The Master of Business Administration degree has become an iconic representation for the most successful among those who enter the business world. Though it is specifically designed to provide you with a solid foundation in practical business areas such as accounting, marketing, business operations and human resources, the true MBA program additionally provides students with broad-based knowledge of other disciplines such as psychology, sociology, corporate social responsibility, economics and more.
If you’ve come to the point in your educational career when you are considering enrolling in an MBA program, you may be wondering which program is the best choice for you. Naturally, part of your decision will be based on time and money available. And for those who need a convenient option in order to juggle their already hectic home and work life, an online MBA program may be the wisest move.
Benefits of Online Master of Business Administration Degree Programs
Online MBA programs make it possible for working professionals to earn their graduate degree without having to put their life on hold. They do it by utilizing the Internet to provide an education that isn’t restricted to specific days and times. Online MBA programs generally operate 24/7 offering you flexibility to access coursework when it is convenient for you.
In addition, an online MBA offers you a wide range of options when it comes to choosing an educational program and institution. You no longer have to consider schools only near where you live. As more and more brick-and-mortar higher education institutions jump into the fray of offering online programs, now you can choose to attend a school on the other side of the country without quitting your job and relocating in order to fulfill your dream of getting your MBA.
What to Look for in Online MBA Programs
Before you decide that an online MBA program is right for you, keep in mind that just because you have the freedom to move at your own pace and study on your own terms it doesn’t mean that these programs are easy. In fact, in many cases they can be more challenging than conventional degree programs.
That being said online MBA programs provide you with the same admission requirements, curriculum, faculty and educational standards that brick-and-mortar schools offer. The only real difference is the instructional methods utilized. In the case of online programs class information is provided through Web sites and online libraries, discussions take place via discussion threads and live chats, lectures are accessed through Web-based video and podcasts, and assignments are submitted by uploading a file.
In general, online MBA programs are similar when it comes to course topics, major areas of study and such. However, quality may vary based on the individual school, so there are several things that you should look for in an online MBA program:
- Time commitment
Importance of MBA Program Accreditation
Chances are that if you are currently attending or have already completed your undergraduate degree program than you know all about the importance of school accreditation. Accreditation is the recognition an educational institution receives for maintaining standards of learning excellence.
Online degree programs are no different than on-campus schools when it comes to an educational institution’s accreditation. In fact, some might argue that online program accreditation is more important considering the bad rap that online degree programs still receive from many naysayers.
So you should be sure to verify that the online MBA program that you choose is accredited not only by the traditional regional or national accrediting organization recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE), but also through the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) or a similar agency that specializes in distance and online learning AND that is recognized by the USDE.
Traditional accreditation bodies include:
- Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA)
- Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
In addition, you may want to look for programs which are accredited through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB – International).
Online MBA Program Rankings
Another way to determine the quality of an online MBA program is through ranking systems available at many reputable sources which publish the annual rankings of the best of the best. These include:
- The U.S. News and World Report
- The Economist
- Wall Street Journal
- Princeton Review’s “The Best 300 Business Schools”
Though there are many schools available that offer online MBA programs, some of the best known include University of Phoenix, Walden University, Kaplan University, Keller Graduate School of Management of DeVry University and Northeastern University.
Cost of Online MBA Programs
According to the DETC, distance education institutions tend to be less expensive than traditional brick-and-mortar schools. The DETC recently completed a study comparing costs of college programs and found that students often pay half the tuition for a similar degree program when attending an online school instead of a traditional institution.
Even so, the cost of online MBA programs can vary greatly. Here is a representative example of MBA program costs as reported by OnlineMBA.com:
- University of North Dakota, $12,129
- Hawaii Pacific University, $13,410
- Upper Iowa University, $15,561
- American InterContinental University, $27,936
- Washington State University, $30,000
- Clarkson University, $46,104
- Syracuse University, $62,748
- Babson College (FastTrack MBA), $73,500
- Thunderbird School of Global Management, $77,940
There are several factors that contribute to the cost of an online MBA program. These include student population, funding available to the school and technology costs. Depending on the school, costs usually range from $400 to over $1000 per credit hour.
As you consider the cost of attending an online MBA program versus an on-campus program, keep in mind there are differences in the cost of programs. Besides the cost of tuition, there is the cost of books and course materials for both programs. In addition, on-campus programs might include out-of-state tuition costs, room and board, transportation costs and living expenses. Just a few more reasons why advocates of online MBA programs extol their virtues: there are fewer expenses.
Certificate, One, Two or Three-Year Online MBA Program
A typical online MBA program takes two years to complete, though there are accelerated versions. However, most working adults find that due to work and family commitments the two-year program works best. In fact, most programs require you to have prior or current work experience. And if you have at least 10 years under your belt, you may want to consider an Executive MBA.
One of the first things to consider is how much time you can commit both from a weekly studying perspective as well as an overall program time frame. And be forewarned: some schools, such as Kelley Direct, require that students spend some time on campus, though some schools have partner institutions where students can satisfy this requirement. In the case of Kelley Direct, students spend one week in both their first and second year, working on campus in groups to create business plans to be utilized by companies.
If you want to get done faster and can commit to completing 35 to 46 credit hours in one year plus an internship and final project, then the one-year program might be a good fit for you. However, keep in mind that the fast-paced one-year online MBA program is generally suited for those who already have an undergraduate degree in business along with professional work experience.
Another online option is the non-degree Executive MBA program which awards participants with a certificate of completion instead of a degree. In this type of program there are no grades or exams and it is all self-paced. However, while you might get the same educational benefit, having the real diploma on your resume will go a lot further to helping your career.