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Thinking of an Online MBA? Here’s What You Need to Know

If you’re ready to take your career to the next level, then an MBA could be just what you need. The leadership and business skills you’ll build during this degree will make you a more desirable candidate for upper-level management roles, and will pay off in the form of increased responsibility, more prestige, and bigger paychecks. But maybe you’re reluctant to take one to two years off of work to go back to grad school. Maybe you have a spouse or children depending on you, or maybe you simply need to bring home a paycheck in order to pay the bills. If that sounds like your situation, an online MBA program might be best for you. 

But is an online MBA program really as good as a traditional program? Yes, many online degree programs are just as academically rigorous as their traditional counterparts, and many top business schools offer online MBA programs alongside their traditional business school programs. Just as with any major purchase, it’s important to shop carefully and do your research when looking at online MBA programs. Seek an accredited program with quality faculty, appropriate resources for students, and enough flexibility that you’ll be able to finish the degree even if life and work get hectic.

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Look for an Academically Rigorous Program

Just because you don’t have to set foot in a classroom doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be just as challenged in an online program as you would be in a traditional one. There are two ways to make sure that any program you apply to is academically rigorous. One is to check the program’s accreditation, and the other is to research the program’s faculty.

Accreditation is a very important way to tell if a particular program will meet your academic needs. Look for a program that is accredited by either the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) or the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), or both. It’s also very important that the school be regionally accredited by one of the many regional accreditation bodies active in the U.S. This assures that the school’s academic criteria and learning outcomes match up with those of other business schools in the region.

Once you have verified that the schools you’re interested in are appropriately accredited, it’s time to research the faculty. The best online MBA programs are taught by the same faculty that teaches in-person classes at that school, but it’s also important that the faculty teaching your courses have experience teaching online. Learn as much as you can about the work and reputation of each faculty member. This will help you decide if you personally trust the faculty to teach you well, and it will also give you something to discuss in your admission essay.

Make Sure It’s Flexible Enough for You

Not all online MBA programs are structured the same. Some offer remote but synchronous learning, meaning that students must log in at the same time to attend classes in virtual space. Others are asynchronous, giving students the chance to access the material according to their scheduling needs. Some programs give students one or two years to complete the degree, while others give as many as five or six. Do you need to be able to work full-time and take care of a family? Will taking classes on a part-time schedule work best for you? Think long and hard about your schedule and needs before choosing a program. You might not ultimately need a whole five years to complete your degree, but that doesn’t mean extra time won’t come in handy when life gets chaotic.

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Verify Resources for Student Support

Just because you’re an online student doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to the same level of academic support that students in traditional programs receive. Make sure that the online program curriculum is the same as the one for the traditional program. Ask questions about how much access you’ll have to the professors in case you have questions or need extra help. Will you have access to campus writing tutors or other resources available to traditional students? Is the program structured in a way that helps you build connections with other students, such as through discussion boards and group work? Will you have the same access as on-campus students to career services and other resources?

If you’re considering an online MBA, it’s important to do your research. Make sure the program you choose is fully accredited, staffed by experienced and qualified faculty, and flexible enough for your needs. As long as you choose the right program, there’s no reason you can’t learn just as much — or more — in an online MBA as in a traditional MBA.

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