For many employees who are looking to significantly advance their career, attending business school in order to attain an MBA is the natural route. Conventional wisdom holds that, despite the significant expense of business school, the equally significant earnings that an MBA-holder can gain are worth the price. However, not everyone interested in getting an MBA is able to drop everything and attend a traditional, brick-and-mortar business school. Perhaps familial obligations are pressing in a host city, or a prospective student would like to continue working in their current office while attaining an MBA. For workers like this, an online MBA may seem to be a natural next step. However, are online MBAs worth it? That is, will the investment of time and money into an online MBA actually advance one’s career?
Traditional vs. For-Profit Online Courses
Online courses for MBAs basically fall into two categories: those that are hosted by for-profit, exclusively online institutions; and those that are run by major universities, the traditional providers of graduate degrees. The for-profit online MBA courses typically accept anyone who is willing to pay their tuition fees, which may be in the range of $20,000 to $30,000 (CBS News, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/whats-an-online-mba-worth/). They may be taken at the pace of the student, which is a major draw for those who invest in for-profit courses. Indeed, one can even find anecdotal evidence from small business owners who insist that their degree was instrumental in their success. However, there are also reasons to be wary of investing in an online course at a for-profit university. Many of them are not accredited, and they do not invest in faculty the way a major institution would. Additionally, the drop in selectivity means that a for-profit degree may not be held in as high regard by an employer as a degree from a traditional university. On the other hand, an online degree from a large university would have much of the same material as a traditional degree, and would likely be seen as having more prestige (CNBC, http://www.cnbc.com/id/100928140). Those who opt for online degrees would be wise to seek out a program run by a respected university.
Quality and Convenience?
That being said, a prospective student for an online degree would still need to weigh a number of factors in deciding if an MBA was a good move for their career path. Many students of online programs are frustrated by their lack of face-to-face interaction with professors and ability to collaborate with other students. Of course, advances in technology have certainly made connecting online easier than ever before, and many students may happily Skype with their professors to clear up difficult lectures. As the CBS News report cited above mentions, though, online MBA students also lose the networking opportunities that are an essential part of the traditional MBA experience. Students who attend traditional business school may find that they continue to connect and work with their fellow alumni throughout their careers, and networking is an essential part of getting started once an MBA program is over. Online MBA recipients, though gaining a great deal of convenience by taking the course from home and at their own pace, will also have a unique set of challenges that traditional MBA students would not usually encounter.
Will it actually help a career?
The answer of whether an online MBA will help a career ultimately rests, then, with the student. An online MBA would need to be taken from a reputable university, and the student would need to be very engaged with their lessons. Taking classes at one’s own pace means that a particular level of discipline is required to keep up. Additionally, a student will need to be able to absorb information in the online classroom setting: after all, if a student is a poor online learner, then the lessons conveyed in an online MBA program will hardly help the student’s career. Finally, an online MBA recipient should make it a priority to build up a professional network to help advance their career. In sum, and online MBA could be a boost to a student’s career if it is done properly.