Earning a MBA degree online has many advantages over typical classroom instruction. The convenience factor is the one advantage that working adults find the most attractive. Online learning allows adult students to study, write papers and listen to classroom lectures when it fits into their schedule. The only thing that is necessary is a computer and an Internet connection.
Weighing the Online MBA Pros and Cons
In a competitive business climate, workers need every possible advantage to get ahead. When there is one promotion available and dozens of people apply for it, the person with the most relevant education and experience gets the job. It is easy to see why many people turn to earning an online Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree to help them advance their careers. However, it is important not to underestimate the amount of time and money it takes to complete a MBA program.
As with any major decision, people who are considering enrolling in a MBA program should put aside their emotions and focus on the facts. By drawing up a list of pros and cons, potential MBA students gain a better understanding of whether pursuing an online MBA is the right choice at this stage of their career.
Positive Aspects of an Online MBA Program:
- Flexibility: The online MBA appeals to working professionals because it allows them to pursue a degree while maintaining a job and other obligations. Students can study and complete assignments when it fits into their schedule. As long as the student has Internet access, coursework can be completed at home, at work or even while traveling for business.
- Networking Opportunities: Online MBA programs do not limit students to attending college in their own geographic location. Their classmates may come from several different geographic regions or even other countries. This opens up a wide network of people for references, job leads and ongoing friendships.
- Greater possibility of career advancement: MBA degree holders report less unemployment and higher salaries than people with a lower degree. While there is never a guarantee of a specific salary, it is common for people with a MBA to earn in excess of $100,000 a year.
- Challenging Coursework: Online students can expect their MBA program to be just as challenging, if not more so, than one completed at a traditional college. Online schools have worked hard to overcome the diploma mill reputation. As a result, the quality of the program is at least equal to what students would complete in person.
Possible Disadvantages of an Online MBA Program:
- Lack of human contact: Although online MBA students can build up a large network, it is unlikely that the average student will meet most of his or her cohorts. It can be difficult to understand others without the benefit of facial expression and vocal tone. Extroverted people may struggle with arrangement because they derive energy from interacting with others in person.
- Lack of respect for the online degree: Although online learning has exploded in the last decade, some employers are still suspicious of it. They may wrongly assume that people who earn their degree online didn’t have to work as hard for it as those who attended a traditional college. One way to counter this unfortunate stereotype is to enroll in an accredited online college.
- Internships may not be available: The internship is an important part of any advanced degree program. It allows students to work side-by-side with professionals in their chosen field. The information learned throughout the MBA program is put to practical use during an internship. Colleges that don’t have an actual brick and mortar location are the least likely to offer internships.
- Cost: It can cost just as much to enroll in an online MBA program as it does to attend classes on a college campus. Students can expect a minimum investment of $25,000 a year for a two-year program. MBA candidates should investigate all forms of financial aid, including tuition reimbursement from their employer.
Important Considerations Before Enrolling in a MBA Program
People who are considering enrolling in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program naturally have numerous questions. Prospective students should address these questions in advance to ensure proper completion of admission requirements to the MBA program of their choice.
Is Work Experience Required?
Most colleges offering MBA Online Degree prefer that the applicant has a minimum of two to five years of experience in the working world. However, this is not a universal requirement. Some schools look at factors other than work experience, such as test scores and personal characteristics. Schools that require two to five years of work experience favor applicants that have remained in the same industry the entire time. Frequently changing jobs is not necessarily frowned upon, especially when the change was due to a transfer or promotion. Admissions representatives are more concerned that the MBA applicant is focused on building a career in a specific industry.
There are several benefits to MBA students having several years of work experience before enrolling in the program. One of the primary reasons for assembling a group of people together for a business class is for them to learn from each other’s experience. That is difficult to do when some students have little work experience to discuss. Also, admissions representatives look for MBA candidates who have in-depth knowledge about their particular industry. People who have only been at their job a short amount of time won’t have much to offer their classmates other than surface knowledge about the business world. Another important thing to consider is that people who enroll in MBA programs are working adults who are attempting to advance in their career. This means they have different needs than 18 to 22-year-old college students.
Typical college students are studying to gain skills for entry-level work, whereas most MBA students are at least at the mid-point of their career. People with little work experience who want to enter a MBA program should discuss their alternatives with an enrollment representative.
Do MBA Applicants Need an Undergraduate Degree Before Applying?
The majority of colleges offering MBA programs require that applicants complete a bachelor degree first. Some schools may grant an exception if the student expects to complete his or her undergraduate degree later in the year. However, the bachelor degree must still be awarded prior to starting the MBA program. Many admissions representatives prefer that MBA candidates have an undergraduate degree in finance, marketing or another business discipline. However, this is not an absolute requirement. Students with a primary liberal arts background may be required to take some pre-requisite business courses before advancing to the MBA track. People applying to a MBA program need to include an official copy of their undergraduate transcript with the application.
Most colleges require a minimum 2.5 GPA in undergraduate work to be considered for admission. In addition to the transcript, potential MBA students should be prepared to submit several sealed letters of recommendation from previous instructors. The essay or personal statement is another important part of the MBA application process. It allows colleges to evaluate the professional writing skills of applicants as well as understand their career aspirations. This can also be accomplished by including a personal resume.
What Practical Skills Should a MBA Student Have?
Students should feel comfortable working with technology before committing to a MBA program. This includes the ability to work with computers, word processing programs, databases, spreadsheets and multiple forms of electronic communication. Businesses often tote the importance of being a team player, so it’s no surprise that MBA programs do so as well. Even in an online program, MBA students are expected to work collaboratively with other people in the program. Problem-solving as a group is necessary in both academic and business settings.
It is common for people who begin a MBA program at the same time to remain together as a core group until graduation. Therefore, the ability to work well in teams is crucial. Time management and study skills are another important indicator of success in a MBA program. Students are sometimes surprised that these skills don’t come naturally, especially after being out of school for many years. It takes a firm commitment to earning a degree program to choose studying over something that is perceived as more fun. Successful MBA students learn to prioritize what tasks must be completed immediately and those that aren’t as important.
Can MBA Students Keep Working Full-Time?
Most people who choose to enroll in an online MBA program are working professionals who have no desire to leave their job. Online colleges recognize this and have designed programs to make continued employment possible. The primary benefit of earning a MBA degree online is the student’s ability to complete the work at their own convenience. Students should choose a college that respects the many roles adult learners have to play and gives them tools to manage all of them well. Online MBA programs broaden the student’s network to include people beyond the family and workplace.
Students in business programs come from a wide variety of personal and professional backgrounds. This helps everyone improve their business knowledge as well as develop a broader worldview. MBA students are a great source of support to one another as they gain the necessary skills to reach their full potential. The coursework in a MBA program is timely and relevant to the student’s present career as well as they type of position he or she may want to pursue after graduation.
A primary benefit of continuing to work while earning a MBA degree is that most working students have the support of their employer. Managers like to see that employees are dedicated to their own professional growth. As a result, they can help the student employee set and attain realistic goals. A student’s immediate supervisor is a great resource for learning about promotions that may be available after he or she has earned a MBA degree. The manager can also coach the employee about the types of skills he or she should concentrate on developing.
What Is The Average ROI on an Online MBA?
The decision to pursue an online MBA has major implications on the student’s life. It represents a huge commitment of time and financial resources. As with any major investment, MBA students want to know what kind of return they can expect. Ultimately, MBA students want reassurance that their investment of time and money was worth it. The answer is different for everyone. From a strictly monetary standpoint, people with a MBA earn higher salaries on average than those with an undergraduate degree or no degree.
A 2012 Earnings of Wage and Salary Report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms this. It also states that people with an advanced degree are promoted more often and experience less unemployment. A MBA degree increases an employee’s earning potential throughout his or her working years. When figuring the return on investment, MBA students should factor in the potential salary they can earn after earning their degree and multiply it by their remaining working years.
MBA students can save time and money by earning their degree online. Tuition costs may be lower at colleges that only offer online programs due to not having to pay to maintain a physical building. With on-campus classes, students sometimes have to wait until a class they need is offered or it fits with their schedule. This is never a concern with an online MBA program.
What Can Online MBA Students Expect to Learn?
MBA programs are designed with the working professional in mind. Instruction is focused on targeted learning outcomes to help the working student build professional business competencies. One of the end goals of the MBA is to for the working professional to advance seamlessly to the next phase of his or her career. The following courses are typical in a business program:
- Human Resources
- Organizational Leadership
- Professional Communication
Upon completing the MBA coursework, students should have greater business leadership skills. At work, they can use their new skills to lead project teams, offer greater input to management, mentor co-workers on a similar career track and overall increase their value to the organization. If there are no opportunities to advance within the company, the MBA graduate has the skills and experience to look for a position elsewhere. For many MBA graduates, personal goals are just as important as advancing in their career and earning a higher salary. It is deeply satisfying to set a goal to earn a MBA and then actually achieve it. This is especially true when the student has to juggle work and family obligations at the same time. Every MBA student defines success in a different way. For some, pushing their intellectual limits is all the reward they need.