Is an Online MBA Worth It?
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Are you considering further education? The right qualification could boost your resume, making you more impressive to prospective employers. What’s more, it’s never been easier to study online – a more flexible alternative to in-person tuition, whether full- or part-time.

An online MBA could be the course you’re looking for. If you’re hoping to climb the corporate ladder, a MBA will teach you the skills you need to get ahead. And if you’re already in work, or trying to fit your studies around family commitments, the online aspect of the course could offer you the flexible approach you need.

But is an online MBA right for everyone? What are the outcomes like for graduates, relative to the in-person equivalent course? And how do you find a program that will suit your needs?

If you’re considering an online MBA, we’re here to help! In this article, we’ll cover the following points:

  • What an online MBA actually is
  • The pros and cons of an online MBA
  • Choosing the right online MBA program
  • Whether an online MBA is right for you

What is an Online MBA?

An online MBA is a Master of Business Administration course, delivered wholly or mostly remote and online.

Any MBA course will teach you the ins and outs of the world of business. It’s designed to develop business and management skills in students, and it’s globally recognized as a reputable qualification. While it isn’t a requirement, a MBA can give you a serious edge when applying for jobs in business.

But many would-be MBA students are already in work, and don’t necessarily want to quit their jobs for the sake of further study. While part-time courses offer a solution to this problem, they often still involve in-person classes and lectures. The need to travel to and from campus can eat into students’ time and resources in a way that risks jeopardizing their existing commitments.

That’s where the online MBA comes in. It offers all the same course content as an in-person MBA, but students can attend classes online from wherever they are in the world. And with a part-time online MBA, you can study at a pace that suits you, regardless of what else you’re doing with your time.

Online MBA Infographic
An example of the types of people who generally take online MBAs (© Univeristy of Memphis)

The Benefits of an Online MBA

Have we caught your interest? Here are a few reasons why an online MBA, whether full- or part-time, might be the course for you.

Flexibility

The major selling point of an online MBA is its flexibility. Attending classes remotely means you can study from anywhere – you don’t have to relocate to your dream school, or spend time travelling between home and campus. All you have to do is connect to the internet and log in, and the classroom will come to you.

91% of all online MBA students reported working full time when they enrolled on their course. The online aspect of these courses enables students to make their studies fit around their work, so they can gain both practical and academic experience in business. Many online MBA courses are also part-time, which enables the courses to operate so flexibly.

This flexibility is a serious selling point for online MBA courses. The average online MBA student is older than the average in-person MBA student, and therefore more likely to have established commitments like careers or families. The online MBA makes learning accessible to these students, offering them opportunities that would otherwise be closed to them.

Whatever your situation, you’ll be able to make it work alongside your studies with an online MBA.

Affordability

Online MBA programs are usually cheaper than in-person programs. The remote nature of the course allows academic institutions to save money on costs like room and material use – and to pass those savings on to students. You’ll also find that you save money on student living expenses, like accommodation close to campus, if you opt to study remotely.

It’s worth keeping in mind that these savings may not always work out cheaper, depending on your situation. If you’re planning to study at a private or out-of-state school, for example, your fees are likely to be higher. You should also take the availability of financial aid into account when choosing your online MBA course.

But broadly speaking, online programs are more affordable than programs delivered in person. If cost is a factor for you, this could make an online program the smarter choice.

Higher Salary Outcomes

Hoping for a boost to your salary once you finish your MBA? survey from 2021 suggests that US companies are prepared to offer MBA graduates a median starting salary of over $100,000 per year. That’s higher than it’s ever been, even after the consequences of the pandemic.

These benefits apply to online MBA graduates, too. The average salary increase for new online MBA graduates is roughly 60%, compared to what they were earning prior to receiving their degree. No matter the medium, a MBA has the potential to give your salary a considerable bump.

New MBA graduates also tend to report great professional outcomes, in terms of both salary and career progression. Many online MBA students report accepting new positions or pay increases during the course of their studies.

These outcomes aren’t necessarily universal. When considering programs and schools, looking up postgraduate satisfaction surveys can give you a clearer picture of what a particular program can do for you. But generally, if your career feels stuck in a rut, an online MBA could be the solution you need.

The Drawbacks of an Online MBA

An online MBA isn’t all sunshine, roses and astronomical pay increases. There can also be drawbacks, and it’s worth doing your research to understand exactly why a program might not be worth your time. Here are a few reasons why online study may not be your thing.

Remote Study

Many of us have had the opportunity to get used to remote work and study over the course of the pandemic – but that doesn’t mean we’ve all enjoyed it. Several of the same challenges you may have faced while working or studying online during Covid-19 will remain in place if you pursue an online MBA.

When people talk about the college experience, they usually mean the social side of things. In an online program, opportunities to network and socialize with your peers are far more thin on the ground. If you’re the kind of person who prioritizes the social element of work or study, an online MBA might not be the right move.

On the other hand, you might find that online learning makes it possible for you to socialize more, not less. If your existing commitments would prevent you from making it to guest lectures and social events on campus, an online alternative might be more accessible for you. Even regular contact opportunities like office hours could be easier for you to access when offered remotely.

Ultimately, what will suit you best comes down to your own needs, preferences and schedule. If the rise of Zoom has been driving you crazy over the past two years, consider looking into in-person part-time MBA courses, instead.

Lost Job Opportunities

At a full-time residential MBA program, you’re likely to encounter a constant stream of recruiters, work experience offers, and even hiring managers looking to take on new talent. Those opportunities can be harder to come by in an online MBA program.

That’s partly a result of the online format of the course. It’s much harder to host recruitment events remotely, as many of them rely on spontaneous conversations at events like careers fairs. While online MBAs offer amazing scope for international guest speakers, since the need for speakers to travel doesn’t factor in, other types of event can fall by the wayside.

It’s also a result of online MBA students skewing older and more established than in-person students. Many of the benefits of an online MBA suit students who are already working – in fact, on many courses, the expectation is that students already have jobs or even established careers. As a result, it’s widely assumed that the need for recruitment events or work experience opportunities is lesser for online students than students attending in-person classes.

That’s not to say that online MBA students have worse outcomes overall. As discussed, online MBA students and graduates report high levels of success and satisfaction as a result of their courses. But if you’re hoping to land a new job as a direct result of your MBA, consider an in-person rather than an online option.

How to Find the Right Online MBA

There’s a huge amount of variation between online MBA programs, and it’s in your best interest to do as much research as possible before you commit. Here are a few factors to consider as you narrow down your options.

Cost

Online MBA programs can vary in price from $16,000 to over $120,000. That’s still more manageable than the $200,000 you could pay for a top-tier in-person MBA! But depending on the course you choose, the finances could be tricky to navigate.

Remember that in-state tuition is likely to be more affordable than out-of-state tuition, even if you’re studying remotely. It’s also smart to look into your financial aid options. In the long term, it’s best to minimize the amount of money you borrow for the purposes of study, and financial aid can be a great way to overcome any financial barriers to further education.

Weigh up the cost of tuition against financial aid opportunities, as well as the quality of the course content and the satisfaction ratings of past students. There’s no perfect formula for determining whether any course is financially worth your while – it comes down to what you want and what you’re prepared to trade off.

Opportunities

Some schools will offer online MBAs which are exclusively online – no special events, no exceptions. Others will offer additional opportunities to meet up and network with your class. That could mean residence weeks on campus, opportunities to present work live to corporate partners, or even immersion trips to locations around the world.

It’s also worth checking whether or not your school of choice offers access to its career center. It may not be as eye-catching or exciting as a business trip to another continent, but in the long term, the rewards might be more substantial. Some career centers even offer one-to-one coaching, which could provide you with a real head-start in developing professionally after you graduate.

These opportunities usually come at a cost, in the form of higher tuition. Again, it comes down to what you want from your online MBA. If supplementary and career-based opportunities are important to you as part of your course, be prepared to pay a little extra.

Course Content

Every school delivers its online MBA tuition differently, and knowing the differences will help you to make an informed choice.

For example, while some schools only offer pre-recorded lessons, others offer live lessons delivered online. Pre-recorded lessons might mean a higher level of flexibility – if you’re at work during class time, you won’t necessarily miss out on a live element when you watch the lesson later. On the other hand, live lessons will offer a higher level of interaction with faculty and your peers.

You should also check whether your school of choice has an online-specific faculty, or whether classes are taught by the same staff who teach an in-person MBA course. While one option isn’t necessarily better or worse than the other, it’s worth having the information at your disposal when you make your decision. In particular, if your school advertises some major names on its MBA program faculty, make sure you know whether they’re available to online students, too.

Is an Online MBA Worth It?

So is it worth your time and money to commit to an online MBA? At the end of the day, it depends on you.

If you’re the kind of person who needs flexibility, an online MBA will be a better fit for you than a full-time in-person MBA. If you’re comfortable learning remotely, and don’t need the social or networking aspects of a degree course to get the most out of your studies, an online MBA will suit you well. In both of those cases, the elements of a degree program that you lose when studying online won’t matter, and the savings you make on tuition will be worth it.

But if you want to be sure of consistent and direct contact with your faculty and your peers, or if you can afford to trade in flexibility for the opportunities available when you study in person, you may want to consider other options. You could look into part-time MBA programs delivered in person, to maintain a degree of flexibility without compromising your experience as a student.

Take the time to reflect on what you want and need from a course of study. With a little self-awareness and a lot of research, you’ll be able to make a choice that will set you up for success in the future.

Waverly March

Written By

Waverly March

Content Writer + Resume Expert

Waverly is a freelance writer, former HR officer and current international traveller. They believe in doing your research, showing up prepared, and bringing your passions with you to work. They've helped countless job seekers create better resumes and cover letters to improve and grow their careers.

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