The energy sector is a soft landing spot for MBAs, offering broad opportunities across varied functions. More than six million people work in the energy industry (surprisingly, just over one million of them work in coal, oil, and gas). Renewable energy boasts impressive job growth (nine percent annually), and the electricity industry is just as robust, adding jobs at a seven percent annual rate.
MBAs throughout the energy world earn good money. Energy MBA program grads have some of the highest median starting salaries (over $120,000). Given humanity’s nearly unquenchable thirst for oil, gas, and electricity, that probably won’t change any time soon.
In other words, earning an MBA in Energy is a safe bet, career-wise. However, you may run into a problem when you’re trying to choose a program if you’re not located near one of the nation’s energy hubs. That’s where the best energy MBA programs are typically found.
In that case, you have three options. First, you could enroll in a generalist Master of Business Administration program at a nearby school and bust your butt to break into the energy sector. Second, you could bite the bullet and relocate. Or third, you could enroll in an MBA in Energy program online at one of those top schools.
It’s worth exploring all your options. Online energy MBA programs aren’t 100 percent identical to on-campus programs. Even so, they can still prepare you for a career in this complex and expansive industry. In this article about earning an MBA in Energy online, we cover:
An MBA in Energy is a business degree with a twist. Nearly all specialty MBA programs require students to take core courses in foundational business topics like finance, risk management, international business, accounting, operations, and marketing. In some energy MBA programs, each of these core topics is covered in the context of the energy industry (i.e., a student might study energy finance instead of simply finance). In others, these topics are presented independently, and students take additional classes focused on the energy industry, energy production, energy management, renewable energy, energy efficiency, or cleantech.
Some energy MBA programs are so focused on sustainable development that they should probably be called green MBAs. There are even energy MBA programs delivered in partnership with science and engineering schools that touch on the technical side of energy production and delivery. Most online MBA in Energy programs take about two years of full-time study to complete. There are also part-time programs that take longer and accelerated programs that can be completed in 18 months or less. There’s even an Executive MBA in Energy at the University of Oklahoma (for candidates with at least three years of energy industry work experience).
The National Association of Colleges and Employers predicted an average starting salary for 2019 MBA graduates of $84,580—provided those graduates found jobs in computer science, engineering, science, or business. (
Students considering an MBA or graduate business degree can choose from varied career paths, including those focused on financial management, data analytics, market research, healthcare management, and operations management. The analytical skills and problem-solving techniques gained from graduate level business degrees are in high demand across business sectors. ( )
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There are several reasons students pursue energy MBAs online. Foremost among them is flexibility. Online MBA programs give students the freedom to study anywhere. Some deliver most or even all coursework asynchronously, so students can choose when they listen to lectures and complete assignments. Consequently, students aren’t limited by location when choosing schools and can keep earning income—and meeting personal commitments—while working toward their degrees.
Choosing an online MBA program can also be a anchortext cost-effective option. While it’s a myth that online degree programs cost less than degree programs delivered on-campus, it is still possible to save money by pursuing an MBA in Energy online. Tuition for these programs is typically the same regardless of format, but the total cost for an online MBA is often less because distance learners don’t pay relocation costs. Nor do they incur costs for transportation, meals on campus, and housing near or on campus.
The best energy MBA programs have:
Strong online MBA in Energy programs have job placement rates as high as those in their on-campus programs. That’s because these programs have close recruiting relationships with high-profile energy companies in the oil and gas industry, like Chevron and ExxonMobil, or large green energy companies. Make sure the program you choose is affiliated with companies in the energy sector that interests you most.
The colleges and universities that have put their highly ranked MBA in Energy programs online offer various concentration courses focused on different areas of the energy business. Students in the University of Tulsa Energy MBA can choose among classes like US Oil and Gas Law, International Energy Markets, and The Refining and Petrochemicals Business. They can also choose among focus areas like Energy Law and Regulation, Energy Economics, and Commercial Operations Management.
The best online energy MBA programs are affiliated with an energy research center or a similar scientific facility. The University of Tulsa, for instance, is home to the Institute of Alternative Energy. The school conducts various drilling research projects, petroleum reservoir exploitation projects, and separation technology projects. Innovation on campus can contribute to the quality and breadth of online programs.
Some online MBA in Energy programs make an effort to ensure that distance learners have the same opportunities to learn or work in real-world settings as students in on-campus programs. These immersion experiences don’t take the place of internships, but instead offer online students opportunities to connect and learn together. Students enrolled in the online executive energy MBA program at the University of Oklahoma – Norman‘s Norman Price College of Business complete three-week-long energy-focused residencies (two of which take place in international locations).
Success in business is often about who you know, and the top online MBA in Energy programs do as much as they can to help distance learners build their networks and tap into opportunities in the energy space.
That depends on what you consider a downside. Students in online MBA programs earn identical degrees as their on-campus peers without putting their lives on hold. However, what they gain in convenience, they sacrifice in camaraderie. The sense of community that exists in MBA degree cohorts and can lead to future business opportunities simply can’t be replicated in an online program. Distance learners also miss out on-campus networking events like luncheons and after-hours mixers at which industry leaders often make appearances.
Most importantly, distance learners are recruited at lower rates than on-campus students. It’s not that employers are biased against applicants who earn degrees online, but rather that distance learners can’t attend events hosted by corporate recruiters, industry job fairs, or meet-and-greets with local companies. It will be up to you to decide whether the pros of pursuing an MBA in Energy online outweigh these cons.
The list of colleges and universities that have MBA in Energy programs and offer those programs online is relatively short. You’ll find the best online energy MBA programs at the following schools:
Energy MBA students go on to work in a variety of settings, including small renewable energy startups and traditional power companies, and hold an equally wide variety of titles. With this degree, you might work at a small solar power company as director of operations or in a large multinational oil and gas company’s finance department. Other titles you might hold include:
First, do your homework. Online MBA programs, regardless of concentration, vary wildly in terms of cost and how content is delivered. Some come with a relatively affordable $30,000 price tag. Others run upwards of $100,000, and that’s before you add in fees and materials. There are online energy MBA programs that build global immersion trips and corporate consulting projects into the curriculum, and there are 100 percent online energy MBA programs that are delivered asynchronously. Consider what you can afford and what kind of experience you’re looking for in an energy-focused MBA program.
Next, accept that you may not get the same level of post-graduation career support as students on campus when you pursue an MBA in energy online. It will be up to you to take advantage of every networking opportunity built into the program and create your own opportunities. Make an effort to connect with your classmates, even if you won’t ever meet in person. Reach out to executives at local energy companies and industry leaders to request informational interviews. These informal chats may not lead to jobs, but they can help you understand how to advance in this sector.
Finally, take advantage of every extra your college or university offers. If there’s a robust energy-centric alumni network, tap into it. Where there are optional energy-focused residencies and immersion experiences in the US or abroad, take advantage of them. Most schools don’t bar distance learners from working remotely with career advisors or joining discipline-specific student associations. You may even be able to participate in on-campus energy research from afar. If you’re unsure if particular courses, clubs, hands-on learning opportunities, or support services are open to online students, ask. The worst someone can say is no, but every time the answer is yes, you’ll be one step closer to achieving success in this competitive (and growing) field.
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