Inside Accelerated Online MBA Programs

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Professionals in healthcare, business, technology, marketing and other sectors are increasingly eyeing graduate-level business degrees as the next step to a management career. However, attending a two-year master’s in business administration (MBA) program in campus setting poses a pair of unique challenges: it can take too long and require too much time away from work and family. As a result, colleges and universities have developed three primary solutions. First, some now offer an accelerated or “executive” MBA program, which can take less than two years to complete. Second, some have added online MBAs to their program lists, with most or all of coursework and collaboration done remotely. And third, a few institutions have combined these two (solutions) to form an accelerated online MBA degree, which provides maximum flexibility to business professionals. The following page highlights the post-secondary institutions that have made this leap, and then dives into what these quick MBAs entail and how and why they work.

The Quick Online MBA: An Introduction

The executive or “quick” online MBA, designed especially for previous business students, is typically comprised of eight graduate-level business courses that can be completed in 12 – 18 months, compared with the 18-course, two-year traditional MBA curriculum. The online format makes it especially attractive to motivated, goal-oriented students who want to work on a self-paced online degree. Degree specializations/concentrations offer an MBA career focus in finance, accounting, marketing, management, international business and technology.

Accelerated Online MBA Basics

Comprised of some 30 credit hours, accelerated online MBA degree programs are offered by more than 90 colleges, universities and business schools. Long popular in Europe, the one-year MBA is the graduate business degree of choice on the Continent. In the U.S., participating students are enrolled at the same time in a cohort-program, meaning the same persons are in each virtual class, progressing toward their degree. The system fosters teamwork, peer development and support. Support can be essential since an accelerated program begins at course levels that are advanced when compared to two-year MBA classes. Two years’ of business learning is compressed – not reduced – in an accelerated program. Typically, students enroll in a summer boot camp of up to four courses, three courses in the fall, three in the spring, and the balance through the following summer.

From a technology standpoint, courses are streamed or presented live through voice and video conferencing tools, with the materials available online, 24/7. While many courses are self-paced, deadlines can be firm and classes hurtle rigorously through the subject matter, peppered by business deliverables and frequent examinations. Students should expect to spend 30 or more hours a week on their degree.

The hard work can pay dividends. According to US News: “While the graduate admission council’s 2011 global management education graduate survey showed that two-year MBA’s got slightly more job offers than one-year students (2.0 compared to 1.7, on average), the one-year grads saw an 80 percent hike in their annual pre-degree base salaries compared to 73 percent for the two-year MBA’s.”

Accelerated online MBA programs expect that students are mature and come ready to work. Most MBA students are 25 – 31 years old and have 3 – 7 years of professional experience. Traditional core business subjects taught in these online executive MBA programs may cover accounting, statistics, business operations, finance, human resources, organizational behavior, change management, strategy and marketing. The one-year MBA programs typically expect students to absorb core concepts and move more directly into a special focus in management with majors such as:

  • Accounting
  • Analytical finance
  • Business law
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Financial planning
  • Global commerce
  • Human resources
  • Managerial analytics
  • Operations management
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality management
  • Information systems management
  • Public administration
  • Real estate
  • Social enterprise management
  • Value investing

The Accelerated Online MBA and Accreditation

Perhaps there may be no greater safeguard to the value of a quick online MBA degree than whether the college or institution is accredited. Prospective MBA students should investigate whether the programs and schools on their short list have been accredited by one of the major regional accrediting agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Many business schools across the country also seek accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which can include the proverbial stamp of approval for campus, online and hybrid programs alike.

In addition, colleges may seek accreditation from distance learning organizations to ensure the quality and value of their online degree programs. Here, the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) serves as the primary accrediting body, although receiving such accreditation can be of secondary or tertiary concern for already established institutions, i.e. those who already possess both regional and business-specific stamps of approval.

Application Requirements for Online Executive MBA Programs

Students should evaluate application procedures and course requirements for candidacy in a one-year MBA program. Some programs only admit candidates who have completed undergraduate degrees in fields such as accounting, business or economics. Others may only require completion of a four-year degree in any major. Application requirements to accelerated online MBA degree programs typically include:

  • Completion of an undergraduate bachelor’s degree from an accredited college, university or private school in good standing.
  • Test scores: Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are standard requirements; however there are schools that do not require a GMAT. Test scores may be also waived if an applicant has earned undergraduate business degree, or an advanced degree such as an MA, MS, or PhD.
  • Transcripts of all previous college work
  • Personal statement of business goals and objectives
  • Recommendation letters from peers, former educators, employers
  • Professional resume

Note for international students: MBA applicants may be required to submit TOEFL scores indicating a high proficiency in reading and speaking English.

How to Thrive in a One-Year Online MBA Program

Not everyone is ready for the intensity and pace of a quick MBA. Students who typically fare well can establish full-time hours dedicated to learning. They can work without instructor handholding. When it comes to business school, professors reward students with drive and initiative. Students must also have strong professional contacts or peers since they’ll be in class through the summer while two-year MBA students are usually engaged in internships. While the missed internships can affect those changing careers, the students will graduate a year earlier than traditional MBAs, giving them opportunities to more than make up for lost time in summer.

Research into accelerated online MBAs must include a practical and honest student self-assessment of career goals and graduate-level study skills. For dedicated students with business experience who seek the shortest distance between enrollment and graduation, quick MBA degree programs can provide the ideal option.