Online MBA Programs: Ideal For Working Professionals


An average MBA student can expect to double his salary within three years of graduating, according to a 2018 article in the Wall Street Journal. Investopedia notes that work experience can contribute significantly to the salary with MBA graduates having 10 years of experience earning six-digit salaries. If you are already a working professional, an MBA can bump your earning prospects and open a wide range of advanced career opportunities.

Enrollments for online MBA programs are steadily rising as these reports indicate:

  • A 2017 GMAC Report noted that enrollments to traditional, two-year, full-time, campus-based MBAs declined to 64% in 2017 while, online MBA enrollments remained steady.
  • Forbes reported that the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business had 360 students enrolled in online MBA program in 2017 as compared to 147 students in 2016. Other colleges have seen similar jumps in online enrollment for MBA programs.

Whether you are working part- or full-time, here is what you should know if you’re considering enrolling in an online MBA program. We discuss why an online MBA program can be ideal for you, the options you have, and whether an online MBA program can be cost-effective.

Why online MBA programs are ideal for working professionals

Flexibility and convenience

The flexible online format means you can take your classes when you want to, as you want to. Many programs use asynchronous technology, such as online lectures, message boards and emails, so students watch lectures at a time that is convenient to them allowing them to respond at their own pace. MBA students also have the option of choosing synchronous classes, if their schedule allows. Synchronous learning requires students and lecturers to be online at a specific time. Students can experience live classroom interaction and participate in classroom discussion.

Here are some of the common online MBA program formats that can be ideal for working professionals:

  • The 100% online MBA/ distance MBA: As the name indicates, these programs are 100 percent online, with no campus attendance required.
  • Hybrid MBA: Combining online and classroom formats, these programs allow students to take theory classes completely online while giving students the opportunity to experience hands-on the practical aspects.
  • Online Executive MBA: These programs are usually designed for those who already work as executives and have five years of managerial experience. These programs can be 100% online or hybrid. Your employer may be able to fund your executive MBA.

Choices of online MBA programs

Since campus attendance is not required for 100% online MBA programs, prospective students can choose a program offered anywhere across the country. Advantages of having such a wide range of choices can include:

  • Finding a specialization that fits in with your career goals: Some online MBA programs offer specializations, not found in other programs, which can better help advance your personal career goals.
  • Graduating with an MBA from a reputed college: Some online MBA programs are more reputed than others and graduating from Ivy League business schools can give your resume an edge over other candidates.

Students are advised to explore, compare and choose an online MBA program from the plethora of choices available to online students.

What can an online MBA program do for working professionals?

An online MBA can come with many perks. Here are just some of them:

Career advancement

An online MBA may not only qualify you for higher-paying jobs, but also qualify you for more advanced positions, helping you climb up the ladder of success. A study from Online College Students 2017 reported that nearly 80% of respondents said they would enroll in an online MBA program for career enhancement.

According to the Princeton Review, you may be able to improve on five main skills, highly sought after by employers, with the help of online MBA programs:

  1. Interpersonal skills – how you interact efficiently and collaboratively with people
  2. Strategic thinking – how you think, access and derive to decisions in your work in order to succeed and maximize company’s growth
  3. Entrepreneurial skills – how you evaluate markets, commit to learning, think creatively, gain courage and tenacity
  4. Communication skills – how you convey core values and strategies to others
  5. Leadership Skills – how you inspire team members to contribute meaningfully

Pay rise and promotions

MBA graduates of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, reported average salary increases of 29 percent over their pre-MBA pay, as reported by Forbes, which further went on to state that 76 percent of online MBA students received promotions or started new jobs while still studying at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Less worry of being unemployed

A 2017 Georgetown University report confirms that unemployment rates of MBA degree holders are relatively lower than undergraduate degree holders:


What do I study in an online MBA?

Online MBA may vary by university and programs. In general, you study about the complexities of international markets and business trends, develop leadership and management skills, and learn about business communication and ethics, among many other topics integral to online MBA programs. You can also opt for concentrations such as healthcare management, human resources, and information technology to gain specialized knowledge and expertise typically required for advanced roles in competitive business environments. You can get more information about general prerequisites and other details here.

Will I get an ROI on my online MBA degree investment?

According to the research conducted by GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council), it takes less than four years to recoup the entire investment in a graduate program. The research further states:

  • 3 in 4 alumni say their degree provided them with faster career advancement
  • 4 in 5 say their degree has increased their earnings power
  • Business school alumni earn a median cumulative base salary of $2.5 million over 20 years after graduation

To calculate the ROI of online MBA programs, you’d need to know the average post-MBA salary and then weigh it against the program cost. The program duration is an important factor as the expense would significantly increase for a two-year MBA program as against a one-year program.

In addition, factors like gender and location can play a part in ROI with MBA graduates in California reporting higher median salaries than those in other states, according to Investopedia.

Can I get sponsorship from my employer to fund my online MBA program?

An MBA can be a big investment in terms of both time and money. Fortunately, there are many options to fund your online MBA education. According to the GMAC 2017 report, 38 percent of online MBA students expected to receive employer support. In contrast, on-campus students expected employer support as low as 8 percent. If you are thinking of applying for MBA sponsorship at your organization, take some time to prepare your case which should focus on how earning an MBA can benefit your company. You can talk to your supervisor or consult with the department of human resources in your company. Employer MBA sponsorship may be full or partial. It may come before or during your studies but it can reduce the burden on your own budget.

In addition, funding options may be available for eligible students through federal and state funding programs as well as scholarships. Find more information here.

MBA graduate shares her experience: What it’s like to get an MBA online?

Here’s our exclusive interview with Rae-Anne Yip, a career counselor in the San Francisco Bay Area. She used to work long hours and found herself pigeonholed, until she completed an online MBA program.

What was your online learning experience like?
“Overall, it was a great experience. In the beginning it was an adjustment, since I had been out of school for over 2 years, and the program I enrolled in was an accelerated 18-month program. Eventually I was able to get into a routine and balance the workload.”

Did you miss the interaction that comes from learning on-campus?
“Well, we did have weekly discussions to participate in online, as well as a lot of team projects that simulated the on-campus experience. I also was able to establish close working relationships with many of my professors.”

How did your master’s degree help you in your career?
“About 3 months into the online MBA program, I was up for a promotion and am certain my master’s degree (in progress) helped me get the upper management position. As far as courses, I feel I benefited the most from the finance and organizational behavior.”

What does an average day in your job look like?
“I have to attend a lot of meetings throughout the day and interface with many different departmental personnel. Managing a program includes close interaction with the finance, information systems, and administration departments, as well as the Board of Directors.”

If you pursued further education, would you go the online route again?
“Yes, I would – it was the best way for me to get further education.”

Ms. Yip, like many other graduates, saw immediate career growth, and is still enjoying the benefits of her online MBA today.


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