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Is An Online MBA Worth It? A Data-Driven Answer.

The full-time MBA is in decline. What was once a status symbol is now being replaced by more nimble online programs focused on outcomes. 

While traditional programs face major hurdles, online MBA degrees are flourishing. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), 50% of online MBA programs recorded increased applications in 2019. Only 21% of full-time, two-year MBAs could say the same. In fact, some universities are shuttering their full-time MBA programs all together. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of accredited full-time MBA programs in the U.S. shrank by 9%, while online MBA offerings doubled.

The trend of rising online MBA programs is likely to only be exacerbated by COVID-19. The pandemic has already shifted employer perceptions of remote work, shining a positive light that will inevitably further promote online education as well. 

As momentum for online MBAs swells, is now the time to apply for an online MBA program? Let’s take a look at the hard facts.

Is An MBA Still Relevant Today?

Absolutely. In fact, an MBA may be more relevant today than ever before. The role disruption plays in business—both positive and negative—is central to MBA curriculum. 

  • In times of economic uncertainty and instability, disruption calls on business leaders to quickly adapt and pivot, which can be the difference between success and failure. 
  • In strong and growing economic cycles, disruption necessitates the development of new ideas and technologies that can transform your business and help you stay ahead of competitors.

MBA coursework focuses on giving burgeoning business leaders the skills to anticipate, navigate and triumph in times of crisis and in times of growth. By focusing on timeless skills like critical thinking, interpersonal and emotional intelligence, and strategic management—and putting these skills to work in the context of real-world and real-time examples—business leaders will be prepared to face pressing challenges.

 

What matters most when choosing a master’s program? Compare features, benefits and cost to find the right school for you.

 

The value of an MBA isn’t just anecdotal. Data also indicates the growing worth of an MBA: 

  • According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, the median starting salary for MBA graduates working at U.S. companies reached an all-time high in 2019—an inflation-adjusted base salary of $115,000.
  • From 2017 to 2019, the number of job postings for MBA graduates increased by 33%, from 437,513 unique postings in 2017 to 582,274 unique postings in 2019.
  • The number of online MBA degree completions is steadily rising, from 61,976 MBA graduates in 2014 to 72,246 in 2019—a 17% increase in 5 years.

How Do Online & Traditional MBAs Compare?

Other than the fundamental difference between full-time in-person instruction and flexible online classes, here’s how traditional and online MBAs compare.

  • Curriculum is predominantly the same. The major difference may be the instructors who teach the courses. Top online MBA courses are taught by seasoned industry professionals with experience putting theory into practice. They can lend a practical point of view and real-world case studies for applying material, while traditional MBA programs may be taught by professors with an academic or research focus.
  • Engagement with peers and instructors is different, but online MBAs are a far cry from a solitary experience. While spontaneous hallway conversations or get-togethers don’t easily translate online, video conferencing, multimedia content and group projects build connections with peers and instructors.
  • Job placements and internships aren’t typically guaranteed in an online MBA program, but networking opportunities are ample. The most worthwhile online MBA programs offer virtual job fairs, dedicated career services, mentorship and shadowing opportunities in lieu of a traditional internship.

What Do Employers Think of An Online MBA?

Employers are more receptive than ever to online education. According to U.S. News & World Report, recruiters say most employers accept job candidates' online MBAs from respected schools.According to Inc.com, some employers even prefer their employees seek an online MBA because it gives these professionals the flexibility and freedom to work and study at the same time.

As perceptions continue to shift in favor of online MBA programs, the reputability of your MBA is less about how you earn your degree (in-person or online), but the reputation of the university from which you earn your MBA.

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