How to Choose the Best MBA Online Program

Joe McGoldrick
18.05.2022·15 min read

Choosing to be a post-graduate MBA student isn’t an easy decision to take. You already have a lot on your plate, from your full-time job to running a household and keeping that backyard lawn groomed.

But with the introduction of online MBA programs, more and more students have started enrolling in post-graduate MBA programs because of how flexible these online classes tend to be.

However, since you’ll basically be going through any of these programs on your laptop from the comfort of your couch, choosing the right MBA online program isn’t as straightforward as you think. There are many factors that come into play, such as cost, accreditation, coursework, flexibility, and community.

In this guide, we’ll make it easier for you to choose the best MBA online program for your needs and circumstances.

What to Consider When Choosing an Online MBA Program

With so many online MBA programs to pick from, things may get overwhelming. The first thing you need to do is know what exactly you should be looking for in an online MBA program.

Here’s everything you need to consider when comparing different MBA programs:

Flexibility

Working professionals prefer online MBA programs because they’re more flexible than traditional on-campus options. However, not all online MBA programs follow the same learning model.

Generally speaking, there are 5 types of online MBA programs. These include:

  • Full-time online MBA programs. Full-­time MBA programs are suitable for those who don’t currently have a full-time job. It’ll take you 1.5-2 years on average to complete a full-time MBA program.
  • Part-­time online MBA programs. These are suitable for students that can’t take a career break to become full-time students. They’re also tailored for people who have other commitments like family. However, part-time online MBA programs often require 3-5 years to complete.
  • Hybrid MBA programs. Hybrid MBA programs provide the perfect balance between flexible online learning and in-person interactions. Hybrid MBA programs may be full-time or part-time, and they don’t often cost as much as on-campus MBA programs.
  • Accelerated online MBA programs. Accelerated online MBA programs are similar to full-time online MBA programs, but instead of finishing the coursework and graduating in 2+ years, the program is compressed into a 12-18 month duration. As a result, these programs require a high level of commitment from your side, and they tend to be more affordable than relaxed programs.
  • Executive MBA programs. These are designed for working professionals who have already reached a senior position at their companies for a few years. Such programs are fast-paced, but they still have flexible scheduling to suit the busy lifestyles of full-time employees.

Timeline

Before deciding to apply to a particular online MBA program, it’s important that you take your personal timeline into consideration.

When are you expecting to earn your MBA degree? Is it in a year from now? Or are you OK with a stretched program if it results in a more relaxed schedule and better work-life balance?

Take a few moments to think about your current commitments and how much time they take from your week. You can then specify a certain number of weekly hours to dedicate to your online MBA assignments, classes, exams, and projects.

Some accelerated online MBA programs can help you earn your degree in no more than 12 months, but of course, you’ll have to commit more time to it.

Curriculum

When comparing online MBA programs, it’s good practice to manually check the program’s full curriculum.

If you think some programs cover topics you’re interested in more thoroughly, filter out the other programs and start comparing the handful of programs with the best curriculum for your needs.

You might also want to consider comparing the curriculum to other traditional MBA programs in prestigious schools.

Accreditation

Accredited online MBA programs hold more value and are recognized by employers inside the country and overseas.

Online MBA programs earn accreditation from specialized accreditation bodies that include:

All you have to do is visit the websites of these accreditation bodies and search for the school’s name and the degree. If the program is listed in one or more of these accreditation bodies’ directories, it’s a good indicator of its high quality.

Course Material Delivery

A great curriculum isn’t valuable without proper course delivery. If the professors are unable to explain the course material in an easy-to-understand way and link it to real-life business scenarios, the students won’t get the most out of the program.

Remember, the whole point of getting an MBA is to apply what you’ve learned to your job. If the course delivery is purely academic and you fail to understand how the material relates to your practical life, you’ll be just wasting your time and effort.

Community and Alumni

An active community can make all the difference when learning in a remote environment. Many students feel isolated when taking online classes, but with an active community, things get much better.

Check if the current students get to communicate with their peers and professors easily or not. This can help you better understand what it’s like to enrol in the class.

Also, before applying to an online MBA program, try reaching out to the school’s alumni. What are they doing now? Was it easy for them to get a job after earning their MBA degree? How was the learning experience from their experience? These are all essential questions you need to ask. Nexford University offers this opportunity through Nexford Network for any prospective learners.

Networking Opportunities

Online MBA programs present an excellent opportunity to meet new people in your industry and build your network. The quality of the students plays a big role here.

If the school has a history of accepting high-profile students, there’s a good chance that you might meet interesting people in your cohort.

Not to mention, you’ll be able to meet school alumni, meaning that you can meet with previous and future students through online platforms and campus gatherings and conferences.

Concentrations

Some online MBA programs offer concentrations that allow students to tailor their learning paths based on their interests.

There are many specializations in online MBA programs, which include:

  • Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurship MBAs give students a new perspective on how startups work and how they can start their own businesses from A to Z.
  • Marketing: Marketing concentrations prepare students for jobs in digital marketing, branding, advertising, and product management. Possible industries for marketing MBA graduates include restaurants and tech companies.
  • Supply chain management: In a globalized world, supply chain challenges and emergencies can happen in a fraction of a second, causing millions of dollars in losses. MBA programs that focus on supply chain management enable students to tackle these challenges and mitigate risks.
  • AI automation: AI automation is a new MBA concentration that combines IT with business. It’s suitable for working professionals with an interest in current IT trends.
  • Finance: Finance MBA programs provide students with what they need to comfortably work in banks, financial management institutions, hedge funds, and other financial organizations.
  • Business analytics: Making business decisions based on solid data analytics is key for sustainability and growth. An online MBA with a concentration in business analytics prepares students to work in multinational corporations, with roles like financial management, accounting, and operations management taking the lead.
  • E-Commerce: E-commerce MBAs prepare students for roles in the booming e-commerce industry. Students get to work in e-commerce businesses and even build their e-commerce startups from scratch.
  • Human resources: Building a scalable organization is about recruiting and hiring the right people for the right jobs. Pretty much any business in the world can benefit from the services of a well-prepared human resources manager.
  • Sustainability: Sustainability is at the heart of any successful business’s value. An MBA with a sustainability concentration presents an excellent opportunity to work in the renewable energy, healthcare, and agribusiness industries.

So, if you think that a specialized MBA will be more valuable for your career, go for it.

Similarity With the School’s On-Campus MBA Program

When deciding whether a specific online MBA program is worth it, a pro tip is to compare the program with the same school’s on-campus MBA program (if they have one). Check the coursework, professors, curriculum, and projects. If both programs look almost identical, you can guarantee that your learning experience won’t differ much from the on-campus one.

Academic Support

Learning remotely can be challenging for many students and even professors. Luckily, online educational programs have come a long way in recent years. Professors have become more comfortable teaching online, and the technological infrastructure has drastically improved.

Also, more and more schools have started integrating online communication tools and platforms to help students discuss the course and get academic support from their professors.

The best MBA programs offer academic support on par with their on-campus programs.

Professional Goals

When considering an online MBA degree, you need to keep your professional goals in mind. What are your post-graduation expectations? Is it a promotion, career shift, job change, or raise? What industries do you want to work in?

By asking yourselves these questions, you’ll be able to choose an MBA program that aligns with your goals and needs.

Cost

Online MBA programs may cost you just as much as on-campus programs. However, the total tuition fees vary from one institution to the other. The more prestigious the university is, the more expensive its online MBA program will be.

Check if any of the available online MBA programs offer financial aid in the form of loans, fellowships, or scholarships. If you work at a company, ask the management about education reimbursement for MBA pursuers.

Application Requirements

When comparing different online MBA programs, check the application requirements for each of them. There’s no point in applying for an MBA program if you don’t meet any of the requirements.

Typically, an online MBA program will have some or all of the following requirements:

  • Proven work experience. Most schools require applicants to have anywhere from 2 to 10 years of relevant work experience.
  • Letters of recommendation. Many schools require MBA candidates to submit at least 3 letters of recommendation in their enrollment application.
  • GRE or GMAT score submission. Not all schools require these scores, but having a good score is definitely a plus.
  • Minimum GPA. Though not as relevant as other requirements, some schools set minimum GPA requirements for MBA applicants.

Another thing to look out for is the acceptance rate. Schools with a lower acceptance rate are less likely to overlook even the smallest application requirements. So if you want to make the most out of your time, try to apply to programs with higher acceptance rates. Nexford’s MBA admission requirements do not include a letter of recommendation.

Reviews

There are various resources on the web where students review their online MBA learning experience. Read as many reviews as possible to develop a perspective on how worthy the degree is.

You might be able to live with some disadvantages, but it’s important that you acquaint yourself with how an online MBA program fits your needs and goals before applying, and reading online reviews is a great way to do that.

Narrowing Down Your MBA Program Choices

Many business schools offer online MBA programs. So applying to all of the programs wouldn’t make sense. You need to narrow down your choices based on your requirements and must-haves. Here’s how to create a list of potential schools for you:

Many business schools offer online MBA programs. So applying to all of the programs wouldn’t make sense. You need to narrow down your choices based on your requirements and must-haves. Here’s how to create a list of potential schools for you:

Make a List of Requirements

One easy way to narrow down your MBA program options is to list down your requirements to pursue an MBA program. What’s your expected starting salary after earning your degree? Are you OK with a high student-to-faculty ratio? Do you want a self-paced or instructor-led learning experience?

Make a list of all the things that come to your mind, and keep it within your hand’s reach.

Ask More Questions

When considering different MBA programs, ask as many questions as you can. Ask alums, counsellors, and current students about what they love/hate about the program, the types of jobs students often get after earning their degrees, and whether the professors are interested in your particular career goals.

Pay a Visit to the Campus

You might be wondering how a visit to the school’s campus will help you decide if their online program is worthwhile. While you’ll barely need to go to the campus during your course, going to campus in person a few times before applying can be a great idea.

You get the chance to attend events, meet professors and students, and even get to experiment with the school’s online learning platform.

What’s more, you’ll be able to meet current students and school alumni to ask them about anything you need to know when it comes to employment outcomes.

Research Research Research!

The more research you do, the better perspective you’ll form when it comes to choosing the best online MBA program.

Try to find as many business schools that offer online MBA programs as possible and categorize them into “Reach” and “Safety” lists. The “Reach” list should contain the schools with the least-likely acceptance probability, while the “Safety” list would have all the schools with a high acceptance rate.

Is an Online MBA Worth It?

In this day and age, an online MBA is undoubtedly worth it. Business schools offer online MBA programs to help working professionals expand their knowledge base and increase their career perspectives without going to campus every day. They cater to the busy lifestyles of full-time employees, travellers, and business owners.

Here are some of the benefits of an online MBA program:

  • Fits any schedule. You don’t need to compromise on work and family time to earn an MBA degree when you enrol in an online program.
  • Helps you develop a global perspective. Enrolling in an online MBA program lets you meet with professionals from any spot on the globe, providing you with a competitive advantage in a heavily-globalized business environment.
  • Moves your career forward. The knowledge you learn in an online MBA class is instantly applicable in your job, so you get to study and practice at the same time. Pursuing an online MBA program also shows your potential employers that you’re serious about your business career.
  • Allows you to study anytime, anywhere. In an online MBA program, you’re not restricted to a certain location or time. As long as you have your laptop within your hand’s reach, you can attend class from your living room or a sandy beach in the Bahamas. You can even access the course from your smartphone or tablet.
  • Helps you gain professional mentors. Pursuing an online MBA program allows you to communicate freely with your professors. These professors can become your mentors in case you need to ask any questions or look for career advice.
  • Grants you access to innovative technologies. Attending an online MBA class gives you the opportunity to learn how to use innovative technologies in the online learning industry. This will make it easier for you to enrol in other online courses in the future.
  • Lets you save money. Online MBA programs usually charge lower tuition fees than traditional ones. You’ll also save commute time and money, which means that you’re directly contributing to a greener Earth.

How Long Do Online MBA Programs Take?

An online MBA program can take anywhere from 1 to 3 years, depending on the program’s pace and how many classes you take per semester.

On a side note, keep in mind that Some online MBA programs follow a cohort approach, meaning that a group of students who enrol together must graduate together.

How Hard Is It to Get Accepted into an Online MBA Program?

It depends on the school’s status and the application requirements. For example, some schools require more than 2 letters of recommendation to consider you for enrollment, while others have very strict work experience requirements that may reach up to 10 years.

GRE and GMAT scores are also important here. The higher your score is, the more likely you’ll be accepted into the program.

Is an Online MBA Program Suitable for You?

It depends on whether you’re comfortable learning in a virtual environment. Not everyone is self-motivated enough to pursue a degree while staying home. For many learners, online learning will never replace face-to-face interactions.

You also need to consider other circumstances, like the number of people in your household. For example, is your home too crowded for you to be able to pursue a master’s degree from it? Do you have other places where you can concentrate?

How to Calculate the ROI (Return on Investment) for an Online MBA Program

There’s no straightforward way to calculate the ROI of your online MBA program, but we can give you some guidelines to follow.

Basically, when you invest the time, money, and effort in an online MBA program, you’re investing your career potential.

According to glassdoor.com, the average salary for working professionals in the USA with an MBA degree is $94,611, which is significantly higher than the generalized national average of $50,000/year.

Compare your current annual income to the average MBA graduate’s income, calculate how much you need to spend to earn an online MBA degree, and you’ll be able to get a rough estimate of the ROI.

Final Words

So that was a detailed walkthrough of how you can choose the best online MBA program for your needs.

By making sure that the program meets your requirements in terms of flexibility, affordability, and employment outcomes, you can rest assured that your investment will ultimately pay off.

Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to do as much research as possible and ask previous and current students about their experience in their respective online MBA programs.

 

Ready to take the next step? 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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