Online MBA in International Business

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Developing Leaders for the New Global Economy

As the world’s economies become more intertwined, companies need individuals who understand the intricacies of international business. This MBA specialization can arm graduates with diverse skills in business management, international policies, finance and cultural studies – all necessary to negotiate in a global environment. Online study further gives students flexibility in managing their schedules and completing a degree on their own timetable. Use this guide to find out how to obtain an online MBA in international business – and where it can take you.

Milestone Map for International Business MBAs

What does an MBA student specializing in international business look like? What are their personal, academic and professional backgrounds? While there’s no single answer, the following map provides a glimpse into one grad’s life, including key moments before and after earning their online MBA in international business.

High School

Learns French from an exchange student hosted by the family


Majors in economics, studies abroad in Paris for a semester

Gap Year

Volunteers in North Africa for an international relief agency

Sharpens Focus

Works 3 years in L.A. for company that imports fair-trade apparel

Grad School

Earns online MBA in international business part-time


Takes position as company’s VP of merchandising, focusing on expanding international markets

Expectations for Online MBA Study

The full requirements for an online MBA in international business differ by school. Many allow students to take classes where and when they choose, and do not have on-campus residency requirements. That said, some short-term residencies at various global locations are generally required; students may also be expected to study abroad in order to gain international perspective and experience.

Most online programs give students greater control over their schedules, allowing them to pace their learning as long as certain deadlines are met. Students can use the flexibility of an online format to maintain a full-time job, take care of a family, or be engaged in other commitments, all while working toward a degree. While a traditional campus-based MBA in international business typically takes 2-3 years, in an online setting students can expand or contract that time frame to best suit their individual schedules.

Online programs may also offer more affordable tuition, especially when paired with financial aid, and students can generally expect full access to advisers and academic resources, as well as one-on-one, personalized attention.

International Business MBA: Online Program Options

Online MBA programs usually require about 60 credits, which take anywhere from one to five years to complete. Some universities have established core classes required of all students, whereas others are more flexible and offer a selection of courses for students to choose from. To find a program that best suits their life and time commitments, students may choose from several options:

  • Executive (1 - 2 years)

    Designed for mid-career managers and experienced executives, this program allows students to continue working while pursuing their degrees. Generally, students are required to have about 10 years of work experience that they can integrate into their studies; they build on this background with core classes such as management and marketing. Some offline components may be included in these programs, such as studying abroad or competing in business competitions.
  • Full time (1 - 2 years)

    Enrolling full-time is the fastest way to get a degree. Students are immersed in courses and concepts that provide a solid foundation of knowledge and applicable skills, and get the advantage of fully concentrating on their studies.
  • Part Time (2-5 years)

    A part-time enrollment allows flexibility and convenience for students who do not wish to undertake the rigors of a full-time schedule. While some time may have to be taken offline to complete residency requirements, this option generally is flexible and tailored to the working student.

Core International Business Classes in MBA Programs

The courses students take during this program are designed to impart knowledge of the global economy, as well as provide cultural insights that are crucial to enhancing managerial, leadership and strategy-making skills. Courses students can expect to find in this program include:

Cross-Cultural Management

This course examines the challenges of maintaining relationships in a culturally diverse workforce, and emphasizes skills managers can use to motivate employees and lead their organizations.

International Economics

Students analyze global market systems, as well as international trade and monetary policies.

International Marketing

This course teaches students how to interpret and manage fluctuating market strategies in order to stay competitive in global business.

International Finance

Different financial environments and management techniques are studied in this course.

International Internship

Students will generally be required to work a semester in an international business or foreign market for job experience.

Deciding on the Right Online MBA School

Choosing the right school to enroll in is probably the most important decision when deciding to pursue an online MBA in international business. Many accredited business schools offer this degree, so in order to find the best fit, make sure to consider factors such as the school’s reputation, the extent of its community network, and the overall character of its learning environment. Begin by visiting university websites or campus offices to learn the scope of the program and how it is structured, to determine if suits your needs. Also consider the following:

  • Review the curriculum closely and see if there are ample opportunities to participate in real-world international business scenarios.
  • Identify what academic support services are made available to online students, such as online libraries, writing centers and advisement.
  • Make sure you meet GPA and other academic requirements. Many business schools require the GMAT while others prefer students be fluent in a second language.
  • Check to see if the school is properly accredited.
  • Speak with current students about the quality of the school’s international business program to get an insider’s viewpoint.
  • Check financial aid options and eligibility.

Accreditation of MBA Programs

Accreditation is the process schools go through to ensure they are providing the highest quality education to their students. It indicates the school is committed to offering the best curriculum, professors and resources to students.

In most cases, online international business programs are accredited by the same organizations as other MBA programs. Make sure to check if your prospective school is properly accredited before you apply. Please read our comprehensive guide to accreditation and the accreditation section on our MBA hubpage for more information.

Preparing for an MBA in International Business

Creating a schedule can be a great organizational tool for planning the steps necessary to achieve the ultimate goal: getting an MBA in international business. Many business schools have multiple rounds of admission deadlines, so familiarize yourself with the dates to be prepared.

Here’s an example of a schedule for prospective students with several years of work experience after earning their bachelor’s degree.

Time Before Program Start Date
Step 1 Earn bachelor’s degree2 years, 3 months
Step 2 Get entry-level finance job2 years
Step 3 Take GMAT, if necessary13 months
Step 4 Apply to preferred online international business MBA program(s)11 months for Round One admissions 8 months for Round Two admissions
Step 5 Apply for and secure financial aid, grants and loans9 months

In order to optimize your chances of being accepted into a program, there are some preparatory steps specific to this MBA specialization that can give applicants an extra edge. Prep work can include:

  • Emphasize involvement and participation in undergraduate classes in order to obtain excellent letters of recommendation.
  • Some international business MBA programs require prospective students to be fluent in a second language, so consider taking language classes as an undergraduate.
  • Study abroad to get an international perspective.
  • Gain work experience from businesses involved in marketing, sales or international prospects.

Career Outcomes for International Business Grads

Obtaining an online MBA in international business can make graduates among the top picks for global companies such as Google, Apple and Coca-Cola. The skills learned in this specialization often prove essential to landing key managerial jobs. Future careers may include:

Business Development Manager

Responsible for managing the progress of business development within an organization by creating and maintaining effective business plans that generate revenue, promote brand loyalty, and increase customer satisfaction. Strong leadership capabilities, motivational skills, and an innovative mind are essential to this position. A bachelor’s degree in business management, administration or another related field is required, and an MBA will likely mark standout candidates. Previous experience in business development or management is also necessary, and business or leadership certificates are a plus.

Marketing Manager

Marketing managers create and oversee advertising or merchandising sales campaigns that businesses use to sell their overall brand as well as individual products. Successful individuals will engage in market research studies and analysis as well as have strong organizational skills and creative ideas. A bachelor’s degree in marketing is a minimum requirement, and postgraduate work is favored.

Operations Manager

An operations manager oversees an organization’s daily production of goods and services, and evaluates products to make sure they meet, and possibly exceed, expectations. They are responsible for maintaining and adhering to an organization’s policies, procedures and safety regulations, and must stay apprised of changing government rules and regulations that affect labor issues, safety requirements and environmental issues. Strong leadership and communication skills are necessary for this position. A bachelor’s degree in management, business, finance or another related field is required. A master’s or MBA, as well as solid work experience, are ideal.

Chief Financial Officer

All finance and accounting operations are supervised by the CFO. They have advanced knowledge of accounting, budgeting and finances, and may be required to communicate complex concepts to management and stockholders. A bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting is typically required; previous work experience and an MBA likely will be necessary for individuals who hold the job at larger firms.

Marketing Director

Creates, plans and implements projects and budgets used in a company’s marketing strategies and campaigns. These individuals have a keen awareness of fluctuating markets and are able to adjust accordingly. They maintain communication with clients and stay abreast of marketing issues so they can improve company performance. A bachelor’s degree in marketing or a similar field is usually required along with previous marketing or managing experience; senior directors or those with major companies will likely hold an MBA.

CareerNational Job Growth(2014-2024)National Median Annual Salary (September 2015)
Business Development ManagerNot specified$115,320
Marketing Manager9%$72,070
Operations Manager7%$78,260
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)7%$81,060
Marketing Director-1%$173,320

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Salary Info: PayScale

Note: CFO job growth represents all financial managers; marketing director job growth represents all top executives.

Obtaining Certifications in International Business

Gaining certifications while pursuing an online MBA in international business can complement coursework and allow individuals to develop and demonstrate a high standard of knowledge and skill. Some examples of available certifications are:

  • Certified Business Analysis Professional Recipients of this certification, offered through the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), must complete 7,500 hours of practical experience in business analysis.
  • Certified Global Business Professional Offered by the National Association of Small Business International Trade Educators (NASBITE), this certifies a knowledge of international trade and the skills necessary to conduct business in a global environment.
  • FITT International Business Professional As a global leader in export-import business, the Forum for International Trade Training (FITT) offers this certification to individuals who demonstrate a comprehensive understanding and commitment to global trade.

Similar Online Programs

An MBA degree encompasses a wide range of specializations that can fast-track graduates to careers with high earning levels. MBA programs similar to those in international business include:

Online MBA in Project Management

Trains students to manage projects within an organization, ensuring they adhere to the budget, are completed on time, and meet quality standards. Future employers could include construction or oil and gas companies.

Online MBA in Marketing

Students learn to identify changing markets and research consumer behavior in order to create effective marketing strategies. The degree emphasizes communication and decision-making skills.

Online MBA in Entrepreneurship

Aimed at creative, ambitious individuals who want to start and run their own businesses. Students hone their knowledge of business techniques, often by engaging in business plan competitions, mentoring programs and professional networking opportunities.

Learn More About Online MBA Programs

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