It has been 6 1/2 years since I first enrolled in an online MBA program. A lot has changed since then in regards to both the technology and availability of online MBA programs. Many top-notch business schools have not only embraced the online MBA format; but have become thought leaders in the online learning industry.
With this being said, as recently as a couple of weeks ago I’ve encountered the attitude that online MBA programs are a waste of time if you are an intelligent, career-driven prospect. The preliminary results of a survey I created suggests that the two biggest misgivings that people have regarding online MBA programs is 1) the lack of networking opportunities and 2) the less than ideal reputation (or stigma even) that online MBA programs have.
As a graduate of an online MBA program, I am definitely positively biased towards online MBA programs. However I will never completely discount the opinions of others; especially those who are working along side of me as peers. But I do wonder just how knowledgeable the general population is about online MBA programs; especially since the area has grown by leaps and bounds even in the past five years.
Here’s a roundup of 10 online MBA programs. I’m not going to make any attempt to rank them, and my selections are solely based on what I’ve heard from others and my own experience on researching online MBA programs. This list is far from exhaustive.
However I did set some standards on how programs were selected for this list. They are:
- The program must be AACSB accredited
- The program must be clear that is is an online program
- The school/university is based in the United States of America
- No for-profit MBA programs are included
Ok, so let’s get started!
1. Arizona State University – W.P. Carey School of Business Arizona
Arizona State University’s online MBA program has been heavily marketed by them in the last year or so; although in recent history, the school’s move to give all full-time, on-campus MBA students a scholarship that covers 100% of the program’s tuition has been in the news. ASU’s MBA is not a fly-by-night program, yet with a class profile of 587 average GMAT, 3.23. average GPA and an average age of 31, it’s also a very accessible program (67% of applicants were admitted). Also tuition for the online MBA program is not tied to residency, so all students pay the same amount.
Home campus location: Tempe, AZ
Specializations: Finance, International Business, Marketing, Supply Chain Management
Required On-Campus Component: Yes, mandatory on-campus orientation (to be done before program start)
Tuition: $54,000 – $63,000
Program Website: https://wpcarey.asu.edu/mba-programs/online
2. Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper School of Business
Carnegie Mellon has been ranked as one of the top 25 universities overall in the United States; so for them to offer an online MBA program is a great nod of credibility. It’s not clear to me if their new program (which is officially called an ‘online-hybrid MBA’) is different from the school’s FlexMBA program, which no longer seems to be offered. It also isn’t readily apparent if attendance at all of their Access Weekends sessions are required (it would seem so though, since CMU seems to pride itself on the program’s blended learning options). These Access Weekends are available at several locations across the United States, not just Pittsburgh. But I would check with admissions on specifics of both the geographic locations of these sessions and how frequently they are offered. One thing is for clear though, the admissions standards for the online MBA program isn’t as rigorous as their full-time, on-campus option. Average GMAT is 654 and the average GPA is 3.3. Average age of cohort students is 29. The tuition is still pretty high though; upwards of $120K, depending on how many “mini semesters” that it takes you to finish the program.
Home location: Pittsburgh, PA
Specializations: numerous – full list can be seen here
Required On-Campus Component: unsure
Program Website: http://tepper.cmu.edu/prospective-students/masters/mba/program-options/part-time-online-hybrid
3. University of Florida – Hough School of Business
Even back in 2009, University of Florida’s online MBA program was on my radar. I will say that the colleges in Florida have generally been very early adopters of online programs; where almost all of the major universities in the state have an extensive catalog of online degree programs. The University of Florida is regarded as one of the best universities in the state, and their online MBA degree program was ranked as one of the 3rd best overall by the Financial Times, after two international MBA programs. Admissions are moderately competitive with an average GMAT score of about 600 and average GPA of 3.3.
The main reason why I personally took UF’s online MBA program out of the running however was the cost. The online MBA program does not follow the state resident vs. non-resident tuition schedule. So if you are a FL resident, the traditional full-time MBA program would only cost you $18K. That’s a big price difference for what is ultimately the same degree (on paper at least).
Home location: Gainesville, FL
Specializations: none (but will be available starting in Fall 2016)
Required On-Campus Component: Yes, mandatory on-campus orientation
Tuition: $98,000 (full-time), $116,000 (part-time)
Program Website: http://floridamba.ufl.edu/online/
4. Indiana University – Kelley School of Business
In the Midwest, Kelley’s MBA program has a strong reputation, and more than half of the students in the online program hail from the Midwest. In the sea of online MBAs, U.S. News had Kelley ranked as a top program at #2 (down from being #1 in 2014). It’s an affordable, competitive program, with an average GMAT score of 640 and an average undergraduate GPA of 3.4. Online MBA students are also eligible for study-abroad opportunities, which is pretty cool and makes perfect sense in today’s global marketplace.
Home location: Bloomington, IN
Specializations: none for MBA, but several online MS in Business degrees available
Required On-Campus Component: Yes, one-week orientation
Tuition: $68,000 (without course waivers)
Program Website: http://kelley.iu.edu/onlineMBA/Online/MBA/page36790.cfm
5. University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) – Kenan-Flagler Business School
Back in 2012, Fortune Magazine ran a piece that said that UNC’s entry into the online MBA area gave it credibility. While I believe that this is a tall claim, I definitely saw the shift around this time where top notch MBA programs stopped seeing online MBA education as cheapening their brand. UNC has been very forthcoming that their online MBA admissions process and requirements is every bit as rigorous as their standard MBA programs. The GMAT is waived for those who have more than 7 years of professional work experience. But quite frankly I’m surprised at the lopsided gender ratio in the online MBA program; 77% of the program’s 634 students are male. I wasn’t able to readily locate the numbers on minority enrollment, but just based on gender alone, UNC’s program won’t win any awards in regards to diversity.
Home location: Chapel Hill, NC
Specializations: Corporate Finance, Entrepreneurship, Global Supply Chain Management, Investment Management, Management Consulting, Marketing, and Sustainable Enterprise
Required On-Campus Component: No; but two ‘immersion session’ are required, but these are offered at satellite locations
Tuition: $100,000; but fellowships are available to North Carolina residents and students working in developing countries
Program Website: https://onlinemba.unc.edu/
6. Pennsylvania State University – World Campus
Another program that has been around for quite some time (10+ years) is Penn State’s iMBA program. Now technically, this MBA program is a part of Penn State’s World Campus, and not the renowned Smeal College of Business. I wasn’t able to easily locate the class profile of PSU’s iMBA students, but the GMAT is required. I did find this podcast about a day in the life of an iMBA student.
Home location: n/a (PSU’s World Campus is a combined effort of multiple PSU locations)
Required On-Campus Component: none
Program Website: http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/penn-state-online-mba-degree-program/overview
7. Syracuse University – Whitman School of Management
The online MBA program at Syracuse is a program that I’ve heard good things about. Like UNC’s program, the GMAT requirement is waived for those with 5 or more years of professional work experience. Also, similar to CMU, Syracuse renamed it’s previous iMBA program and it’s been re-branded as the MBA@ Syracuse. It also seems that Syracuse has been focusing on increasing the diversity of their MBA programs overall.
Home location: Syracuse, NY
Specializations: Accounting, Finance, Supply Chain Management, Marketing Management and Entrepreneurship
Required On-Campus Component: none
Tuition: $41,650 (with course waivers), $74,950 (full program cost)
Program Website: https://onlinebusiness.syr.edu/mba/
8. Villanova University – Villanova School of Business
Villanova has never been bashful in regards to marketing their online MBA program, especially to working professionals. Even though the MBA program is online, it’s requirements are not exactly flexible. There are no course waivers for MBA coursework based on undergraduate credits earned, and transfer credit requirements are strict. The course is also designed to take 2 years, and no specializations are available. However, the program is still relatively young having debuted in 2014. So I would keep my eye out for changes.
Home location: Villanova, PA (near Philadelphia, PA)
Required On-Campus Component: Yes; weekend leadership class must be taken during first two semesters of program
Program Website: http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/business/graduate/mba/online.html
9. University of Scranton – Kania School of Management
The University of Scranton’s online MBA program may not be one of the widest known or highest ranked, but I’m including it here for a reason. I applied to the program in 2009, and while I ultimately did not finish my application or enroll, I found their staff and faculty readily available to answer questions and supply information…even as a prospect. Also no GMAT is required, the average age of students is 34 (making the program more appealing to mid-career professionals), and class sizes are capped at 20 students. There are several specializations available including International Business which has garnered some attention. Also it’s a good deal, especially if you can get the foundation courses waived (based on your undergraduate coursework). Basically you can get an MBA from here, wherever you are, for the price of a new Dodge Ram pickup.
Home location: Scranton, PA
Specializations: Accounting, Enterprise Resource Planning, Healthcare Management, International Business, Operations Management
Required On-Campus Component: none
Tuition: $34,740 (with course waivers), $46,320 (full program cost)
Program Website: http://elearning.scranton.edu/mba/online-mba-programs
10. Temple University – Fox School of Business
And last but not least, is Fox’s online MBA program, which is currently ranked #1 by U.S. News. Quite an accomplishment for a program that was founded less than 7 years ago. There are 300 students in the program, 5% which are male and the average age is 35. For now, the online program only offers two specializations. Online MBA students are eligible for stipends and the school has an interesting corporate sponsorship program that gives students percentage scholarships based on how many of their co-workers also enroll in the cohort (see this page for more details).
Home location: Philadelphia, PA
Specializations: Marketing Management, Human Resource Management
Required On-Campus Component: Yes (at beginning of program)
Program Website: http://www.fox.temple.edu/cms_academics/mba-ms/online-mba/
From what I see, the number of high quality, well respected, online MBA programs available has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. Now, we still have to contend with the less than great reputation that online MBA degrees have; but that will come soon as more and more successful alumni from online MBA programs go out and make a name for themselves.
I’m also noticing that more and more programs are introducing flat tuition and fee rates for all online MBA students. In many cases, these rates offer a savings on out-of-state tuition rates, but increases the costs for in-state residents. For those who are looking for bargain basement tuition prices on online MBAs, check out your local state universities. Even if the MBA program is not designated as an online program, it might be possible to take all or most of your required MBA program coursework online.
And finally it seems that many programs, in spite of being online MBAs, do require that the students meet on campus or elsewhere with either their professors and/or program peers at least once during their program. This seems to be a direct response to the criticism that online MBA programs do not offer networking opportunities. This effort may not place online MBAs on par (in this area) with their full-time, on campus counterparts, but definitely puts them on similar footing with traditional part-time MBA programs.