Our Ranking Methodology
To find the best online business degree programs, we only looked at nonprofit and accredited universities. While every university on our starting list was regionally accredited, we took it one step further and required Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation.
The AACSB evaluates accounting and business administration degrees. If you’re pursuing a career in either of those fields, AACSB-accreditation is the gold standard, ensuring that each program has met high standards for its teaching methods. Even if you’re pursing another degree, earning it through an AACSB-accredited school is a sign of excellence beyond regional accreditors.
Once we had our list of AACSB-accredited universities, we evaluated each based on three criteria:
AACSB-accreditation certifies that a program has met or exceeded standards for teaching business and accounting. It’s especially important if you’re planning on pursuing postgraduate studies, since many business schools require your bachelor’s degree to be from an AACSB-accredited institution. That said, AACSB-accreditation also is important for ensuring that your business degree ― no matter its subject ― is respected by employers.
In addition to making sure the AACSB signed-off on each school’s accounting and business administration programs, we analyzed how well each university ranked in leading college evaluators. These organizations, like U.S. News, have the resources to dig deep and evaluate each school. We then used an algorithm to compile and compare rankings and scored whether a department is highly-regarded by analysts.
Next we compared the number of undergraduate and graduate business degrees available online at each university. While we gave some points when a school offered multiple concentrations of a single degree, we wanted to find the most well-rounded programs – those which offered the most degrees online. We honed in on particular degree subjects that the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates as growing faster than average: Accounting, Business Administration, Economics, Finance, Information Technology, Management, and Marketing.
Each of the schools on our list has degrees in at least two of these categories, and schools with more degrees scored higher here.
Finally, we evaluated how much it would cost to attend each university. The number of credits required to complete each degree depends both on subject and whether you’re pursuing a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. To make sure we compared universities fairly, we looked at how much it would cost per credit hour at the undergraduate and graduate degree levels.
Schools that scored higher than the average cost earned fewer points in this category, while universities that were relatively economical earned more.
This Gave Us Our Intelligent Score
Together, these three criteria were used to calculate the Intelligent Score for each university. To get the highest score, a university had to be well-regarded for the rigorousness of its programs, be relatively cost-effective, and offer multiple degrees in needed business fields.
There were a few schools which didn’t quite reach the mark for having enough degrees to make it onto our list. That said, these universities are well-regarded, and our shortlist might be worth examining to see if they offer the specific degree you want.
- Cleveland State University
- Nicholls State University
- San Diego State University
- Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
- University of Arizona
- University of Arkansas
- University of Delaware
- University of Illinois at Chicago
- University of Iowa
- University of Kansas
- University of South Florida St. Petersburg
- Villanova University
This Degree Isn’t For Everyone
Networking is important no matter your degree, but it’s even more important for business students. All of the degrees listed in our top 22 best online business degree programs are fully online. That’s good news: you won’t need to find a plane ticket and lodging for on-campus requirements. It’s also bad news if you’re planning on using your school as your primary networking resource.
Universities will sometimes list their networking resources available for online students ― and they can have optional on-campus events purely for networking. But depending on how much networking you want your school to coordinate, you might be better off looking for a hybrid or offline degree.
As you hone in on your chosen degree, you’ll want to keep an eye on the state authorizations of each university. All of the universities on our list are authorized to teach and award degrees to students living in most states – but there are a few exceptions. If you live in a different state than the university, you’ll need to verify that your home state has authorized your chosen school to teach online.
Most universities have a state authorization page to help students find out whether it’s worth their time applying to the program. That said, if you have any questions about your eligibility, you’ll want to contact the program’s admissions director to make sure that your diploma will be recognized by your home state.