Online MBA Programs | A Quick Guide

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Online MBA programs are being increasingly offered by almost all top business schools. Considering the value they add to working professionals, you see one new online MBA programs being launched almost every month. So, whether it is to know how Artificial Intelligence is transforming your operations, to understanding the impact of analytics on your company’s balance sheet, pep up your skills with a good online MBA.

Idie Kesner, Dean of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business speaks about the options facing prospective candidates. She says that an online MBA is the perfect answer if the candidate feels secure in the organization and industry, but is looking to improve the depth of the skills to get ahead. So, you are not looking for a change but would like to approach the opportunities better prepared.

What works about Online MBA programs?

There are big plus points in getting an online MBA degree. First and foremost, you can apply your education to your work immediately. While at it, you can fast track yourself to the corner office you have been eyeing! Jaap Veneman’s success story is the perfect example here. He credits the Kenan Flagler online MBA program for the acceleration in his career. Three promotions during the program culminating in a Vice President position is the result that most business schools like to talk about.

Secondly, get up-to-speed on the latest technologies. An MBA is bound to improve your standing in the current /future firm translating into higher salaries and better recognition.

Thirdly, your options are not limited to any of the regional, lesser-known schools anymore. You can pick from the best programs as almost all the best schools in the world are offering first-class programs. Plus the competition at these top business schools is lesser for online MBAs compared to their on campus counterparts.

Last but not the least, online programs are willing to overlook GMAT/GRE scores for work experience.

Here’s a closer look at the advantages of getting the best online MBA programs


Strong Networking- Online programs are far from being listless. It is all about WhatsApp groups, Virtual Meetings, and/or Interactive sessions. These programs are as engaging as on-campus ones. They help create a strong sense of community, camaraderie, and friendships.

Eric Hensley  (graduated from the Auburn University- Harbert College of Business in 2019) says he was pleasantly surprised with the school’s efforts in providing networking opportunities. The on-campus orientations; invites to speak with incoming students; group case studies, projects, global visits, offered incredible opportunities for group engagement.

World Experience-It is a myth that immersion programs are not part of the program structure. Schools go to great lengths to provide you with opportunities to make your experience interesting and relevant. For instance, the students at IE Business School can sign up for the optional component of the MBA program.

Trips to Shanghai, San Francisco, Miami, and Israel give the candidates an opportunity to understand local businesses and their functioning. Brooke Spenser is a manager in the Corporate Strategy Department at Walmart. He is part of the Kelley Direct Program at Indiana University. According to him, the highlight of the program was his trip to India (Global Immersion). Based on Walmart’s investment in India, a closer look at the business dynamics and the Indian consumer would be beneficial.

Cost-Let us talk about the elephant in the room- cost!  Cost is a large part of the MBA decision. If you compare on-campus and online programs, you will find the online programs offer fabulous programs at almost half the cost (sometimes even less) of an on-campus one.

For instance, the University of Illinois online MBA program at GIES College of Business will cost you approx. $ 22,000. Furthermore, consider the programs offered by the highly ranked IE business school and Imperial College. The tuition costs are €58,000 and £46,000 per year. This is much lower than what you would incur if you signed up for a regular program.

Sponsorship-Imagine this-roughly about half of the students at the University of Illinois is getting some form of sponsorship (towards their tuition costs) from their companies. This situation is a win-win as it a perfect scenario for employers and employees. Furthermore, if you consider business owners, you can see that such programs offer a perfect opportunity for growth without sacrificing their businesses.


Top ten MBA programs in the US for the year 2020

Here are the top ten online MBA programs along with other vital information.

Ranking Name of the School Cost Average Undergrad GPA Average GMAT % Submitting GMAT % Acceptance rate (2018)
1 Carnegie Mellon University- Tepper School of Business $137,200            3.32 669 83 53.6
2 Indiana University-Kelley School of Business $74,520 3.45 639 47.4 76
3 University of-Marshall School of Business $106,197 3.09 627 27 53
4 Lehigh University-University College of Business $39,600 3.3 628 33 60
5 University of North Carolina- Kenan Flagler Business School $125,589 3.3 670 6 61
6 University of Amherst-Isenberg School of Management $35,983 3.3 613 16.5 85
7 Worcester Polytechnic Institute-Foisie Business School $75,168 3.45 600 15 74.4
8 Auburn University-Harbert College of Business $35,100 3.33 586 68.4 72
9 University of Nebraska-Lincoln $30,240 3.36 611 28 85
10 Rochester Institute of Technology-Saunders College of Business $78,000 3.31 NA NA 48

Source: Poets and Quants


Here’s a look at the best distance learning MBA globally

Rank Name of School Country Tuition Costs Average GMAT Work Experience (years)
1 Warwick Business School UK (Pounds) 33250 690 4
2 IE Business School Spain (Euro) 51200 5
3 University of Amherst-Isenberg School of Management USA (Dollars) $35,983 570 10
4 Indiana University-Kelley School of Business USA $74,520 639 5
5 University of North Carolina- Kenan Flagler Business School USA $125,589 670 2
6 University of Florida- Warrington USA $59,807.20 546 6
7 Durham University Business School UK (Pounds) 23000 650 5
8 Northeastern University: D’Amore-McKim USA $80,000 633 5
9 AGSM at UNSW Business School Australia (Dollar) 59760 11
10 University of Bradford School of Management UK (Pounds) 17000 600 13

Source: Ranking is as per FT’s online MBA ranking 2019


Thinking about skipping the GMAT/GRE? It may be possible! It depends on the school and your arguments supporting it. Schools may waive the need for a GMAT if you have enough years of experience.

The required work experience varies greatly from one program to another. The broad average worldwide is 5-7 years. For instance, Warwick Business School in the UK requires you to have 4 years of managerial work experience. On the other hand, IE Business School in Spain recommends 5 years of work experience with at least a minimum of three years.

Most of the schools mentioned in the table above have similar eligibility requirements as their regular full-time MBA program. For instance, the University of North Carolina- Kenan Flagler Business School requires you to provide the following information:

  • Transcripts
  • Two Recommendation Letters
  • Two Essays (one is optional)
  • GMAT (However, you can request that this be waived based on several factors)

There are similarities. However, differences arise as regards the number of essays/recommendation letters, or the work experience required. Always check the school’s website to understand the requirements.


One of the most common concerns expressed by prospective students is how future employers will view an online MBA degree and is it really worth the effort. The following are some of the specific talents you’ll receive from the programme and how applicable they will be in your career:

  1. Time Management: An online MBA’s worth stems from the growing demand for time management skills. It will enable you to mix the daily demands of life with your studies, which will be a valuable advantage not only in completing your online MBA programme, but also in managing your daily responsibilities at work.
  2. Self-discipline: An employer places a great importance on your ability to remain focused and engaged on your education while working. Self-discipline is a highly appreciated ability among employers since it is associated with traits such as responsibility, hard effort, and determination – all of which are essential in today’s evolving digitised workforce.
  3. Discovering Your Internal Motivators: Another advantage of an online MBA is the ability to gain self-sustaining and long-lasting intrinsic drive. Finding this drive makes you happier and more productive at work.
  4. Virtual Teamwork: According to a Deloitte Digital Workplace analysis, virtual teamwork is currently a reality, but it will surely boom in the near future. Employers will value an online MBA degree in the future since it will demonstrate that you understand how to take forward your work in a virtual environment with people from all across the globe.

Program Structure

Fits Your Pace

Here’s the best part! The programs are generally structured to fit your pace and goals!  It is spread over a couple of years. If you need more time, almost all schools allow an extension (the number of months or years depends on the school).

For example, Kelley Direct Online is the online MBA program offered by Kelley School of Business- Indiana University. The program is designed to help you maintain a balance between coursework and other commitments. The program is rigorous and demanding but flexible. You can take between 2-4 years to complete the program.


So, are we talking about online sessions alone?

Absolutely not! Carnegie Melon’s online MBA program is a great example here. The program features most live sessions online; in-person weekends, and a traditional course structure. This is one of the reasons it consistently ranks right on top in the list of top online MBA programs. As regards Kelley Connect Weeks (Kelley Direct Online- Indiana University), it is a wonderful way for students to meet on-campus to work on live business projects.

Building Key Skills

In today’s business world, it is important to engage effectively with your peers across borders. The online MBA format teaches you to work with technology as you communicate and interact with peers all around the world.  As Angeline Gross of the University of Florida (Hough) puts it. The program’s collaborative team assignments mimic real-life scenarios in large corporations. You must work with remote groups to meet the set targets.


Ultimately, it is all about technology. Since it has improved dramatically in the last decade or so, the definition of ‘distance learning’ has changed as well. Business schools use the latest technology to offer the best to their students. For instance, the London Business School combines cutting-edge technology with creative innovation. As part of the distance-learning resources, the global MBA program provides students (enrolling in April 2020) with a virtual reality headset. This cool gadget aims to sharpen your presentation skills (among several others) and give you a truly immersive experience.

Online MBA Programs and Career Outcomes

Let’s face it! Our brothers and sisters graduating from an on-campus MBA program seem to have it better. If you have not said it, you have thought it! You feel they are exposed to a parade of big companies and recruiters. It may be partly true but online programs have their own benefits.

Online MBA programs are perfect career enhancers. If you are looking to take on additional responsibility in your current workplace, then this is the way to do it. An online MBA will provide you with an opportunity to equip yourself with the basic skills required to get ahead and be more effective.

Let us consider the story of Divya Venkataraman, who works for Rockwell Automation. She is due to graduate from the Kelley Direct program in 2021. She transitioned into a new position (technical salesperson) right after committing to the program. The classes (business, operational efficiency) helped her navigate client meetings successfully and with a greater understanding of what would drive the right business outcomes. Being a technical person, the classes equipped her with the right business language. It also greatly improved her credibility with the customer.

Carnegie Melon’s Tepper School of Business ensures that the students of the online program have access to the Masters Career Center. There are numerous online MBA courses to ensure that you have an equal opportunity to shine. For instance,  Career Treks provide a first-hand perspective on possible career paths. The online student community can sign up for programs to observe the operations, work culture and the organizational structure of organizations from close quarters. Some of the past destinations include New York City, Silicon Valley, Detroit, and Chicago.

Finally, will it work for me?

There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing between MBA distance education or on-campus programs. It is important to consider your situation and needs. The program is perfect:

  • You are a stickler for discipline. You can balance the needs of the program along with other commitments.
  • An MBA is bound to give you a career boost but you are not sure that you can accomplish it without your current income.

It is important to find the perfect fit. The best universities around the world offer online MBA programs. The key is to zone in on the one that satisfies all your requirements.


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