Best Online MBA Programs 2021

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The global pandemic and resulting economic fallout continues to drive interest in MBA programs. A recent Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) study finds a global increase in applications for advanced business programs. The best online MBA degrees equip learners with the skills and credentials necessary for C-suite positions, career advancement, and entrepreneurship. They provide enrollees with the opportunity to build a strong professional network of peers and experts. Employers value the MBA holder’s technical expertise and business acumen.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 5% job growth for employees in business and financial occupations between 2019-2029. Business professionals with just a bachelor’s degree can expect a $69,820 median annual wage, much higher than the $39,810 median annual wage for all occupations. Some professionals in the business and financial sector do much better. Financial managers, for example, enjoy a 15% job outlook and a $129,890 median wage with just a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience.

Admission to many online MBA degree programs requires a bachelor’s in a business major. Some business schools offer bridge programs or additional coursework for those without a business background. The following article outlines some of the requirements and benefits of an online MBA degree.

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Top 10 Best Online MBA Programs


  • Is an online MBA the same as a regular MBA?

    Students enrolled in an online MBA program complete the same coursework as their in-person peers. Online learners enjoy greater flexibility and affordability.

  • Will an online MBA help my career?

    Employers value talented business people with technical expertise and business acumen who can navigate increasing complex business environments. An online MBA program provides this training in a flexible format that does not sacrifice academic rigor.

  • What does someone with an MBA do?

    An MBA opens up many doors for career advancement. Career options include financial manager, management analyst, and marketing manager. Some MBAs may choose to focus on specific sectors such as healthcare or supply chain management, or use acquired skills to start their own business.

  • How many years does it take to get a MBA degree?

    Students complete an MBA in 18-24 months. Some schools offer accelerated programs that students complete in 12-16 months. Students’ academic background and enrollment status affect the degree completion timeframe.

Best Online MBA Programs 2021

What Are the Goals of an MBA Degree?

An MBA program gives students a well-rounded business education. The curriculum teaches students about key functional business areas such as accounting, marketing, finance, and operations management. Students develop the acumen necessary to make sound business decisions that add value to the organization. They learn how to marshall resources and deploy staff to achieve organizational goals.

Increasingly, MBA programs offer students the opportunity to specialize in areas such as healthcare, supply chain management, or IT/technology management. These niche areas reflect employer needs in various regions and business sectors. The online MBA degree allows learners to acquire these in-demand skills on a full-time or part-time basis.

Why Get an MBA Degree?

The benefits of an online MBA degree outweigh the cost and time necessary to earn the credential. MBAs earn more money, acquire skills transferable to many occupations, and differentiate themselves from other job candidates. Below we list five professional benefits of pursuing an MBA degree.

Enhanced Job Opportunities
In a competitive job market, candidates must stand out from the competition. Job applicants must demonstrate highly advanced skills valuable to employers. An MBA from a reputable school provides the training and prestige necessary to outshine peers.
Higher Income
Making more money remains one of the top goals for MBA degree-seekers. BLS data show high salaries and job growth for employees in business and financial occupations. GMAC goes even further, noting that recruiters plan to offer new MBA grads a median starting salary of $115,000. Those hired from the industry typically start at $95,000.
Expand Professional Network
Students enrolled in MBA programs build a network of peers and experts as part of the learning process. They also receive access to the school’s alumni, which could foster job leads or professional growth opportunities.
Strategic Thinking
MBA enrollees develop out-of-the box thinking through an MBA’s curriculum and program projects. This skillset, along with communication and leadership, transfer to any occupation or sector.
Hands-on Experience
Students develop advanced hands-on experience that employers value. Many MBA programs require capstone projects that students work on individually or in teams. This allows students to apply their learning in real contexts. Sometimes students work with real companies to address organizational challenges. Students also benefit from high-level internship opportunities that build proficiencies.

What Are the Requirements for an MBA Degree?

Students can expect to complete about 36-60 credits in an online MBA program. The curriculum typically includes core business subjects such as accounting, economics, organizational management, and financial management. Programs offer full- and part-time enrollment options for greater flexibility. Many business schools expect students to complete the program with a cohort of peers. Even cohort model MBA programs often use asynchronous learning, allowing students to continue their careers.

MBA program admission requirements vary by college. Students often need a business degree to enter an MBA. Some programs require non-business students to complete prerequisite business courses as part of the MBA, lengthening the course of study. Others may require students to complete the foundational prerequisites before entry. Applicants must provide school transcripts and relevant test scores. Many schools offer GMAT and GRE waivers due to COVID-19 or for students who meet certain requirements.

What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?

Professional Organizations for MBA Students

Professional organizations provide invaluable extracurricular activities for MBA students. They also help students build a community of peers and experts integral for networking and professional development. These organizations offer members access to in-person and virtual events, publications, volunteer opportunities, and leadership development. Find three such organizations listed below.

  • American Management Association The largest organization of its kind, AMA dedicates itself to the management field and managerial training. AMA offers students a free one-year e-membership with access to publications, job-readiness webcasts, and skill assessments.

  • Beta Gamma Sigma BGS, an international honor society, designs programs, benefits, and services that enhance members' skills and marketability. High-performing students in schools accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business qualify for membership. Benefits include access to publications, internships, scholarships, ConnectBGS, and a comprehensive discounts program on products and services.

  • American Finance Association Many MBA students focus on a specialization such as finance. The AFA, devoted to the study of financial economics, provides free membership for students. Members receive access to the prestigious Journal of Finance and events.

Scholarships for MBA Students

Even the most affordable MBA degree programs may leave students with out of pocket costs. Scholarships help students cover those costs with funding they do not need to repay. Each organization decides who benefits from funding. They may award funding based on academic performance, student needs, or to help members of underserved communities achieve their academic goals. Fellowships also offer free funding opportunities. See below for three example scholarships and fellowships.

Goldman Sachs MBA Fellowship

Who Can Apply: Goldman Sachs awards the fellowship to academically gifted first-year MBA students. Woman, Latino/a, Black, or Native American students qualify. Learners fill out an application for a summer associate internship position in a major city such as Boston, Chicago, or New York. In addition to a fellowship award, successful completers receive a salary and signing bonus.

Amount: $35,000 award and $40,000 summer associate salary

AICPA John L. Carey Scholarship

Who Can Apply: AICPA Foundation awards this scholarship to students with a non-business degree pursuing graduate studies in accounting leading to CPA licensure. Students enrolled in an MBA in accounting qualify for this scholarship. The AICPA awards the scholarship based on academic achievement, leadership potential, and career interests.

Amount: $5,000

Fleet Reserve Association Foundation Scholarships

Who Can Apply: FRA awards scholarships to students affiliated with the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard. Applicants need U.S. citizenship and plans to pursue undergraduate or graduate education in any major at an accredited college. The Foundation awards scholarships based on academic performance, financial need, and character and leadership qualities.

Amount: Up to $5,000

Learn More About Online MBA Programs

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