Is An Online MBA Worth It?

When it comes to educational options and degree programs, students these days have plenty to pick from. The choices include a wide selection schools of business for anyone looking to prepare to advance their career with a Master of Business Administration or a related business certification. In fact, based on the most recent figures available from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, there are over 840 AACSB-accredited business schools worldwide, more than half of which are in the U.S. There are over 1,200 active MBA programs overall, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In the spirit of added convenience, an increasing number of these same institutions that offer face-to-face learning are expanding their curriculum through online programs. Indeed, over 220 schools offer at least one master’s specialist program that takes place either mostly or exclusively online. One such institution is the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business and its Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

You may wonder: Since so many colleges provide an online option, is an online MBA worth it? As you’ll discover, online MBA students get the same quality of education as those earning a traditional MBA in an in-person, face-to-face setting. The only difference is they get to complete the requisite coursework on their time and schedule, making online programs ideal for students who are balancing other responsibilities in their work or home life.

Are Online MBAs the Same as Regular On-Campus MBAs?

From a standpoint of overall recognition and prestige, an online MBA degree is virtually indistinguishable from on-campus MBA programs. That’s because the AACSB uses the same metrics and standards to determine whether business schools are worthy of its accreditation, regardless of where the classes take place. These standards include self-evaluation, peer review, and continuous improvement analysis that occurs once every five years. Online programs are in no way given more leeway in the AACSB’s curriculum quality assessments simply because they’re geared for distance learning.

Yet at the same time, there are some inherent distinctions between on-campus MBAs and online MBAs, but they are mainly from the perspective of MBA students. For example, on-campus programs may provide a few more networking opportunities than what’s available through online MBA programs. That’s because face-to-face settings make it more convenient to connect with other students. This isn’t to suggest that online MBA programs don’t provide opportunities to network. Real-time messaging platforms and online discussion boards make it simple to reach out to classmates who share common interests and professional goals. Graduates of online MBA programs may attest to this fact.

However, the means by which online MBA students and in-person MBA students network are distinctive. One isn’t necessarily better than the other; they’re just different.

Another way MBA programs may contrast is from a perspective of flexibility. In-person students may be required to submit their assignments by specific deadlines or attend classes during a particular day of the week. Since online MBA programs are typically asynchronous, they’re more geared toward students’ schedules, allowing them to complete work and participate in courses whenever it’s convenient for them.

Group of individuals in business attire smiling while using laptops

The online MBA program at the Collat School of Business is no exception. The curriculum is custom designed for students with active lifestyles. However, if you are coming straight from an undergraduate degree and have no work-related responsibilities, full-time online MBA students can complete the coursework in as little as one year, fast-tracking their way into the business world without compromising the quality of their academic experience.

Is an Online MBA Respected?

Since 1916, AACSB International has provided employers worldwide with the quality assurance that job applicants have participated in high-quality academic programs. As it states on its website, being AACSB accredited is “synonymous with the highest standards of excellence” for more than 100 years.

Thus, any MBA online program that has AACSB accreditation is inherently respected. In fact, in the Economist’s 2018 listing of the world’s 200 best full-time MBA programs, 90% of them had AACSB accreditation.

Given the surge in enrollment that online MBA programs have seen of late, it’s clear that many Americans have high opinions of distance-learning curriculum. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), applications to online MBA programs rose 43% in 2020 compared to the previous year. Enrollment for in-person MBA programs also increased, but only by 11.6%.

The uptick in applications comes at a good time, as in the past five years, the number of AACSB-accredited business schools offering MBA programs that are fully online has risen 83%.

Not only is UAB’s Collat School of Business AACSB accredited and a popular pick among aspiring business school graduates, it’s also routinely ranked as one of the nation’s best schools for online MBA programs, making U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings consistently, including for 2021. More specifically, UAB’s online MBA program was in the top 21% in the latest installment of the magazine’s list.

Is an online MBA respected? Much like the question of whether an online MBA is worth it, the answer is clear.

Will an Online MBA Help Your Career?

From cost and location to quality of the curriculum, the reasons why graduates of online MBA programs decide to pick one over another are nearly as numerous as there are business schools. But the overarching rationale is the presumption that an online MBA will help to advance their career by providing them with the learning outcomes, tools, and qualifications that employers want from their hires.

One of the ways that MBAs pay dividends is just that — earnings. Every year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers releases a report that provides ideas of what new college graduates can expect to earn when they transition to the working world. Consistently, those who have MBAs earn more than those who don’t hold this distinction. In 2021, for example, the average starting income from MBA grades is nearly $88,000. That’s over 11% more than what the typical student makes with a bachelor’s degree. According to a recent survey conducted by Gallup, 41% of respondents said they decided to get their degree because it would help them make more money, the second-most common reason. The most cited rationale was to obtain additional knowledge or skills (47%).

The convenience of online MBAs is another way that they can further careers. By choosing an in-person MBA, students may be forced to leave their job so they have the necessary time to pursue the degree full time. An online MBA offers all the advantages of a traditional university education, but instead of being forced to adjust to the scheduling requirements that will enable you to be in class, an online MBA curriculum adjusts to your work schedule and other responsibilities. Thus, you’re never forced to choose between an MBA program or your employer. You can do both at the same time, enabling you to take advantage of the strides you’ve already achieved in your current role. An online MBA can serve as a steppingstone to bigger and better opportunities.

Do Online MBA Degrees Actually Say “Online” on Diplomas?

No, MBA diplomas do not distinguish between in-person or distance learning. There is no reason to do so, given that the coursework and curriculum are typically identical. But even if it did specify, “online” in no way diminishes the credential. An argument could be made that the distinction enhances the credential because it’s an indication that the recipient is a self-starter with a tremendous amount of initiative.

Regardless, UAB’s online MBA degree does not say “online” on the diploma.

You can be confident that UAB’s standards of excellence for on-campus and online programs are equally robust. At the end of the semester when students have finished their required courses and electives, online MBA students frequently attend commencement ceremonies with their fellow graduates who opted for in-person learning. You’re more than welcome to do the same.

How Much Does an Online MBA Cost?

The cost of higher education is an ongoing concern for many families. In the aforementioned survey by Gallup, 25% of unenrolled adults with some postsecondary education said they weren’t pursuing a degree program because of the cost of attendance.

Tuition rates at the UAB Collat School of Business are highly competitive with many other online MBA programs. You may also be eligible for a scholarship, so be sure to inquire if you think you may qualify.

Is Doing an Online MBA Worth the Expense and the Efforts?

Everyone who has successfully completed an online MBA program has their own opinions about whether the work they put in was worthwhile. More often than not, online MBA graduates are pleased with the results. Nearly 80% of alumni in the GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey said they found their MBA programs “personally, professionally, and financially rewarding.” Virtually the same percentage of part-time MBA students shared in the full-time students’ assessment.

Whether you aim to ascend the ladder of success at the company you work for now or seek to hit the ground running by obtaining your master’s, the online MBA program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business is waiting for you. An online MBA degree can broaden your professional horizons, hone your skill sets, and set you up for more success in whatever business path you choose moving forward, whether that be as a business leader or an entrepreneur of your own business. For more information about the curriculum, our extensive alumni network, and what other notable achievements the School of Business has received over the years, apply today.

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