Online Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree Education Guide

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Are you interested in earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA)? Both online learning and traditional campus MBA programs are ideal for individuals interested in applying for management and leadership positions within the business field. They also offer a lot of flexibility so that graduates can attend college courses when they are able, even part-time, and become qualified to secure work in a wide variety of disciplines including accounting, management, human resources, operations, IT, international business, and administration. An MBA is also a good choice for those who intend to skip working for someone else and instead start and run their own businesses.

Is an MBA right for you? There are numerous reasons that people decide to apply for this type of degree, but most are interested in advancing or find greater success in their careers in some way. Some industries require employees to have an MBA in order to be considered for promotion; most, at least, give preference to individuals who have proven themselves effective by earning an MBA. While earning an advanced degree will not guarantee your career improves, the additional knowledge you'll gain from the curriculum will likely give you an edge.

what-is-an-mba

What is an MBA (Master of Business Administration)?

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is an advanced business degree that teaches students and professionals a set of skills focused on managerial, leadership and technical skills. The MBA is a common degree preference for professionals interested in advancing their careers through academics. While not all business industries require candidates to possess a graduate degree, upper-level management and leadership positions are often reserved for those who do. Other employers may also require employees to have an MBA in order to be considered for promotions, especially once they hit a specific paygrade. At the very least, hiring committees may have policies that will give preference to candidates with an MBA, as this advanced degree proves a more in-depth understanding of and full commitment to the field.

MBA Concentrations and Focus Areas


When you study for your MBA, you'll start by completing the required core curriculum, which may change depending on the school you attend. If you studied business when you were an undergraduate, this will be a review, but also an enhancement of learning about principles, concepts, and technology you may have already covered. If you do not have a business degree, these courses might present a cascade of business insights.

Nonetheless, your core graduate education will take you deeper into subjects including, but not limited to:

  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Management
  • Accounting

Your program will likely offer far more core courses than you can possibly take, so you will have many options for your professional development. You might wish to delve deeper into favorite topics but you can also explore areas with which you might not be as familiar. You might base your choice on which of the professional faculty you are most interested in learning from or having access to as a mentor, your options between various future careers, or even what you want to earn after you graduate. No matter your interests, you should take the time to do an online search, call schools you're interested in to see if they have online MBA programs if you need flexibility for work or family, and ask all pertinent questions about tuition or financial aid, policy issues, and whether they are properly accredited before you apply.

Once you have mastered the fundamentals of business, you'll be ready to specialize. After all, a master's degree is all about becoming a master of one particular thing. You can always be a generalist later, but for a master's you will need to focus on a specific topic, industry, or other aspect of business life. Though you may also choose to have multiple focuses if you are willing to add a year or so to your education or attend on campus full-time. Since you will likely have significant business experience prior to starting your MBA coursework, your specialty will allow you to bring that knowledge to bear on your academic work.

Here are a few educational specialties you might choose from, depending on your program:

  • Accounting
  • Business Analytics
  • Criminal Justice
  • Economics
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Executive
  • Finance
  • Financial Planning
  • General MBA
  • Global Management
  • Healthcare Administration
  • Healthcare Management
  • Hospitality Management
  • Human Resources
  • Information Security
  • Information Systems
  • International Business
  • Leadership
  • Marketing
  • Project Management
  • Public Administration
  • Supply Chain Management

No matter which area you specialize in, an MBA will take your career to the next level. Most MBA graduates find that they are soon recruited for elevated positions or are receiving raises, opportunities, and promotions at their current firms. You will undoubtedly find that the time it took to achieve a master's was very well spent, indeed. Beyond their new knowledge, it provides a chance for each student to network within their class or business school community, meet or request help or info from the school's alumni, and even find support for their future goals through a regular schedule of social events if they attend on campus.

What are the Types of MBAs?


Earning an MBA can vastly improve your career and salary prospects. Perhaps you’ve always considered pursuit of an MBA, but weren’t sure when and how to begin. If you thought the traditional MBA was the only way to go, but that doesn't offer the flexibility your life requires, you now have lots of other opportunities and options to attend business school and meet your needs.

The best type of MBA to fit your needs depends on your years of work experience, your academic interests and areas of expertise, tuition cost, and your current employment and family situation. A single person without children will usually have more availability than someone who is married with kids, but both individuals can search for MBA programs to suit them, including a full- or part-time MBA. There are also often options like those that have class on the weekend or in the evenings.

Full Time MBA


If you are going to pursue a full-time MBA, you probably won't be able to work – at least not the whole week. However, if you have the resources and support to take that period off from work in order to advance your career, you can complete your MBA within two years.

Part Time MBAs


For many busy professionals, the road to an MBA leads them to apply to a part-time program. Classes are made up of the same content but classes are held on weekends or in the evening. This means it takes longer to complete, but students are not as stressed as they study. It's a slower but easy way for students to start to prepare for success in their careers and meet their goals. Their are many benefits to this decision.

Executive MBAs


The executive MBA, known as the EMBA, is designed for those with at least five years, and preferably more, of business or corporate experience. They already have plenty of development under their belts. Formally, it’s called the Executive Master of Business Administration. Students typically continue working full-time and either attend university classes on weekends or online. Classes are somewhat faster paced than traditional MBAs, although the core curriculum is similar and the degree is usually finished within two years. EMBAs usually feature fewer electives than traditional MBAs. Because it is so valuable to network with your community, faculty, classmates, and alumni in a graduate business degree, classes are generally arranged so the same students can continue taking courses together to allow them to connect and stay connected.

Early-Career MBA


Recent college graduates who know they want an MBA, but don’t have the business experience required before they can gain admission to many MBA programs, may explore an early-career MBA. Along with gaining knowledge of terms and business operations, the early career MBA is geared toward career acceleration. Graduates, although lacking a great deal of “hands-on” experience, should receive access to higher starting salaries than those who earned only an undergraduate business degree. Early career MBAs often have a policy of placing students in internships with companies so they may receive some of the practical experience they lack and a thorough overview of business in general. Such programs have also established mentorships to aid students in choosing or gaining info on their areas of interest. Free job placement services are also a hallmark of the early-career MBA program. The student may enter the program with little business experience, but students leave with a degree and either jobs or offers.

Online


For the very busy person with considerable work and obligations to family or events, an online MBA may prove the only way they can make time in their demanding schedule to earn a degree. Online MBAs are usually less expensive than standard degree programs, but the curriculum is just as rigorous. There’s another plus to online MBAs, and that involves technology. For students, that means not only learning advanced business skills, but also mastering the latest in business technology. It may turn out that the latter is as attractive an aptitude as the MBA itself. Additionally, financial aid is just as available to those who request it for online courses as there is for traditional ones.

Hybrid


A hybrid MBA combines a predominantly online format with a scheduled in-person visit or meeting, generally once per quarter for several days. It’s a flexible option for full-time employees, frequent business travelers and working parents. The idea behind the hybrid MBA is that of offering the “best of both worlds”, the convenience of online learning and the face to face networking and problem solving. The drawback to such an arrangement is that many can’t take time off each quarter for traditional classes, and depending on the school, those may require a bit of travel. However, if you are able to find one near you in your search, then there isn't much of a downside.

Accelerated MBA Programs


As the name implies, an accelerated MBA means you’ll receive your degree more quickly than in a traditional program. An accelerated MBA program generally lasts 18 months, and differs from a full-time MBA program in that the pace does not allow for semester breaks. You’ll likely have to take classes over the summer and perhaps during the school’s winter break.

Professional MBAs


Professional MBAs are similar to early career MBAs, as they are geared toward recent graduates and those who entered the managerial field just shortly beforehand. This degree is also available as “bundle” for business majors. Instead of graduating in four years with a business degree, they tack on an additional year and graduate with an MBA.

Dual MBAs


With a dual MBA, you receive this degree along with another. Generally, the other degree is Juris Doctor, so you are attending law school at the same time you are pursuing your MBA. Other common dual MBA programs involve an MA or a PhD, and may focus on information technology, public health, education, communications and public administration. Expect to work three to four years towards your dual MBA degree. It’s a considerable time commitment, but much less than pursuing these degrees separately.

Specialized MBAs


Rather than a regular MBA, many students with a strong interest in a particular industry may want to pursue a specialized MBA. If you have a definite career in mind, a specialized MBA can help you land a job in that field more readily than if you have a standard MBA. For example, if your goal is to head a company’s human resources department, you have a better chance of obtaining that first managerial hire if your MBA is in human resource management than a general degree. Besides human resources, common specialized MBA degrees include finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, healthcare administration, business administration and many more.

Online vs On-Campus


One of your biggest decisions when it comes to an MBA program is whether you will pursue your degree online or on-campus. For employees with a demanding job and a family, an online MBA is often the most efficient way to earn a degree. If you decide to pursue a degree on campus, you are limited to those schools nearby if you are working or you must relocate. It is likely you will also pay more for your education. There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to your choice of an online or on campus MBA. It’s what makes the most sense for you at this time in your life.

What are Hybrid MBAs?


A Master of Business Administration (MBA) can help you accomplish your personal and career goals. If you’re currently employed and/or have other responsibilities with your family or in your community, however, you might feel that attending graduate school and earning a degree is out of reach.

While online MBA programs offer flexibility in scheduling, a curriculum consisting of solely virtual content doesn’t allow for in-person interaction with faculty and peers as you would find with the social calendar and events available from full-time MBA programs offered on campus. Networking is a major component of the business world, so professionals who opt for online degrees may be at a disadvantage in the future when they skip these real-world interactions. Conversely, on-campus programs are often not a realistic solution for individuals who are already employed and need a steady income to cover tuition expenses.

Fortunately, there are program options that meet the scheduling needs of working professionals and allow for some fact-to-face educational and social interactions during the occasional campus visit. Hybrid MBA programs blend the two together, offering accessibility to a balanced curriculum that allows students to complete their studies while also working full-time. These is called a hybrid or dual degree. This type of degree still qualifies a student for a wide variety of leadership and management positions in many different business-related disciplines such as human resources, health administration, accounting, management, and information technology systems.

Hybrid degrees aren’t for everyone, and neither are MBAs. Before spending hours sorting through various MBA programs, hybrid or otherwise, it’s important to research all of your options thoroughly. The first step is confirming that an MBA in any format is the best way to reach your goals.

The MBA is a common degree preference for professionals interested in advancing their careers through academics. While not all business industries require candidates to possess a graduate degree, upper-level management and leadership positions are often reserved for those who do. Other employers may also require employees to have an MBA in order to be considered for promotions, especially once they hit a specific paygrade. At the very least, hiring committees may have policies that will give preference to candidates with an MBA, as this advanced degree proves a more in-depth understanding of and full commitment to the field.

It’s important to realize that MBAs do not guarantee career advancement, but they do allow for the development of supplemental skills and provide professionals with an edge over the competition. They also often lead to more financial security. Pursuing and completing an MBA degree may entitle you to a higher salary. In most cases, those who have graduate degrees earn more than those without. The potential for career advancement and a higher salary are only two possible reasons a person might begin working toward an MBA degree.

One of the most important factors to keep in mind is accreditation. This is what adds credibility to your degree. All colleges and universities can choose to become accredited by a reputable agency. To do this, the institution has to prove that their program adheres to a number of quality standards.

There are many organizations that accredit MBA programs, but the most prominent agencies that are internationally renowned are:

  • Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • The Association of MBAs (AMBA)
  • European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS)
  • The Distance Education and Training Council (DETC)

More than all other options, the AACSB is the most reputable of these organizations. This agency, however, accredits only a few online and hybrid MBA programs internationally. Students in search of an online or hybrid degree are more likely to find programs accredited by the DETC.

Admission Requirements


You’ll have to send in several documents in order to be accepted by the university of your choice. Graduate schools in which you are interested will require you to show proof that you were a university student in good standing, and that you earned your undergraduate degree.

  • Official transcript(s) confirming the completion of a four-year bachelor’s degree of its equivalent
  • GMAT and/or GRE test scores
  • Proof of prior, full-time, professional work experience (timeframe varies)
  • A professional resume that highlights educational background
  • Admission essay(s) and or a personal statement
  • Letters of recommendations from past or current professors and/or professional supervisors
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores, if applicable
  • A FAFSA will be required if you want to receive financial aid

You may be able to have the GMAT exam waived if you meet specific requirements.

Make note of all deadlines at all graduate schools you’re considering and send your materials in well before the deadlines. If you miss the deadlines, your application packets may not be considered.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Business Administration Master’s?


If you’re looking to earn your masters, you likely already spent four years in school earning your undergraduate degree. This degree may have been in a field other than business. Now that you’re ready to return to school, how long will it take before you graduate?

If you apply all your time every week (full-time), then you will earn your MBA within two years. This means you’re taking the full number of credits that your university decrees to be full-time. If you are still working and taking your MBA classes part-time, then, you should be able to earn your degree within four years.

Online MBA vs On-Campus MBA Admissions


Now that you have a clearer understanding of why MBA degrees are so prominent, it’s important to decide which type of program is right for you. Many colleges and universities offer MBAs, but no two programs are alike. There are on-campus MBAs and online MBAs. Each option is unique and has something to offer. The following will help you determine which will suit your personal and career goals most.

Online Coursework Difference

Generally speaking, on-campus and online MBA programs cover the same content. There is very little information that can’t be learned through an online program. Students in both settings will be provided with the same materials to study and will be provided an opportunity to explore those materials via analysis and live discussions with classmates. In fact, one might argue that those interested in creating an online business or working from home remotely might find an online program more beneficial than the on-campus alternative.

Experience

Many potential students worry that an online MBA program will not adequately prepare them for real-world business situations. While reading assignments, video lectures, online forums, and quizzes may be a sufficient way to learn and retain the content, do they actually provide the skills and info necessary to aid you in the workplace?

The answer to this question isn’t straight forward. First, it greatly depends greatly upon the field you intend to enter. Some positions require very little hands-on experience, while others are difficult to prepare for without it. An administrator who is in charge of managing a large staff, for example, needs experience working and communicating directly with others. An accountant, on the other hand, works more with numbers than with people and would do fine without an in-person education.

That said, students enrolled in an online program will not receive the same hands-on learning experience that on-campus MBA students do. Inherently, there are some elements that a virtual education simply can’t recreate. To make up for this, many online MBA programs include short residencies or internships, during which students visit the school, as part of their graduation requirements. These help to bridge the gap between online and traditional learning by providing students a condensed and accelerated hands-on educational opportunity. If you're more worried about the experience in terms of joining an intermural athletics team rather than the academics, you'll likely want to attend in person.

The AACSB is the most reputable accrediting agency, but it primarily accredits traditional, on-campus MBA programs. They do, however, provide accreditation to a select few online programs.

There are also several regional accreditation organizations. These are not as prestigious, but do show that the MBA program meets the standards expected of most potential employers within the region specified. Regional accreditation agencies include:

  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges

In general, there is very little difference between the accreditation of on-campus and online MBA programs. You’re likely to find some of each that are and are not accredited. It’s your responsibility to sort through which is which. Whether you’re interested in an on-campus or online MBA program, take the time to ensure it is properly assured by either an international or regional agency.

Potential Courses & Curriculum


Every program is a little different, but most MBAs follow a schedule that allows them to be completed within one to two years. In most cases they consist of between 30 and 60 credit hours of coursework, but some core requirements may be waived with adequate professional work or life experience. Expedited programs with flexible scheduling options are also sometimes available upon request for working professionals with demanding schedules. And, even online programs usually allow students to access the campus library remotely, provide them an email address, and allow them to use additional student focused services, such as homework aid and technical support from their IT center.

For the most part, on-campus, hybrid, and online MBA programs consist of similar courses. Most of the information covered can be learned in person or virtually, so students in both settings will have ample opportunity to thrive. Because the same materials will be used across all program types, those enrolled in online and hybrid programs need not worry that they will be less informed than their on-campus counterparts. With advancing technology, even class discussions can be easily facilitated. It’s worth noting that those who plan to create an online business may benefit more from remote learning, as their learning space and methods will closely relate to their final working atmosphere. However, distance learning may not as easily facilitate connections between students and faculty or alumni.

Specific course offerings and titles are likely to vary from institution to institution, but students can expect to take classes related to the following topics:

  • Foundations of Teamwork and Leadership
  • Data Analysis
  • Financial Reporting and Analysis
  • Microeconomics for Managers
  • Strategic Marketing Management
  • Global Strategy
  • Operations Management
  • Corporate Finance
  • Decision Modeling
  • Operations Strategy
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Managing the Emerging Enterprise
  • Competitive Strategy
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Leadership
  • Legal Environment and Ethics
  • Responsibility in Global Management
  • Business Research
  • Managerial Economics
  • Foundations in Teamwork
  • Public Speaking and Writing

Careers and Benefits for MBA Graduates


Just as there are many reasons to consider pursuing an MBA, there are also numerous benefits to completing a program, even if it takes a year or more.

MBAs have a lot to offer current and aspiring professionals, including:

  • Improved credibility with current and potential employers
  • An overview of helpful skills that can be seamlessly transferred to any industry
  • A fostered sense of curiosity about new industry developments, technologies, and trends
  • Strategic thinking skills that can be applied to career and personal goals alike
  • Honed communication and team skills that can be used at work with colleagues, bosses, and employees, as well as at home with family and friends
  • A high level of self-discipline, even when faced with rigorous or complex tasks
  • Better time management skills that help ensure work is completed in a timely manner according to a calendar of tasks, work hours are spent productively, and burnout is avoided
  • A broader worldview once you leave the classroom, especially regarding global business issues, policies, trends, and potential changes
  • Access to a network of like-minded colleagues, such as fellow students, faculty, and alumni
  • Accessibility for more potential job opportunities within the business industry and outside of it
  • Differentiation when you request consideration for a new job or promotional opportunity
  • Improved financial management skills that can be applied to personal finance situations
  • Sharpened creative thinking skills and the ability to think outside the box in business and real life terms
  • Higher income potential

Job Prospects


Overall, job prospects for individuals in the business industry are quite promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, business and financial operations professionals should expect to see employment growth of 10% between 2016 and 2026. This rate of job growth is faster than the average of all other occupations. It’s likely this increase is due to the continued growth of the economy, complex tax regulations, demand for data and market search, and evolving marketing strategies.

Professionals with an MBA have significantly more employment opportunities than those with undergraduate degrees. While there are certainly entry-level business and management positions available, most employers in the field prefer that candidates have a master’s degree. An MBA is designed to give professionals access to upper-level management and executive positions in a wide variety of areas.

While MBA graduates can usually find work in almost any industry, common employment opportunities include:

  • Healthcare Administrator
  • Information Systems Manager
  • Operations Research Analyst
  • Business Operations Manager
  • Management Analyst
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Accountant
  • Financial Analyst
  • Marketing Manager
  • Human Resources Manager
  • Top Executive
  • Product Manager
  • Project Manager
  • Information Technology Director
  • Budget Analyst
  • Finance Manager
  • Operations Manager
  • Securities Analyst
  • Health Information Manager
  • Health Policy Analyst
  • Logistics Manager
  • Purchasing Manager
  • Revenue Manager
  • Sports Manager

Salary


According to information provided by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics site, more business students and professionals sought to attend school and earn a master’s degree in the 2012-2013 school years than any other field. Additionally, those working in business, finance, and sales earned more money after earning a business degree. In fact, some occupations earned wages that were almost 90% higher than those who only had a bachelor’s degree.

While exact salaries will depend on a number of factors, including job title and location. Wages vary wildly based on job type, but those who earn an MBA will receive job offers that will allow them to earn more than those without an advanced degree.

Programs by State


If you’re ready to progress in your career, you might find that you need to continue your education. Many management positions require you to have an MBA. This program takes a business degree and expands on the training further. Depending on the program, you could spend one to three years in school earning your MBA. If you want to progress from being an accountant to managing a team of accountants, then attaining an MBA from an accredited college or university in your state or online is your next step. There are more opportunities for career advancement, as well as financial security.

The average MBA costs $18,000 in the United States. This is for a 30-hour program at $500 per credit hour. Many schools charge upwards of $1,000 per credit hour, so obviously there can be quite a range in school tuition. The more prestigious the school, the higher the cost per credit hour is going to be. Setting those costs aside, a person with an MBA will make on average $25,000 more per year after the first year of having an MBA. The increase is due to salaries that increase in order to equal educational achievements, and the fact that a worker is able to take on additional managerial duties and other opportunities once they have an advanced degree. So, it’s easy to see that the program could pay for itself after one year of attainment. Also, the more prestigious the MBA, the more money a person can command. Wharton School of Business graduates can command much higher salaries than someone who graduated from program offered by an unknown school.

Deciding whether to take the GRE or the GMAT depends on several factors. The Graduate Record Exam is usually for students who are pursuing non-business graduate degrees. The Graduate Management Admissions Test was specifically designed for those who wanted to pursue an MBA. However, with so many students holding one graduate degree and then choosing to pursue an MBA, many admission departments at business schools have begun to accept the GRE instead of, or as well as, the GMAT. If you have a graduate degree, then this is a bonus, since it means you won’t have to study and then sit through another graduate exam. However, if your MBA will be your first graduate degree, be prepared to take the GMAT. You would want to check with the particular college or school and find out what test they will accept, the GMAT or GRE.

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