Doug Jones earned his MBA online from Arizona State University in 2004, graduating with a specialization in entrepreneurship. He utilized the knowledge and skills acquired during his program to forge a successful career in technology and management. Doug works in the tech industry and contributes his expertise occasionally to Affordable Colleges Online.
Hybrid and online MBA programs offer students the most flexible learning options. Some or all of coursework and group projects take place remotely, allowing participants to schedule study time around work and family commitments. But how do they really work? Can a student earn an MBA entirely online without meeting anyone face-to-face? Yes and no. Here’s a detailed look at hybrid and online MBA programs, who they benefit and how they fit into the greater MBA landscape.
The basics. Nearly all MBA programs thrive on collaboration. Groups of various sizes work on projects together, drawing from each others past education and experience to create a quality, well-rounded product. Of course, such collaboration necessitates regular communication that goes beyond the surface, which usually takes place in coffee shops, conference rooms or on-campus offices. Hybrid and online MBA programs also focus on group work, but leverage different modes of communication. For example, in the distance learning environment, peer groups might use video conferencing technology such as Skype or Go To Meeting to kick off a project or coordinate responsibilities. Some online programs, and likely most hybrid programs, also schedule periodic visits to campus, usually at the beginning of each semester. This helps students establish working relationships face-to-face, which they can build upon via both routine and ad hoc follow-up.
Diversity. Luckily, colleges and universities across the country are recognizing the need for “diversity of delivery”. MBA students come from a wide range of backgrounds and therefore need to find a program that fits their lifestyle. Whether online, accelerated, part-time or full-time, research is the key. Learn as much as you can about your target programs before committing time, money and effort. An MBA can make a resume; the right MBA can make a difference.
There are MBA programs to suit most every educational need and learning style:
Not all MBA programs are created equal. Each degree program has unique characteristics that make it a solid fit for certain students. For instance, an MBA candidate with aspirations of running a business may opt for a program with a strong entrepreneurial focus. Other students may want to attend a college with a healthy track record of placing students in internships with Fortune 500 companies. Whatever the motivation, it’s important to look at numerous elements before applying to campus or online MBA programs. Here’s a glimpse key decision-making factors that tend to stand out.
Not all online MBA programs are created equally. Students should research and evaluate the length of the program, the curriculum that makes up the degree, the opportunities to specialize in a business niche and the school’s reputation among employers. The ability to integrate real-world deliverables into their course requirements can enable students to make an immediate impact at their workplace. Students seeking a specialized MBA should explore online programs leading to degrees with a niche focus including:
The bottom-line value of an online MBA degree depends on whether the school and its MBA program are accredited. Most schools will be accredited by one of the regional accreditation agencies recognized by the Department of Education. Fully online schools are accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). In addition, MBA programs should also be accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE) or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
Another key consideration is whether the MBA program includes opportunities for internships, a critical consideration for students who wish to integrate learning and create life-long business contacts and mentors. MBA students typically complete internships with organizations in the corporate, governmental or non-profit sectors where they intend to hold managerial roles after graduation. Business leaders may also plan on obtaining professional certifications to benchmark their abilities in fields such as project management, consulting or as a Certified MBA. When evaluating a program, students should consider whether courses lead to knowledge necessary for obtaining certifications.
Online MBA degree programs typically are organized around a core curriculum and a series of elective courses that match the educational niche or career goals for each student. Core curriculum focuses around leadership, human resources, strategic planning, information systems, process management and change management. Here are a few examples of online MBA courses:
An MBA degree is often sufficient for managers to take on leadership roles in the nation’s companies and organizations. However, in addition to completing an MBA, business management professionals may also prepare and test for certifications that benchmark their skills, mainly for career advancement or specialization. Work experience can be a principal requirement for earning certifications. While certifications and tests are evolving all the time, it’s vital for students to seek certifications from organizations that offer reputable programs. Here are a few types of certifications to consider:
Other certifications sought by management professionals can be industry specific and include:
Completing an internship as part of the MBA degree is a critical piece of the career mosaic. Most MBA degree programs require student internships, so students should spend time evaluating internship opportunities available through their prospective schools. Paid and unpaid internships are offered during the school year or over the summer break.
Internships are typically offered in the student’s economic sector of interest: corporate, governmental or non-profit organizations. An internship with a respected employer can be an advantage when future hiring managers consider applicants. Internships often culminate in permanent job offers for qualified MBA candidates.
MBA programs across the U.S. may cover many of the same general management principles, business strategies and processes. However, unique careers at the management level call for unique degree programs. Students who wish to enter leadership positions, start a business or engage in industry-specific research and data analysis have a number of MBA concentrations from which to choose. Everything depends on where interests and experience lie. In addition, MBA hopefuls have various types of programs available, whether accelerated, online or specifically for veterans. Use the matrices below to find out which MBA options make the most sense for you.
Many MBA students already have work experience in a specific industry sector. For example, someone with five years working in health care may want an MBA to facilitate a move into management. Yet for that student, a general MBA may not be the best choice. An MBA program focused on health care teaches leadership, management and processes both in general and focused on the field. The latter gives students specialized knowledge they can take back to their jobs and put to immediate use. See which career goals mesh with some of today's most popular MBA concentrations.
|Career Goal||Consulting||Energy||Finance||Govt. / Non-Profit||Health Care||Technology|
|To work in a leadership position for an organization that makes a difference, either in the community or on a global scale.|
|To work among some of today's top minds, collecting and analyzing data to discern patterns and craft needle-moving recommendations for a wide range of clients.|
|To work with large companies on issues related to fossil fuels, alternative fuel sources and other areas where physical science and business come together.|
|To manage or lead a team within the health care and medical field, whether clinical, pharmaceutical or related to public health and disease prevention.|
|To work and/or manage on the cutting-edge of tech. This could include running a business or serving as a senior manager or executive for an online-based company. If it involves software, hardware or online solutions, I'm in.|
|To secure a management/leadership role at an investment firm, bank or related institution. To work with stocks, bonds, securities and other investments, either with personal clients, small businesses or large corporations.|
With a clearer view of how some popular MBA concentrations differ functionally, let's see how they differ financially. Of course, all MBAs open doors to new careers or advancement opportunities, but some industries tend to pay higher salaries to keep their b-school talent from flying the coop. Other industries covet the value of MBAs more than others, actively recruiting the degree holders each and every year. The below table dissects MBAs by industry with a focus on starting salaries for graduates, the percentage of companies looking to hire MBAs, and the sectors that pull the most students after the graduation dust settles. All salary data annual and from 2013.
|Industry||Avg. Starting Salary||Companies Planning to Hire MBAs||% of 2013 MBAs in Field|
|Health Care / Pharmaceuticals||$110,000||89%||10%|
|Finance / Accounting||$100,000||75%||20%|
|Government / Non-Profit||$80,000||43%||15%|
|Source: Alumni Perspective Survey, Graduate Admission Council, 2014 Survey Report|
Traditional MBA programs work for many people. They involve regular campus visits, group projects, face-to-face interaction and more. Some of these in-person elements, however, may not be ideal for working professionals and/or those with family obligations that extend beyond the classroom. Some potential MBA students may have circumstances that require even more flexibility. For example, the bank manager with ten years of experience yet no time to study for or take the GMAT. Or the junior manager with two years of experience but needs to finish an MBA program fast. See if these types of MBA programs meet your needs.
|Educational Need||Full-Time||Part-Time||Accelerated||No GMAT||Online or Hybrid||Veterans Only|
|An MBA program that looks more heavily at work experience, GPA and letters of recommendation than at test scores. I have a lot to offer but studying for and taking an entrance exam aren't for me.|
|A program that takes two years (or close) to complete and involves daily time commitments. I plan to earn my MBA in lieu of working.|
|A program with ultimate time and place flexibility, where I can submit work, coordinate with classmates and take exams from just about anywhere.|
|An MBA program that allows me to work full-time while earning my degree. It may require 4 - 5 years, but that's OK.|
|A program where I can work with and learn from veterans like me. Not only would this make the social aspect of the program more comfortable, but I'd be working with people who are battletested.|
|An MBA program that blends quality with speed, where I can graduate and apply my new skills to a current role (or new role) in less than two years.|
Every student researching MBA programs needs to do their due diligence. While this includes finding the right school, program and setting, it also means considering the financial pros and cons of the different MBA types. For example, a full-time MBA program lasts just two years on average, but makes working while in school a major challenge. A part-time MBA, on the other hand, allows students to work toward a degree without sacrificing the day job. Sure it can take three years or more, but students can keep earning a salary and gain more work experience while hitting the books. Each option has its own merits, but only a closer look at the numbers can help gauge the potential returnon investment.
|Annual Costs (est.)*||Full-Time MBA||Part-Time MBA|
|Room & Board||$20,000||$20,000|
|Books & Other Materials||$10,000||$5,000|
|Gross Annual Cost||$70,000||$45,000|
|Net Annual Cost||$130,000||$45,000|
|Program Length (in years)||2||4*|
|TOTAL MBA COST||$260,000||$180,000|
|* All costs used in the table are estimates based figures from the GMAC.|
Degree: Master's in Business Administration (MBA) with emphasis in entrepreneurship.
College: Arizona State University Online (2002 - 2004)
To MBA or not to MBA... That's a decision thousands of potential graduate students make each year after pondering certain questions: Is an MBA worth the money? Can I earn my degree online? Will I be able to juggle work and family at the same time?
It's easy for an outsider to do a little research and answer these questions, but nothing beats the inside scoop from someone whose been there and done that. Meet Doug Jones, the founder and CEO of Affordable Colleges Online, who used distance learning to earn his MBA, build a successful career in tech, and eventually become a web entrepreneur.
A couple things stand out. First, the ability to pursue my MBA while working full-time was huge. I can't emphasize that enough. Quitting work to earn a degree would've meant tremendous opportunity cost in the form of lost salary.
Second, working with classmates globally made case studies more interesting (and more valuable). And because I worked for Intel at the time, an international company, I could apply what I learned to my job rather easily.
The toughest? School + work + family can be challenging. My wife and I didn't have children yet, but we still had other things to think about that demanded time and effort. However, there's no way I could've juggled everything if I had been in a campus program.Many MBA programs rely on tight collaboration with fellow students, especially for group projects. How did the online nature of the program help or hinder communication with peers?
It helped significantly. Online forums, email, video conferencing - both lectures and meetings - kept us connected. It also helped that we met in-person at the ASU campus one week per semester. Here we met each other and the professors to establish a rapport, and then worked virtually for the remainder of the session.You completed your undergraduate degree on campus. How did your online MBA program compare to your campus-based bachelor's degree?
They differed in a lot of ways. Obviously, my online MBA had much less face time (although we had plenty of video chats). Also, in MBA programs, most students are professionals already, so the maturity level was higher. Lots of fellow students with a tremendous amount of experience to tap into and learn from.Did you have much interaction with your professors? Did you find it tough to communicate with no face-to-face office hours?
In addition to the week on campus, each professor had weekly office hours where we could email, IM, talk on the phone or video chat. We also had daily forum discussions about course materials and projects. I actually interacted with my professors a lot - far more than I anticipated.Did ASU have a support system in place to help you as you worked toward your degree?
ASU Online had career placement services and guidance counselors, all very accessible. I was also able to bounce ideas off some of my professors because many had significant work experience in the field.Did you receive any form of financial assistance? If so, was it easy to get for an online program?
I was really fortunate when it came to paying for the program. Intel paid for my online MBA. But if you don't work for Intel, many companies out there have tuition assistance and tuition reimbursement programs to help employees further their education. One thing I've learned during my current job is that financial assistance - whether from the government or a company - almost always requires that the target college has the proper accreditation. When applying to MBA programs, make sure it's accredited by an agency like the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business).Anything that really surprised you as you earned your online MBA?
The caliber of the students and the professors. I knew there would be smart people in the program, but many of the students and profs I worked with blew me away. Probably the most surprising thing, however, was the value of the online experience. ASU's program challenged me academically and professionally, but also offered tremendous flexibility. The online programs - whether MBA or otherwise - that strike such as balance stand to change the face of higher education.Any words of advice for future online MBA students?
If you can't afford going to school on campus, don't be afraid to embrace online learning. This new model comes with so many benefits, and the technology improves year after year. And if you can't study full-time, explore part-time programs. My program at ASU had more of a real-time schedule, but others can be more self-paced for the super busy.
This open course from MIT's celebrated business school examines in-depth the relationships between service and manufacturing companies and their competitors, suppliers and consumers. Taught by Professors Charles H. Fine and Donald Rosenfield.
This eight-week course focuses on the history and relationships of financial markets in relation to historical, social and economic forces, and an overview of major institutions including insurance, banking, futures, securities and other derivatives markets. Led by Yale Professor Robert Shiller.
A six-week course led by Columbia Professors Martin Haugh and Garud Iyengar, advanced FE & RM helps students understand principles, evaluation of risk management, and issues related to derivatives pricing/financial modeling.
Part of the Wharton School's Foundation Series, this eight-week course highlights studies in Six Sigma, process analysis, productivity, quality assessment, enterprise responsiveness and product variety. The format allows for real-world problem solving, research, and deliverables.
Professor Esther Barron, Director of the Entrepreneurship Law Center at the Northwestern University School of Law, leads this review of the legal tools necessary for entrepreneurs to initiate a new venture. Course covers forming LLCs, the protection of intellectual property, venture capital, and employment law.
Once a business is successfully launched, an entire new set of concerns face business owners. This course led by Darden School of Business Professor Edwin Hess is delivered in two parts, each presenting case studies and encouraging students to prepare strategic responses to issues in team-building, leadership, employee performance and change management.
The Consortium awards full-time scholarships to under-represented African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans attending graduate business schools.
Sponsored by the Government Finance Officers Association, the $10,000 Goldberg Scholarship targets MBA students who have chosen to enter the field of government finance.
The Forte Foundation's goal is to have women comprise 20 percent of Fortune 500 company boards by the year 2020. The Forte Fellows Program was created with the intention of increasing the number of women applying to and enrolling in MBA programs by offering fellowships to women pursuing a full-time, part-time or executive MBA education at our sponsor business schools. To date, schools have given nearly $45 million to more than 2,300 to Forte Fellows.
The Little Family Foundation Fellowship Award is available to past participants - both students and volunteers - of any of Junior Achievement's high school programs and to volunteers who have taught a minimum of two classes of Junior Achievement's K-8 programs. Eligible participants must have graduated from college and worked in business for at least two years after college. Applicants must plan to study for an MBA in a full-time, one-or two-year program at a participating business school.
The National Society of Hispanic MBAs has teamed up more than 70 colleges and universities across the United States to support qualified Hispanic students in earning their MBA degree. Over $7 million in financial assistance has been awarded since the program’s inception in 2004.
The Pat Tillman Foundation provides scholarships for graduate work that cover tuition, living expenses and books for service members or spouses who have receives an honorary discharge in any branch of the service. More than $4.6 million has been awarded to date for more than 200 scholars.
The NBMBAA Scholarship Program awards scholarships to deserving graduate students demonstrating strong communications skills, community involvement and leadership ability. Scholarships range from $1,000 - $15,000 and include membership to the association.
Businesses and business schools have long been male-dominated, and despite an increase in the percentage of women earning graduate degrees, including MBAs, women are still underrepresented in both the executive office and MBA classroom. According to Catalyst, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding the opportunities of women in business, women currently hold CEO positions at just 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 companies and at 5 percent of Fortune 1000 companies. At the executive level, the numbers are better, but still far from equal. Though the reasons behind the gap are numerous and complex, one obvious factor is the lack of women in MBA programs-according to The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, women earned 35.9 percent of MBAs awarded in 2011-2012.
Many argue that women face a host of hurdles in b-school: a lack of adequate female role models, unintentional bias and even biological barriers. According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council, the typical age range of a business school student is 25 to 34, which is also when many women start, or want to start, having children.
Many institutions and independent organizations aim to increase the number of women in MBA programs. Forte Foundation, for example, a nonprofit consortium of leading companies and b-schools dedicated to greater access and success for women in business education, has a goal of increasing the number of women on Fortune 500 boards to 20 percent by 2020. To do so, Forte has launched a fellows program to raise the number of women applying to and enrolling in business school.
Institutions are also striving to increase female representation by refocusing recruiting efforts, expanding mentorship programs for women, and creating women-centered student organizations to address issues and provide social and networking opportunities. Perhaps the most successful institution is the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. According to the Wharton website, the school attracts more women than any other MBA program in the world. In fact, its MBA class of 2015 is 42 percent women. Wharton hosts numerous conferences and admissions events throughout the year specifically for women, such as Women's Visit Day. The university also supports female MBA candidates through various organizations and partnerships such as Wharton Women in Business (WWIB) and 85 Boards, a global organization that Wharton partners with to support undergraduate and MBA mentoring and networking. Similar efforts can be found at other top b-schools, including Columbia University, the University of Pittsburgh, Stanford, NYU and Harvard.
Earning an online MBA can give women many competitive advantages. Forte reported that an MBA could potentially lead to pay gains of 35-40 percent of a pre-MBA salary. That estimate jumps to 55-65 percent five years after graduation. Earning an MBA can also lead to increased job opportunities, career advancement, and networking opportunities; not to mention boost one's expertise, credibility and confidence.
The benefits of an online MBA also extend to companies. Forte pointed out that companies that have more women in leadership roles perform better, achieving 53 percent higher return on equity, 42 percent higher return on sales, and 66 percent higher return on invested capital.
This nonprofit organization is dedicated to creating more inclusive and diverse workplaces by promoting the expansion of opportunities for women in business. Through research, services, and events, Catalyst aims to inspire change through awareness and guidance.
A nonprofit consortium of leading companies and business schools, Fortè Foundation’s goal is to increase women’s access to business education and opportunities. Fortè aims to encourage and better prepare women for a business career, educate women on the value of an MBA, offer financial support, and raise awareness of the impact of women not only on the business world, but also on society.
FT.com: Women at Business School
Financial Times offers current information and news on women in business and business education.
National Association of Women MBAs
NAWMBA is a nonprofit organization that focuses on empowering female business professionals and helping more women move into leadership roles. The organization serves female MBA students, female business professionals and MBA-level entrepreneurs, and universities and corporate partners.
Women MBA Connect
WMC, formally the Association of Women MBAs, is a San Francisco Bay Area organization that aims to advance the leadership and professional success of women by helping to promote, educate, and connect female MBA graduates and other women pursuing a career in business.
Over the past few years, online graduate-level business programs have proliferated. Students are now faced with the difficult decision of sorting through a surplus of programs, looking for the one that fits their unique wants and needs. This list should make that task a little easier.
We have combed through nearly 8,000 online MBA programs and highlighted only the very best. We selected these 30 school based on a number of factors, including strict accreditation, faculty quality, student engagement, and admissions selectivity. These online MBAs are an elite class, unsurpassed in quality and affordability.
For the specifics on how we identified the Top 30 Online MBA Programs, please read our methodology page.
Washington State University
|Cost: $750/Credit||Score: 100||Website: http://omba.wsu.edu/|
Arkansas State University–Jonesboro
|Cost: $467/Credit||Score: 96.9||Website: http://www.astate.edu/|
University of Tennessee–Martin
|Cost: $481/Credit||Score: 93.3||Website: http://www.utm.edu/|
University of Texas–Dallas
|Cost: $1,343/Credit||Score: 91.7||Website: http://jindal.utdallas.edu/|
Arizona State University (Carey)
|Cost: $54,600/Full Program||Score: 90.5||Website: http://wpcarey.asu.edu/|
Georgia College & State University (Bunting)
|Cost: $21,650/Full Program||Score: 88.3||Website: http://www.gcsu.edu/|
University of Florida (Hough)
|Cost: $52,500/Full Program||Score: 87.9||Website: http://floridamba.ufl.edu/|
University of Illinois–Springfield
|Cost: $304.75/Credit||Score: 86.1||Website: http://www.uis.edu/|
University of North Texas
|Cost: $291/Credit||Score: 85.7||Website: http://www.cob.unt.edu/|
|Cost: $464/Credit||Score: 84.6||Website: http://www.oswego.edu/|
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
|Cost: $531/Credit||Score: 84.3||Website: http://mba.unl.edu/|
University of Michigan–Dearborn
|Cost: $3,207/Credit Assessment||Score: 84.2||Website: http://www.umd.umich.edu/|
University of South Dakota
|Cost: $400/Credit||Score: 82.1||Website: http://www.usd.edu/|
Missouri State University
|Cost: $6,234/Year||Score: 82.1||Website: http://mba.missouristate.edu/|
West Virginia University
|Cost: $789/Credit||Score: 79.2||Website: http://online.wvu.edu/|
East Carolina University
|Cost: $5,616/Year||Score: 78.6||Website: http://www.ecu.edu/|
University of Massachusetts–Amherst (Isenberg)
|Cost: $825/Credit||Score: 76||Website: http://www.isenberg.umass.edu/|
University of Colorado–Colorado Springs
|Cost: $2,298/3 Credit Hours||Score: 74.7||Website: http://www.uccs.edu/business/index/online-programs/online-mba.html|
Mississippi State University
|Cost: $370/Credit||Score: 74.1||Website: http://www.distance.msstate.edu/|
Oklahoma State University (Spears)
|Cost: $358/Credit||Score: 72.3||Website: http://spears.okstate.edu/|
Columbus State University (Turner)
|Cost: $958/Credit||Score: 72.3||Website: http://gradschool.columbusstate.edu/|
University of Colorado–Denver
|Cost: N/A/N/A||Score: 71.9||Website: http://www.ucdenver.edu/|
University of Baltimore -Towson University
|Cost: $2,996/Semester||Score: 71||Website: http://www.ubalt.edu/|
James Madison University
|Cost: $775/Credit||Score: 70.7||Website: http://www.jmu.edu/|
Michigan Technological University
|Cost: $41,000/Full Program||Score: 70.4||Website: http://www.mtu.edu/|
Southeast Missouri State University (Harrison)
|Cost: $6,853/Year||Score: 70.4||Website: http://www.semo.edu/|
University of Louisiana–Monroe
|Cost: $509/Credit||Score: 70.2||Website: http://www.ulm.edu/|
Tennessee Technological University
|Cost: $542/Credit||Score: 69.8||Website: http://www.tntech.edu/|
North Carolina State University (Jenkins)
|Cost: $32,487/Full Program||Score: 69||Website: http://poole.ncsu.edu/|
University of West Georgia
|Cost: $1,728/9 Credit hours||Score: 68||Website: http://www.westga.edu/|