The Online MBA

Earning a Master of Business Administration, or MBA, can be a huge boost to your career. Employees with MBAs tend to command far higher salaries than those without, and they generally earn back the cost of their education within five years. Of course, it's up to you to determine whether an MBA matches your personal and career goals or not.

A master's degree in business, according to About.com, "is thought to be one of the most prestigious and sought after degrees in the world." It helps to open doors for graduates in business situations both local and global. MBA degrees generally focus on business management, and are required for most executive and senior management positions. They may even be a requirement for mid- or entry-level positions at some companies.

So, is an online MBA worth it? According to the careers page at Military.com, the answer is yes. For one thing, just like other online master's degrees, it allows you to structure your learning around your work and family schedule. It also offers networking opportunities that are unique to the MBA. Since an online course allows students from all over the map to interact, an online MBA may actually allow for a greater widening of your list of business contacts than a traditional classroom MBA. Finally, the argument can be made that as ways of doing business become more globalized and rely less on face-to-face contact, an online MBA becomes more useful because it prepares you for that type of business communication.

This guide will provide you with all the basic information you'll need about the general MBA degree, as well as details about what an online MBA program is like. Online degrees are consistently growing in popularity, and the MBA is well suited for the format. Using this guide, you'll be able to determine what is right for you, and how to take your career to the next level.

Quick Facts About MBAs

  • The median salary of 2009 business graduates is $66,694. (GMAT Council)
  • The average length of an MBA program in the United States is two years. (University of Richmond)
  • The average total cost of an MBA program is $40,000 per year. (University of Richmond)
  • Most MBA students are between the ages of 25 and 34, with at least two years of professional work experience. Some students do enter MBA programs earlier, however, and it is never too late to earn a degree. (GMAT Council)
  • 25 percent of MBA students attend school outside of their home country. (GMAT Council)
  • Companies surveyed by the Graduate Management Admission Council report that 21 percent of recent MBA hires previously interned with them. (GMAT Council)
  • While an MBA is a professional and educational achievement, it also encourages personal growth. (GMAT Council)
  • Only about 50 percent of MBA students have an undergraduate degree in business; most majors provide the proper preparation for an MBA. (University of Texas at Austin)
  • Earning an MBA can help you develop a close network of business professionals. (GMAT Council)

Programs and Subject Areas

Different schools and programs have different approaches to the MBA degree. There are many options, and the best choice for you will depend on your personal interests and goals.

  • Harvard Business School has a required curriculum and an elective curriculum. Students take the entire required curriculum with a “section” of ninety other students. Sections form the basis for networking and lasting professional relationships.
  • University of Pennsylvania Wharton School offers eighteen different majors, plus the ability to design your own program and major, within the general MBA program.
  • Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University is one of many schools that features programs for part-time students, full-time students, and current executives.
  • Univeristy of Tennessee allows students to combine their MBA with a master's degree in a small number of subjects, such as sport management or engineering.
  • University of Florida offers accelerated MBA programs that last only a year.
  • University of Washington emphasizes a smaller program and class size in order to encourage individual contributions.
  • University of Chicago Booth School of Business lets students choose and mix several concentrations – or none at all beyond the general curriculum.
  • University of Michigan - Flint showcases many of the different specializations available: accounting, computer information systems, finance, health care management, international business, marketing, and organizational leadership.

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How to Choose an Online MBA

As with any online degree, you need to do some thorough research into the MBA programs that you are interested in. The first and most important criteria that you should check is accreditation. If your program is not accredited, your degree will be worthless. Crosscheck accreditation claims that the school makes with the U.S. Department of Education.

After accreditation, research the school's reputation. What do current and former students have to say? Where does the school place on national/international rankings? These factors will help you determine if the education offered by a school is really what you want to receive.

One of the key factors in determining whether or not to pursue an MBA, as well as where and how to do it, is the probably return on investment. To do so, simply calculate your estimated costs and compare them to your anticipated professional growth and the salary that you expect to earn. The Graduate Management Admission Council provides a general guide to give you a hand with this

The Major MBA Ranking

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Online MBAs in the News

This selection of recent articles should give you an idea of the trends, controversies, and innovations in the world of online MBA programs. Knowing the reputation of online MBAs will give you a better idea of what to look for in your program.

  • Students in an online MBA program at the University of South Dakota score in the top ten percent in national testing: Sioux City Journal
  • The University of Mississippi's online MBA program has been ranked a “Best Buy” by GetEducated.com, acknowledging its quality and value: Fox Business
  • More schools are creating online MBA programs as they gain a sense of legitimacy: CNNMoney
  • It's not how you get an MBA – online, full-time, part-time – that employers care about, but the quality and reputation of your program and school: The Financial Times
  • Jack Welch, the former chief executive of General Electric Co., is lending his name and money to a new online MBA program: The Wall Street Journal 

Top 10 MBA Blogs

Stay up-to-date in the blogosphere with these excellent blogs about taking an MBA: a good way to find out what it's actually like embarking on such a program.

Where to Look for Scholarships

  • Fastweb – A searchable scholarship database.
  • MBA Colleges – Provides scholarship updates in a blog format.
  • Adventures in Education – A database of scholarships for a variety of disciplines and programs.
  • International Education Financial Aid – A searchable scholarship database with an emphasis on studying abroad.
  • U.S. News and World Report – A scholarship database maintained by U.S. World News and CareersAndColleges.
  • CollegeNET – A technology company that gives away a weekly scholarship.
  • FreSch – A large database of approximately 450,000 awards.
  • FastAID – A company that has been doing scholarship research for about thirty years.
  • Scholarships.com – A database that will match potential scholarships to your personal information.
  • BrokeScholar – A useful scholarship database operated by Chase Student Loans.

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