration employees often start working in a specific department within a business that leverages their area of specialty. They tend to dedicate their efforts within a single department rather than overseeing several teams or processes across functions. They administer the efficiency of a company’s core operations and are engaged in research, strategic planning and forecasting. 

Business management employees often start in positions in which they develop skills to help them manage people and lead a department. Many organizations expect business managers to assume leadership roles and oversee day-to-day business tasks and operational duties. Once a business manager is serving in a higher-level role, they may oversee other employees and make department-level decisions. 

Related: The Best Business Degrees for Your Field

Careers in business administration

Here are examples of careers you can pursue related to business administration:

1. Human resources specialist

National average salary: $49,507 per year

Primary duties: Human resources specialists are in charge of potential and current employees. They are directly involved in recruiting employees for a company and conducting screens and interviews. Many also work with current employees to build company culture and engagement. They also may be in charge of employee tax forms, payroll documents and personal information. This role often attracts employees with strong communication abilities, self-motivation and time-management skills.

2. Accountant

National average salary: $55,788 per year

Primary duties: An accountant creates financial reports for departments of a company to ensure that accounts remain responsible and stable. They also track and analyze data involving financial decisions. Accountants strategize and then recommend changes to help leadership manage proper spending habits. Many accountants are analytical, mathematically minded and have strong organizational skills.

3. Marketing specialist

National average salary: $57,661 per year

Primary duties: Marketing specialists work with sales and product teams to build campaigns around different products, analyzing different target audiences and strategizing how to sell to them. They often serve in different roles within the marketing department, including content management, market analysis and product marketing. Their main goal is to determine what effectively sells a product or service. Marketing specialists are often well-organized, effective communicators.

4. Business analyst

National average salary: $74,766 per year

Primary duties: Business analysts compile reports to determine what a business needs to do to improve. They work more on the developmental side of business, using software to create and analyze strategies to grow their business. They often fulfill the role of project manager and work on individual initiatives to find solutions to benefit the company. Business analysts should be knowledgeable about different software, have leadership abilities and be problem solvers.

Careers in business management

Here are examples of careers you can pursue related to business management:

1. Operations manager

National average salary: $63,298 per year

Primary duties: An operations manager oversees different departments within a company. Many work with human resources, sales and marketing teams to ensure tasks are completed and goals are met. They encourage engagement among employees and develop different budget and financial plans. Operations managers ensure their employees are given the resources they need to succeed. They often possess strong team-building skills, leadership abilities and are effective problem solvers.

2. Sales manager

National average salary: $70,057 per year

Primary duties: Sales managers lead a sales team to increase the overall performance of the sales department. They train and motivate employees to meet quotas, engage with potential customers and assist with sales challenges. They often create strategies to enhance sales team’s efficiency and will act as a mentor. This role is a good fit for people who are strong leaders that are strategy-driven with effective communication skills.

3. Management analyst

National average salary: $80,675 per year

Primary duties: Management analysts often create manuals to help outline overall procedures and document best practices to follow as an effective manager. They do this by conducting studies and measuring the overall performance analytics of leadership. This position may require past leadership experience, data analysis skills and critical thinking.

4. Financial reporting manager

National average salary: $101,599 per year

Primary duties: A financial reporting manager works heavily with legal and accounting teams. They develop strategies to assess different financial costs within a company and analyze financial and accounting documents to determine if a specific cost is beneficial to a company. Financial reporting managers are well-organized, data-driven critical thinkers.

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