Taking classes at home saves commuting time. That alone would make an online MBA degree program seem easy for a busy adult, who must fit studies around work, community activities and perhaps family responsibilities.
Other issues must also be considered, however, making the ease or difficulty of an online MBA ultimately come down to questions of personal habits and lifestyle.
Can You Get In?
Getting admitted to an online MBA program is almost certainly easier than gaining admission to a traditional program. A 2012 study by the Graduate Management Admissions Council found median acceptance rates differed dramatically between the two kinds of schools:
- 45 percent for full-time traditional MBA programs
- 82 percent for part-time online MBA programs
Applicants are much more likely to be accepted into online degree programs.
Can You Pay for It?
It may come as a surprise, but according to CBS News, quality online MBA programs sometimes cost more than traditional classroom programs. The higher price tag is due in part to the school’s investment in new technology. Another cost is the additional time instructors spend preparing for this new kind of class and the extra office hours provided for online students.
Can You Handle the Loneliness?
Studies done by Harvard and MIT found that 95 percent of the students signed up for their 2012-13 online courses quit before finishing. Harvard Business School Professor Regina Hertzlinger says the loneliness of studying in isolation is a significant factor, especially in MBA classes where collaboration is the norm.
How Much Help Do You Expect?
In its annual ranking of online MBA programs, US News considers, among other factors, the quality of student services provided. In an MBA program, student services are especially important for initial job placement and subsequent alumni networking that helps maintain a professional advantage. Students who enter online programs often have the benefit of an existing professional network. The connections to be gained from an MBA program by means of its student services still remain valuable.
How Full is Your Schedule?
Any MBA requires a specific number of hours of classroom time. Additional hours must be dedicated to study, research, team projects and writing. A classroom-based curriculum forces the student to set the time aside for studies by establishing the schedule for class attendance and project completion. Online courses may offer flexible scheduling, allowing students to fit in studies at their convenience. At the same time, some busy students may be inclined to procrastinate.
How Hard is It to Find an Easy School?
As of 2010, universities accredited by AACSB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International, offered 202 online MBA programs. These programs, recognized by the most rigorous accrediting organization for business degree programs, may not always rank highest in search engines, but they are the majority of online MBA programs. That means that the easiest online degree to find may not always be the most typical kind of program, which is actually quite rigorous.
The weight of the evidence suggests that online MBA programs are easy to get into but sometimes difficult to complete. Successful online students must practice self-discipline in the face of appealing opportunities to invest their time at work or with family and friends. They need to endure lonely hours at a computer without the social stimulation of a classroom. They have to make these challenging investments for programs that may be as expensive as and should be as difficult as traditional classroom-based MBA programs.
One benefit, of course, is that online students can keep their jobs and the related income throughout school. In this way, the online MBA program makes a student’s life easier while in school.
Most important, however, is the long-term benefit of gaining an MBA. This credential opens doors, making professional life easier for the rest of the career.