- How are MBA Programs Accredited and What are the Main Accrediting Bodies?
- What is the Difference Between an MPA and an MBA?
- What are the Top-Paying Careers in Business Administration?
If you’re interested in pursuing an MBA and doing it remotely, you’re in luck. There are hundreds of online MBA programs available today, many of which are offered by well-known and prestigious colleges and universities.
But not all online MBA programs are made alike. Some rank highly for the quality of instruction, course offerings, and student experiences. Others flounder on these same metrics, and often many other metrics, too.
When selecting an online MBA program, it’s important to be thorough in your search for the right program for you. This guide is meant to aid you in narrowing down your search in order to find the best online MBA for you.
Let’s explore some of the most important questions to consider as you look for an online MBA program.
Table of Contents:
- Start Early
- How Much Does It Cost?
- Is the Online MBA Program Accredited?
- What is the Learning Experience Like?
- Is the GMAT Required?
- Are Career Placement Services Available?
- How is the Program Ranked or Reviewed?
First things first…start the process of finding the best online MBA program early. Very early!
Deciding you want to get an MBA the last week of July doesn’t give you much time to explore your options before the academic year starts. Instead, it’s best to spend several months investigating online MBA programs and finding answers to the questions listed below.
You’ll need time not just for exploring your options, but also for filling out admissions applications, writing an admissions essay if required, practicing for and taking standardized tests (i.e., the Graduate Management Admission Test or GMAT) if required, interviewing with admissions committees, and so forth. The sooner you start, the more time you have to prepare, and the more prepared you are, the better position you will be in to gain admission to the school of your choice.
How Much Does It Cost?
Going to college isn’t cheap, particularly at advanced levels. You can easily rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt if you aren’t careful.
That being the case, one of the first things you should explore is the cost of different MBA programs. Though many online MBA programs are pretty comparable in terms of their tuition, there can still be wide variability in the overall cost from one program to the next.
Tuition isn’t the only thing you have to pay for, either. There are school fees associated with getting an online MBA as well as books and other learning materials and licenses for needed software, to name a few.
Beware not to evaluate potential MBA programs based just on their per-credit or per-class cost. Instead, get an estimate of what the entire program will cost. This is a more accurate representation of expenses because some MBA programs require more credits than others, thus adding to your overall expenditure.
When evaluating cost, also think about how each school allows you to pay for it. Do they accept student loans? Does the school offer grants or scholarships for online learning? Are there work-study programs that allow you to work to help defray some of the costs of attendance?
You should also think about how long it will take you to start reaping the benefits of getting an online MBA. Naturally, the lower the cost of the program, the sooner you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of a higher salary. This is especially true when it comes to paying back any loans you needed to pay for your degree.
Is the Online MBA Program Accredited?
There are several ways in which online MBA programs are accredited, including regional accreditation or national accreditation, as well as programmatic accreditation.
Regional accreditation is the preferred accreditation. It is governed by one of numerous regional accrediting bodies in the United States, like the WASC Senior College and University Commission and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to name but two. National accreditation is a less desirable type, and is usually reserved for vocational and trade schools as well as for-profit colleges and universities. In both cases, accreditation is at the institutional level.
There is also programmatic accreditation, in which the individual program (i.e., business administration, accounting) is accredited at a particular school. Typically, programs that are accredited are at colleges and universities that are either regionally or nationally accredited as well.
Accreditation is important for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that many licensure exams require applicants to have a degree from an accredited institution.
What’s more, attending a school with an accredited online MBA program opens the possibility of getting federal financial aid, which requires that students attend an accredited institution.
So, as you look for the best online MBA program for you, be sure you investigate whether each program that makes your list is accredited, preferably with a regional accreditation.
What is the Learning Experience Like?
Though it might seem like one online degree would be much like any other, this simply is not the case.
Some online MBA programs are bare-bones and offer little in the way of student resources. Others are ahead of the curve and provide online students with a learning experience that’s highly similar to what they might find in an on-campus setting.
The programs you consider should have, at the very least:
- A learning interface that is user-friendly and allows you to easily attend class, access course materials, communicate with your professors and classmates, and so forth.
- A supportive environment in which your learning is stimulated and that allows you to easily manage the various aspects of working on an online degree.
- Highly qualified faculty members who have demonstrated experience in business or related fields. The best online MBA programs have professors that have similar if not equal academic training, professorial experience, and education levels as on-campus professors.
- An academic advisor who helps guide you through the entirety of the program from when you’re accepted through to your graduation.
- Extracurricular learning opportunities, like online workshops, conferences, internships, and networking events.
You will want to consider how courses are delivered as well.
Some online MBA programs offer the latest in communicative technology with interactive video-based classes, student chat boards, and downloadable learning materials. Other programs lag behind in terms of the technology used and might rely on audio-based learning or out-of-date forums where students ask and answer questions, but not in real-time.
As another example, some online MBA programs still require students to purchase and utilize physical books. Others have moved to a completely digital format. These might seem like trivial differences, but how the course materials are presented to you could make a significant difference in how well you learn the material in your online courses.
Furthermore, you’ll want to explore what the curriculum is like for each program in which you are interested. If a program is accredited, it will have generally similar course requirements as other schools in the same region.
However, some schools offer different MBA concentrations, so it’s necessary to investigate what each online school has to offer.
For example, if you’re particularly interested in management, you’d want to search for online MBA programs that offer that concentration. Similarly, if you’re interested in entrepreneurship, search for online MBA programs that offer it.
As you consider the concentration you wish to pursue, ponder what your specific goals are in your MBA program. Actually, a better idea is to assess whether you need an MBA to achieve your goals in the first place.
For example, if your long-term career goal is to open your own business, having an MBA certainly wouldn’t hurt, but having an MBA also isn’t necessary to open your own business. The financial output required to get an MBA could actually set you back several years in terms of having the money needed to start a business of your own.
Of course, some careers require an MBA, so if you have designs on something like Chief Executive Officer of a major corporation, an MBA is all but mandatory.
Another factor to consider is where the online school is located.
While this might seem like it should be a non-issue, if you’re on the west coast of the United States and you’re enrolled in Harvard’s online business school, which is based in the eastern time zone, you’ll have to account for the time difference from coast to coast.
In many situations, the time difference doesn’t matter. However, if there are online class meetings or assignments that are due at a specific time, it could be confusing or create conflicts with your day-to-day duties at home and work.
Is the GMAT Required?
In the past, many of the top business schools in the United States required MBA applicants to pass the GMAT with a satisfactory score. And while many colleges and universities still have this requirement, many others have begun moving away from this component in favor of other admissions criteria.
This is a significant change as the GMAT requires a lot of time and effort to study for, and students that don’t test well can be hurt by the testing experience even if they have the requisite knowledge down pat.
Instead of using the GMAT, some schools are instead looking at things like students’ undergraduate GPA, practicum and internship experiences, letters of reference, and professional work experience as metrics for admission.
If you find that two or more online MBA programs are appealing to you, and one doesn’t require the GMAT, it could prove to be the tie-breaker between potential programs.
Are Career Placement Services Available?
Getting your MBA is only half the battle – upon graduation, you have to find a job.
While some online MBA programs offer robust career placement services, others’ career placement services leave a little to be desired. When considering this component of your online MBA program search, explore whether each program offers:
- Career counseling
- Resume and cover letter assistance
- Job interview preparation
- Networking opportunities
- Internship placements
- Job fairs and other recruiting events
You should also seek to determine the graduation rate and employment rate of each program in which you are interested. Many schools make this information readily available – unless their numbers aren’t quite what they want them to be.
A school with a high graduation rate indicates a good degree of academic success in the program. Likewise, online MBA programs that have a high employment rate among graduates indicates that students have the knowledge and skills that employers want. This bodes well for you as you begin your MBA studies!
How is the Program Ranked or Reviewed?
You don’t need to attend the top online MBA program in the country to get a quality education. However, there is usually a correlation with the quality of your learning experience and the ranking of an online MBA program.
There are many different rankings for online MBA programs available on the internet. Don’t just look at one ranking; instead, explore various rankings to see how your short-list of schools stacks up to one another.
It’s good practice to look at online reviews of MBA programs as well. Reviews left by students that have graduated from the program can provide valuable insights that generic rankings simply cannot. Students can let you know their firsthand experiences in specific classes, with specific professors, and so forth, which can provide to be helpful to you in your search.
If possible, try to connect directly with graduates of the specific programs in which you’re interested. Sites like LinkedIn are an ideal location to find professionals whose training is from the schools on your list. This kind of one-on-one discussion with a former student can be extremely insightful and provide you with details about your choice of schools that help you make a final decision.
Additionally, it’s worth asking MBA recruiters about their thoughts on online MBA programs. Top businesses in the United States and abroad hire recruiters to find the best and brightest graduates. These recruiters have intimate knowledge of programs across the country, and can be a valuable resource to you as you try to determine which online MBA programs they see as being the cream of the crop.
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