Business Administration

How to Choose an Online MBA

How to Choose an Online MBA
Online MBA programs make their degrees available to everyone everywhere, and without exorbitant relocation and residency costs. Image from Pexels
Alfred Heekin profile
Alfred Heekin April 14, 2023

Choosing a high-quality online MBA program that complements your long-term career goals can seem challenging. Consider reputation, cost, retention and graduation rates, preferred specialization, and potential networking opportunities. This article guides you through the process.

MBA/Business Programs You Should Consider

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There was a time when online MBA opportunities were rare; no longer. Today, online MBA programs outnumber their brick-and-mortar counterparts by a thin but growing margin—and for good reason. The benefits of completing a business education remotely are both numerous and apparent.

Online programs offer working professionals the opportunity to continue employment as they learn. That’s huge—you no longer need to forgo two or more years of earnings and advancement to pursue an MBA from a top institution. Online MBA programs make their degrees available to everyone everywhere, and without exorbitant relocation and residency costs.

Additionally, online MBA programs boast the same credentials and reputations as their in-person counterparts. Online students sacrifice nothing in terms of education quality or prestige; the degrees they receive are identical to those conferred in on-campus programs. Many online MBA programs offer customizable, self-directed schedules for a completely personalized learning experience, making an ever-expanding number of concentrations available to online students.

One significant difference between online MBA programs and their on-campus counterparts is that remote programs don’t always offer networking opportunities like business lunches, job fairs, or events with high-profile speakers. If you choose to opt for distance learning, be sure to research the engagement opportunities schools provide for online MBA students. Howard University, for instance, dedicates numerous resources to its online cohorts.

So, what other factors should you consider when choosing an online MBA program? This article explains how to choose an online MBA, including the following topics:

  • Cost of online MBA programs
  • Online MBA programs with specializations
  • Online MBA programs with networking opportunities

Cost of online MBA programs

Any good future business student should consider their return on investment for the cost of pursuing an online MBA. The value of earning an MBA is well-documented. The data paint a clear picture of the benefits. Employers are constantly in search of qualified MBA graduates to fill top-tier positions in their leadership ranks. So what can you expect to earn as a recent graduate?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2021, management occupations requiring a master’s degree offered a median salary of about $102,000 per year. Graduates from high-profile business schools tend to earn substantially more. In addition, graduates of MBA programs develop a crucial network of professional contacts, which often leads to a lifetime of lucrative opportunities.

The cost of an MBA degree, however, can seem prohibitively expensive to prospective students. Consider long-term career goals as you make your decision. Remember to consider scholarships, grants, and potential employer funding in your calculations. Top-tier business schools may come with a price tag, but evidence suggests your increase in earnings will be more than worth the investment. There are lower-priced online MBA programs for you to consider as well.

Examples of online MBA program costs

Howard University offers its prestigious online MBA for $1,896 per credit hour. To potentially defray some or all of that cost, it provides students with the following scholarship and financial aid opportunities:

  • The National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) awards two $10,000 scholarships and one $5,000 scholarship to current members pursuing MBAs at Howard University School of Business.
  • The Hennesey Fellows scholarship awards high-achieving graduate students from HBCUs up to $20,000 per academic year for up to two years plus a one-time $10,000 stipend.
  • The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) collaborates with corporate and nonprofit partners to offer merit and need-based scholarships to students attending TMCF member-schools like Howard University.
  • UNCF awards more than $100 million to HBCU scholars each year. While Howard isn’t one of UNCF’s partner HBCUs, some UNCF scholarships are open to HU students.

Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business offers its online MBA program for $1,797 per credit hour, around $103,000 for tuition in full. SMU awards all merit-based admissions scholarships during the admissions process. The school notifies students of their awards at the time of admission.

University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business offers its online MBA program for $1,200 per credit hour, around $54,000 for tuition in full.

Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management offers its online MBA in Healthcare Management for $1,561 per credit hour. Graduate and professional students must contact their individual professional school or graduate department for information and application materials for institutional grant assistance, stipends, and assistantships.

Butler University’s Lacy School of Business offers its online MBA program for $950 per credit hour. The Butler Office of Financial Aid awards Federal Direct Loans to degree-seeking graduate students enrolled at least half-time (three credit hours).

The School of Business at Stevens Institute of Technology offers its online MBA program for around $1,776 per credit hour. Based on the results of your FAFSA, Stevens will send you a financial aid offer, which may include a combination of different types of federal aid.


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Online MBA programs with specializations

Online MBA programs mirror on-campus programs in many ways—including their curricula. The best online MBA programs provide business students with a wide range of skills to excel in executive, consulting, or entrepreneurial positions.

Core MBA coursework includes:

  • Accounting: Teaches the fundamentals of financial and managerial accounting, including how to read and prepare financial statements, understand accounting cycles, and use accounting information for decision-making, budgeting, and performance evaluation.
  • Business analytics: Focuses on using statistical analysis, data modeling, and predictive analytics to make data-driven business decisions. Covers tools and techniques for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting large datasets to improve operational efficiency, customer insights, and strategic planning.
  • Entrepreneurship: Explores the process of designing, launching, and running a new business. Topics include identifying business opportunities, developing business plans, securing financing, and managing growth and innovation in start-ups and small businesses.
  • Ethics: Examines ethical principles and challenges in business. Discusses the importance of ethical leadership, corporate social responsibility, and ethical decision-making in building trust and sustaining business operations in the long term.
  • Finance: Provides an understanding of financial management, investment analysis, and capital markets. Topics include risk and return, capital budgeting, financial planning and strategy, capital structure decisions, and the valuation of stocks and bonds.
  • Leadership: Focuses on developing effective leadership skills and understanding leadership theories and styles. Covers topics such as team dynamics, conflict resolution, organizational behavior, and strategic leadership.
  • Macroeconomics: Explores the principles of macroeconomics including inflation, unemployment, monetary and fiscal policy, and international trade. Discusses the impact of macroeconomic variables on business decisions and the global economy.
  • Microeconomics: Studies the behavior of individuals and firms in making decisions on the allocation of scarce resources. Topics include demand and supply analysis, market structures, pricing strategies, and the role of government in regulating business activities.
  • Marketing: Covers the fundamentals of marketing management and strategy. Topics include market research, consumer behavior, product development, branding, pricing, distribution, and promotional strategies aimed at meeting customer needs and achieving business objectives.
  • Management: Focuses on the principles and practices of effective management, including planning, organizing, leading, and controlling organizational resources. Discusses the challenges of managing in diverse and global business environments.
  • Statistics: Teaches statistical methods and analysis for business decision-making. Covers descriptive statistics, probability, inferential statistics, regression analysis, and hypothesis testing, emphasizing the interpretation and communication of statistical findings.
  • Operations: Examines the processes involved in producing goods and delivering services. Topics include operations strategy, process design, quality management, supply chain management, and lean operations, with a focus on improving productivity and customer satisfaction.

It’s important to consider more than just your chosen university’s core MBA courses. Your education should prepare you to delve deep into your particular interests in the business world. An excellent business education can prepare you to work in many industries. Online MBA programs focus on anything from finance to supply chain management to energy. An especially robust online MBA program will offer multiple elective course options through which you can construct an area of specialization.

Online MBA programs with networking opportunities

While the benefits of earning an online MBA are numerous, there are a few inherent drawbacks to studying remotely. Relationships are key when pursuing a business education, and online MBA programs don’t always deliver the infrastructure to foster these connections. It’s crucial to ensure your chosen school provides remote students ample opportunities to engage. Luckily, many prestigious universities have transformed this problem into an opportunity.

Stevens Institute of Technology, for example, offers a robust network of support and connection for its online cohorts. In addition, its “Boosted Learning Initiative” was created specifically for online MBA students, providing “…value to the online learning experience by increasing students’ retention of core knowledge, improving their performance in subsequent classes, and ultimately to help them to advance in their careers.”

Butler University provides online MBA students with an intimate environment that limits class sizes to stimulate “…live debates, presentations, and breakout group discussions with peers, emphasizing group work, collaboration, and a feeling of intimacy within online classrooms.” In addition, the program utilizes the “flip model” of instruction to engage students maximally during live sessions.

In addition to Southern Methodist University’s online, live, engaging classes with world-class faculty, its Cox School of Business offers an alumni network of over 42,000 global business leaders. In addition, its online MBA program hosts numerous online events to promote networking. And while the program’s online curriculum is specifically developed for a remote setting, all students enjoy access to the entire SMU campus and facilities, should they visit in person.

Howard University offers a medley of dedicated resources for online cohorts, including study groups, peer offline meetings, and industry events. In addition, it provides alumni with additional resources as they enter the workforce.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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