Is an Online MBA Worth It?

is an online mba worth it

Key Takeaways:

  • You must consider personal goals and professional objectives when considering an MBA degree.
  • Pursuing an online MBA offers flexibility and cost-effectiveness but may lack networking opportunities.
  • Accreditation, reputation, and ROI are crucial factors in determining the value of an online MBA program.

Introduction 

Is an online MBA worth it? Yes. The Master of Business Administration (MBA) consistently ranks first among the most popular master’s degrees conferred in the United States. Such enduring popularity suggests the numerous personal and professional benefits that earning an online MBA brings. If you have any questions about earning an MBA, you might find your answers in this article on how to get an MBA.

Definition of an Online MBA

But before you act on pursuing an online MBA, you should first familiarize yourself with its basic aspects. You can then make an informed decision whether you’re up to the challenge or not.

Featured Programs

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The MBA degree is a graduate degree in business that emphasizes the acquisition of the knowledge, skills and competencies essential for leadership positions in business management and administration.

Note that MBA graduates leverage their graduate degrees not just in the business industry but also in government agencies and nonprofit organizations. The numerous online MBA success stories, such as those at Drexel University and Purdue University, are a testament to its versatile applications.  

However, admission into the best online MBA programs is competitive. Every program has its specific admissions criteria, process, and paper requirements, but these are common. 

  • A bachelor’s degree in Finance, Accounting, or Business, among other approved fields, with a satisfactory cumulative GPA
  • Satisfactory GMAT or GRE scores; many programs are test-optional with conditions
  • Professional resume or curriculum vitae
  • Relevant professional work experience, usually at least three years and with effective progression
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Once admitted, students tackle a challenging curriculum with courses categorized into:
    • Core courses, such as finance, organizational behavior, and strategic management
    • Concentration courses, if applicable, with popular concentrations like International Business, Human Resources Management, or Supply Chain Management
    • Elective courses that expand the students’ business perspectives
    • Capstone project or an integrative experience

Many online MBA programs offer experiential learning opportunities. These include study-abroad immersions, consulting projects, and internships. There are also networking opportunities like virtual and in-person workshops, seminars, and conventions.

Growing Popularity of Online Education

The pandemic may have caused a sharp rise in the demand for online education, but it has been growing in popularity way back. According to AACSB, the number of accredited business schools with online MBA programs rose by 85% between the 2016-2017 and 2021-2022 academic years. In the 2020-2021 academic year, at least 45,000 students were enrolled in online MBA programs.

Such increasing popularity can be attributed to the increasing acceptance among employers of online MBA degrees from accredited schools.

Pros and Cons of an Online MBA

However, not everybody is a good fit for an online MBA degree. If you’re interested in pursuing it, carefully weigh the pros and cons of an online MBA. While you appreciate the convenience of distance learning courses, you may need the face-to-face interactions of in-person classes.

Pros

1. Flexibility and convenience

Students can participate in their synchronous classes using their personal computer with an Internet connection from anywhere in the country. Asynchronous courses make it even more convenient for students, thanks to 24/7 access to course materials.

2. Cost-effectiveness

The need for traveling to and from the campus for classes is eliminated. Students can also benefit from less expenses on books and supplies and other incidental costs.

3. Diverse learning opportunities

The best online MBAs encourage their students to look beyond their textbooks. Instead, they must learn from their peers and professors, use open education resources, and gain insights from experts during seminars.

Cons

1. Lack of networking opportunities

Since most, if not all, courses are conducted online, there are fewer networking opportunities in comparison with in-person courses.

2. Potential lack of accreditation

Online MBA programs can falsely declare accreditation unless you take the time to check the official accreditation agency’s website.

3. Self-discipline and motivation required

Online MBA students must be more disciplined and dedicated to their business studies because there’s less formal structure in online programs. 

You must also carefully consider online MBA vs. traditional MBA comparisons during your decision-making process. The more information you have about their similarities and differences, the more you can determine which one is your best fit.

Factors to Consider Before Pursuing an Online MBA

Let’s assume that you decided that an online MBA is the best way to go. But before you do, you must consider these three factors before pursuing it.

Career Goals and Objectives

Most, if not all, online MBA programs require a statement of purpose or a personal statement as part of their admissions criteria. Here, you can state your career goals and the ways that earning the MBA degree will contribute toward their achievement. As such, your first step is to determine whether earning an MBA degree will align with your career goals.

Examples of career goals and objectives related to earning an online MBA degree include the following.

  • Gain valuable knowledge, skills, and insights into entrepreneurship that will contribute toward a successful launch and sustained growth of my businesses.
  • Develop effective leadership competencies that will enable successful leadership of cross-functional teams and multicultural organizations.
  • Leverage the MBA degree to take full advantage of opportunities for career advancement in the healthcare industry.
  • Become a thought leader in the business industry and create a positive social impact.

These are general career goals and objectives, but if these resonate with you, then you may well be a good fit for an online MBA program.

Accreditation and Reputation of the Institution

Aside from regional accreditation of the college or university, you must consider the programmatic online MBA accreditation. The gold standard in granting accreditation is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Programmatic accreditation granted by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE) are also recommended.

Return on Investment (ROI)

The question, “Is an online MBA valuable?” can be answered by determining the online MBA ROI. Look at these data according to the U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 survey of graduates from the top 20 full-time MBA programs:

  • 86% of MBA graduates who actively searched for jobs found them within three months of graduation
  • $157,000 was the average base salary of these graduates; graduates from the top 10 programs earned a higher average base salary of more than $164,000
  • $31,000 was the average signing bonus for these graduates

The bottom line: You can recoup your investments made in earning an online MBA within a year after graduation if you can leverage it.

Impact on Career Progression

The significant online MBA career impact cannot be overemphasized, particularly if you earned your MBA degree from one of the best business schools in the United States. You don’t even have to point out that you earned it through an online program either, especially since your diploma likely won’t even have the term “online” on it. Even if your prospective employer asks, you will find that it doesn’t matter as much, thanks to the increasing acceptance of online MBAs.

With your MBA degree, you become a more competitive and attractive applicant for leadership positions. These include operations manager, nonprofit executive director, and corporate strategy manager, even for C-suite positions with more work experience.

Conclusion

Key Points

Earning an online MBA degree demands significant investments in money, time and energy. But its rewards, such as higher earning potential, accelerated career advancement, and professional growth, are worth it.

Final Thoughts

Of course, you must work hard and smart, too, if and when you want to enjoy the true value of an online MBA degree. In the end, it’s a tool that you can use or misuse depending on your readiness and abilities.