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Why Are Online MBAs Respected by Employers?

Employers often can’t tell, and may not even care, whether you got your MBA by studying online.
Online MBA graduate

Getting an MBA online might seem a bit too easy compared to the usual study grind. You login into your study portal, in your spare moments at home or work, and eventually earn yourself a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Being able to study for a high-value degree in the online mode has prompted people like Robert Klecha and Chris Holtzer to ask, “Are online MBAs respected?” Is the catch for the flexibility and affordability of distance learning that your degree is seen as less credible by employers?

As a company owner and former government recruiter, I can tell you that having an MBA qualification gives you a career advantage. Earning the degree demonstrates commitment to being the best manager you can be. MBA skills include leadership, business analysis, critical thinking and communication skills.

You gain respect whether you study online or go to the trouble of attending classes in person. But there is one noteworthy caveat: the business school you choose still matters. The adage, “You get what you pay for,” holds true for online MBA programs just as it does with other things in life.

1. Employers Won’t Notice Your MBA was Online

When you get your actual MBA degree – the paper or digital testamur – it doesn’t have “Online MBA” or “Online Degree” stamped in big red letters across it. Your qualification is simply “Master of Business Administration” or similar.

Employers usually don’t know if an MBA has been earned through online study. Most Australian universities offering online MBAs also have on-campus programs. You can get your MBA from them either way, and there’s nothing on your testamur to indicate the study mode.

According to the latest education statistics, just as many MBA students study online as attend a campus regularly.

It’s also normal to write on your CV or resume just that you have an MBA from such and such university and graduated in the year that you did. You’re not expected to indicate whether it was achieved online.

Even in a job interview, you can choose how to talk about your qualifications. You might want to use your online studies as a selling point to, say, explain how you managed to balance study with work. But an alternate option may be open as well: to simply not mention that you were a distance learner.

2. You Earned Your Degree the Hard Way

Woman studying online

As anyone who has tried it quickly learns, studying online for an MBA is convenient but also challenging. Discipline is always required to be a good student. When studying online, the requirements are even greater.

The thing about studying 100% online is that you miss out on energy from the group. You don’t see your instructors and classmates in person. This cuts out motivation sources, making the achievement of completing your MBA even more deserving of recognition.

To illustrate, these are the sorts of thoughts you might have during an in-person class:

  • “Gee, some of these people aren’t switched on. With a little effort, I should do better than them on the next quiz.”
  • “She seems so organised and prepared. I should try to be more like her.”
  • “The tutor really cares about how we’re going. I’ll try harder on the next assignment so they won’t be disappointed.”
  • “I’ll pay close attention during this next bit so I can participate in the class discussion at the end.”

Online MBA courses can help make up for such loss of personal contact with digital communication and student networking. You can interact via emails, chat forums, online class participation, online group projects, etc. Online learners have also come up with study strategies to stay motivated.

But there is no doubt that earning a full university degree such as an MBA online is a real achievement. You demonstrate the determination and organisational skills to finish a long series of requisite tasks – without meeting others in person as part of it. You graduate as a proven self-motivated person, as an independent doer.

3. Business Schools are Mostly Similar in Employer Minds

Business school

Here’s the lowdown from someone who has done lots of recruiting. Just in terms of credentials, the business school that you study with is unlikely to determine whether you get a job / promotion.

There are some exceptions of course. If you have an MBA from Wharton or the London Business School, for example, you may be seen in a different light. A recruiter will likely be impressed that you got into such an institution, probably with the help of an employer who thought you were worth investing in.

But, generally speaking, most business schools are rated about the same in people’s minds. So you got your MBA from the University of New England and not the University of Western Australia or University of Newcastle. Who really cares, especially given all the other information a recruiter has in front of them such as references and work history?

Employers have to take in lots of information when doing a recruitment round. They won’t normally check the MBA rankings tables. They need to assess applicants with different types of qualifications anyway, such as people with masters degrees in non-management fields.

Recruiters have lots of information to process. They’ll see you’ve got an MBA, give you credit for that, and usually just move on to the rest of your application.

A recruiter is unlikely to notice if, say, you studied with a business school mainly offering online degrees. Even if they do, they won’t automatically hold it against you. Employers these days are generally receptive towards online MBAs, especially as technology blurs the boundaries between on-campus and online courses.

A common piece of advice, though, is that you should go into any interview prepared to discuss the virtues of your online learning experience. The issue may not arise but there’s always a chance you could be probed about your education and how it’s relevant for the particular role.

4. Respected Universities Run Online MBA Programs

Paying with debit card

If you want employers to respect your MBA qualification, just make sure the program is credible. Generally, that means you should avoid the cheapest options. Australia’s best online MBAs, while well-priced, charge more than basement-level fees.

Online MBA programs are generally able to offer value for money because online delivery is a cost saver. Tuition fee savings of up to 50 per cent are possible by running larger classes and using expert digital trainers as opposed to high-salary star academics.

But, if an online program is very cheap, you can be fairly sure corners are being cut. Student support may be patchy, for example, and the content may be outdated or delivered using old technology. In the United States, there could be a problem with weak accreditation.

Good business schools that maintain a strong reputation don’t offer ultra-cheap MBAs. So be prepared to pay a little extra for a high-quality program. Doing a “non-cheap” online MBA gives you a better guarantee of gaining employer respect. You should also have a richer, more enjoyable learning experience.

Explore: Online MBA Courses in Australia

15 Responses

  1. Philip
    | Reply

    How do we verify if a program is credible? Is there an accrediting body for the international level? Considering some could get their master degrees from another country. I would love to look into international programs but I just don’t know where to start. Would appreciate any suggestions!

  2. Jake Dallas
    | Reply

    I know a fair bit about business but because I have no certification, finding a job that pays well has been proven to be a hassle. This is why I was looking into options for gaining an MBA. I see it more and more listed on job ads. If I can get it in a year or two, I know I will open the doors to more opportunities and higher pay.

  3. Woodrow
    | Reply

    Today s employers acknowledge the added-value online students can bring and there are many factors that make an online MBA just as respected as a traditional MBA.

  4. Hugh Sellers
    | Reply

    “You get what you pay for.” That sums it up. If you go to Fly-By-Night University, it doesn’t matter if it’s online or in-person, a degree mill and/or substandard university degree is next to worthless. I’d imagine employers know what schools are trash and today, online is no longer looked at the way it once was. As someone who attended some classes online (in undergrad and at the master’s level), I know they are as challenging (if not more) than in-person classes.

  5. Austin
    | Reply

    Couldn’t agree more! I want my employees to know what is expected of them and to deliver it, I’m not stuck on which business school they attended. It’s hard finding qualified people that know what they’re doing and actually enjoy doing their day-by-day tasks.

  6. Jasmine Hewitt
    | Reply

    I can’t imagine a online MBA being any less worthy than any other from a brick & mortar location. A degree is a degree.

  7. Mick R.
    | Reply

    After having moved to Australia to be with my wife back in late 2019, this is a huge relief. I had to go through a process and have only started looking for work last year. I was worried because I had learned online, it would be viewed differently like in the US (which had been my experience in the state I was living in). I have a few interviews set up for the upcoming next few weeks. Wish me luck!

  8. Benilda Tagle
    | Reply

    I got my MBA online
    My greatest achievement do far.
    The company paid for everything.

  9. Christine
    | Reply

    Of course online MBAs are respected. They’ve gotten better and better over the years and many companies prefer to have employees that undertake them because it saves time and energy the employee can invest into the company. It makes absolute sense to do things this way and many companies know this. A better rested employee is a better asset for any company. And companies keep their ear to the ground and know which online MBAs and which Universities are of quality and which aren’t.

  10. William
    | Reply

    In my opinion, employers shouldn’t care whether you got your MBA by studying online or not. What they should care about is if you have potential for the job at hand. What kind of knowledge do you possess? What does it matter how you got that knowledge? What’s important is that: a) you do have it and b) you know how to use it to improve the company you’re working for. More and more companies are understanding this. Degrees without actual knowledge behind them will soon be a thing of the past. What companies want is people passionate about their work, that have certain skills and know how to use them.

  11. Shaun
    | Reply

    I’m looking to get myself an MBA, if found this company.

    What are your thoughts?


    • Andrew Lancaster
      | Reply

      Do you want an MBA from the University of Gibraltar? Unsure how that would be perceived. Can’t really comment on the quality of the course. Fairly cheap though.

  12. Minhaz
    | Reply

    Yeah,,,COVID-19 has forced schools,college and universities all around the world to adopt online learning. And the most often cited benefit of any online learning is student’s convenience to learn at their convenience. And I don’t find any problem completing MBAs in online system. It’s pretty cool.

  13. Victoria
    | Reply

    Right now there’s almost zero chances of applying for an offline MBA with covid-19 affecting almost every aspect of our life. So yeah, an online MBA is the right way and to be honest, I would have applied for one even if we didn’t have the current situation. In the end, if you’re qualified for the job you will apply for it won’t matter if you’ve got your diploma online or not.

  14. Kimberly Schimmel
    | Reply

    I got an online master’s degree, although not an MBA. I found it to be a great option for an adult with an already busy life. Older adults do well online because we already have the discipline that comes from our work experience and family life. Good employers want skills–they don’t care so much exactly how or where you acquire those skills.

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