This is part of a series of informational articles for working adults who are considering a master’s degree. We kicked things off with MBAs: What You Need to Know About the Most Popular Master’s Degree, followed by MBA: Is It Worth the Investment? and What Type of MBA is Right for Me? Next week’s article is Who is Hiring all the MBAs? A Look at Industries, Growth Potential and Salaries for MBA Graduates.
If you’re currently a business professional, you’ve probably already accomplished a great deal in your career, and now you’re ready to lead. You know that an MBA (Master of Business Administration) can open doors to multiple career opportunities and help leverage you into higher-level leadership roles.
Online MBA degrees have increasingly gained wider acceptance as employers better understand the commitment, skills, hard work, and discipline required to complete an online degree program. The trick is to match your skills and your passions with the right program at the right stage of your career.
Before you commit to an online MBA program, consider the following questions.
Are you self-motivated and self-disciplined?
If you’ve already sharpened your time-management skills in the workplace, you’re well suited to the flexible and open-ended structure of an online MBA program. Trying to fit your studies into an already-packed life that may include a full-time job, a spouse, and kids requires some shrewd scheduling and meticulous organization. If you’re not a procrastinator by nature and thrive in low-supervision environments, you’re a natural for an online MBA program.
Are you comfortable learning online?
Have you taken other online courses, either for pleasure or as part of your undergraduate studies? If so, you know that receiving all of your information visually from a computer screen is a very different experience than sitting in a lecture hall listening to an instructor and engaging with classmates.
An online MBA program requires you to be comfortable with technology and familiar with search engines. You’ll need decent typing skills, a dependable computer, and a reliable internet connection. Just as crucial is finding the optimal study environment that minimizes distractions and supports focused concentration.
How long does it take?
Most online MBA programs require a minimum of 18 months to two years of full-time study to complete, although some accelerated programs may shorten this timeframe. Full-time students typically take three to four courses per semester. In addition to attending your online lectures, it’s possible to devote an additional 20 hours per week to studying, reading, completing assignments, and participating in forums. If you enroll in a part-time or evening MBA program while you work a full-time job, it may take you three or more years to obtain your degree.
Who are the instructors?
Not only does a school’s online MBA faculty shape your entire academic experience, the relationships you form with your instructors can often play a significant role in your career. Before you commit to an online MBA program, do some vetting of the faculty.
- What are their credentials?
- Do they have applicable industry experience and real-world, practical business knowledge?
- Have they taught online courses previously?
- Is the online MBA program faculty the same as the on-campus program faculty?
Some industry experts feel it’s important to choose a program staffed by instructors who teach the same courses in a classroom setting. This creates a more cohesive and rich learning experience for online students. Ideally, you want to find “faculty who are responsive and are accessible during orientations, office hours, and on discussion boards,” advises U.S. News & World Report.
What is the reputation of the school?
Vet your prospective college as thoroughly as you screen the instructors. By ensuring the online MBA program is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, you know that the institution has an approved program of study taught by qualified instructors. Accreditation also ensures that the college operates on a sound financial basis and uses approved recruitment and admissions policies.
What is the cost versus a traditional MBA?
Online MBA program prices vary widely across the United States. Sometimes a college’s online MBA program isn’t any less expensive than the full-time program at the same school, and in other cases, it’s significantly less than the traditional on-campus program. Perform a cost-benefit analysis when researching the right program for you. While you might pay more for the technology that an online program requires, perhaps the commute and childcare savings more than justify it.