The Online MBA Degree
Online MBA degrees are one of the most popular areas in distance education. It's a great addition to your resume that can help advance your career and increase your earnings potential.
Most people seeking an online MBA fall into one of two groups: Bachelors graduates who want to continue studying while starting a career and older professionals with demanding work and family schedules.
People from all kinds of backgrounds take advantage of the flexibility that is offered in distance education. If you're thinking about earning your online MBA degree, here are some important things you should know first.
Why Get an Online MBA?
People are drawn to distance education for all kinds of reasons, but most cite flexibility as a major factor in choosing to study online. If you know you want to earn your MBA, but can't fit a traditional class schedule into your life, then an online MBA may be the best route for you.
Most successful MBA students know why they are making the investment of time and money. You may be adding a specialization to your existing business education or you may be coming from a completely different background, adding an online MBA to compliment your current skill-set.
Whatever the case, make sure your online MBA is part of a larger career plan that will be worth the investment you are making.
MBA Online or in the Classroom?
What is the difference in studying for your MBA online vs. at a traditional university? As far as quality is concerned, online MBA's are just as accepted as those from brick and mortar schools. The workload and quality vary from program to program, school to school, but distance education adheres to the same academic standards.
The curriculum in an online MBA program is more or less the same. The difference is in how it is delivered. Most online MBA classes require students to read advanced texts and respond with written assignments. In some cases there are video/audio lectures, interactive video-conferencing and use of other multimedia formats, but online education is dominated by reading and writing.
While the curriculum is the same, the student's experience can be quite different. Online MBA students must be organized and able to work independently. Some classes will have a rigid schedule, but many allow some degree of flexibility. It's important to know if you can motivate yourself to fit an online MBA into your family or work schedule.
Accreditation and Quality
You may have heard of diploma mills, online schools that are not accredited and do not adhere to traditional academic standards. Before you spend any time checking out an online college, make certain it is properly accredited. If not, your degree will be worthless.
Your best bet is to verify that an online MBA program is accredited by a regional association. If you're in doubt, visit the website for the U.S. Department of Education. They publish a list of accepted accrediting boards.
As long as your degree is accredited, employers will recognize it. But how do you know if an online college has a good reputation in the business community? Start by looking at publications that rank online MBA programs. Just as in traditional higher education, online degree programs are ranked by publications like The Princeton Review and Business Week.
The truth is, it might be quit a while before any online college has the reputation of Harvard Business School. Online education is still relatively new and it takes decades to solidify a prestigious reputation, but there are plenty of quality online MBA programs out there.
If you're still in doubt, talk with others in your field about the reputation of an online school. Even if you don't find someone with personal experience, your may get some valuable information, such as a referral to a previously unknown online college.
Time and Money
How long will you have to study to earn your online MBA? Distance education is flexible by nature, so the length of programs car vary widely.
There are some intensive programs out there that can be completed in less than a year, but most online MBA programs take two years. Some programs, including those with specializations, can take four years or more.
The cost of an online MBA degree can also fluctuate a great deal from school to school. On the affordable end, you should plan on a financial investment of at least $10,000. Some of the more prestigious programs can cost seven or eight times as much. The length of the program is also a factor. If you're enrolling in an online MBA program that takes three or four years, the cost will naturally be higher.
You may not have to bear the financial burden alone. If an online MBA will advance your career, your employer may have a vested interested in contributing to your education. Find out if your company has an education assistance program, otherwise talk to your supervisor or Human Resources about setting up a plan.
Many people mistakenly think that traditional financial aid is not available for online students. You may qualify for student loans, grants and even scholarships. Make sure you contact the admissions department to find out what is available at a particular online college.
Investment vs. Reward
As you can see, pursuing your online MBA requires a significant investment of time and money. Before you pull the trigger, make absolutely certain that it will be worth it to you. In other words, what are your goals and does an online MBA help achieve them?
Some people jump into an online MBA just because it seems like a great qualification to have. An MBA looks great on your resume and earning it online will be easier. Most of these students don't make it to graduation or find that their new credentials are of little benefit to them.
It is important that you know what you want to do with your online MBA degree before making the commitment. Talk with others in your field about the pros and cons of an online MBA. This might include coworkers, superiors or online MBA graduates in your industry.
Online MBA degrees are popular for a reason. It can be a great way to take your career to the next level, whether it is in business or another field. If you do your homework and really figure out how an online MBA will propel you to your goals, you will most likely find the experience rewarding.