Complete List of Accredited Online MBA Programs
Today’s most popular graduate degrees are in the business field. Masters of Business Administration – MBA degrees not only offer study in a wide range of specialty areas –from accounting to entrepreneurship – but also afford an opportunity for a high-paying job. With such flexibility and variety in both fields of study and potential careers, it makes sense that business degrees top the list for graduate students.
If you’re a business professional and want to take your career to a new level, an MBA may be your ticket to the top. An MBA degree can help you get a promotion, move into management, or even change careers into a new area such as finance or marketing. However, getting an MBA degree is a big investment in terms of not only money, but time as well. Not everyone can afford to give up their income for two years to go back to school. In these situations, an online MBA program might be your best option.
Online programs have been around long enough that many of the kinks have been worked out and these programs are as legitimate in the eyes of employers as many traditional ones. Many online programs also prove to be less expensive than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. However, you should not choose an online program simply because it’s the cheapest. Instead, consider the value of the programs in which you are interested, throwing cost, reputation and academics into the mix.
Accredited Online Colleges’ search functionality can help you sort through such criteria and choose the best online MBA program for your needs. Using the site’s search tools, you will be able to generate a list of business schools by name, program and even concentrations. You can use other criteria like location, campus-size and whether the school is public or private to further focus your search.
Apart from the directory, this article will cover some other important considerations you will need to think about when choosing MBA programs online. First and foremost of which is the importance of accreditation.
Why Accreditation Matters for MBA Programs
When it comes to online MBA programs (or any professional school, for that matter) accreditation is tremendously important. At the graduate or professional school level, there are two levels of accreditation that you must consider. First, the university should be accredited by a regional accrediting body. Then, the business school, and importantly, the MBA program ought to have the stamp of approval from an accreditor of B-schools.
Accreditation is what more-or-less guarantees the quality of the education you are paying for. Of course, much of what you get out of it is up to you, but an accredited school should offer you the resources you need to receive an MBA that offers both educational – and ultimately, economic value. Due to the proliferation of unaccredited degrees and a scarcity of jobs, employers have started to look more closely at candidates’ educational backgrounds. Graduates of accredited programs are almost always perceived to be better potential hires by MBA employers. Finally, if you are interested in getting an advanced degree, such as a PhD in Business or Economics, from an accredited school, you’d better have a degree from a college with regional accreditation. Period.
Regional accreditation from an agency such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) can have a positive impact on your ability to make choices regarding your education. Your career aspirations may go beyond a few classes taken at a local university. In fact, you may want to transfer to a more elite school for your MBA or to a B-school that offers a different variety of concentrations. That’s not possible if your college is not accredited by a recognized regional accrediting agency.
If you need financial aid assistance to get your MBA, your options will be limited by attending an unaccredited school. Rather than easier to obtain state or federal financial aid, you may be directed toward a higher percentage of private student loans. Either way, you will need to pay back loans for education that may not pass muster, taking on thousands of dollars of debt that you can’t get rid of later on down the road.
As mentioned previously, employment opportunities may be limited. This comes particularly into play if you enter a field, such as accounting, financial planning or brokerage that requires certification or licensure. Many licensing authorities will only admit candidates who have degrees from accredited schools. The university you attend should be accredited by one of the regional agencies approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The Council maintains a directory of such agencies on its website.
Business School Accreditation
When it comes to business school accreditation, however, the oldest and most respected accrediting body is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The most-respected MBA programs, both online and traditional, come with the AACSB seal of approval. When considering online schools for your MBA, a decision between two schools that are similar in every other aspect should fall in favor of the program with AACSB accreditation. An AACSB-accredited online MBA can give you a big edge over other job seekers.
Similar to regional accreditors, accrediting bodies for business schools are also approved by CHEA, in its program-specific directory. Other accrediting bodies for MBA degree programs include the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (ACBSP) and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE). Your first step in searching for a program should be to check for accreditation from one of these organizations, especially if you choose to study online, as a school without this accreditation is unlikely to be held in high regard by a potential employer.
MBA Program Specializations & Concentrations
Once you have found a school and enrolled, you will need to decide on a concentration. An MBA concentration is the specific area in which you will focus your study. Choosing a concentration in your MBA degree is a great way to enhance your skills in a field you already work in or familiarize yourself with an element of business practice that is becoming more important to your current career. Some of the more common concentrations are:
Accounting is a concentration in which you focus on financial practices, tax codes, and good accounting procedures, as well as how to manage accounting personnel. This is a good fit for numbers-oriented people and tends to be financially rewarding, as well.
With a Marketing concentration, you can consider a career in fields like advertising, sales, brand management, promotion or even sports and international marketing.
A Finance concentration can launch your career in equities, brokerage, money management, shareholder relations or investments. Whether you choose to go out on your own or use your skills as part of a corporation’s internal finance or budget team, this concentration is for those who enjoy the notion of high-level budgetary and investment decisions.
An MBA concentrating in International Business, rather than focusing on a single aspect of business, deals with the ways in which doing business on a global scale differs from working within a single country. In this specialization, you will focus on issues such as cross-cultural marketing, the economics of imports and exports, and the complexities of finance and accounting in a global economy.
Choosing which concentration is best suited for you is a very personal decision based on your interests, where you want your career to lead… and what is offered by the school you ultimately choose. After surveying several business school deans, students, faculty members and advisers, U.S. News distilled some tips to help prospective MBA students decide on a concentration. Some of the experts’ suggestions for choosing a concentration include:
Doing your homework. If you have a dream company you’d like to work for or a dream job you’d like to have, research all of its aspects before embarking on your MBA. Seek out executives in your chosen industry and try to find out what paths they took to lead them where they are.
Use your experience to guide you. U.S. News reports that “the majority of business school students have… prior work experience” before enrolling in an MBA program. This is not surprising, as many programs – particularly executive MBA and some online programs – actually require some real world experience of their applicants. Taking the time to analyze “what you liked and disliked about your pre-M.B.A. employment” can go a long toward helping you figure out what aspect of business to concentrate in. Things you did well, along with low points in you career before B-school can illuminate the path ahead and give you some guidance on a choice of careers.
Don’t shy away from opportunity. Sometimes if you’re unsure of your course, you may be reluctant to take risks and explore new things. Business schools – especially in an online setting – afford plenty of opportunities for exploring courses that may sound interesting. Don’t forget that even though you may be an online student, all of your school’s resources are available to you. Be aggressive in asking questions of advisers and professors, or even contacting campus recruiters for informational interviews – in person, over the phone or online.
Welcome change. Along the same lines as above, once you make a decision about your concentration, don’t be afraid to change it if a better opportunity presents itself or if after an experience like an internship, you decide that it’s not for you. Typically, you can change a concentration without losing too much ground academically. Or simply change careers after you graduate. No one says a finance MBA can’t work in marketing.
Do what interests you. If you follow the academic path that interests you the most, a concentration will usually present itself. In some cases, your school may not offer a concentration in your interest area. This is actually an opportunity to create your own individualized program, or if that’s not an option, transfer – which is not that big a deal when you are taking your courses online… as long as you are in an accredited program.
Online MBA Programs vs. Brick and Mortar MBA Programs
As the market for online degrees matures, employers and academics have become more accepting of MBAs earned over the Internet. In most cases, name recognition and accreditation are the keys. An online degree earned from The George Washington University business school will be perceived much more favorably than an MBA from Ralph’s Online School of Business.
With the ease of use and convenience offered by the online setting come a few drawbacks. Access to faculty, internships and the local business network established by many MBA programs is often diminished with a lack of physical presence. As more and more accredited schools with good brick-and-mortar reputations enter the online market, it has become less necessary to disclose – and often the schools themselves don’t – that your MBA was earned online or differs in any material way from those earned by brick-and-mortar students.
Apart from delivery method, little is different about the teaching or course structure for most MBA programs. The same quality faculty that teach on campus students create, teach and grade the online courses, as well. Business school is largely a case-study and paper-heavy course of study. Therefore, much of what you do will involve intense research and then an analysis of what you found. Such deliverables are the same whether you’re on campus or not.
Professors give feed back via email and posts on the business school’s proprietary online portal. Instruction is often delivered by video – both live webinars and recorded lectures -PowerPoint presentations and readings. With collaborative tools such as Dropbox, Skype and Google Drive, students are afforded the ability to work as virtual teams on group projects. This, in itself, is valuable real world experience as virtual teamwork is a growing part of doing business in today’s global economy.
While there may be some drawbacks in terms of professor access and sense of community with an online MBA program, schools that offer such degrees are continually improving the ways students can connect with faculty, as well as with each other. Through moderated forums, discussion boards and remote peer advising, students are able to communicate and collaborate with other MBA candidates. In some cases, if you live in an area with a number of other students, your school may arrange a local meet-up. Of course, you could always take matters into your own hands and find other students in the same program who live in your area.
One clear advantage to pursuing your MBA online, especially if you don’t live near the school you wish to attend, is savings. You save commuting costs, as well as on-campus expenses like parking or living in the always-more-expensive areas near a university. If you live in Billings, MT but want to earn a degree from Penn State, you can do so with neither the expense of relocation nor the higher cost of living in a more expensive area. This is a clear cost advantage over on-campus students living and attending the same schools in expensive metro areas like New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco or D.C.
How to Choose the Best Accredited Online MBA Programs for You
Finding the best program for you must start with your interests. The good news about online MBA programs is that they are online – you can easily use Internet resources to match a school with your academic and career interests. To ensure that your time and money are spent wisely – and result in a fruitful career – choose an accredited school with an accredited MBA program.
Often the best, most-respected brick-and-mortar business schools offer the top online MBA programs, although they also tend to be the most expensive. Take a look at the annual MBA rankings from publications like U.S. News and World Report, Forbes and Business Insider. Another good resource that conducts an annual survey is Princeton Review. Most such lists touch on school’s with online degree programs as well as the traditional routes.
Use rankings like those mentioned above to create a “dream” list of best MBA programs. Then check them out and see if they offer an online option. In this day and age, many – if not most – do.