Compared to a regular MBA and in terms of the overall payoff, is an online MBA worth it? Let’s look at the pros and cons of getting your MBA online versus attending business school in person or not getting an MBA at all.
An online MBA is worth it for many students because (a) the program allows one to continue working and (b) the salary benefits from earning an MBA degree are maintained. The downsides are that some people are unsuited to online learning and networking opportunities are restricted.
To provide a fair assessment, we’ll go through the advantages and disadvantages with the help of Reddit user comments. The article will reflect the diverse experiences and views of people who have actually studied for an MBA online, as well as of those who opted for something else.
MBA Degrees, Whether Online or Not, Can Be Lucrative
The salary gains from an MBA happen when the degree allows you to take the next step in your career or to climb the corporate ladder faster. You generally need to be in an industry with promotion opportunities and have more going for you than just an education, such as management ability and good communication skills.
When the circumstances are right, an MBA degree will produce a payoff that dwarfs the tuition fees and other costs. Many online MBA graduates, and even current students, have experienced large pay rises that they attribute to their education at least in part.
My employer made no contributions; however, my raise was more than the cost, so the cost benefit was worth it. I’m in the accounting/finance field. I was promoted from Accounting Manager to Director of Finance. My school was Ohio University. Some of my peers in my cohort made similar transitions in their line of work, either during or immediately after.Reddit user, Online MBA folks – Was it worth it?
I graduated with an online MBA from an accredited university almost 2 years ago. Doubled my salary while in the program and have since landed an amazing job as a CFO. The upward mobility I have now has been life-changing. It’s a hustle, but so worth it!Reddit user, Online MBA, was it worth it?
Key Benefits of an Online MBA
Let’s take a look at six of the key benefits of fully online MBA programs. These are advantages of online MBAs that help explain why online learning is fast becoming the preferred way to earn a Master of Business Administration degree.
1. Flexible study schedule
Studying for a Master of Business Administration online has emerged as an incredibly popular choice, and for good reason. The online format and structure provide a unique versatility and flexibility that works around your already busy life.
Most online MBA courses are structured with flexible schedules, a massive benefit to people who cannot drop everything in their life to pursue a degree. To those who already have incredibly active lives, this flexible format allows online MBA students to study and complete their work when they have time.
No longer do you have to sacrifice education opportunities because of being unable to easily attend a university campus. The relaxed, fluid and part-time nature of online courses allows you to schedule your schooling around the important life moments you don’t want to miss!
The education I am receiving is far better than I could have anticipated and I would do it 10 times over before doing an on-campus program (personal choice). I have a wife and 3 young kids and on-campus was never even a consideration for me.Reddit user, What’s The Stigma Against Online MBA Programs?
2. Work while studying
A significant benefit of earning your MBA online is that you can work part-time or full-time while studying towards your degree. This ability to keep your current job is immensely important, allowing you to maintain both some financial income and progression in your current occupation field.
In addition, there are some companies that will sponsor you financially to earn your MBA while you work for them. For working people, the online mode not only has attractive advantages, but it may be the only realistic option for getting a degree.
I’m in it for the flexibility more than anything else. I can keep working full time and earning a pay check rather than paying outrageous tuition on top of sacrificing years of salary and job growth.Reddit user, Online MBA folks – Was it worth it?
If not online study, the only practical option for many people is an Executive MBA (EMBA) delivered mainly on weekends. These programs tend to be limited to highly experienced managers. Online versions of EMBA programs are also widely available.
3. Convenience of a home base
Most people already have to commute considerable distances for their everyday jobs, so the added complication of having to then travel to a physical college campus can be a time-intensive hassle. However, earning your MBA online eliminates this need to commute or relocate. No travel is just one benefit that makes it easy to decide that getting an MBA is probably worth it.
You can learn and study from the comfort of any place you like, whether it be your favorite coffee shop or home. Perhaps you can get creative and increase efficiency by studying while on your public transportation commute to work.
4. Choose any online university or college
With no worries of relocation to attend college since online education gives you the unique ability to choose courses from distant business schools. An abundance of universities and colleges offer online MBAs, so you have the ability to choose the program that best suits you regardless of distance.
For example, you could choose the best specialist program for the study field of your choice, such as a degree focusing on entrepreneurship, leadership or finance. The benefits of being an online MBA student vs in-person attendance include the ability to choose almost any type of program.
5. Engage with different people
Designed to be accessible to anyone, many online MBA programs foster a diverse community of students. This diversity provides you with unique perspectives and interactions from fellow online MBA students who otherwise would not have been present in a physical university.
Studying in a virtual class with people of different backgrounds, from stay-at-home parents to future Fortune 500 company leaders, is educationally enriching and a specific benefit from studying online. Online programs build on the networking benefits of a traditional MBA by bringing a greater spread of people together.
There are some terrific online MBA programs with a robust network. For example, I know an alumnus from USC Marshall MBA program who works at Apple. Your classmates and connections across the business school community will open doors. It’s worth it.Reddit user, Is a part-time online MBA worth it?
Absolutely worth it in my book. I made outstanding connections from all over the country and received invaluable knowledge. I have absolutely no regrets. As with any program, it is what you make of it.Reddit user, Online MBA folks – Was it worth it?
6. Build technology skills
The digital medium in which the MBA is presented helps to deliver innovative technology to students and build their technical skills for their professional life. It is no secret that technology will continue to be a huge component of business.
An online MBA program helps you become familiar with business technologies and communication software; yet another benefit that helps explain the popularity of studying for an MBA online.
And we could go on
We could discuss more advantages if we really wanted to. But aren’t you convinced already?
Further benefits of the online MBA are that some of the programs are exam-free, there is less risk associated with starting a new program because you’re not location-dependent, and you’re less likely to face an entrance exam such as the GMAT or GRE.
Cons of Online MBA Programs
We are humans, not robots, and thrive on in-person social interaction. That explains a couple of the key disadvantages of an online MBA program. You may never or only rarely meet your classmates and instructors in person when you study online. A further con of online courses is that not all of the most prestigious business schools offer online degrees.
1. Narrower networking opportunities
There’s no doubt that the way you network in an online MBA program is different from when you attend classes in person. You’re restricted to online channels. Some people do well in terms of networking, but others may not. A lack of networking potential is a common reason for people deciding against online MBA studies.
People doing an online program just aren’t as invested as people doing a full-time in person MBA because there are less touch points. There are plenty of people you might never work with in the classroom but get to know really well because of social interactions you have outside the classroom.Reddit user, What’s The Stigma Against Online MBA Programs?
If you’re interested in networking and meeting new people, then you need to do a physical program, even if it’s only partly physical. Virtual networking sucks and is not conducive to creating long-term connections IMO.Reddit user, What’s The Stigma Against Online MBA Programs?
I do not think most online MBAs are worth it. The main benefit of an MBA is networking and that is near impossible online.Reddit user, Do you think Online MBAs are worth it?
Online MBAs do not have career opportunities like top-ranked MBAs. There is no ‘on-campus recruiting’. Even this year when everything is virtual, companies are still hosting virtual events and scheduling interview slots like normally for schools they recruit at, but this almost never happens for people in online programs.Reddit user, What’s The Stigma Against Online MBA Programs?
2. Miss out on the in-person classroom experience
The obvious thing you miss out on with online education is being physically present with classmates in front of a lecturer or tutor. The feeling of being in a live audience and part of a group is important to many people, especially if your social life isn’t overly busy.
Many online students struggle to find motivation. We have plenty of fantastic tips from students for how to succeed with online classes. Nonetheless, 100% online learning is not for everyone and a general disadvantage.
3. Perceived lack of a quality education
The overall quality of education may be lower from online business schools compared to colleges and universities that only offer in-person MBA degrees. A significant proportion of elite business schools protect their long-established business programs and reputations by not offering online MBAs.
Plus there’s the fact that the distribution of schools by program format naturally trends toward less prestigious for online programs, with only about 25% of T20 FT programs even offering online while every for-profit digital campus university has an MBA.Reddit user, What’s The Stigma Against Online MBA Programs?
While this may be true, online MBA students are free to shop around. Choose from the many business schools offering online MBA degrees, including many of the top-ranked MBA schools in the United States and globally.
Further note that the a lack of prestige with an online MBA doesn’t come from the online status itself. As many graduates have pointed out, employers don’t usually check whether an MBA was earned online and probably don’t care much anyway. To the best of our knowledge, no MBA degree certificates have “online” stamped across them.
Why Online Programs are Right for Most MBA Candidates
So, why is an online MBA worth it? To sum up, an online MBA can be lucrative and is the only option for many people. Family or work commitments make attending classes in person unrealistic. An online MBA also often makes sense from a financial perspective because you can (a) save money on fees and (b) continue to work full-time while studying.
A regular MBA may be right for you if you struggle with online learning or place a premium on connecting with people in person. To make your studies happen, you’ll need to do a full-time MBA or, at least, be able get to part-time classes on evenings and/or weekends. Otherwise, your formal education options may be limited.
The biggest criticism of online MBAs appears to be a perceived lack of networking opportunities. Many online MBA graduates disagree with this view, claiming they had positive networking experiences. But the harshest critics of online MBAs claim the main value of an MBA is networking and that this aspect is severely diminished in the online, part-time mode.
Trend towards the online MBA program
Most people now study for their MBA degrees online according to the best available statistics from Australia. A similar trend is happening in the United States, where an estimated 45,038 students were enrolled in online MBA degrees in 2020-21, compared to 43,740 in full-time programs.
If you think getting an MBA online is unusual or has loads of downsides, you may want to re-think that. Increasingly, the key questions seem to be more along the lines of “Will I get a salary boost from an MBA degree” and “Why would you bother attending MBA classes in person?”