The Online MBA: A Guide for Finding the Best Program for You

According to www.geteducated.com, the online Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) is the most sought-after online degree in the United States. With 355 accredited programs in the US, now is the time for an online MBA. The number of programs is larger than ever. Each program offers an extremely broad variety of experiences, from hybrid online/face-to-face classes to different specializations. Variety is important, but finding a program that matches your goals, career requirements, and aspirations is even more vital.

You want an online college that is affordable and will provide you with the training, support, and networking you need to advance you business career. Balancing quality, cost, and the use of your precious time is essential. This guide will help you do just that.

Why an Online Degree?

Online education’s main advantage is that it provides the flexibility to make education more accessible to a greater number of people. For many years, however, online-only institutions were looked down upon. This has changed. The track record for many online programs has greatly improved, with more and more successful business people proudly endorsing their online alma maters. Many traditional colleges are now offering their business degrees online. This helps to bring the notoriety of a strong college to the online degree.

The rise of for-profit higher education in America is something you should also consider. Some programs simply aren’t as rigorous or long-lasting as others. If you go to a college that closes a few years later, chances are you will be left with a defunct MBA that no one will honor or take seriously when you apply for a job. That is not to say all for-profit colleges are fly-by-night institutions. Some have lasted for decades. However, the rapid increase in online education since 2008 means you must navigate your search very carefully.

Be sure to ask around as you start to list possible programs. Find who has the best reputations, employment records, and the most flexible schedules. Look for programs that provide you will both excellent payment options and excellent, relevant training. After all, these are the same research skills you will use during your program. But first, consider whether going online for a graduate degree is right for you.

Online vs. Traditional MBAs

When selecting your ideal program, you will be faced with many choices. One of the most important of these is the choice between a physical (brick-and-mortar) school, an online program, or a hybrid program. With a physical program, you have access to on-campus facilities like libraries, archives, cafeterias, medical and psychological care, and exercise. You can meet your professors face-to-face and get questions answered in real time. You also have the support of fellow classmates in terms of meeting to study.

However, there are significant drawbacks that make many people choose an online program over a physical one. A brick-and-mortar school, unless it is local, requires you to relocate. Most schedules at these schools also do not permit you to work more than part-time during the week. While you may have a slightly better chance of getting financial aid at a physical school, most scholarships and grants require you to attend full-time. Even if you live close by, you must take into account the cost of the commute.

At a physical school, the classes are dictated largely by the professors’ and facility’s schedules, not yours. These problems are all but eliminated with online learning. You have flexibility in scheduling, and can study at any time. Most classes have due dates at midnight, allowing you to work on assignments when you can and turn them in digitally.

Finally, most online courses (at least in terms of tuition) are cheaper than their face-to-face counterparts. A survey of 52 online MBA programs revealed that tuition is usually reduced by between one-third and one-half when you go with the online option. In addition, many colleges wave out-of-state tuition fees to make their online degrees more marketable. Add to this the option to rent texts in the form of ebooks, and you get significant savings with usually no perceptible dip in the quality of education. This is especially true when online programs are linked to strong physical MBAs.

With the above matters considered, it is time to look at the list.

Accredited Online Programs

School Cost P/ Credit Acceptance Rate % GMAT Accreditation Body
Arizona State University – Carey $1100 58% 575 AACSB
Arkansas State University at Jonesboro $480 88% 614 AACSB
Auburn University – Raymond J. Harbert $805 64% 548 AACSB
Ball State University – Miller $408 69% 535 AACSB
Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper $1815 60% 648 AACSB
Central Michigan University $600 41% 490 AACSB
Clarion University of Pennsylvania $481 81% 499 AACSB
Cleveland State University – Ahuja $1074 53% 650 AACSB
Columbus State University – Turner $728 75% 512 AACSB
Emporia State University Online $706 100% 550 AACSB
Georgia College & State University – Bunting $728 62% 544 AACSB
Hofstra University – Zarb $1458 54% n/a AACSB
Indiana University – Kelley $1300 76% 640 AACSB
Jacksonville State University Online $439 38% n/a AACSB
James Madison University $775 76% 529 AACSB
Kennesaw State University – Coles $728 83% 592 AACSB
Lehigh University $1050 73% 621 AACSB
Mississippi State University $392 81% 579 AACSB
Missouri State University Online $307 93% 506 AACSB
Murray State University Online $596 n/a n/a AACSB
North Carolina State University – Jenkins $1350 78% 562 AACSB
Northeastern University – D’Amore-McKim $1433 85% n/a AACSB
Oklahoma State University – Spears $765 62% 601 AACSB
Pennsylvania State University – World Campus $1096 81% 542 AACSB
Pepperdine University – Graziadio $1564 78% 516 AACSB
Prairie View A&M University Online $611 91% n/a AACSB
Radford University Online MBA $827 47% 477 AACSB
Rochester Institute of Technology – Saunders $1357 68% n/a AACSB
Sam Houston State University $245 76% 490 AACSB
Southeast Missouri State University AACSB Online MBA $482 79% 521 AACSB
Southern Illinois University Carbondale $854 54% 570 AACSB
Syracuse University – Whitman $1341 90% 570 AACSB
Temple University – Fox $1296 72% 638 AACSB
Texas A&M University-Commerce Online MBA $596 66% n/a AACSB
University of North Dakota Online MBA $286 76% 560 AACSB
University of Arizona – Eller $1000 74% 584 AACSB
University of Florida – Warrington $1146 64% 589 AACSB
University of Houston Clear Lake Online MBA $0 0% 0 AACSB
University of Massachusetts – Isenberg $825 90% 570 AACSB
University of Mississippi $529 39% 557 AACSB
University of Nebraska $531 81% 622 AACSB
University of North Carolina – Kenan-Flagler $1466 51% 629 AACSB
University of Tennessee at Martin $526 59% 530 AACSB
University of Texas Dallas $1245 43% 595 AACSB
University of West Georgia – Richards $728 100% 446 AACSB
University of Wisconsin MBA Consortium $675 87% 544 AACSB
University of South Dakota Online MBA $415 72% 546 AACSB
Washington State University – Carson $750 49% 586 AACSB
Wayne State University Online MBA $664 17% 502 AACSB
West Texas A&M University Online MBA $328 82% 530 AACSB
West Virginia University $804 65% 517 AACSB
Western Kentucky University Online MBA $618 41% 570 AACSB

The programs on this list were selected using several variables. The first and most important was the cost of tuition. Most programs cost between $35,000 and $55,000 before scholarships, grants, and loans are taken into account. However, some are significantly cheaper, with the most inexpensive costing roughly $4,500. Next, the reputability of the program is taken into account. Finally, the flexibility of the programs’ schedules are considered, with special attention to whether class are regularly offered and at what times of day.Other factors such as additional fees, the length of the program, and the number of credit hours are considered, but did not have a major effect on list inclusion. All programs on this list are online programs, but some also have a hybrid option. Each of these programs is accredited by at least one body: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Association of MBAs (AMBA), or the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS). While the AACSB accredits public, North American MBA programs, the AMBA and EQUIS accredit roughly 5% of MBA programs across the world.

Choosing the Right Program for Your Needs

While not all programs are created equal, it is also true that not all programs will be a good match for you. For example, some offer MBAs with class requirements of only 10-15 courses, while others offer specialized degrees in Business Administration and require up to 55 credit hours (with usually 2-3 credit hours per course). The following questions will help narrow your search from the 355 accredited schools out there to a more manageable number.

1. Is a general MBA or one with a specialization a better choice for you?

This will depend upon many things, including the type of industry you are in. If you are currently working at a place you would like to stay, and are looking for advancement, remember that it never hurts to ask this question.

2. What type of reputation does this or that college have?

As you narrow your search, this becomes an increasingly important question. Again, internet research is your friend in this case. You need a program that has a reputation for comprehensive training, job preparation, transparency in its methods, and accountability when it comes to laws, regulations, and codes.

3. What connections does this or that college have to businesses in their community, region, and state?

Networking starts on day one of your college training, if not before. Getting hired is not just about your resume or skills. Is it about who you know, if you are memorable, and if you are on employers’ lists of possible candidates.

4. Which colleges can accommodate your overall schedule?

Ideally, you will have at least a steady, part-time job as you attend online schooling. This helps you make ends meet as you try to advance your career. If you are working while attending school, the best college for you will have options like weekend online seminars, as well as events and due dates that take place in the evenings.

5. How will you pay for college?

This question may seem more about you. However, all of the colleges in this list have a stake in the answer. Better schools will help you apply for grants, which are typically given by corporations, the state, or the federal government. Like scholarships, these grants do not have to be repaid. However, like with the Pell Grant, you can usually only get them once.

Accreditation: Why It Is Important?

Accreditation is one of the most fundamental yet most important aspects of a program. It helps ensure the reliability, reputation, and best practices of an institution of higher education. Accrediting bodies like the AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS make sure each of their members schools are up to the highest possible standards. They ensure each program creates industry-ready professionals. Those who adjudicate programs make sure students across colleges are learning the same essential skill sets, knowledge units, and get the same opportunities.

As a general rule of thumb, the older, more successful colleges have regional (as opposed to national) accreditation. This is not to say that nationally-accredited colleges have no value. However, since regional accreditation tends to work more closely with the individual programs, the “quality control” aspect of your educational experience is much tighter and more often evaluated.

The truth is, you are far more employable if you graduate from an accredited college than if you do not. Below are the things accrediting bodies insist upon in their member programs. All of these factors must be up to the accrediting body’s standards.

  • The college’s overall mission must be in line with the goals of the accrediting body.
  • The program must have similar or superior objectives and goals.
  • The requirements for student admission must be up to the demanding standards of the accrediting body.
  • There must be an adequate number of services available to each student (such as computing, internet and library access, regular courses, and tutoring).
  • The quality of the education students receive must be high or superior to the standards of the accrediting body.
  • The faculty must have strong reputations as teachers, scholars, and professionals.

Understanding MBA Accreditation and Accrediting Organizations

Knowing which organization accredits which program will help you in your selection. First, it is essential to understand that accreditation is an utter necessity in a program. It keeps teaching standards high and helps hiring companies ensure students have the skills and knowledge they need once they are employed. Businesses rely upon and consult with accrediting bodies to keep educational standards current and relevant to the market. These organizations typically review each accredited program once every five years through evaluations and site visits. They are also the network through which member programs communicate about their shared values and educational goals.

The AACSB is considered by many to be the most prestigious of the three major accrediting bodies. Based out of two locations, the United States and Singapore, they only accredit 700 programs, 525 of which are located in the US. The AACSB seal of approval means an MBA program is of the absolute highest quality.

The AMBA is a London-based organization. It accredits MBAs in 49 countries, most of which are in Europe. Only 2% of US programs are accredited by this organization. Those that are have connections with sister programs in Europe and other parts of the world, opening up opportunities for internships and classes abroad. They have very exacting standards for faculty. They also adjudicate programs that offer the Master’s in Business Management (MBM) and Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA).

While EQUIS mainly accredits MBA programs, it is also responsible for undergraduate and doctoral business programs. While this organization’s standards are different, they are no less strict. They evaluate everything from faculty, resources, and administration to networking potential, corporate relationships, and research. They are a result-oriented accreditation body. Only three programs in the United States is accredited by EQUIS.