An MBA, or master’s degree in business administration, is a professional degree that equips students with the skills necessary to succeed in the world of business. Students in MBA programs learn about the practical realities of the business world as well as how to effectively apply that knowledge to improve a business’s brand image, employee satisfaction, and productivity.
Students in other master’s degree programs often come straight from their undergraduate degrees to continue their studies, but MBA programs often prefer those who have some practical experience in the business world. Most students in MBA programs, whether they study at online MBA schools or traditional campuses, are professionals who have already begun to establish themselves in the field of business. MBA students come from diverse backgrounds, ranging from supervisors and middle managers who have hit a ceiling in their professional development to vice presidents and executives looking to increase their knowledge to improve their overall performance. Because it is such a career-oriented degree, many online MBA programs are designed for busy professionals who can only study part time.
Because MBAs are geared toward experienced professionals, you may be able to convince your employer to sponsor your online MBA to make you more versatile and valuable to the company. Some employers use benefits like MBA sponsorship to improve their retention of personnel and reduce turnover.
An online MBA also provides more flexibility in choosing your school. An online program requires either no study at a university or only a handful of weekend trips, which allows you to expand your MBA search to the best university your budget allows, even if the school is in another state. If you are employed, this is particularly important as it allows you to remain close to your current job rather than travel across the country and temporarily stop working to pursue your MBA.
If you are not currently working, you should get your MBA at a traditional university instead. One advantage of a traditional MBA program is the opportunity to network with other professionals who are also pursuing MBAs, many of whom have considerable influence in hiring talented professionals. If you make a strong impression, those in your MBA cohort can help you secure a job after finishing your MBA. It is easier to make this impression through the face-to-face group work involved in traditional study than through online communication.
Much of what you study in an online business school is dictated by your specialization. If you choose to pursue an MBA in finance, for example, you will focus much more on taxes, investments, and accounting practices than a student who chooses to pursue an MBA in marketing. As a result, what you learn in an MBA program is flexible and tailored to your needs.
- An MBA in Accounting will teach you financial practices, tax codes, and good accounting procedures, as well as how to manage accounting personnel. Choose this specialization if you would like to focus on your organization’s taxes and record keeping.
- An MBA in Marketing will teach you about advertising, brand management, promotions and international marketing, helping you get your organization’s name out there and promote its products. Pursue this specialization if you enjoy persuading others and working on advertising campaigns.
- An MBA in Finance will provide you with information on money management, shareholder relations, and investments, and will teach you how to keep an organization financially stable. Choose this specialization if you are interested in the management of budgets and expenditures in a company.
- An International MBA, rather than focusing on a single element of business, will deal with the ways in which doing business on a global scale differs from working within a single country. Choose this specialization to learn about cross-cultural marketing, the economics of imports and exports, and the complexities of finance and accounting in a global economy.
Most MBA programs also offer a core selection of courses that all students, regardless of specialization, are required to take. These courses cover a broad base of business topics, ensuring that whether students aspire to become the vice president of finance at a firm or a project manager, they can communicate effectively with other offices in terms that business professionals from other backgrounds can understand.
Some classes that you may take include:
- Corporate Finance teaches the importance of cash flows and sound financial planning to corporate success. Students learn how important financial management is to other projects and acquisitions. You will also learn about risk and uncertainty and how to manage an organization’s finances while taking these factors into consideration.
- Global Marketing teaches students to consider international markets when constructing product marketing plans. It also explores the challenges inherent in advertising and promotion in other cultures. In this course, you will learn about the effects of emerging markets on marketing initiatives and how to effectively implement marketing strategy.
- Analytical Tools focuses on statistical modeling of different types of data, providing business professionals with the tools necessary to determine whether their business processes and decisions are generating consistent, positive results. You can expect to learn how to model sets of data, apply data to everyday management decision making, and learn how to use data modeling programs like Microsoft Excel in this MBA course.
- Economics deals with the ways in which business professionals use economic analysis, including the principles of both microeconomics and macroeconomics, to inform their decisions and protect their businesses from risks. You will explore topics like the impact of economic trends on business decisions, supply and demand, analytical decision making, and the importance of current events in business.
- Communication in Business focuses on effective communications practices in business settings, ensuring that students develop the necessary skills for both presentations and day-to-day communication. Students learn how to skillfully persuade others, deliver information effectively, and utilize their strengths in their unique communication styles.
- Supply Chain Management teaches students how to keep supply chains functioning and how to utilize global suppliers and distributors in modern business. You will examine ways to manage assets, determine the most effective supply chain models, keep supply chains sustainable, and reduce the risk of running out of certain resources at critical moments.
- Management and Leadership examines competencies for effective management and leadership, regardless of the business field a student is pursuing. In this course, you will work to improve your leadership and management skills by determining your leadership strengths and weaknesses, building a professional development plan, and effectively evaluating your own progress.
- Business Strategy focuses on the importance of strategic thought in business, teaching students to assess which kinds of strategies are effective under different circumstances. You’ll also explore ways to structure a company to effectively implement strategy and methods of execution for corporate strategies.
MBA graduates pursue a range of careers, including positions as top executives, marketing managers, financial managers, sales managers, and human resources managers. Entering these fields does not necessarily require these degrees, with many professionals in these fields having no graduate degree at all. However, getting an MBA can improve your salary and make it easier to get promoted or secure jobs by strengthening your credentials.
- Marketing Managers
- Financial Managers
- Sales Managers
- Human Resources Managers
The reaction to online degrees from employers is mixed. Some employers support the pursuit of MBAs online, provided the degrees are acquired from accredited universities with strong business programs. Others, however, see the online format as less capable of providing a solid education.
Business managers have been slow to accept the master of business administration online degree, and this is often made clear to those who have pursued these degrees. Employers are particularly critical of MBAs from for-profit schools and other schools with lower reputations, though top schools and nonprofit educational institutions get a warmer reception.
Students who receive their MBAs from accredited universities are not always required to disclose that their coursework was offered online. Even reputable programs do not always highlight the fact that their MBA coursework is provided online on diplomas or transcripts. A state university that offers an MBA online as well as at its traditional campus, for example, is unlikely to make a distinction between the degrees. As a result, not all students will have to confront this perception.
One way to ensure that your degree is well looked-upon is to check that it is accredited. Accreditation is a way of ensuring that the business education you receive in your MBA degree program is of high quality and has been assessed by top business professionals and academics. The primary accrediting body for MBAs, as with other business programs, is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which accredits both graduate and undergraduate programs in this field. 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.