MBA Alternatives

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MBA Alternatives to Business School

Master of business administration programs prepare learners for leadership positions and careers as entrepreneurs. Many MBA programs take two years to complete. However, students often graduate sooner by studying online and full time. Earning an MBA from an accredited institution can lead to additional professional options and higher compensation.

However, an MBA from a top business school can cost as much as $100,000, according to Investopedia. Fortunately, learners can consider more affordable MBA alternatives to advance their career.

This guide explores affordable alternatives to an MBA, which produce similar career and financial benefits.

What Are Some Alternatives to Earning an MBA?



Most MBA programs include coursework in business, management, and leadership. Some programs require internship experience, which allows degree-seekers to apply classroom theories and principles to practical scenarios. The following MBA alternatives help students develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills. These credentials indicate that the holder is a knowledgeable and skilled professional.


  • Starting Your Own Business

    By starting a business, individuals learn many of the same lessons as MBA students. Business owners work to acquire and allot resources for maximum profitability and efficiency. These professionals deal with marketing strategies, organizational planning, hiring and training personnel, and production management. While MBA curricula cover these topics, business owners see these factors’ immediate implications.


  • Join a Professional Networking Organization

    Members of professional organizations receive online and in-person networking and mentoring opportunities. Membership fees cost far less than even the most affordable MBA program. Professional business organizations also provide access to publications and newsletters. Members stay updated on the latest market research findings and policy changes. Many organizations also maintain job boards and connect members with business and collaboration opportunities.


  • Open Enrollment Online Courses

    Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a flexible and free alternative to formal MBA programs. Students enroll only in courses that interest them and complete classes at their own pace. MOOCs also allow individuals to explore courses and decide whether to pursue the topic. Because learners can take MOOCs in an asynchronous online format, the courses rarely interfere with professional and personal responsibilities.


  • Leadership Development Programs

    Like an MBA, a leadership development program from an accredited institution or recognized provider can lead to advanced career opportunities. However, leadership credentials often apply to a broader variety of professional roles. For example, individuals can complete a leadership development program to qualify for positions in telecommunications, nonprofit administration, and academia. Most leadership development programs require one year to finish. Students can take many programs fully online.


The Mini MBA



Although mini MBA programs do not confer a degree, they provide enrollees with a foundational understanding of the field. Some mini MBA programs comprise one week of intensive informative training. Learners often focus on a specific topic, such as digital marketing or project management.

Other mini MBA programs require weekly four-hour classes that last 12-14 weeks. Mini MBAs cost less than MBA programs, and some are available online for free. Pursuing a mini MBA can help individuals decide whether to enroll in a full MBA program.

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MBA Certificate Programs



Students can often apply credits from an MBA certificate toward an MBA program or another business-related master’s degree. Individuals with an MBA or a master’s degree in another field can pursue an MBA certificate to focus on a specific business topic. MBA certificates cover areas such as finance, project management, accounting, and human resources. Most MBA certificates require only 9-12 months to complete.

Certificate-holders often enjoy improved career options and increased earning potential. Earning a certificate prepares individuals to pursue specialized positions in their subfield.

Accelerated MBA Programs



One of the most common MBA alternatives, accelerated MBA programs often follow an online asynchronous format. Many accredited colleges and universities nationwide offer these flexible programs. Most accelerated MBA programs maintain generous transfer credit policies.

Distance learners may take five-week or eight-week classes, rather than following a typical 16-week semester schedule. Students in online MBA programs may also receive credit for related professional experience. Professionals with career, family, and personal responsibilities often pursue online accelerated MBA degrees.

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