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Studying an MBA full time will take one or perhaps two years, and a part-time or online MBA alongside a full-time job can take anything from around three years to much longer. Many part-time MBAs offer 'blended learning' – a combination of traditional face-to-face learning and other learning technologies such as video and online learning. Even with online learning, some courses require students to make occasional brief campus visits to network with other learners and meet with course tutors. Gaining an MBA – even via online learning – is a major time commitment even if, in career terms, it is also relatively short term.
An MBA is a great way to boost career prospects, for example if you choose to study an AMBA-accredited program like the one on offer at the University of Essex Online – you can join the AMBA (Association of MBAs) international community of over 35,000 student and alumni members, based in over 150 countries. AMBA members have access to networking opportunities, career development, and a range of prestigious and exclusive benefits with hand-picked partners. However, before embarking on your online MBA, make sure your family, 'significant others', and employer are equally committed to your plan, to help guarantee success.
Studying an MBA program online
Online study is an evolution of earlier distance learning programs and offers significant advantages for students with busy schedules in terms of flexibility. Recent research by the Financial Times discovered that whilst the number of applications for places on campus-based MBA programs has declined globally for the past two years, demand is up for most online MBAs. To accommodate this new demand for online MBA study, business schools are increasing their online MBA offerings, this is evident in figures that show five years ago in the US only 20% of institutions accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) offered an online option for their MBA programs, and by the end of 2020 this figure had grown to 35% of AACSB-accredited institutions.
Improvements in technology have helped to fuel the rising total of students learning online. Faster mobile networks, increased broadband speeds, and the improved functionality of tablets and smartphones – plus their widespread availability – have all played their part in enhancing the distance-learning environment. Studying online overcomes the problem of geographical location, allowing students a method of easy access to a good business school wherever they live. Moreover, it is now universally agreed that any early prejudices against distance learners have now disappeared. For instance, George Murgatroyd, AMBA's research manager, comments: “Whether full time, part time or distance learning, the MBA is internationally recognised by employers and they base their decision on the quality of the MBA and the graduate.” Similarly confirming this view, Dr Derek Condon, principal teaching fellow at Warwick Business School, says: “While this may not have been the case in the past, it is certainly so now. If you come to Warwick you'll get a Warwick MBA, no matter how you choose to study.”
You can look out for accreditations as a mark of quality when choosing an MBA program. For example, the Management School at the University of Liverpool is part of an elite group of worldwide institutes to be triple-accredited, holding AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA, making their online offering a great choice. Another good option is the MBA at the University of Essex Online, which is one of the only 100% online MBAs accredited by the AMBA.
How do you study an online MBA program?
Video is used extensively as a study tool for online MBA programs, and a typical module might include up to 20 short videos. Webinars also feature regularly, either as live events for participants or else available as catch up podcasts. Students will also gain access to online journal resources and databases. In a similar vein, MBA students learning via the Open University (OU) – long associated with distance-learning innovation – have access to the OU's comprehensive iTunes U library. Each online student can still expect to be allocated a personal tutor, and support is available via phone, email, and also face-to-face. Other teaching methods and study resources employed by online providers – for example University of Essex Online – include Collaborative Director’s workshops, multimedia lecturecasts, live seminars and comprehensive eLibraries.
Online MBA programs in the UK
The course content for a typical online MBA in the UK will include essential core modules such as accounting, finance, economics, management, marketing and strategy. As well as this there will usually be the option to choose elective modules so you can specialise in an area of the MBA program that you find particularly interesting. At the end of the MBA program students are usually expected to produce a final consultancy project which is a similar concept to doing a dissertation or thesis.
Online course duration in the UK
Although specialist study areas, curriculum, reputation, and methods of delivery are likely to be the major priorities for students, course duration may also be a determining factor. High-ranked UK business school online MBA programs take around three years. At Warwick Business School, for example, the online MBA normally takes at least three years to finish, though they also offer a fast-track option to complete studies in just two and a half years. Durham Business School similarly offer a three-year course, whilst the online MBA course at Manchester Business School will take two and a half years, as does the online MBA at the University of Liverpool. For those looking for a shorter course duration the University of Essex Online’s MBA is just two years.
Costs of an online MBA program in the UK
As well as the flexibility of study, another benefit of an online MBA is the potential for reduced costs of your MBA tuition fees. Using 2021/22 figures as an example, the online v on campus MBA tuition fees for a selection of UK institutions are as follows:
- Warwick Business School – Online MBA £34,150; Full Time MBA £43,950
- Manchester Business School – Flexible Blended Learning MBA £30,000; Full Time MBA £45,000
- University of Liverpool – Online MBA £21,000; Full Time MBA £27,000
- Keele University – Online MBA £10,800; Part Time MBA £18,000 to £30,000
- University of Essex – Online MBA £13,500; Full Time £21,000
- Open University – Online MBA £17,175 to £18,840
Studying an MBA online is well worth considering. It is a flexible and economically viable way of gaining this prestigious qualification but you do need to ensure you are up to the challenge!
Online MBAs in the United States
Many business schools in the US publish the average salary of their graduates, so if you are based in the US this could be useful information for you, however, if you're an international student it won’t be quite as reflective of what you might earn unless you are planning on moving Stateside after you graduate. International students studying an Online MBA program in the US won’t necessarily be eligible for a student visa, so keep this in mind if you plan on attending a summer school as part of your course and check with the American business school for further advice.
Study duration in the USA
Online MBA programs in the United States come in various shapes and sizes and some are not taught entirely online, with one or two campus visits included in the program, so do check exactly what is expected of you before you apply for the course – here are some examples. The course at the University of Wisconsin takes between two and a half and three years studying part time to complete and is entirely online. Meanwhile students on the online MBA program at the University of Massachusetts can either attend classes or study online and the program can take anywhere between one year with full-time study to three years with part-time study. The online MBA at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management has a combination of online study and a couple of short periods on campus and takes two years to complete with this combination of study.
Course content in the USA
MBA courses at US business schools can have differences in their areas of study so make sure you choose a course that includes modules in your field(s) of interest. The online MBA course at Northeastern University has eight areas of concentration; International Management, Marketing, Finance, High Technology Management, Healthcare Management, Sustainability, Innovation Entrepreneurship and Supply Chain Management. Other areas of study that you could choose to hone in on at a US university include topics like Entrepreneurship and Business Analytics, which are available at the University of Massachusetts. There are also transferable skills, such as communication skills, team-working skills and leadership skills that are all improved during an online MBA and many business schools, such as the University of Mississippi, informs potential students about these as well.
Study costs in the USA
Tuition fees for online MBA programs are often higher than for other postgraduate courses in the United States, although part-time online tuition fees are more affordable, especially when you consider that they are spread across a few years rather than concentrated in one year. But the range of tuition fees in the USA can vary quite dramatically from business school to business school – for example, the University of Wisconsin’s online MBA costs $29,000 to complete, Lehigh University’s course costs about $38,000 while the online MBA at Penn State costs $56,880 in total. Although it is important to look at the tuition fees of your preferred MBA program to make sure you can afford to cover your costs, the good news is that many US universities and business schools offer scholarships even for online distance learning students, for example like Lehigh University does.
US business schools offering online MBAs
There are lots of rankings and league tables of MBAs and these all use different aspects of the course and teaching to rank the universities. Some of the best online MBA courses in the United States that always feature highly in rankings figures include programs at the University of Mississippi, Arkansas State University, the University of Nebraska Lincoln, University of Tennessee Martin, University of Texas Dallas, Lehigh University, Ball State University, University of Delaware, SUNY Oswego, Florida State University, University of North Texas, Missouri State University, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, University of Wisconsin and Penn State University. Of course there are plenty of others and here are the best online courses as viewed by the Financial Times.
Here are the US business schools currently offering the top five online MBA programs according to the Financial Times.
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