How to Choose the Right Online MBA Program

Making the decision to earn an MBA is serious, and choosing the right MBA program is essential in making the progress you want. While traditional full-time programs offer more credibility in some situations, online MBA programs are gaining popularity.

Distance learning allows students to organize courses around their lives instead of the other way around. Online learning may also facilitate more active engagement with some people. In an online environment, there is no one to talk over you and you don’t have to raise your hand and wait to be chosen. Many also feel more comfortable expressing themselves online than in person. An online MBA program may also benefit your career by giving you the opportunity to work with people from all over the country and, in some cases, all over the globe.

To reap the most benefits from your Masters in Business Administration, you first have to choose the right program. There isn’t a one size fits all approach to this process. It will depend on your goals, your flexibility and how much you can afford to spend on earning a degree.

Write Out Your Goals

Understanding why you want your MBA is the first step to actually getting it. The differences between full-time programs and online programs are not just in technology and tuition, but in the ways they approach the material. The differences don’t stop there, either. All online MBA programs are not created equal. And it is perfectly fine to choose one that doesn’t come from one of the top universities. It all comes down to what you want out of it.

Writing your goals down does a few key things. It helps you keep your goals concise and specific. You may think about your goals often, but putting the words on paper allows you to add clarity. It also helps you plan. You can use the writing exercise as a way to map out a way to achieve those goals.

Once everything is laid out, figuring out an online MBA program will be much easier. For instance, if you are already years into your career and are looking to higher education as a way to get a promotion, an online MBA from lesser-known universities or for-profit colleges would be perfectly acceptable. If, on the other hand, you were looking at launching a new career, especially one at a large corporation, choosing a program from one of the top online MBA schools—or other accredited programs—would be more important.

Research Accredited Online MBA Programs

After you have decided out what you want out of your MBA, you can start researching programs. If you want to a program from an accredited online program, U.S. News & World Report has compiled a list of more than 150 of the best online MBA degree programs. Each school on the list is ranked using five metrics: student engagement, admissions selectivity, peer reputation, faculty credentials and training, and student services and technology.

Even if you don’t choose a program from that list, make sure the one you do choose is accredited. The most trusted accreditation is AACSB. However, if you don’t see an AACSB-accredited MBA program that you like, there are other valid accreditation standards. You can check the U.S. Department of Education’s accreditation database to find which credentials are legitimate and to be aware of which programs may be scams.

Don’t Completely Reject For-Profit Schools

For-profit online schools like Kaplan or the University of Phoenix are generally given a bad rap. This is because they don’t have the same credentials as the recognized, traditional universities. They are not AACSB-accredited, their faculty credentials are sometimes less impressive, and they accept pretty much anyone into their programs that can pay tuition.

However, the tuition cost is usually much lower than other online degree programs you’ll find. And remember to keep your goals in mind. These online MBA programs are good for those who need the degree for a raise at work, or who are looking to get promoted to a higher position within their company.

The Takeaway

There are two main points to keep in mind if you want to pursue an online MBA degree:

1. Keep your goals at the forefront of your mind. Know exactly what you want out of your master’s degree and don’t feel pressured to apply to all the big-name schools if you can get what you need somewhere more affordable or convenient.

2. Do plenty of research. There are more and more online programs popping up every year. Some are legitimate while other are not, and some seemingly scammy schools can turn out to fit your needs. Just be sure you know all the facts before you make a final decision.