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How to Choose an Online MBA Program
MBA (Master of Business Administration) degrees are incredibly popular and are known to have a lot of benefits. The Graduate Management Admission Council completed a report in 2014 that indicated that 90% of graduates felt their MBA had been an excellent investment. However, completing a degree requires an investment of not just money, but also time, and this is something many people are in short supply of. Luckily, a lot of schools now also offers online MBA programs. In fact, there are so many that it can be difficult to choose the one that is right for you. So how do you choose an online MBA program?
What Matters to You?
First and foremost, you have to find a program that meets your personal career and academic expectations. Some programs, and schools, are better marketed than others, meaning that it is more likely that you have heard of them. This does not mean, however, that the program is also right for you. You need to also learn the difference between private not-for-profit schools, private for-profit schools, and public schools. While one major difference between these three is that of costs and scholarship, there are also other significant differences. Another thing that may be important to you is how quickly you can complete the program.
What Is the School and Program’s Accreditation?
A number of employers no longer recognize degrees that are not accredited. Often times, a school is accredited, but their MBA program is not. Additionally, there are many accreditation bodies for business schools and programs, and they are not all created equally. The most recognized bodies are:
- The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
- The Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP)
- The Association of MBAs (AMBA)
What Are Faculty and Staff Like?
It is vital that the program is delivered by innovative and experienced faculty and staff. The best programs are taught exclusively by doctorate educated faculty. Some even have credentials specific to delivering online education. If a school has a separate online faculty, there is a big chance that the program is significantly different from the on campus version and may therefore not be as good. Similarly, you should ensure that support staff is available to you as well.
What Is the Curriculum Like?
You should check that the curriculum of the online MBA program is the same as that for the on campus MBA. This includes readings, assignments, activities, and research. Make sure that the two programs completely align, in other words.
What Technology Is Used?
As you will be studying online, you have to make sure that the school offers technology that facilitates the delivery of the courses. Online classrooms have been designed in which students can network with each other, watch lectures, turn in assignments, and more. Accessibility to this technology is very important, and you must understand how you can interact with fellow students and faculty as well.
Does the Program Offer Value for Money?
Online MBAs are almost always cheaper than on campus options. However, the price between different programs vary greatly. Remember that the most expensive program is not always of the highest quality. Usually, you will find that a program that is AACSB accredited costs more, but your investment will be more valuable as well. You must make sure that the program fits your budget, particularly if you are not eligible for financial aid or scholarships and you will need to have some student debt.
What Is the Employability of the Program?
People study towards an MBA because they want to advance their careers. Hence, the degree has to be employer-recognized. There are various rankings available that show which schools produce the most graduates that work for prestigious companies. Most schools also offer career services and enable you to speak to alumni, who can provide you with advice on employability.
What Is Your Learning Style and Schedule?
Online studying is not always done in the same way. Content delivery can be very different, the times when you can log on to the system vary, some schools offer live lectures, and so on. If there are every any specific times that you must be logged in to the program, you need to know whether this is suitable to you. The same is true for enrollment dates. Some schools offer rolling admissions, others have specific dates at which point you can enroll.
What Do Other Students Say?
Naturally, a school will always present itself in the best possible light. Thus, you need to make sure that what they say about themselves is also what current and past students experience. Recommendations from people who have done the same program as you, at the same school, are the best way to find out whether or not the program is actually any good. Most schools will enable you to speak to previous students, but there are also many online reviews that are independent from the school itself. One thing to look for in particular is the responsiveness of the faculty, as this is very important for you as a student.
What Types of MBA Programs Are Available?
There are many different MBAs. Three of the most popular are the:
- General MBA, which is the most common type
- The Global MBA (GMBA), which focuses specifically on the global business world
- The Executive MBA (EMBA), which is generally quicker to complete but will require you to have at least 10 year’s work experience
What Are the Admission Requirements?
Different schools have different requirements for their students, and you must feel confident that you can meet those. Common requirements include:
- Holding a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field from an accredited institution.
- Having a minimum GPA, usually between 2.5 and 3.0.
- Completing the GMAT/GRE exam (most commonly for those who have a GPA of less than 3.0)
- A minimum amount of work experience.
- Completing an interview.
- Writing a personal statement.
- TOEFL if you are an international student or English is not your first language.
What Are the Demographics Like?
Make sure you find out what the demographics of your fellow students are on average. You must feel like you fit in with the program and with others. The school should be willing to provide you with a breakdown of the demographics of recent and past admission. This isn’t just about age, gender and ethnicity, but also about the professional and educational background of the students. Usually, online MBAs attract more mature students, and these generally have a desire to learn about real world situations, rather than wanting to absorb theory. Another important demographic to look into is graduation rate. If less than 70% of students graduate, you need to ask yourself why so many students drop out or fail.
Is it a Real Degree?
Frighteningly, there are now a number of MBA scams out there. You can recognize these, generally, by their price. They are presented as genuine programs, often with some regional accreditation, but they are incredibly affordable. For instance, some will claim that you can complete an MBA for just $2,600, some ten times less than a genuine MBA. You may feel that this is very obvious, but to date, over 150 different scams have been uncovered, who have made thousands of dollars by scamming prospective students.
These 13 pointers will hopefully help you find an MBA program that is suitable to your particular needs. Remember that this degree requires a significant investment of both time and money, so you should spend quite a lot of time researching the different options that are out there. That will give you the best chance to also see a return on investment.
Resources and References:
- The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) – Accrediting body for business schools. (AACSB.org)
- EQUIS – European Quality Improvement System, an accrediting body for management and business administration schools. (European Federation for Management Development)
- The Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP) – Accrediting organization for business schools. (ACBSP.org)