Should I Get an MBA Online?

In the library – pretty, female student with books, papers and laptop computer working in a high school library (color toned image)

The choice between pursuing a Masters in Business Administration at a traditional, brick-and-mortar school, and pursuing one at a digital, online school, is a decision that should incorporate a variety of factors. Some prospective students have not entered the workforce and are trying to gain the knowledge they need to get hired for a positions with competitive placement, while others are already employed, and are pursuing an MBA to qualify them for a raise or promotion. Online MBAs are traditionally tailored for working professionals who need accelerated and flexible class schedules to fit into their busy work weeks, but online programs are increasingly becoming more mainstream and can be attractive options for traditional students as well. One of the perks of online MBAs is their schedule and location flexibility. On the other hand, campus learning environments have the benefit of face-to-face interaction, which may be especially valuable to MBA students who are looking to network and make connections that they will be beneficial in their professional careers. Let’s look at a few of the factors that should go into the decision making process.

Different Types of Online Schools

Prospective distance learners need to be especially careful choosing their online school as there is more variation in quality among online schools than there is among traditional schools. There is a major distinction to be made between for-profit, online-only schools like the University of Phoenix and public or private schools that have a physical campus but offer online courses as well. Many of the online-only schools accept any applicant that can pay their tuition, and do not require testing to be accepted. These schools can be useful for people who just need to put an MBA on their resume, but they do not have the same prestige as brick-and-mortar institutions that also offer online MBA programs. Many highly regarded traditional business schools like Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business have started to offer online MBAs, and employers are increasingly receptive to applicants with online diplomas. In fact, when degrees are conferred there is seldom any mention of whether a recipient attended an online or brick and mortar school. The same degree is conferred in both delivery methods. Prestigious business schools are just as selective choosing their on-campus students and their online students, and they guarantee that their online degree programs offer the same quality of education as their on-campus degrees. Sometimes the online degrees are more expensive, as students are paying for high-end education technology. Prospective students should be aware that online degrees aren’t always less expensive.


The safest way to check if the MBA you are looking at is reputable or not is to research the school’s accreditation. Accreditation gives MBA degrees status and credibility, and insures that the institution maintains a standard of educational quality. Accreditation also sends a positive signal to potential employers, letting them know that the degree on their applicants resume is from a good school, even if the school has no name recognition. The three most coveted accreditations for MBA programs are awarded by AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS, but those organizations generally only award accreditation to brick-and-mortar schools. For online MBAs the most common accreditation comes from the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). DETC accreditation makes sure that the online school is supportive of their online students and maintains curriculum requirements.

Online vs Traditional Curriculum

The curriculum offered by online and traditional schools should be similar, though curricula vary based on the institution. Most schools ensure that their online programs have the same curriculum as their on-campus courses, though they often offer more accelerated courses that pack a semesters worth of work into a five or ten-week window. The accelerated tracks are meant to allow students schedule flexibility so that they can maintain their day job while taking online classes when they have free time at night or on the weekends. Furthermore, many online programs offer the same range of specializations offered on campus, meaning that students can take advantage of a wide range of


While there is no substitute for the recognition that an employer will have upon seeing a resume with a business degree from Wharton or Harvard, online degrees are becoming increasingly mainstream and employers regularly hire applicants with online MBAs. If the school on your resume has name recognition, it does not matter if the degree is online or on-campus, as employers will be aware that the selectivity and rigor of these institutions are maintained in their online programs. If you get an online degree from a smaller school that does not have name recognition, it is important that they are accredited and that your potential employers are aware that your online degree came from a reputable institution. As major colleges and universities increasingly offer distance learning options, the prestige and recognition of online degrees will continue to grow, and will increasingly net graduates high paying jobs.

Think you might be interested in an online MBA or Graduate Business degree? Check out our rankings page for some of the highest quality online business degrees available today!