There are hundreds of MBA programs to choose from in the U.S., so you may want to prioritize your school search according to a few key criteria. Some important things that you should consider before you choose an MBA degree program include:
There are 2 general types of accreditation that you should pay attention to when you research online MBA programs.
Institutional accreditation is given to schools that meet the educational standards of the U.S. Department of Education. When a school is accredited by an agency approved by the Department of Education, students who enroll in that school are eligible for federal and often state financial aid. If the schools that you apply to ask you to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), then they are almost certainly accredited. However, if you are still concerned about the accreditation status of a school, you can search the online databases offered by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
MBA and other business programs are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Most of the traditional business schools in the U.S. are accredited by the AACSB, and several of these offer online MBA programs. There are also schools that are primarily Internet-based and that hold institutional accreditation but not specialized accreditation. You can use the AACSB website to determine which programs they accredit.
Avoiding Degree and Diploma Mills Online
By verifying that your school and your online MBA program are accredited, you can avoid getting a degree from a so-called diploma mill. It is important to double check with accrediting organizations to make sure that each program is really accredited because many degree and diploma mills use language that suggests that they are accredited when they are not. Remember, if an online degree program seems to be too good or too easy to be true, it probably is.
The faculty members at your online MBA program play an important role in your academic experience. Most schools have faculty websites that let you examine each professor’s academic background as well as their professional experience. Because MBA programs teach both theoretical knowledge and practical skills, it is important for your faculty to have a mix of education credentials and real-world experience.
In an online MBA program most of your interactions with professors with be through e-mail or phone calls, which can sometimes seem impersonal. However, just because you have to use these methods of communication does not mean that you cannot develop professional relationships with your professors. An important aspect of business schools is the opportunity to network with both your professors and your classmates.
FOR-PROFIT VS. NON-PROFIT SCHOOLS
Although both non-profit and for-profit schools offer online MBA degree programs, there are some key differences between these 2 types of schools that you should be familiar with.
For-profit schools are privately owned and operated and are sometimes referred to as proprietary schools. Although many online schools are accredited and are able to offer their students federal financial aid, they still have questionable reputations due to the high student loan default rates among graduates of their programs. If a school’s loan default rate is of concern to you, you can review these figures on the U.S. Department of Education’s loan default database.
Non-profit schools can be public or private. If they are accredited, they are also eligible for federal financial aid. Although non-profit schools have been slow to offer programs in web-based format, the number of their online offerings has increased significantly in the past few years. Because most non-profit schools have a traditional brick-and-mortar campus, an online degree from 1 of these schools often has the same prestige as a campus-based degree. Therefore, a key advantage of the online MBA programs that are offered by traditional non-profit schools is that future employers tend to have a more favorable opinion of the degrees that they award.
BEST TYPE OF PROGRAM: FULLY ONLINE OR HYBRID?
Many online MBA degrees are offered as fully online or hybrid programs. There are advantages to each type of program, and you should choose the format that best suits your learning style and situation.
Fully Online Programs
An MBA that is offered in a fully online format offers nearly all of its material online, including lectures, articles and assignments. Textbooks can be either online or in print format. You may have to travel to campus to take exams for your courses, but these programs often let you submit homework assignments, research papers and quizzes over the Internet. A proctored test is when a student takes an exam in a setting where they can be monitored. An un-proctored test is when a student takes an exam alone, either on paper or on their computer. In a fully online MBA program, your primary method of communication with classmates and professors is through e-mail, discussion forums and sometimes over the phone.
If you have a computer and reliable Internet access, the biggest advantage of choosing a fully online MBA program is that you have the flexibility to work and study anytime and almost anywhere you want. However, a disadvantage to a fully online MBA program is that cooperative learning experiences like group projects are often not possible.
MBA programs that are offered in a hybrid format provide much of their learning materials online, but they also require you to be on campus for certain classes and events. In a hybrid program, you might upload some of your assignments to the class website or present group projects to the class. Exams may be given online or in the classroom.
Hybrid programs are typically designed with the working student in mind. This means that your on-campus meetings will probably be in the evenings or on the weekends. Although hybrid programs offer less flexibility than fully online programs, they still require much less time on campus than traditional programs. Another benefit to the hybrid format is that you will be able to meet and hold discussions with your professors and classmates in person.
CAPSTONE AND PROJECT REQUIREMENTS
Many online and on-campus MBA programs require their students to complete a final assignment called a capstone project in their final year of study. These projects offer you the chance to integrate what you learn in your MBA program into a real-world business situation. Most MBA capstone projects are assigned to groups rather than individuals. If you have questions or are concerned about doing a capstone project, you should contact the schools that you are applying to and ask whether they require MBA students to complete a capstone project.