In 1900, the Tuck School of Business in Hanover, New Hampshire, became the first school to offer an MBA (master of business administration); only four students enrolled. Since then, the number of MBA students has increased dramatically; according to the U.S. Department of Education, business degrees accounted for 23.3% of master’s degrees conferred in 2016-2017.
Businesses of all sizes need leaders with knowledge of the changing field. Overall, MBA programs have maintained curricula emphasizing basic business skills while also adding coursework related to the digitalization and globalization of the business world.
In 2016, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen stated in a speech during a University of Baltimore commencement ceremony, “Economists are not certain about many things. But we are quite certain that a college diploma or an advanced degree is a key to economic success.” During her speech, Yellen noted that college graduates’ annual earnings in 2015 were an average of 70% higher than individuals with no college experience.
Online MBA programs are ideal for busy students and often allow learners to set their own pace. An online MBA degree represents a great option for working professionals and students who cannot make it to a campus for classes. Most distance learners earn their MBA in two years.
How Much Does an Online MBA Program Cost?
The cost of earning an online MBA depends on a variety of factors, including the school, format, and course load. Institutions charge different tuition rates, and students may pay per credit or a flat rate per term. An online MBA from a public institution may cost around $500 per credit, while a private institution may charge $1,000 or more per credit for equivalent course content.
Online vs. In-Person
Students often pay similar tuition rates for online and in-person MBA programs; however, online students can save money on facility fees, transportation, and housing. Distance learners typically have access to online student services comparable to those available on campus.
School Size and Type
Although large schools may be more recognizable to employers, smaller schools often allow for more individual attention from faculty members. Also, private institutions generally cost more than public schools.
Before enrolling, students should research the graduation rates of prospective MBA programs. Low graduation rates reflect poorly on a program’s overall value.
Many schools provide information on the success rates of alumni. Learners should research whether a school’s career services department assists with job placement for students and graduates. Finding a job soon after graduation can help ease the burden of student loans.
Although flexible loan policies can help borrowers delay payments until after graduation, students should calculate the overall cost of a loan, including interest. Individuals should prioritize low-interest loans and pay as much as possible out of pocket to avoid increasing the total price of their education.
Top MBA Careers
Coursework in online MBA programs covers many topics, including accounting, economics, data analysis, and marketing. MBA programs prepare students to work in a variety of fields and for many types of businesses. Common MBA specializations include healthcare, finance, accounting, project management, entrepreneurship, and human resources. The skills learners acquire during online MBA programs apply to businesses in all industries. MBA graduates help businesses organize, manage, build, and plan for success.
Also called management consultants, management analysts help businesses reduce costs, increase revenue, and become more profitable. These professionals conduct research and gather/analyze data to find solutions to problems. Companies in all sectors can benefit from the investigative expertise of a management analyst. These workers often travel to interview personnel or investigate project sites.
Degree: BA or BS; however, some employers prefer candidates with an MBA.
Licensure Required: No; however, the Certified Management Consultant credential may improve job prospects.
Time Commitment: 4-9 Years
Financial analysts advise businesses and individuals on investment decisions. These professionals spend many hours researching macro and microeconomic conditions before deciding whether to tell their clients to buy, sell, or hold. Financial analysts constantly look to the future in an effort to predict economic conditions for investors.
Degree: BA or BS; however, advanced positions often require a master’s degree.
Licensure Required: No, although most positions require sponsorship from an employer.
Time Commitment: 4 Years
Marketing managers help businesses connect their products, services, or brands to consumers through advertising, promotions, and events. Marketing managers create offline and online campaigns and work with art directors, sales agents, and financial staff to help clients improve profitability.
Licensure Required: No.
Time Commitment: 4-7 Years
Operations managers oversee processes for businesses that produce tangible goods or services. These professionals ensure adherence to company policies and safety procedures. They also make sure processes meet or exceed client and customer expectations. Operations managers supervise various departments, including purchasing, manufacturing, and warehousing, and keep track of company budgets and sales goals. They must possess excellent communication and leadership skills.
Licensure Required: No.
Time Commitment: 4 Years
Human Resources Manager
A human resources manager oversees all aspects of human resources in an organization, including compliance with company policies; procedures; and local, state, and federal laws. HR managers implement and oversee employee benefit and initiative programs. They also manage situations involving maternity leave, vacation and sick leave, and insurance enrollment. These managers supervise other HR department employees and should possess excellent interpersonal communication and problem-solving skills to listen to employee complaints and make necessary suggestions for policy changes.
Licensure Required: No.
Time Commitment: 4 Years
The specific duties of an accounting manager vary depending on the needs of their company. Accounting managers typically develop and implement systems to gather, analyze, verify, and produce reports of relevant financial information. Other duties may include assisting in hiring accounting staff, enforcing company policies, and preparing and regulating company budgets. They may make recommendations to other departments or managers based on financial data trends. Accounting managers need strong leadership, analytical, and problem-solving skills.
Degree: BS; however, certain companies prefer or require an MBA or master’s in finance.
Licensure Required: No.
Time Commitment: 4-7 Years
Earning a specialization can help graduates be more competitive candidates for certain positions. Specializations for online MBA programs include business economics, healthcare, and marketing. These concentrations better prepare students to pursue leadership roles in specific areas of the field.
Most Common MBA Degree Subjects
The predecessor to the MBA was the master of science in commerce, which was similar to today’s MBA finance specialization. This concentration focuses on costs, budgeting, capital management, and banking. Online MBA finance courses emphasize financial theories and best managerial practices. Students learn how to oversee the financial concerns of an organization or client, studying topics like investment, cash flow, fundraising, taxes and regulations, and borrowing.
Example Careers: Financial adviser, hedge fund manager
An online MBA with a specialization in marketing emphasizes advertising, and public relations. Students need strong communication skills and an aptitude for working with others. Online MBA marketing courses cover the fundamentals of marketing strategy, consumer behavior, quantitative research, and resource mobilization. Over the past decade, the marketing concentration for online MBA programs has evolved to take advantage of the internet, social media, generational trends, and globalization.
Example Careers: Product manager, marketing analyst
|Supply Chain Management||
A subset of operations management, the supply chain management concentration focuses on optimizing the flow of goods and services for a business. Students learn to devise strategies to solve issues within the supply chain. MBA supply chain management online courses cover areas including inventory management, warehousing, logistics, and the global market. This specialization also covers the impact of technology on organizations, their supply chains, and their brand reach.
Example Careers: Purchasing manager, logistics manager, consultant
The accounting concentration prepares students to sit for the CPA exam and pursue leadership roles in business administration accounting. Curricula at online MBA schools cover topics including accounting reports, information systems, forecasting, and taxes. Accounting students in online MBA programs learn to use accounting and economic principles in business and financial planning contexts and apply quantitative analysis in the management and operation of an organization.
Example Careers: CPA, tax consultant, budget analyst
The healthcare administration specialization applies administrative topics to healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical companies, and elderly care facilities. Online healthcare MBA courses explore how financial, operational, and marketing activities apply to health organizations. This specialization also covers the legal aspects of managing, such as enterprise in healthcare reform, insurance, and policy. Students pursuing this concentration gain the skills required to lead a nonprofit, government, or private health practice.
Example Careers: Hospital CEO, hospital administrator
An online executive MBA focuses on the science of leadership and teaches skills applicable to positions in many sectors. Executive students in online MBA programs learn to apply knowledge related to finance, economics, accounting, and strategic thinking to practical settings. Graduates with this specialization often pursue leadership roles. Executive MBA online courses cover executive leadership, teamwork, and professional development. This specialization is popular among current professionals seeking to change careers.
Example Careers: Managing director, VP of sales
MBA students who specialize in entrepreneurship learn the business administration skills and strategies needed to implement new ideas. These online MBA programs typically feature experiences in practical settings, where students gain an understanding of issues related to starting a business. Aspiring entrepreneurs learn how to foster innovation as a solo enterprise, with a startup team, and in a corporate setting.
Example Careers: Entrepreneur, inventor, product manager
Students earning a business intelligence specialization learn how to use data and models to support decision-making and pattern analysis. Online MBA students also investigate how to develop meaningful insights based on research and metrics.
Example Careers: Business intelligence administrator, SQL data analyst
A healthcare management concentration builds on the MBA’s management core while emphasizing issues specific to the healthcare industry. Online healthcare MBA students gain the business and leadership skills, competencies, and compassion necessary to pursue leadership roles within the healthcare field. Students earning an online MBA with a healthcare management specialization prepare to make critical decisions in hospitals, government agencies, biotech firms, group practices, and insurance companies.
Example Careers: Hospital administrator, policy analyst
An online MBA with a specialization in human resources teaches students the skills and knowledge necessary to advance and lead in the HR field. Experts in human resources play vital roles in establishing company culture. Their responsibilities may include hiring top talent and creating a work environment conducive to employee satisfaction. Curricula typically cover topics like labor markets, recruiting, training, team building, OSHA compliance, compensation, and benefits.
Example Careers: HR director, HR manager
Online MBA Specializations
|Description||An MBA in finance includes a combination of mathematics and management courses. Students explore investments, accounting, economics, and financial theory while focusing on management and leadership.|
|Example Courses||Accounting manager, financial adviser, financial analyst, investment banker|
|Decription||An MBA with a specialization in economics features courses in micro and macroeconomic theory, economic statistics, and management decisions. Students enhance their analytical, mathematical, and managerial skills.|
|Example Courses||Management analyst, market research analyst, economist, senior financial analyst|
|Description||An MBA with an operations management specialization requires students to take courses in supply chain management, production planning and control, and business theory. Learners develop skills in leadership, economics, and accounting.|
|Example Courses||General manager, operations manager, strategy consultant, business analysis manager|
|Description||Responsibilities of marketing departments vary significantly at different organizations. A marketing MBA includes advanced study in marketing management, brand strategy, and forecasting and modeling.|
|Example Courses||Senior marketing manager, marketing specialist, brand manager, business development manager|
|Description||An MBA with a specialization in human resources builds on prior business administration knowledge and experience. This specialization includes courses in research and management strategies, interpersonal communication, and legal and ethical issues.|
|Example Courses||Human resources manager, human resources director, human resources specialist|
|Description||An MBA in international business includes courses in marketing management, trade economics, and corporate finance. These programs address topics from an international perspective and may require a study abroad experience.|
|Example Courses||Business development manager, product manager, marketing manager, operations manager|
Courses Taken in An Online MBA
|Economics for Business||This course introduces micro and macroeconomic theories, market behavior, cost theory, GDP determination, and how a market-based economic system reconciles the needs of the consumer and producer.||Decision-making in markets with perfect and imperfect competition|
|Leading in an Organization||This course provides an overview of personnel management, including individuals, teams, departments, and internal and external staff (e.g., contractors and vendors).||Interpersonal skills, conflict management, negotiation|
|Corporate Ethics||Learners examine business ethics and values, investigating the ethical framework of social responsibility to a professional’s community and environment. Specific topics may include cultural awareness and sustainable practices.||Civic engagement|
|Operations Management||Learners study project management and various business topics, including key performance indicators, automation, and sustainability. Students may also examine case studies that use common methodologies and strategic planning.||Analysis, critical thinking|
Accelerated Online MBAs
Business professionals looking to enhance their career opportunities and earning potential more quickly can pursue an accelerated online MBA. Unlike most online master’s programs, which require at least two years to finish, students can complete accelerated MBA programs in as little as one year. Depending on the program, students may take multiple courses simultaneously or complete a series of classes that last only a few weeks. Additionally, accelerated dual-degree pathways allow students to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree simultaneously.
Students in accelerated dual-degree MBA programs typically pay lower total tuition costs than learners who pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees separately. For standalone accelerated MBA programs, tuition may cost less or about the same as a traditionally paced program, depending on the school and the number of required credits. Not every school offers accelerated options, and admission to most accelerated programs is competitive.
The GMAT is a standardized test that many graduate-level business schools use to evaluate applicants. The test lasts 3.5 hours and comprises four sections: analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative, and verbal. The GMAT attempts to measure each student’s analytical ability, reasoning skills, and judgment.
A student’s GMAT score can determine which online MBA programs they qualify for; top-tier schools generally require the highest scores. Some schools use an applicant’s GMAT score to figure out their likelihood of academic success, their aptitude, and their commitment to graduate studies.
A high GMAT score can sometimes make up for a subpar undergraduate performance. Students should plan to study 100-120 hours over the course of 2-3 months before sitting for the exam. According to Kaplan, learners who spend at least 120 hours preparing typically earn the highest scores.
Some online MBA programs have no GMAT requirement, while others waive the test requirement for applicants with high GPAs or significant life or professional experience. Regardless of whether an applicant’s prospective school requires GMAT scores, studying for the test can provide foundational knowledge for MBA coursework.
Students seeking to improve their score can take the GMAT again after 31 calendar days, and learners can take the test a maximum of five times within a 12-month period.
What’s the Difference Between the GRE and the GMAT?
Some MBA programs may allow applicants to submit GRE scores instead of GMAT scores, and some schools prefer students to take a specific GRE subject test. Many online MBA programs consider these scores when making admissions decisions.
The GRE and GMAT both require significant study time and take several hours to complete. Though each test includes quantitative, verbal, and analytical writing sections, content varies between the two exams. The GMAT emphasizes logic, while the GRE focuses more on vocabulary. Most business schools prefer GMAT scores, but some programs accept scores from either exam. Students should contact each prospective institution to determine test preferences. If a school accepts either, learners should consider their strengths when choosing an exam.
FAQs About Online MBAs
Who should pursue an MBA?
Many students ask, “What can you do with an MBA?” A master of business administration can lead to career advancement, and graduates often become high-level executives. Many students pursuing an online MBA degree are working professionals looking to advance or change their career. Aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders can also benefit from earning an MBA.
How many years will it take to complete?
Since many MBA students continue to work while pursuing their degree, online MBA programs represent a popular option. These programs take about two years to complete and typically consist of 45-60 credits, in addition to a capstone or thesis project. Some online MBA programs can be completed within a year; these programs may waive GMAT requirements and offer credit based on previous life experiences.
Is a thesis or capstone usually required?
MBA programs typically require a thesis project or capstone, which learners complete in their specialization area toward the end of their program. Thesis or capstone requirements can impact the total cost and/or length of a program.
What type of jobs does this degree prepare you for?
Professionals with an MBA often pursue leadership positions. Online MBA programs prepare learners for roles across industries, providing skills applicable to many different types of business. Graduates of online MBA programs gain the knowledge and skills necessary to make decisions about production, strategy, budgeting, promotion, and staffing. Common careers for graduates include hospital CEOs, marketing directors, financial analysts, healthcare managers, human resources managers, IT managers, and chief technology officers.
What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?
Salaries for professionals with an MBA vary by industry and experience level. For example, graduates who work for nonprofit organizations earn different salaries than those with positions at investment banks. However, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the 2019 projected salary for MBA holders is $84,580.
Sites You May Also Be Interested In
MBA Job Boards
- LinkedIn This business and employment-oriented social networking site maintains job listings for U.S. candidates with an MBA.
- HeadHunter This career website helps match qualified candidates with management and executive positions.
- VentureLoop This website provides a list of current job opportunities for startups in various fields, such as healthcare and finance.
- MBACareers Founded in 1998, this website connects MBA candidates and recent graduates with professional opportunities.
- Monster This site features career services and job listings for MBA graduates from around the world.
- CareerBuilder This website lists management positions suitable for recent MBA graduates.
- U.S. News & World Report – MBA Admissions This website provides insights on business trends and the MBA admissions process.
- Financial Times – MBA Blog This blog features posts from MBA students and alumni from around the world, sharing their experiences.
- Tuck 360 Home to the country’s first MBA program, Tuck at Dartmouth College provides insights from its students and faculty.
- Berkeley-Haas – The Berkeley MBA Blog The Berkeley-Haas School of Business maintains this academic blog, which includes admission tips, career inspiration, and an inside look at Berkeley’s MBA program.
- Yale School of Management – MBA Blog This site contains posts about the MBA application process, school projects, and alumni.
- TopMBA This website provides news and updates about business schools, including application tips, MBA programs, and career options.
- Monster – Best-Paying MBA Majors This page explores jobs available to MBA graduates and details the most valuable MBA concentrations.
- MBA Association Members gain access to a global group of business professionals, increasing their professional network and job opportunities.
- Association of MBAs This professional membership association — based in England — connects MBA students, MBA graduates, accredited business schools, and employers of MBA graduates around the world.
- National Association of Women MBAs NAWMBA is dedicated to helping women achieve leadership roles and enhancing diversity in the global workforce.
- National Black MBA Association Established in 1970, NBMBAA develops partnerships that result in the creation of opportunities for the African-American community.
- Prospanica Established in 1988 as the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, Prospanica works to increase the number of Hispanic students graduating with MBA degrees.
- Executive MBA Council This academic association represents the executive MBA industry and works to advance executive MBA programs.
- MBA Career Services & Employer Alliance This global alliance is dedicated to the support and development of individuals in the MBA career management and employment professions.