An Online MBA How To Smartly Pick

An Online MBA How To Smartly Pick

An Online MBA  With more MBA students now enrolled in online degree programs than full-time residential options, it’s a good time to consider this more flexible and less expensive way to earn the most sought after credential in graduate education.

Without having to be in a physical classroom, after all, you have a nearly bewildering array of online programs to choose from.

Should you go for brand over what’s local or regional?

Should you take advantage of the disruptively priced options that allow you to get an MBA for under $25,000?

Does it matter to you if your MBA choice has weekly live Internet classes, on-campus excursions and global immersions?

What level of career support would you like to have, including access to a coach and job boards?

These are all good questions to ask yourself before choosing from the more than 400 online MBA options in the market today. Our annual ranking of the best online MBA programs can certainly help you winnow down the choices because there are business schools that consistently emerge at the top of the list.

This year’s winner, Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, remains one of the most consistent and dominant programs in the six-year history of this ranking. It’s never placed outside of the top five, and besides Carnegie Mellon, has more No. 1 finishes than any other program. Enrolling more than 1,500 students and with an acceptance rate of 35% for this past year, Kelley is one of the largest and most selective OMBA programs in the world. Its average GMAT score for this past year’s cohort was 675, with an average undergraduate GPA of 3.4. The average work of most recently entering students is ten years, and students take an average of 27 months to complete the program.

Cost is another factor. With online MBAs, the most expensive options tend to be the big brand schools. The new part-time online MBAs at New York University’s Stern School of Business and UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business are priced at exactly the same level as those schools’ pricey in-person part-time options. At Stern, the online/modular MBA will set you back $164,204, while at Haas, the blended, online program carries a price tag of $148,386. Yet, Wharton’s new online Executive MBA beats both those programs with an astounding price tag of $214,800 (see Wharton’s Big Gamble: Why Would Anyone Pay A Quarter Of A Million For An Online MBA?).

Business school deans defend the pricing of these programs, noting that the courses are taught by the same faculty with roughly the same content. These options also include on-campus immersions and in-person modules. And it is also indisputable that the best schools are leveraging their brand reputation in pricing these degrees. An MBA from Wharton, Berkeley, or Stern, after all, is worth more than an MBA from the University of Cincinnati given the schools’ prestige in business education.

On the other hand, the two most disruptively priced quality online MBA programs at strong branded business schools are at the University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business, which offers its iMBA at just over $23,000 total, and Boston University’s Questrom School of Business 100% online MBA program which costs $24,000.

Not surprisingly, most schools fall somewhere in between these price extremes, with the number one ranked KelleyDirect MBA from the Kelley School of Business now priced at $82,158. The least expensive Top Ten online MBA offering this year is from the Jack Welch Management Institute at a cost of $46,200.

But one online MBA program is not exactly equal to another. The Welch program has no live Internet classes and little career support, for example. You’ll learn the business basics as taught by the late legendary chairman of General Electric Co. but you aren’t going to have a weekly class with returning classmates or a one-on-one career coach or access to boards where MBA jobs are posted on a regular basis from employers.

There is probably a bigger spectrum of structure and style among our ranked OMBA programs than among residential full-time programs. Some are fully online with no residential components. Others have some optional in-person meetings, and others require many in-person residential meetings. Others offer career support, while others do not.

Generally speaking, we’ve learned the programs that do best in our ranking are the ones that tend to be more akin to residential programs, offering residential components, limiting class sizes, offering real-life consulting projects and student-run clubs, as well as plenty of career support. “All students take part in Kelley On Campus (year one) and Kelley On Location (year two) in-person MBA residencies which include a live consulting case competition working with a real client to solve a challenge the organization is grappling with,” Indiana Kelley reported to us through the school survey. “Students meet directly with the client to inform their proposed solution and present their final recommendations at the culmination of the experience.”

Kelley also includes work with live clients in other electives and its core capstone experience and assigns a career coach to every online student. At a total cost of $82,158, the program is also the least expensive of the options ranked in the top five this year and clearly among the most reasonably priced of all the fully-featured online MBAs in the market, with weekly Internet classes limited to no more than 45 students and taught by the school’s core faculty. Kelley’s program also features seven different majors and a

curriculum that allows half of the credits to be electives, a level of choice which is unusual in online MBA programs. The school’s core capstone experience if often cited by students as one of the program’s high points.

“This experience brings students off-campus for an integrative course focused on multiple business-focused theme areas. The experience rounds out the core Kelley Direct coursework and may include consulting experience with live clients depending on the theme topic,” Kelley said. The program also features an option for students to enroll in a three-credit global or domestic immersion course. “Domestic immersion courses focus on a specific career path, such as business analytics or consulting, and include online content as well as residencies in a U.S. city typically aligned with the career path, such as advertising in New York,” the school said. “Students provide consulting services to the company and present their findings and recommendations to management virtually as well as on-site at the company. Global immersion courses involve students working in teams to provide consulting services to business owners while in-country.”

All in all, it’s worth doing your homework and fully researching what a program offers and what it doesn’t and whether that matters to you.