How Hard Is an MBA Online?

Joe McGoldrick
10.06.2022·7 min read

An MBA means salary boosts, networking opportunities, enhanced skills, and higher acceptance rates. That sounds great, but you might still be hesitant to enroll in an MBA program because it might be too difficult. So, keep reading to understand how hard it is!

The Short Answer

Undoubtedly, MBA programs are challenging, and their difficulty level varies. But, usually, an online MBA is neither a walk in the park nor extremely difficult. About 63% of online MBA students finish their degree. So, it’s a challenge that you can take on with time management and discipline.

However, the course material of an online program is often expected to be less demanding than an on-campus program, which isn’t true. After all, both types tend to cover the same topics thoroughly.

Debunking the Myth

There’s a myth that an online MBA’s course material won’t be as difficult as a regular MBA. However, an online MBA program is just as thorough as a regular one, so it’ll be challenging. Between the two, there’s only a slight variation in models.

Does that mean that you may not absorb the course material? Even if you don’t have technical knowledge in a business field or a business-related undergraduate degree, you can do it.

But how is that possible, you might ask. Well, if your Bachelor’s degree doesn’t isn’t in business, at Nexford you’ll enroll in four business foundation courses before you take the MBA core courses. This way, you won’t be behind. And with the right mindset, discipline, consistency, and support, you can readily take on that MBA challenge.

Admission vs. Completion

We can get a sense of how difficult online MBA programs are by comparing student numbers to graduate numbers. As mentioned, 63% of online MBA students earn their degrees. So, a good 37% dropped their MBA programs, but why is that?


The answer partly lies in the admission rates. In 2012, the Graduate Management Admissions Council conducted a study and concluded that the acceptance rate for part-time online MBA programs is 82%. To put that into perspective, the rate for full-time on-campus MBA programs is 45%.

With a higher admission rate and typically less applicant filtration, it makes sense that many more online MBA students would drop their degrees.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time

Online programs tend to have a part-time format, as they’re intended for employees with current jobs and other commitments. If you choose a part-time program, you need about 10 to 18 hours a week for your program. That isn’t counting networking and the added hours you’ll put in before exams and deadlines.

After all, you’ll have to finish your individual assignments, group projects, and more. Also, before deadlines and exams, you might need to double the number of hours you dedicate to your MBA program. With that in mind, you may still be able to juggle school and a full-time job, but that depends on your capabilities and additional commitments.


In comparison, a full-time program is more condensed, requiring 10 to 11 free hours a day. We’re talking classes from 8 or 9 in the morning to 5 or 6 at night. Not to mention, you’ll have to set aside 1 or 2 more hours for preparatory reading.

As you see, full-time MBAs are more challenging when it comes to the commitment they require than part-time ones. And we don’t see how you can balance such a demanding program with a full-time job. So, if you’re willing to put work on hold, you can get your MBA degree in 2 years or less.

Online vs. On-Campus

Let’s see how hard an online MBA is compared to an on-campus one. On the one hand, online programs vary in their interactivity. Some include no face-to-face interactions, while others incorporate live sessions, international immersion trips, consulting clients that demand live presentations, and more overall support.

For example, if you enroll in a Nexford MBA program, we’ll help you with early career planning, job applications, personal branding, and LinkedIn Learning. Also, you can reach out to your personal Success Advisor and faculty to receive support 24/7. Not to mention, you’ll get personalized, subjective feedback from your professors.

It may be easier to finish a self-paced MBA program (without live sessions) if you have the discipline. This way, you can squeeze your classes between family and work obligations.

However, if you need some accountability, it’d be better to choose a more interactive program. Either way, there’s a degree of flexibility in online MBA programs that facilitates them.

At Nexford, the standard period for an MBA program is 18 months, but you can finish your program slower (as long as you meet assignment deadlines) or faster depending on your course load.

On the other hand, on-campus MBA programs are more rigid. They include fixed lectures, strict submission dates, class participation, factory visits, industrial visits, field visits, on-campus presentations from corporate recruiters, interviews with potential employers, and more.

Accordingly, while a regular MBA emulates the work environment, it’s highly demanding and, in that sense, more difficult than an online program.

Tips for an Easy MBA Experience

Your MBA program can be relatively easy if you follow these five tips:

1. Manage Your Time

Time management is a valuable skill, and you’ll need it if you want to ace your online MBA degree without impeding your personal and work responsibilities. That’s especially true since online programs are more flexible, so the responsibility of making time for your degree becomes yours entirely.

It’s helpful to develop a routine and set aside fixed time for classes, studying, reading, and assignments. Then, let others know that you’ll be unavailable in those time slots, and sit in a distraction-free zone for optimal productivity.

2. Be Selective

Your life will become easier when you accept that you can’t do everything and need to say no at times. So, be selective about the commitments you take on and activities you participate in, and consider your priorities when filtering these future commitments.

For example, you might have to decrease your screen time, take a break from watching a show, accept fewer freelancing projects, or refuse to work on weekends. If you have familial obligations that you need to prioritize, try taking 1 MBA course at a time. Then, you can ramp it up to 2 or more if you have the time.


3. Prepare Adequately

Many MBA students have been in the workplace for years. And it can be hard to snap back into the student mentality, which is why preparation is critical. So, in the months before you start your MBA program, we recommend adopting the student mindset.

In other words, it’d be best to increase your daily reading material, read industry-related books and business journals, and take notes.

4. Accept Support

Your online MBA program will be much easier if you benefit from the services and support your business school offers you, such as alumni networking, faculty support, and full access to its online library.

Of course, you’ll have to select a business school that provides such support, to begin with. At Nexford, you’ll get access to our online library with over 60 million resources and 24/7 support from:

Your Nexford faculty members will be your mentors, answering your questions and offering you personal feedback. They’ll hold optional live webinars and dive deep into various subjects. Also, you can email them and schedule one-on-one appointments with them.

Success Advisors
From the beginning of your journey, you’ll get paired with a personal success advisor who’ll guide you through everything. They’ll show you how to succeed at Nexford and manage your time. You can contact them via video, chat, and email for support. Not to mention, you’ll have a personalized learning journey with the electives and specializations that work for you.

Writing Coaches
Our writing coaches can give you one-on-one coaching sessions to help you develop better-written communication skills. To illustrate, they’ll evaluate your current level, pinpoint areas where you can improve, and give you personal feedback.

5. Participate

Whether it’s a class discussion, online forum, or live webinar, participation and asking questions can help bring the course material to life. This way, you can relate the information you’re consuming to your previous work experience and strengthen your relationship with your colleagues and faculty members, which will come in handy.

Final Thoughts

Overall, online MBA programs are just as demanding as traditional ones regarding course material. But they have higher acceptance rates, are more flexible when it comes to pacing and deadlines, and allow for better work-life balance.

To further facilitate your MBA program, select an online business school that offers adequate guidance, 24/7 support, and additional resources.

Ready to take the next step and discover how an online MBA at Nexford could accelerate your career? Download our brochure or book a call with our NEXFORD Advisors!

About the Author

Joe McGoldrick

Known for strategy and attention to detail

Joe has more than 10 years of marketing experience, working within the public sector, client-side, and agency side.

He is passionate about using data and customer insights to improve marketing performance.

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