What Can I Expect from an Online MBA Program?

Online Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees are popular graduate programs due to their variety of specializations and shorter completion times. As an online MBA program student, you can expect classes and the course load to be similar to what you would find in an in-person program but with greater flexibility and affordability. In most cases, online courses are taught by the same professors who teach on-campus classes. When researching online MBA programs, it’s essential to look for programs that align with your schedule, interests, and goals so you enroll in the program that will best prepare you for the career you want.

Available concentrations

MBA concentrations typically fall into one of two categories — skills-based or industry-based. Because an MBA is a particularly versatile degree, with skills that students can apply to nearly every industry, many specialization options are available. Some of the most popular include:

    • Accounting/Finance: This traditional MBA specialization focuses on financial analysis techniques and business development strategies. It is an ideal concentration for individuals interested in positions like controller, business analyst, financial adviser, financial manager, director of operations, or chief financial officer.
    • Marketing: Students with an MBA concentration in marketing develop key business management skills in communications, public relations, creative strategy, and finances. A marketing MBA can lead to employment as a marketing director, marketing consultant, product manager, or research analyst.
    • Leadership: Students interested in management or director positions may want to pursue a leadership specialization, encompassing traditional MBA skills and innovative business development strategies that help build successful corporations and nonprofits.
    • Healthcare Administration: This concentration focuses on the rapidly growing healthcare industry, teaching strategies for developing efficient healthcare practices, and managing electronic health records. Students with a healthcare administration concentration can go on to work as chief operating officers, chief administrative officers, or directors of provider contracting in healthcare settings.
  • Information Technology: Students in this specialization learn how to leverage the latest technology to improve the data flow, increase information security, and enhance the user experience. An IT concentration can lead to jobs like chief technology officer, chief information officer, or information security analyst.

Common degree curriculum

Most MBA programs feature a curriculum that covers core business concepts and skills and electives that allow students to develop their specialized knowledge in their chosen area. Another common feature of MBA programs is an internship or project-based course enabling students to apply their theoretical knowledge in the real world.

Classes students can expect to complete in an MBA program include:

  • Accounting: This course focuses on teaching the basics of financial accounting, including how to analyze transactions, financial statements, and financial reports. It helps students understand cash flows and earnings potential.
  • Finance: This course gives students an understanding of investments, budgeting,  asset valuation techniques, and risk assessment, which is critical to making intelligent financial decisions across industries.
  • Marketing: Marketing courses in MBA programs typically cover essential principles like product strategy, pricing, promotion, and placement. This course also includes consumer behavior, marketing research and analysis, decision-making, and communication strategies.
  • Leadership and management: This course introduces different leadership strategies and styles and helps students develop their own leadership and management behavior. Leadership courses may include case studies of actual leaders to identify strengths and weaknesses in different leadership styles.
  • Business accountability and ethics: This course is designed to give students an understanding of the economic, legal, and ethical responsibilities businesses bear and help them develop their decision-making skills related to these responsibilities.

Certification and license preparation

An MBA can help prepare students for several role-specific certifications. Students interested in pursuing certifications within their specialization should confirm before enrolling that their program meets the educational requirements for these credentials.

  • Certified Public Accountants: The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants oversees a uniform examination for professionals pursuing a career in finance. In addition to completing five years of undergraduate/graduate studies, candidates must pass four four-hour specialized exams. Some states require accountants to work under a certified CPA for at least one year. Continuing education is required to remain certified.
  • Society of Human Resource Management: MBA graduates working in the HR industry may become SHRM Certified Professionals by successfully completing a four-hour, 160-question exam. A senior-level certification is also available to professionals with at least three years of industry experience. The pass rate for these exams is typically 70 percent or less.
  • Cybersecurity Certifications: Graduates interested in working in the IT, information security, or health care fields may wish to pursue additional credentials, such as becoming an (ISC)² Certified Information Systems Security Professional or ISACA Certified Information Security Manager. Other certifications might be available depending on your area of specialization.

Program accreditation

Accreditations for MBA programs are provided by several industry associations that independently review the curriculum and faculty. These approvals serve as an assurance of quality to students and prospective employers. In some cases, employers prefer job candidates who have earned their MBA degree through an accredited program.

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) are two of the most important national accreditation bodies. The AACSB accredits approximately 30 percent of MBA programs, including those offered by more than 800 business colleges and universities in 54 countries. The ACBSP currently accredits more than 500 MBA programs in the United States.

Students should also confirm that the school where they’re earning their MBA has institutional accreditation, preferably by a regional accrediting agency. Institutional accreditation can impact students’ financial aid eligibility, transferability of credits, and future education and employment opportunities.

Program completion timeframe

Online MBA degrees require anywhere from 36-40 credit hours and can typically be completed in two years of full-time study. However, accelerated MBA programs may allow students to complete their MBA in as little as 12 months. Alternatively, part-time students may take up to three years or more to finish their degree. Some schools offer rolling admission schedules that allow incoming students to begin their studies at various times throughout the year, while others only enroll new students once or twice per academic year. Self-paced options may also be available, in which students complete coursework on their own schedule.

Employment Outlook for MBA Graduates

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment in the business and financial sector is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2032. The BLS projects roughly 911,400 new job openings each year, on average, over the next decade.

While the minimum education level for most business and finance jobs is a bachelor’s degree, an MBA can give individuals an edge, particularly if they seek management or C-suite positions.

Having an MBA can also boost your earning potential. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, the median annual salary for MBA graduates in 2021 was $115,000, compared to $65,000 for those with a bachelor’s degree.

Due to their advanced credentials, MBA graduates often rise to the top of private-sector corporations and nonprofits. They have the skills to effectively manage and oversee employees while developing strategies to improve their organization’s efficiency and financial growth. An MBA specializing in finance, human resources, leadership, or marketing may prepare you for one or more of the following careers.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate
Administrative Services Managers These business professionals work under C-level executives. They manage employees and oversee internal operations, such as facility maintenance and bookkeeping. $101,870 5%
Medical and Health Services Managers Healthcare executives are responsible for managing medical facilities, such as hospitals and doctors’ offices, and individual departments within larger organizations. They coordinate the practice’s operations and plan for the future while evaluating changes in healthcare law, insurance regulations, and information technology. $104,830 28%
Human Resources Managers These professionals are a vital link between an organization’s executives and employees. HR managers are responsible for overseeing the recruiting and hiring process, planning for growth, coordinating administrative tasks, and resolving disputes. $130,000 5%
Financial Managers Upper-level financial managers are responsible for ensuring the organization’s financial health. They prepare and review reports, direct investments, and develop plans for meeting long- and short-term goals. $139,790 16%
Chief Executives Top executives develop strategies and procedures to ensure their organization achieves its objectives. They’re responsible for planning, overseeing, and coordinating all business activities. $100,090 3%

Professional organizations

Professional membership groups give current students, recent graduates, and experienced professionals access to career advancement resources, networking opportunities, and many other benefits. They also engage in advocacy. Due to the wide variety of industries that employ MBAs, graduates may join numerous specialized groups that cater to professionals in the finance, health care, human resources, and marketing sectors. Additionally, these general membership associations support the MBA community as a whole.

  • The American Management Association: This nonprofit provides educational resources to 25,000 individual members and 3,000 enterprises. It produces popular seminars featuring noted business leaders and innovative training programs that cover 25 specialized subject areas.
  • The Association of MBAs: Besides accrediting international business schools, the AMBA supports industry research and thought leadership through its research center. It also offers networking, employment, and career development resources worldwide.
  • The National Black MBA Association: The NBMAA is a nationally recognized professional association with 40 regional chapters and more than 14,000 members. The organization provides professional development services, career advancement opportunities, scholarships, and other resources.

Financing Your Online MBA Degree

One of the benefits of earning an MBA online is that there are typically some cost savings associated with this type of program. For example, expenses related to travel are eliminated when participating in a distance learning program. However, students may still need financial aid to help them cover the cost of their MBA program.

Students who need financial assistance should start with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Schools use the information from this application to determine how much federal financial aid students are eligible for, including federal student loans, grants, and work-study. They also use this information to award institutional aid, like scholarships, assistantships, and grants.

Another option to explore is employer tuition assistance benefits. Many nonprofit organizations and private companies also offer scholarships and grants. Students who are veterans or active-duty military service members should inquire about military discounts and GI Bill benefits.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

A key consideration for students enrolling in an MBA degree program is how they will pay for their degree. Many options are available to help students pay, including student loans, scholarships, grants, and more.

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Interested in a degree?

 

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.