Online MBAs: An Overview

Read this guide to learn all you need to know about this flexible advanced degree option, including the pros and cons of an online vs. a full-time MBA program.

Posted January 14, 2024

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Online MBA programs have increased in popularity over the last few years as the pandemic restricted on-campus events and classroom software improved. If you’re considering an online MBA, you’ll want to know some of the pros and cons before beginning the difficult application process. Read our guide here to learn all you need to know about this flexible advanced degree option:

What is an Online MBA?

An online MBA is a Master of Business Administration degree taken fully online. If the current pandemic situation, a job, or other responsibilities prevent you from attending a traditional program, an online MBA may be your best bet. Some schools even offer accelerated degree programs where you can finish your degree in one year, completely online. Respected and internationally recognized online MBA programs are offered by many universities. They help you develop the knowledge and skills necessary for careers in business. Core coursework usually includes accounting, finance, marketing, management, and economics. Online programs offer the same rigorous curriculum as their on-campus counterparts; the difference is the instructors tailor their discussions to an online setting.

The Pros and Cons

There are both benefits and downfalls to getting your MBA online and whether it is the best program for you will depend on your unique circumstances. If you need flexibility and prefer schools outside of your geographical area, an online MBA should be something to consider. Below we’ve outlined some of the main pros and cons to help you decide whether this is the right MBA program for you:

Pros:

Flexibility

An online MBA offers the flexibility of pursuing an advanced degree even with other commitments. You can complete it anywhere in the world, making it easier to keep working a full-time job, take care of family, or fulfill other responsibilities. An online MBA also provides a flexible learning schedule, with coursework that includes live video lessons, discussion forums with classmates, and quizzes that you can take anywhere, anytime.

Credibility

Not all online MBAs are the same and different institutions offer differently accredited programs. Thankfully, there are some well-known universities that offer online MBA programs for students who are unable to attend full-time classes on-campus. See the full list of top-ranked online MBA programs further down this article.

Cost Efficiency

One of the greatest advantages of an online MBA is its cost-effectiveness. Compared to the on-campus option, many online MBA programs have much lower fees since they have lower operating costs. If you want an even more affordable option, there are some longer online MBA courses that offer month-by-month payment plans for those who need a little more financial flexibility. Some applicants prefer online MBA courses because they can continue to work full time to help finance their own program, another good option for those with employment.

Accelerated programs

While the traditional MBA will require you to take time off from work for two years, most online MBA programs can be taken in as little as 12 months with no need for you to stop working. You can earn your MBA on a much faster timeline while still continuing on your career path.

Build your network

The accessibility of an online MBA means that your classmates will be joining in from all around the world. Through the courses and discussion forums, you will be able to network and learn from each other, all without leaving your computer.

Same Education, Different Format

Though the delivery of the lessons may look a little different, the curriculum is in large part the same as you would have in the traditional classroom setting. In other words, both on-campus students and online students will receive the same education from the same experienced faculty.

Immediate Application

Since many students who take online MBA programs are also working full time, they are able to immediately take what they have learned in the classroom and apply it to their jobs. This can help you differentiate yourself from peers and put your MBA to work while continuing to take classes.

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Cons:

Lack of Campus Experience

Since you will be studying online, you will miss out on any in-person or on-campus experiences. Most of the time, a conventional MBA degree provides not only the curriculum, but also the daily interaction with peers and a scholarly environment. For some people, it is difficult to replace the feeling and atmosphere of being on-campus with online courses. There might also be some events and career support systems that are unavailable in an online format.

Study Balance with Other Commitments

Students who are simultaneously enrolled in an online MBA program and working full time must be able to balance their time well between several different commitments. Online MBAs require a lot of personal accountability as feedback and guidance are not usually instantaneously available. Deadlines, assignments, and tests must be enforced by the student rather than the school. This is especially true for those who are interested in the accelerated online MBA program.

Longer Time

Since you are balancing your time with school and work, you might take a longer time finishing your degree when compared to a regular MBA. Given that there are short-duration online MBA programs, this can result in a rushed experience.

Technology Cost

While the tuition of an online MBA may be lower than its on-campus equivalent, there may be added fees for the technological support required for the program. Necessary for an online MBA is access to a personal computer/laptop and a tablet or smartphone is recommended. Also important is a high-speed internet connection so online videos and assignments are readily available and clear.

Online Isolation

Online MBAs do allow for some interaction with peers online; however, for some students, this may be insufficiently social and lonely. Some programs offer remedies for this with online networking opportunities and other events. If socialization is high on your list of priorities, find a program that addresses this concern.

Top Online MBA Programs

1. Indiana University - Bloomington (Kelley)

Tied for first is Indiana University with an online option that is customizable to fit your life and career goals. They have seven majors to choose from with live online course options to suit your personal interests.

Learn more at Kelley Direct Online

1. University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler)

In a three-way tie, the online MBA degree at Kenan-Flagler is a STEM-designated degree. It emphasizes analytical skills in addition to management core subjects. You can also customize your degree in alignment with career goals with 25+ elective options. It will also give you powerful networking opportunities. You can build long-lasting relationships with your classmates during collaborative, virtual classes.

Learn more at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

1. University of Southern California (Marshall)

Marshall prepares business leaders with time-tested, forward-thinking skills so that they can advance not only their careers, but their respective industries as well. USC offers a combination of their industry-informed curriculum, intentional course modality, cohort-learning model, and expert faculty to provide an engaging and rigorous online experience. Though classes are given through a virtual delivery format, the effectiveness of the studies is in no way compromised. This program is very much suited for working professionals who desire flexibility in continuing their studies.

You can learn more at USC Marshall Online MBA Program

4. Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)

In fourth place, Tepper offers a Part-Time Online Hybrid MBA. Students will earn a STEM-focused MBA in a part-time, online format. With access to the same faculty as the on-campus, admitted applicants will work in collaborative teams among peers with diverse backgrounds and skillsets. Tepper also offers a customized, one-on-one leadership coaching opportunity that develops empathy, awareness, and self-reflection. After completion of the Tepper online MBA program, students will be equipped to manage people, build networks, inspire others, and execute goals with excellence.

To find out more, check out Tepper School of Business

5. University of Florida (Warrington)

Tied for fifth is the Warrington College of Business which offers an accelerated online MBA program. This 16-month option is available to students who have an undergraduate degree in business and graduated within the previous seven years. They also offer a 24-month option for students who require more flexibility. This course uses the same materials developed by the same faculty that teach on-campus.

Learn more about it at Warrington College of Business

5. University of Washington (Foster)

The Foster School of Business offers an online option fully compatible with full-time employment. This is a two-year program taught by the university’s excellent faculty. It is designed for working professionals who need flexibility in their schedules. Through a combination of the rigor and reputation of a Foster MBA and a blended schedule of online coursework and quarterly in-person sessions, this program fits any busy schedule, enabling working parents, frequent business travelers, and young professionals to continue their education.

Learn more at Hybrid MBA: Foster’s online MBA

7. Arizona State University (Carey)

Tied at seventh with the University of Arizona, the ASU Carey Online MBA allows students to take one core course at a time with flexible electives. They also offer concurrent degree options with their online MBA. At Carey, you can focus on your studies while managing a career and life. Students will be able to develop their management skills wherever and whenever they want. The courses are taught by the same faculty members of their Full-time and Evening MBA programs. And even though you will be earning your degree online, you will have access to the same resources available to on-campus students.

Learn more at W. P. Carey School of Business

7. University of Arizona (Eller)

Tied at seventh, the Eller College of Management’s online MBA program offers the perfect balance of academic excellence and schedule flexibility. The University of Arizona offers six starting date options per year. Once matriculated, students are able to finish at any pace that works for them, from 14 months to three years and anywhere in between. Graduate with the skills and knowledge of an Eller education, all without needing to sacrifice a job or family time along the way. Eller offers six program concentrations: entrepreneurship, finance, health care management, management and organizations, privacy and security, and marketing.

More information is available at University of Arizona Online MBA

9. Rochester Institute of Technology (Saunders)

In a three-way tie for ninth place, the Saunders College of Business offers an Online Executive MBA program. It was designed for mid-to-upper level professionals who want to hone their business and leadership skills with the goal of enhancing their performance, assuming greater responsibilities, and positioning themselves for future opportunities. The program involves a high level of engagement with faculty and peers. Students are given the opportunity to discuss, argue, compete, and collaborate with other seasoned managers on strategic and topical issues and projects. This is a 17-month, four-semester program with two start times each year.

If you are interested in more information, go to Saunders College of Business Online Executive MBA

9. University of Texas--Dallas (Naveen Jindal)

The Naveen Jindal School of Management offers an MBA program designed around a fast-paced life with no on-campus requirement. You can complete the entire curriculum online with exams administered in a variety of ways: embedded in courses, uploaded via email, or proctored through a testing center. While acquiring their degree, students can reside anywhere in the world. Naveen Jindal offers 15 possible concentrations, 13 MS/MBA double degree programs, and 59 different electives.

More information can be found at Naveen Jindal School of Management Professional MBA Online

9. University of Wisconsin MBA Consortium

The University of Wisconsin MBA Consortium offers the flexibility of online classes because they know that getting a graduate degree is demanding when you have work, family, and everything else happening in life. Their program is designed with professors, textbooks, classmates, assignments, quizzes, and tests all available in an online format. Classes are held each semester with weekly deadlines for assignments.

Learn more about it at the University of Wisconsin Online MBA.

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