Guide: Finding the Best MBA Online Programs


It is extremely important to consider your own needs and career goals when choosing the best MBA online programs for you. A huge variety of universities and institutions offer MBAs online, but they will not all be helpful in every situation.  

Some questions to consider while looking for the best online MBA programs:

  • How important are tuition costs?
  • Do admission requirements determine which schools offer the best online MBA programs?
  • How will a school’s reputation affect me?
  • Would I prefer an online MBA with no GMAT requirements?

The decision to further your education is a personal one, and factors that make one online MBA degree better than another are relatively subjective. Some do have objectively lower tuitions or objectively higher academic standards than others, but what makes one program a better fit for you depends entirely on your goals. The more information you can gather about the best online MBA programs, the more well-informed you can be about which program will help you reach your goals.



1. Why do people choose online MBA degrees?

People pursue the best online MBA programs for many different reasons. Some use the flexibility offered by studying remotely to change careers, gain the skills to open a small business, or advance an established career in business.

Students can choose to earn an MBA online or select a traditional in-classroom program, but in recent years many people are opting for the flexibility of online programs.

Finding MBA programs online is becoming easier as they increase in popularity. They give working professionals the opportunity to further their careers without forcing them to uproot their lives or quit their jobs.

Because online MBA courses are done almost entirely over the internet, they offer special flexibility that allows students to continue nurturing their careers, attend class when it is convenient, live where they choose, or travel for work.

Online MBA degrees can be significantly less expensive than traditional courses. According to Forbes, as of 2015, a two-year MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is priced at $111,000.

However, a student who pursues the same degree through their MBA programs online can expect to pay $97,000. Beware, this is not a universal rule, a few MBA degrees online can be more expensive than in-classroom courses to cover the cost of computers and equipment used during the program.

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2. What can an MBA do for my career?

Online MBA degrees are a popular form of professional development for individuals in established careers.

Holding an MBA can make you more qualified for upward movement when coupled with business experience. Some companies will help cover the cost of online MBA courses if they believe it will improve their employees. 

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Image Source: The Best Online MBA Programs



The Princeton Review surveyed 2,000 MBA students and found that 42% of students surveyed had received payment aid from their employers that covered an average of 61% of their tuition. Furthermore, 44% of students surveyed had received a promotion while working on their online MBA courses.

Many students reported that their salaries increased once they had completed their degree at an average of 25% more income than before graduation.

The best MBA online programs also offer people the opportunity to change careers without losing their income.

They can earn an MBA online at their own pace and choose the best time to look for a new job. Some people even seek MBAs online as a way to learn how to open and operate their own business.

A huge number of people enrolled in MBA programs online are working towards new careers: 47% students surveyed by the Princeton Review were switching careers with the online MBA.



3. What are the limitations of MBA programs online?

One downside to even the best online MBA is that most students will have very limited interactions with their professors or fellow students.

Some of the greatest advantages of earning an MBA are the connections and relationships built throughout the degree program.

Good relationships with professors can lead to recommendations and networking opportunities that are not really possible outside of the traditional classroom setting.

The importance of networking is a business basic, and many of the best MBA online programs are aware of this shortcoming.

To compensate, some MBA programs online offer classes with live web chats or require students to have a certain amount of face-to-face interaction within the program. Since the point of an online MBA is that it can be completed remotely, extensive travel might be necessary for some students to complete this requirement.

This is important to keep in mind as you are choosing the best online MBA for you. 

Face-to-face interactions do not necessarily mean that any lengthy classes need to be taken in person.

For example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers online MBA students the option to participate in three-day lectures in some international and domestic destinations.

Students must participate in two seminars, which give them a chance to connect with professors and business professionals.  Keep requirements of this kind in mind as you are choosing the best MBA online programs for you.

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4. The Value of a Well-Known University

The best online MBA for you is based upon your individual needs and career goals. If you are hoping to start your own business, you will need different things from an online MBA degree than if you are hoping to move up at your current job. One factor that may help you choose which is the best online MBA program for you is university reputation.

Not all programs are equal. Just as some universities and institutions are more respected than others, not all online MBA degrees are well-respected, and not all of them will further your career in the same way.

A school with a wonderful reputation might help you move up in your company or land your dream job, but it might not be as practical for every situation. Tuition cost becomes a concern in this area because well-known programs tend to be more expensive.

Online MBA courses at prestigious accredited schools are more respected. This is because the MBAs earned online are held to the same admissions and academic standards as their traditional programs.

Despite this fact, many employers can overlook even the best MBA online programs. The GMAC, or Graduation Management Admission Council, published findings that 9% of the companies in their survey actively recruit from online MBA programs. This pales in comparison to the 77% that recruit from full-time programs.

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Image Source: Finding the Best MBA Online Programs

This does not mean that earning an MBA degree online would not benefit your career. Your resume, qualifications, and opportunities for upward professional movement are unique to you. An online MBA degree will benefit you depending on how it works into your qualifications and resume.

It also depends of who your competitors are. This can be most helpful if you are looking to move upward in an established career. An online MBA can help you in a situation like this because you already have the qualifications for your current job; it will only make you more attractive for a promotion.

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5. What Accreditation Means for You

One important factor that can contribute to a school’s reputation is accreditation. Accreditation with AACSB International, or the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, can make a huge difference in how an online degree is viewed.

 This is because AACSB International requires that schools and programs be held to certain industry and academic standards in order to remain accredited.

Online-only or for-profit schools like the University of Phoenix are not accredited with the AACSB and have virtually no admissions standards. This causes online MBAs from institutions like this to be less respected by employers.

This is because, in earning an MBA degree online like this, students are not required to be held to the same standard as those attending schools that are accredited.

A program like this might not be best for everyone, but that does not mean they are without merit. Online-only or for-profit schools tend to be much more affordable than other programs.

The University of Phoenix charges $20,000-$30,000 for their online MBA program, which is much less than a program like Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business that charges $135,000.

If you are hoping to start your own business, an online MBA like this might be a good choice for you. You can start at almost any time, the prices are usually much lower than traditional attendance, and the degree will help you learn how to get your business off the ground with skills like creating a business plan and customer retention concepts.



6. Online Program Rankings

Though online programs are becoming more popular, they are still the minority, and finding consistent online MBA rankings can be difficult.

Though many lists are available, each employs a slightly different methodology, and each has slightly different results. You can find lists based upon which online MBA programs are the cheapest, the fastest, or the most respected, just to name a few.

 In order to find the best online MBA programs for you, you will need to decide which factors are most important to you.

For example, U.S. News has published online MBA rankings for 2016 based upon the following criteria:

  • Student engagement
  • Institutional reputation
  • High admission standards
  • Faculty qualifications
  • Student services and technology

The four best MBA online programs according to this list are:

Forbes published a list of their own with online MBA rankings of the best online MBA programs. Their findings are based upon very detailed student surveys. Their criteria include but are not limited to:

  • GMAT requirements and scores
  • Admissions statistics
  • Average undergrad GPA for accepted students
  • Student and faculty ratios
  • Faculty demographics and qualifications
  • Services offered to students
  • Mean base salary after graduation
  • Length of program completion
  • Tuition rates
  • Breakdown of student body

The top four online MBA programs according to Forbes are:

  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Indiana University-Bloomington Kelly School of Business
  • Temple University-The Fox School of Business Management
  • IE University-IE Business School

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7. Program Admission Requirements

Admission requirements are an important aspect of choosing the best online MBA programs for two reasons. First, it is important that your qualifications meet the minimum admission requirements in order to gain entrance into the online MBA program. Second, it is important to remember that an online MBA from a school with more rigorous admission standards will likely have a higher market value in the business world.

Admission requirements for the best MBA online programs can include:

  • GMAT scores
  • Undergraduate GPAs
  • Business experience

Some people seek MBA degrees online for practical skills more than degree value. In such a case, admission standards might be less important than, for example, tuition affordability.

High admission standards might not be an important factor in the best MBA online program for you, but they may need to be considered so that you can make the most informed decision possible.

Something else to keep in mind is the GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test.

The GMAT functions to grade MBA hopefuls on their analytical, quantitative, writing, verbal, and reading skills. It works very similarly to an SAT test and allows the best online MBA programs to judge the aptitude of applicants.

Many students try to avoid taking the GMAT. This is because it can be costly and is priced in the U.S. at $250. It is also time consuming and can require weeks or months of preparation. On top of that, many people choose to take the GMAT more than once, which only adds to the time and cost.

There are online MBAs with no GMAT requirements for admission. Even many of the best MBA online programs offer online MBAs with no GMAT requirements or allow students to submit alternative test scores.

Strenuous admission requirements mean that online MBAs from that institution are more rare, which often makes them more valuable. Online MBAs with no GMAT requirements can be less competitive.

Exclusivity, however, may not be the best way to judge which is the best online MBA program for you. It is important that you consider your own needs and goals. Make sure that whatever program you choose is the best online MBA program for you in every way, not just based on admission requirements.


Conclusion: Which Online MBA Program Best Suits Your Needs?

The word “best” can carry a lot of meaning, and the best online MBA programs can mean different things to different people.

To find the best program, you need to first examine your own needs and goals, and then search out an online MBA that fits those standards. During your search, keep some of our larger points in mind:

  • A school’s good reputation may help you achieve your goals.
  • Accreditation is something to keep in mind.
  • Gather useful information from online MBA program rankings.
  • Online MBA program admission requirements are something to consider.

An MBA can open many new doors. Whether you are hoping to build a new career, make your own way in the world of business, or help your existing career grow, the right MBA program exists for you.

With the right online MBA program, you can achieve your business goals from anywhere in the world without missing a beat.

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