Business•October 10, 2023
Online Master of Business Administration (MBA) education has become popular in recent years. The best online MBA programs feature numerous benefits for working professionals. These benefits include greater program flexibility and accessibility, networking opportunities, versatility in business principles, and enhanced work-life integration.
MBA education in the United States needs an update. The future of MBA programs must consider shifting skill requirements, declining differentiation (and commoditization), changing student preferences, and diversity and inclusion. Updated curriculums should be tied to 21st-century business practices, ethics, social responsibility, and digital transformation. These topics better reflect the realities of today’s business world and provide MBA graduates with a relevant and future-proof education.
Prospective students should carefully consider numerous factors when choosing a program. Accreditation, faculty, curriculum, reputation, flexibility, cost, and potential financial aid will drive the student experience and professional outcomes. Researching these aspects will help prospective students find the best online MBA programs that align with their goals and needs.
This article thoroughly explores cutting-edge online MBA programs in the United States. These degree programs are accredited, staffed by exceptional teams, and apply real-world business practices. Program candidates graduate with up-to-date skills, ready to operate within and lead companies to success.
Three major publications that rank online MBA programs - US News, Forbes, and Fortune - use different assessment methodologies. These methodologies look at factors like career outcomes, student excellence, reputation, and return on investment (ROI)
US News ranks online MBA programs based on the following:
On the other hand, Forbes ranks online MBA degrees solely on return on ROI. They survey alum compensation before and after earning their MBA to calculate a five-year gain per school. This gain is the total compensation minus tuition, fees, and forgone salary while in school.
Each methodology has pros and cons, so checking multiple rankings can provide a more holistic view of the best online MBA programs. The following outlines some top-ranked programs in the United States today.
Meridian University’s MBA in Creative Enterprise is a part of a third wave of business education. This innovative program integrates whole-person and whole-system competencies, focusing on sustainable and generative practices that ensure individual success and benefit the greater community.
Key features of this program include:
The program develops leaders equipped for the emerging transformation economy. It is designed for entrepreneurs, executives, and aspiring changemakers.
The Kelley School of Business at Indiana University-Bloomington offers a top-ranked online MBA program called Kelley Direct. This flexible program allows students to complete their MBA online in 2-4 years while working full-time.
Kelley Direct is consistently ranked as one of the best online MBA programs in the country, holding the number one spot on US News and World Report’s rankings (as a tie with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School).
Kelley Direct’s curriculum mirrors the on-campus program, covering core business disciplines through interactive online instruction and simulations. Students also complete immersive experiential learning through short campus residencies.
The program offers seven majors for specialization, including business analytics, digital technology, entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, strategy, and supply chain management. Over 50% of the curriculum consists of custom electives.
Kelley Direct has a distinguished faculty, career coaching services, over 124,000 alumni globally, and flexibility for working professionals. Graduates see an average salary increase of over $30,000 after completing the program.
The online MBA program at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School (MBA@UNC) is consistently ranked as one of the best online MBA programs in the country. The curriculum matches the on-campus program and is taught by the same outstanding faculty.
Key features of the MBA@UNC include:
The MBA@UNC develops strategic leaders equipped to drive innovation and lead change. Admissions are competitive, with requirements including professional experience, GMAT/GRE scores, and a bachelor’s degree.
This program is designed for high-achieving professionals seeking to advance their careers while balancing work and life demands. It provides the rigor and network of UNC Kenan-Flagler through a flexible online format.
The online MBA from the University of Florida Warrington College of Business offers a flexible and highly-ranked program. Students can complete the degree in either a one-year accelerated or two-year format while working full-time.
The online curriculum is the same as the on-campus iterations and is taught by its leading faculty. Notable aspects of the program include:
Admissions are selective, requiring professional experience, strong standardized test scores, transcripts, essays, and recommendations.
The Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University offers a highly-ranked Online Hybrid MBA program. This part-time program allows students to complete their MBA in thirty-two months while working full-time. The program combines live interactive online classes with offline content that students can complete independently and at their own pace. Additionally, students attend in-person Access Weekends throughout the program to strengthen connections and network with classmates and faculty.
The Tepper Online Hybrid MBA is consistently ranked among the top online MBA programs, with a strong focus on leadership and analytics. The curriculum is delivered by the same renowned faculty as the full-time program, covering core business courses and offering a STEM-designed degree.
Key highlights of the program include:
This rigorous and innovative program helps professionals advance their careers while maintaining an appropriate work-life integration.
The Online MBA (OMBA) program at USC Marshall School of Business is a 21-month program that does not require a GMAT for admission. The curriculum focuses on core business disciplines like marketing, finance, management, accounting, and entrepreneurship.
Some notable aspects of the program:
USC Marshall’s OMBA provides a challenging business education through a comprehensive curriculum and virtual tools. The program primarily serves experienced professionals looking to advance their careers further.
The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business offers an online MBA program called the Michigan Ross Online MBA. The following are some key details about the program:
The Michigan Ross Online MBA allows executives to pursue and earn an MBA from a highly reputable program on a schedule that fits their lifestyle.
Alt text: A student with a laptop takes notes while studying in a library
Description: Online MBA degrees offer complete flexibility and enhanced work-life integration
The core curriculum of the best online MBA programs provides a foundation in key business disciplines, such as accounting, finance, marketing, operations, strategy, economics, statistics, and leadership. Common courses include:
The core courses equip students with essential hard and soft skills needed to succeed in leadership roles across various industries and functions. Most curriculums emphasize critical thinking, data-driven decision-making, communication, and strategic planning.
Total core credits range from 30-36 credits for most programs. Course delivery formats include recorded lectures, live virtual, group projects, case studies, simulations, and more. Top programs seamlessly blend synchronous (live) and asynchronous (pre-recorded) learning for maximum flexibility.
After completing the core courses, online MBA students can specialize through elective courses in the following areas. This is not an exhaustive list; every university has its own specializations.
Finance specializations provide advanced knowledge of financial markets, securities valuation, risk management, corporate finance, and investment strategies. Related courses may include Investments, Financial Modeling, Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A), Derivatives, and International Finance.
This specialization prepares students for careers as financial analysts, portfolio managers, risk managers, and corporate treasurers.
Marketing specializations build expertise in digital marketing, brand management, consumer behavior, market research, and sales management. Common courses include:
Upon completing the specialization, students can find jobs as marketing managers, market research analysts, digital marketing specialists, and brand managers.
Entrepreneurship provides students with knowledge and skills for starting and managing new ventures. Courses cover new venture creation, entrepreneurial finance, lean startup methodology, and scaling and growing strategies.
Many students who complete this specialization move on to being new business owners.
Healthcare management specializations teach the business side of healthcare. Courses include:
This specialization enables students to pursue leadership roles in hospitals, health systems, insurance companies, and related healthcare organizations.
Data analytics can be applied to a significant number of organizations and industries. This specialization builds statistical analysis, machine learning, data mining, data visualization, and business intelligence capabilities.
Data analytics specialization courses include predictive analytics, data visualization, big data management, and business intelligence and data warehousing. The curriculum prepares students for roles such as data analysts, business intelligence specialists, and data scientists.
STEM specializations integrate business education with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Courses emphasize technology management, analytics, innovation, and commercialization. This specialization best suits students with STEM backgrounds pursuing business leadership roles.
When choosing an online MBA program, it is essential to evaluate the flexibility and structure of the program to ensure it aligns with your needs and preferences. Online MBA programs come in various formats, including part-time, full-time, and accelerated options. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks.
Online MBA program durations can range from as short as nine months to as long as four years. The average duration for most online MBA programs is about two to three years.
An online MBA usually costs between $35,000 and $50,000. However, public universities tend to have lower costs than private schools. Some of the best online MBA programs private institutions offer can cost up to $130,000.
Online programs typically offer asynchronous, synchronous, and a mix of both learning formats. Asynchronous learning allows students to access course materials and complete assignments on their schedule, providing maximum flexibility. Synchronous learning requires students to attend live online classes or discussions at specific times, offering more structure and real-time interaction with faculty and peers.
Many reputable online MBA programs require an on-campus immersion or residency as a graduation requirement, sometimes called an “I/R” or “blended” in-person component. These on-campus sessions provide opportunities for students to connect with their peers, faculty, and professionals, enhancing their educational experience. Some of the best online MBA programs offer international residencies and experiential learning components.
When choosing an online MBA program, consider the flexibility and structure that meets your needs.
Career services and networking are critical aspects of top online MBA programs. They provide students with resources, coaching, and connections to advance their knowledge and careers. Though delivered remotely, online MBA career services offer robust support on par with on-campus programs.
Reputable online MBAs provide personalized career coaching to help students explore options, develop career plans, optimize application materials, prepare for interviews, and more.
Resources include self-assessments, resume reviews, mock interviews, salary data, and job search strategies tailored to online students. Dedicated career advisors offer guidance through video conferencing, phone, email, and messaging.
Many online MBA programs host virtual company presentations, corporate meetups, and recruiting events to connect students with top employers. Students can access job boards exclusive to the school’s network, interact with recruiters, and participate in campus interviews remotely. Top companies specifically target online MBA talent for roles such as consulting, marketing, and finance.
Though remote, online MBA students can attend virtual alumni events, club meetings, conferences, and networking sessions to expand their network. Programs utilize Slack, LinkedIn, Facebook groups, and Zoom to enable connections. Student-led clubs and shared electives also facilitate networking among peers.
Evaluating an online MBA program’s return on investment (ROI) is crucial for prospective students. It helps them understand the potential benefits and financial gains from their investment in a graduate program.
Several factors contribute to the ROI of an online MBA program, including tuition costs, post-graduation salary, and networking opportunities.
Based on search results, some high-ROI online MBA programs include:
Researching and comparing different programs can help you make an informed decision that aligns with your career goals and financial expectations.
When applying to online MBA programs, it is essential to understand the common admission requirements and expectations for GMAT/GRE scores. These requirements may vary across programs but typically include the following elements:
GMAT or GRE scores are often required to pursue an online MBA degree. The average GMAT score varies, with some programs requiring 550 and others above 700. However, many programs waive standardized test scores for applicants with a certain number of years of professional experience, a high undergraduate GPA, or completion of a quantitative readiness course.
Researching each program’s requirements and considering the possibility of waivers can help prospective students prepare a strong application focused on their target schools.
MBA tuition can range from $35,000 to well over $100,000 for top-ranking business schools. Various financial aid options are available to help students finance their education.
Some companies offer educational benefits such as tuition assistance, reimbursement, and third-party or sponsored billing. For example, Meridian University’s degree programs are approved for the training of Veterans and other eligible persons under Title 38, U.S. Code for VA Education and Training Benefits.
Numerous scholarships and grants are available for online MBA students, including merit-based and diversity scholarships. Some examples of general MBA scholarships include the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Scholarships and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Foundation Scholarships.
The Meridian Social Entrepreneurship Scholarship is a part of the university’s Impact Scholarships. These scholarships represent the university’s commitment to supporting graduates in taking transformative actions in fields such as business and leadership.
Meridian University is also approved by the U.S. Department of Education for participation in Federal Student Loan Programs, allowing students to borrow up to $20,500 for each academic year in direct unsubsidized loans.
Prospective MBA candidates should consider the following tips when selecting a program:
For more detailed information, visit each school’s website to gather information on program details, faculty, and student testimonials. Also, reach out to current students and alumni to gain insights into their experiences with the program.
Yes, online MBA programs and degrees are taken very seriously. Aspen University launched the first online MBA program in 1987 (yes, the internet did exist in the eighties!). Early programs were a mix of good, bad, and ugly, with many touting “e-MBAs” as education game-changers.
However, over the last two decades, online MBA programs have become some of the most credible degrees available through top-rated universities. Whether UNC Kenan-Flagler, UMich Ross, IU Bloomington Kelley, or UF Warrington, these schools of business offer online MBA curriculum and delivery that match their full-time on-campus programs. This mirroring allows students to earn an accredited and reputable degree that employers look for in the hiring process.
If you have done your research and have fully considered potential programs, including curriculum, faculty, accreditation, and delivery of an MBA program, then there is complete value in these graduate degrees. In many instances, it is easy to get pulled in by the marketing ploys of unaccredited programs offering quick degrees with no value. But if you choose a well-known and credible program, your new degree will reflect the work you put in to obtain it. Your current or potential employers will recognize this effort.
Choosing the right online MBA program is a significant investment in education and potential career advancement. There are numerous factors to consider when researching the best online MBA programs, including curriculum and specializations, program structure and flexibility, career services, return on investment, admission requirements, financing options, and more.
With the proliferation of online education, there are now many high-quality online MBA degree programs from reputable institutions across the country. Top programs provide academic rigor, career development resources, and valuable networks to help students succeed as business leaders. While online delivery offers flexibility, assessing each program’s support systems, residency expectations, and overall fit is important.
Every prospective student has unique goals, budgets, and constraints. By thoroughly researching programs, weighing priorities, and understanding the key differences, it is possible to find a top online MBA program. The programs highlighted in this article represent some of the top-ranked and most innovative options, but new programs continue to emerge.
An online MBA can greatly advance business acumen, leadership abilities, and career trajectory. With careful self-reflection and research, students can decide on the best program for their aspirations. Investing time and money will pay dividends through expanded knowledge, skills, and connections to thrive in today’s emerging global economy.
Meridian University offers a pioneering MBA in Creative Enterprise that takes an integrative approach to business education. This innovative program prepares graduates to establish sustainable and generative business practices that drive individual success while benefiting society as a whole.
The MBA curriculum incorporates five key dimensions:
The program’s emphasis on creative enterprise is particularly well-suited to the emerging “transformation economy.” This economy is characterized by rapid technological change, evolving social values, and a shift towards experiences over products. Creative enterprises must constantly innovate to meet changing consumer demands.
Meridian University’s MBA curriculum develops the competencies for transformative innovation, regenerating the commons, and generative social entrepreneurship. Students learn to design integrated business models that leverage technological, social, and cultural innovations.
With its blend of essential business skills and forward-thinking approaches, Meridian University’s MBA in Creative Enterprise empowers graduates to establish flourishing organizations aligned with their higher purpose. The program’s innovative design produces entrepreneurial leaders ready to meet the opportunities and challenges of the twenty-first-century economy.