Is an Online MBA Worth Getting?

MBAFor many career-oriented, driven young professionals, an MBA is a key that can open previously locked career doors. Even older working adults are finding that many hiring managers require, or at least prefer, MBA holders. Whether you want to move up in your company, land a senior role elsewhere or start a successful venture of your own, an MBA can help you get there.

But, while the salary and career benefits of an MBA are clear, leaving the work force to go back to school full-time just isn’t feasible for many working professionals. It would mean leaving your job, and your paycheck, behind and putting your career on hold, and that can be a hard pill to swallow even if you don’t have a couple of kids and a mortgage to think about.

Of course, plenty of reputable business schools these days are offering MBA students the chance to earn their degrees online – but are online MBAs really as worthwhile as traditional ones? Is there some benefit, intangible or otherwise, to sitting in a classroom that can’t be matched by the asynchronous, digital experience? That’s what many prospective MBA students wonder, but those who take the plunge into online education typically find that their online MBA classes are just as rigorous and valuable as the on-campus versions.

An Online MBA Is an Investment

An online MBA is just as much of an investment in your career and future as a traditional MBA. For most programs, the only difference is that, rather than clearing your schedule to travel to campus and attend classes in person at set times each week, you’ll be allowed to review the material online as your schedule allows. As long as you complete your assignments on time, you’ll be able to do your coursework from anywhere and, largely, at any time of day.

Just because you’re not attending classes on campus doesn’t mean you’re getting a substandard or discount education. If you choose a good business school with a highly-rated program, you’ll be taking classes from the same professors that teach on campus. You’ll be doing the same assignments that on-campus students complete.

And you’ll be paying the same tuition. The average part-time, out-of-state online MBA student paid about $1,110 per credit for tuition at a top-rated business school during the 2016-2017 school year. Average part-time, out-of-state tuition for the best programs exceeded $53,000 that year, and nearly 44 percent of the year’s graduates carried debt from their MBA studies. The average graduate left his or her program with more than $37,000 in debt. Graduates see an average salary increase of about 26 percent, but it’s important to weigh this potential boost in income against the debt that you might incur to achieve it.

Why Get an Online MBA?

online MBAPeople choose to earn online MBAs not because they cost less (they don’t) or are less challenging (they aren’t), but because they’re easier to balance with a full-time job and other commitments. Of course, not all MBAs cost as much as the top-rated programs described above; an MBA from Fort Hays State University in Fort Hays, Kentucky costs about $12,000, for example. Many students are able to slash the cost of earning an MBA by taking advantage of employer tuition reimbursement programs or scholarships and grants.

Making the Right Decision

Is an online MBA the right choice for you? First, consider whether you really need an MBA to get where you want to go in your career. If an MBA is a clear necessity, then an online program might be right for you if you don’t want to or can’t leave the work force to go back to school full-time and if you’re not as interested in having the traditional MBA experience. You’ll need self-discipline, superior time management skills and the willingness to spend a longer period of time working toward the degree to make a part-time, online course of study work for you.

Of course, it’s important to shop carefully for a program. Higher-ranked schools look better on a resume and are more likely to land you interviews with brand-name employers, but they cost more, too. Many lower-ranked schools offer just as much academic value for a lower price tag and could be just what you need to reach your career goals. Investigate their student support services, talk to alumni and spend some time getting to know faculty. Weight your potential future salary against the debt you will incur, and consider whether you can get financial assistance to make the tuition more affordable.

An online MBA can be hugely beneficial to your career, especially if you’ve reached a point where an MBA is a requirement to advance further. Before you start preparing your applications, carefully consider whether the cost of earning the degree will be worth your increased earning potential. That way, you won’t end up regretting your decision to go back to school.

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