According to a 2019 report by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy, small business in the U.S. is a really big deal. In 2016, 30.7 million small businesses made up 99.9 percent of the total businesses in the U.S.. They employed 59.9 million people —47.3 percent of the nation’s workforce. Of the small businesses running, 24.8 million were small businesses of one, 5.3 million employed 19 people or less, and 5.9 million employed less than 500 people.
Small businesses exist in every industry as well, employing 60.6 percent of those working in accommodation and food services (8.3 million), 82.3 percent in construction services (5.1 million), 44.7 percent in healthcare and social assistance (8.8 million), and 58.9 percent in professional, scientific, and technical services (5.1 million). Also, 97.5 percent of all companies exporting goods from the U.S. were small businesses, generating 33.3 percent of the $1.3 trillion the U.S. made in exports in 2016.
Each small business is a vital piece of the larger economic puzzle—and each small business manager requires a balance of interpersonal, leadership, and technical skills to keep their small business thriving. One exciting aspect of small business management is that anyone at any level of education can gain the training they need to successfully start and manage a small business. There are programs for those who never graduated high school up through those who are seeking academic degrees in the upper echelons of academic attainment. For those who have the patience, drive, and discipline to hone the skills needed to run a business on their own, there is an incredible number of options to acquire what is needful.
While some small business management programs require students to transform their lives to accommodate the program by requiring full-time enrollment and on-campus participation, there are many online programs that are specifically designed for busy, working professionals. Online programs, generally, give a small business owner or aspiring business owner the freedom to learn at their own pace and within their own busy schedules by offering asynchronous coursework that can be completed when it works for the student.
In addition, by offering coursework online, someone who wishes to expand their capacity for small business management need not uproot their lives to move closer to a college campus. Many online programs are accredited by regional or national accreditation bodies, which require those offering programs to adhere to certain standards of quality similar to that of on-campus or in-person programs.
Keep reading to learn more about qualified professors teaching in online small business management programs, accredited programs for small business management for learners of any academic achievement levels, and DIY learning solutions for those who don’t want to commit to a program, but still want to learn how best to keep their small business a vital part of the U.S. economy.
Ashworth College’s online career diploma in small business management provides training in the practical knowledge and skills needed to plan, structure, and manage operations for a small business. Lessons in the 14-lesson curriculum include concepts in small business and self-employment, craft a winning business plan, make use of technology, and good business management.
Because this course is offered through the career school, there is no minimum educational attainment required to apply, nor any standardized testing necessary as a prerequisite.
Polk State College offers an online associate in science (AS) in business administration with a specialization in entrepreneurship. It is designed to prepare graduates to turn business ideas into real-life business opportunities. Coursework in the 60-credit program includes small business management, principles of microeconomics, principles of management, and business communications. Polk State also offers a 12-credit online certificate program in entrepreneurship that covers the basics of how to start and operate a small business.
Although not specifically tailored to small business, students who wish to delve deeper into business management can apply to the online bachelor of science in supervision and management program upon completion of their AS. Courses in the BS program that may be useful to small business include entrepreneurial management, legal and ethical issues in business, and customer relations in business. SAT, ACT, or PERT scores are required and utilized to determine placement in courses.
Ashford University offers an online bachelor of art in entrepreneurship that provides graduates with the fundamentals needed to plan, fund, and manage a small business. Students enrolled in the 120-credit program can choose to add a nine-credit emphasis to their program. Emphases at Ashford include cognitive studies, environmental management and sustainability, public administration, public relations, and web and mobile app technology.
Coursework in the program includes management for organizations, personal and organizational ethics, creativity and innovation, and small business ventures. Ashford does not require SAT scores for admission and provides different levels of admission that opens the program to those with high school diplomas, GEDs, and other high school diploma equivalents (home school, international high school, etc.)
Walden University offers an online master of business administration with a specialization in entrepreneurship and small business designed for those who wish to understand the risk, rewards, and responsibility of entering into small business ownership.
Coursework in the 39-credit program includes managing a sustainable small business, new venture creation and entrepreneurship, the impact of entrepreneurship, and managing first things first. No GRE or GMAT scores are required to apply and applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher to be eligible for admission.
For those who already have a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited institution, Oklahoma State University offers a 12-credit certificate in entrepreneurship designed to help entrepreneurs become proactive, innovative, calculated risk-takers in their business fields.
Coursework in this program includes growing small and family ventures; ideation, creativity, and innovation; launching a business, the first 100 days, and social entrepreneurship. Applicants to OSU’s online certificate program do not require the GRE or GMAT to apply but must have a minimum 3.0 GPA in their previous coursework. In addition, entrepreneurial work experience is preferred, but not required, to apply.
Some small business owners may find that the time commitment, monetary commitment, and academic rigor of an accredited business management program may be overwhelming while also trying to keep their small businesses afloat. DIY learning solutions may be the solution for the small business owner who wants to level up their management skills for free, on-demand, or in ways where small business is the central focus of coursework. The following resources provide courses that are free and small business focused.
The US SBA offers a wealth of free coursework that is specifically curated to help a small business owner to succeed. Each course offered takes about 30 minutes to complete and comes with worksheets to help solidify learning.
Courses designated specifically as management courses include an introduction to pricing, marketing 101, sales: a guide for the small business owner, selling your business, small business employee recruitment and retention, social media marketing, taking your high-tech product to market, and understanding your customer.
Quantic is most commonly known for offering a highly competitive, but completely free online MBA. For those who don’t want a full MBA program (or those who don’t make the cut), Quantic has a range of free courses available to help anyone level up their small business management skills. Specifically, the “Cultural Intelligence” course is a promising seven-lesson course that can help any small business owner thrive when working with employees from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Coursera partners with top universities to offer courses, guided projects, skill specializations, professional certificates, online degrees, and more. Those who aren’t concerned with certifications or titles can take a range of courses completely free, and upon completion can decide to make their learning “official” for a fee.
An example of a course on Coursera that small business managers may find fascinating is “Managing the Company of the Future” offered by the University of London and London Business school. The course covers progressive strategies for leadership, management, motivation, and organizational decision making.
Unlike some of the previously mentioned options, Udemy is an online learning community where anyone who can put a course together has the ability to put up an online course. While this means that courses on Udemy can vary in quality and academic rigor, it also democratizes who can teach—opening up the diversity of viewpoints available.
Some courses on Udemy are free, while others charge a fee. Each course comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee if the learner isn’t satisfied with the course content. Examples of course titles include proven people management process in small business, project management for small and medium business, small business crisis management, and business development principles for small business.