What is a Small Business Management Associate Degree?
An associate degree in small business management is a two-year degree that will help to prepare students to start their own small business, or for entry-level jobs in the business, management, or sales fields. This degree can also help you land a job in marketing, however, if it is solely marketing that interests you, you may want to consider a program in business marketing instead.
While an associate degree will enable you to start working in your desired field as soon as you get your degree, you also have the option to continue onto your bachelor's degree or even a master's or doctoral degree later on down the line. Many universities offer associate degrees that are on a bachelor's track, which means they make associate credits easily transferrable so that you can obtain a bachelor's degree in only two additional years, rather than starting from scratch and spending the traditional four years on your bachelor's degree.
Types of Small Business Management Associate Degrees (AA, AS, and AAS)
Once you've decided to pursue an associate degree in business, you need to decide which type of associate degree you wish to get.
Let's start with the difference between an Associate of Arts (AA) degree, and an Associate of Science (AS) degree. Their key difference lies within their names: the arts degree will focus more on liberal arts concentrations and soft skills, while the science degree will focus more on technical skills and will incorporate more math and science classes. Both of these degrees take into consideration that a lot of students are considering continuing onto their bachelor's degree, and therefore they are more likely to have transferable credits in order to achieve this goal.
Another type of associate degree is the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree. The Associate of Applied Science degree is aimed towards students who do not have any plans to carry onto a bachelor's degree. An AAS degree prepares students to begin working in their careers as soon as they graduate, and therefore the programs aren't as concerned with making sure their credits will be transferrable.
Associate Degrees in Small Business Management
|School||Tuition*||Placement Services||Career Services||Accepts|
|1||Los Medanos College||$1915||Yes||Yes||AP Credits|
|2||Mt San Antonio College||$2068||Yes||Yes||AP Credits|
|3||College of the Canyons||$9750||Yes||Yes||AP Credits|
|4||Butte College||$41370||Yes||Yes||AP Credits|
|5||Canada College||$24900||No||Yes||AP / NCCRS Credits|
|6||Cuyamaca College||$1288||Yes||Yes||AP Credits|
To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit our ranking methodology page.
*Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
Why Should I Get a Small Business Management Associate Degree?
Getting a small business management associate degree may be the right fit for anybody who is ready to make their professional goals a reality. Perhaps you've been dreaming of opening your own small business for so long that you feel confident you don't need a business degree to tell you how to run your business. While it's true that there is no prerequisite that says you need a degree in business before starting your own, an associate degree in small business management will equip you with specific knowledge of the industry which could help you succeed. As the current failure rate for new small businesses remains at 50% in the first five years, being as well prepared as possible before taking on any new venture is a good idea.
A traditional associate degree requires in-person classes and only takes about two full-time years to complete. However, many schools offer part-time enrollment, and while this means it will take longer to graduate, you will be able to remain working while you work towards your associate degree in small business management.
How to Choose a Small Business Management Associate Program
When looking for a small business management associate program that is the best fit for you, there are a couple of things to consider.
The first is to take a look at your goals. Where do you want this degree to take you? Are you looking for an entry-level job in the business field, or are you going to be using your degree to start your own business? Looking for a program which facilitates an internship should be high on your list, because real-world experience is important. Ask the admissions office for a list of companies where students have interned previously, and if any of the companies fall within your interest, make sure they are still currently placing students there.
Are you looking to commit to two full-time years, or do you want the flexibility of part-time classes? Most colleges offer the option to attend part-time, but it always smart to check before making a decision, just in case.
What kind of support will the university offer you after graduation? Some schools allow graduates to return to their career support office for the rest of their lives, which is a huge networking advantage. If you get laid off or are interested in a different facet of business five or ten years after graduation, will they still help you?
Application and Admissions for Small Business Management Associate Degree Programs
To apply for a small business management program, you must have a high school diploma and be able to supply your university of choice with your high school transcript.
Universities all have slightly different application and admissions processes, so it's always best to check directly with them. However, you may run into some or all of the following during the admissions process:
- Filling out your application. This is typically completed online, but universities should inform you if their application deviates from the norm in any way.
- Sending in your high school transcripts with your GPA, any teacher recommendations you may have obtained, and any test scores, such as your SAT scores, that you wish to submit. Recommendations and test scores may not be required for your program, but it's best to check with an advisor or school representative in the admissions office to see what would give you the best chances of being accepted.
- Talk to an admissions counselor or business advisor from the program. This may be a requirement from the university before accepting you, but more likely than not it will be optional and something you need to request. You have probably already toured the campus before deciding to apply, but speaking to someone from your chosen program can help to give you a better sense of the type of support you will get from them, including response times, extra materials, etc.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Small Business Management Associate Degree?
An associate degree in small business management typically takes around two years. However, that is assuming you are attending the program full-time. Part-time students will be in school for a longer period of time, depending on how may credits they choose to take each semester. Check with the admissions office to see what the minimum and maximum credit limits are to be considered as a part-time or full-time student.
If your program allows you to complete an internship for credits, keep in mind that a portion of this time will be spent applying your knowledge in a real-life setting, rather than in a classroom, as real-world experience is always highly valued. Even if your program only allows you to complete one internship for credits, keep in mind that you can always participate in a second internship, even if you aren't getting credit for it. Your school may not value a second internship, but when you graduate it will be a fantastic thing to add to your resume.
How Much Does an Associate Degree in Small Business Management Cost?
An associate degree in small business management will range in price depending on which university you decide to attend, but the average cost of going to a public university for a two-year degree during the 2020-2021 school year was $3,770 a year.
Sometimes online programs can be a bit cheaper than their traditional counterparts, but this is not necessarily the right path for everyone.
Attending a junior college or community college will most likely be your cheapest option, with in-state public schools following after that, and then finally, out-of-state or private universities being the most expensive.
Associate Degree Coursework
You may be wondering what type of courses you can expect to take in order to complete your associate degree in small business management. You will most likely be expected to take some general education courses, so that you are achieving a well-rounded education. These courses may include math, science, economics, English and writing, or other humanities courses. Completing your major (or your minor in business management, if you decide to pursue a bachelor's degree) will require a wide variety of other coursework as well. Below is a list of exciting and engaging courses that you may see as options in your program:
- Principles of Finance
- Customer Service
- Business Plan Development
- Principles of Management
- Small Business Management Operations
How Much Can I Earn with an Associate Degree in Small Business Management
Your opportunities with an associate degree in small business management are endless, especially if you go into business for yourself. You could start your own small business and watch it grow into a multi-million-dollar company, or you could join the workforce for an employer and rise through the ranks. As a new graduate looking for an entry level position, you could take a job as an administrative assistant or a project management specialist. Though pay is usually based off of experience, the median salary of administrative assistants in 2020 was $40,990, and the median salary of project management specialists in May 2020 was $77,420 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Many jobs will also offer higher pay the longer you work in a particular field, for example, you may start out as an administrative assistant, but once you have enough experience you could be promoted or look for a new position as an executive assistant, which could come with a significant salary increase. Alternatively, if you started in sales or marketing, you could move up to sales or marketing manager positions.
Begin a Career as a Small Business Owner
Becoming a small business owner is a goal that many people dream about and aspire to achieve one day, and obtaining an associate degree in small business management can help you to make that dream a reality. The salary for a small business owner is hard to generalize, given the wide variety of businesses one could choose to create. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for all self-employed workers is $32,020. The BLS also notes that those working in the most lucrative fields, such as personal care and service, building and grounds cleaning and maintenance, construction and extraction, management, transportation and material moving, business and financial operations, and lastly, arts, design, entertainment, and sport and media made a median annual income of over $60,000 in 2016.
Begin a Career as an Executive Assistant
If you aren't interested in starting your own business, or just want to get some office experience before diving into entrepreneurship, becoming an executive assistant could be a great opportunity. In order to become an executive assistant, you will most likely need to have some assistant or office experience, so you may need to start as an administrative assistant and work your way up. As an executive assistant, you will know the company you are working for inside and out, and will be responsible for a lot of the day-to-day operations. The average annual salary for an executive assistant is $65,230, according to the BLS.
Accreditation for Small Business Management Associate Degree Programs
Attending an accredited institution and program is very important and you should always make sure that the school you are interested in is accredited before applying or accepting an enrollment offer. Schools and programs can be accredited on either a national or regional level, but there are also accreditation organizations which specialize in certain fields. There are many accreditors who specialize in business degrees, but most of them focus on higher education programs such as master's programs in business or accounting. The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, ACBSP specializes in associate degrees, so checking to see if they have accredited your school of choice is a good way to screen potential programs that you're interested in.
Career Advancement in Small Business Management
Once you graduate and are the proud recipient of an associate degree in small business management, you may be wondering where you can go from there, and how you can set yourself up for promotions and raises.
Furthering your education is one option. The higher your level of education, the more desirable you are to a company (and the more they may feel compelled to pay you).
Another option is to stay within a single company or position for multiple years in order to gain substantial experience within a specialized field. Some positions that don't require any additional education, just years of experience, include roles within sales and marketing. In these types of fields, the promotion from assistant to specialist or coordinator is a common occurrence.
What Are Other Small Business Management Degree Options?
Of course, an associate degree in small business management is not the only educational path you can take to reach your business aspirations. Many universities offer bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, doctoral degrees or even certificate programs in small business management. These alternative degrees may be right for someone looking to continue their education after receiving an associate degree. The alternate certificate programs may help those who already have an unrelated degree but are looking to expand their knowledge into small business management.
Bachelor's Degrees in Small Business Management
A common degree for a business major to obtain is a bachelor's degree. Many employers look for candidates with four-year degrees, and your job opportunities will open up even further after completing a bachelor's degree in business management
When choosing a program to enroll in for your bachelor's degree, you'll notice that some offer a Bachelor of Arts (BA), some offer a Bachelor of Science (BS), and some offer both. A BA degree program will focus more on liberal arts. A BS degree program will be heavily based in math and science. Both are valuable in the eyes of employers and graduate schools, so the decision of which one to choose is a personal one and depends on your individual career goals.
Master's Degrees in Small Business Management
While a bachelor's degree will open the door to a lot of opportunities in business management and operations sometimes a master's degree is necessary to move up to a more prominent and advanced position.
When choosing a graduate program, you have the option to choose either a Master of Business Administration (MBA), or a Master of Science (MS). Many students who choose to follow an MS in business do so right after obtaining their undergraduate degree. An MBA on the other hand, is directed more towards those who have been working for at least a few years post-undergrad. An MBA is especially practical if you are hoping to become a leader in your field or company, by expanding your knowledge in a field that you already have experience working in.
Doctoral Degrees in Small Business Management
After receiving a master's degree, many students consider doctoral degrees. You can obtain a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), depending on what your goals are. A PhD is more research-oriented, while a DBA is more applicable to field knowledge.
Certificate Programs in Small Business Management
A certificate program in small business management might be the right choice for you if you do not want to designate a lot of time to the program. Certificate programs can usually be completed in a semester or two, and cost considerably less than an associate degree.
If you already have a degree in a field unrelated to business (for example, English), but want to start your own business (for example, a writing center or tutoring company), completing this type of certificate could equip you with the necessary knowledge in order to start and run a successful business.
Scholarships & Financial Aid for Small Business Management Associate Degrees
FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a great place to start when you first begin looking for financial aid options in order to go back to school for an associate degree in small business administration. They offer federal loans, and if you are interested in working your way through school through a work-study program, the FAFSA application decides whether you're qualified for this type of aid as well.
Many schools offer school-specific, program-specific, and demographic-specific scholarships and financial aid options, so you should check with your university's financial aid about what is available to you as a business student.
Your financial aid office will know the most about their own programs and finance options, and have helped countless other students fund their education, so they are an amazing resource for anyone who is unsure of where to start. They can even help answer questions about filling out your FAFSA application if you have any general questions about the process.