It’s been a couple years since I posted my ranking of the Top 25 Online MBA Schools, so I am having another look at business schools which offer the Online MBA, where most or all of the coursework necessary to earn a Masters degree in Business Administration. That is, now that I have completed my MBA from the University of Houston at Victoria, I am looking at the degree from the other side of the road and considering what it means to earn an MBA, to earn an online MBA, what sort of path should be chosen for different career conditions, and if you do decide to go after an online MBA, which schools are the best choice.
Not everyone should pursue an MBA, and not everyone who should earn an MBA will find the online course the best path to success. There are basically three ways to earn an MBA; full-time, part-time, or online. If your goal in life is to become the CEO or COO or a Fortune 500 corporation, a lot of people will tell you that you need to graduate from a top school, which in the case of the MBA means attending a prestigious and expensive school with a huge reputation, and you have to do it as a full-time student. Of course, doing so is no guarantee that you will win that much-desired CEO spot; work out the statistics and you will find that well over 90 percent of graduates of even the most prestigious business schools never end up as CEOs of major corporations. Have a look at the people in those roles and you will not only find people who did not go to the “top” schools, but some who never earned an MBA and a few who never even earned a college degree at all (you can do that if you found and build your own successful company). On the other hand, most top executives do earn MBAs, and most of them go to well-known universities as full-time students. So if you put in the time and expense to get accepted to a prestigious school as a full-time student, work yourself silly getting top grades, you should expect to have the best prospects in general of all the MBA graduates. That is, if you have the means to get into a top school, if you can afford to go to school full-time and not have to raise a family or work full-time, if you’re still in your early twenties, and if the economy doesn’t make that student loan a killer six months after you graduate. For a lot of working people, one or more of those conditions is not feasible. And for those people, other options need to be considered. If you’re not going to Harvard or the Wharton School or something along those lines, all you really need from your school is a name that will be recognizable, an education worth the time and money you put into it, and a whole lot of work on your part. In my case, I decided to go after the MBA when I was 45, with a family and a full-time job in management. The only possible way I could do it would be to get an online degree. That’s how I chose the University of Houston at Victoria.
UHV is part of the University of Houston system (duh), but not all UH campuses are created equal. Short version, the main campus and Downtown campus have all the students they want, so there is no pressure for those schools to offer online classes. The Victoria campus is another story; it’s far enough out there that the online students make a significant difference in the enrollment size and the school wanted the best faculty they could get, which could only be justified by having a decent number of students. Two things besides the convenience of UHV’s classes I liked were the low tuition and the AACSB accreditation of UHV. The school name is no embarrassment, and I earned my MBA without going into debt.
Now, I have to mention something very important about an online MBA. If the school is any good, the MBA will be just as hard to earn online as it would be any other way. While you can turn in assignments and go to the online library whenever you want, you still have deadlines, the standards and grade requirements are the same as face-to-face classes, and the participation is much stricter than face-to-face. After all, in a face-to-face class you can sometimes hide out in the back and avoid discussions when you are not prepared, but in an online class every comment you make (or the lack of meaningful discussion) is on the record, and a professor can easily tally up just how much you really did to advance the discussion. Also, professors talk with each other, and online students who are exceptionally good or bad will be known to the faculty just as well as those who attend class in person.
The online MBA, then, is for the most part the same as any other MBA, except that you will have to be organized and self-motivated to get the work done, the school will in most cases be a more common public school (most accredited private schools do not offer online degrees) which means your results will depend more on your resume and personal work history than how glamorous your school name is, and if you have planned it right you can get your MBA without a nervous breakdown or a second mortgage. In my opinion, the online MBA will become more popular and common as it works out well for students, universities, and businesses.
The next article on this topic will examine the AACSB-accredited business schools which offer online MBAs, and the 2009 ranking of the Top 25 schools for an Online MBA.