A raging pandemic did not dim the desire for an MBA in 2020. Demand for graduate management degrees such as an online MBA surged in 2020, according to a recent study by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). Students want to position themselves for better career prospects after the economic downturn the pandemic caused.
The best MBA online programs equip learners with the leadership skills necessary for C-suite positions, for entrepreneurship, and to succeed in fast-evolving business environments. Students hone their business acumen, develop technical expertise, and build a professional network of peers and experts.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts business and financial occupations to grow at least 5%. Businesspeople with just a bachelor's degree can expect to earn a median annual wage of $69,820, which surpasses the median annual wage for all occupations at $39,810.
Online MBA programs offer part-time enrollment and asynchronous learning so students can continue their careers. Some MBA programs offer at-your-pace learning, but many require students to begin and complete the program in cohorts. This resource provides more information, including career and salary outlook.
Featured Online Schools
Career and Salary Outlook for MBA Graduates
The business, management, and leadership skills MBA students acquire transfer to various job functions in diverse industries. Some MBA graduates assume traditional roles such as an executive or financial analyst. Many enter the public sector in managerial positions, while others pursue dreams of owning their own business.
Business schools increasingly offer nontraditional concentrations, including cybersecurity, information assurance, and healthcare administration. These specializations prepare graduates for careers in high-demand, high-wage fields with better job outlooks than fields such as finance. The BLS notes that medical and health services managers with just a bachelor's degree earn an annual median wage of $100,980, and can expect a 32% projected job growth. This projection dwarfs the 4% average growth rate for all occupations.
Financial AnalystsFinancial analysts specialize in assessing the performance of stocks, bonds, and other investments to guide investors' decision-making. They often work at financial and investment institutions as portfolio and fund managers for companies and individual investors. They begin their careers with a bachelor's degree in finance or a related field. However, employers typically value a master's degree, including an MBA, and certifications such as chartered financial analyst.
Management AnalystManagement analysts help organizations run more effectively. They evaluate organizational efficiencies and deficiencies in areas such as operations, human resources, and systems and technology. These professionals begin their careers with a bachelor's degree in business administration, management, or industrial/organizational psychology. Many employers require an MBA and certifications such as certified management consultant.
Operations Research AnalystThese analysts collect and interpret data. They employ mathematical modelling to inform management's decision-making about operations, staffing, processes, and services. Typically, they hold a bachelor's degree in business, management science, or analytics. Their work relies on quantitative analysis, so students must possess advanced mathematical skills. Career advancement may depend on a master's degree and experience.
Top ExecutivesTop executives work in roles as CEOs, COOs, and senior managers for small and large organizations within any industry. They formulate strategies to help an organization meet objectives in areas such as budgeting, product and service development, and staff performance. While executives typically hold a bachelor's degree in business or finance, and many hold MBAs, top executives' success depends on an accomplished track record.
|Median Annual Salary
|Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Accreditation for Online MBA Programs
American colleges typically hold national or regional accreditation, signifying that each institution meets rigorous academic standards. Schools earn regional accreditation after a rigorous evaluation process conducted by one of six regional accrediting agencies.
Some specialized programs may hold additional accreditation from organizations that evaluate the program's curriculum, student outcomes, faculty credentials, and other factors. The best on-campus and online MBA programs hold accreditation from one of the top three business accreditation agencies: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE).
Students can check an online MBA program's accreditation by visiting Accredited Schools Online.
Graduate students file for financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Colleges use the information on the FAFSA to determine students' eligibility for financial aid. Undergraduate students qualify for Direct Subsidized Loans. Graduate and professional students qualify for specific Direct Unsubsidized Loans such as the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program.
The ED notes that under this loan program, graduate students can borrow up to $20,500 yearly to pay for tuition.
Another option, Direct PLUS Loans, allows learners to borrow more than the maximum unsubsidized amount. Since graduate students must repay either of these loans, they should consider other possibilities to help pay tuition for online MBA programs. These options include employer assistance, private and institutional scholarships and grants, and military benefits.
Accredited online MBA programs provide a rigorous education that saves time and money. Online students need not pay for accommodation, transportation, childcare, and related expenses. Many online MBA programs offer flexible delivery that allows students to continue earning an income. Several programs charge online students the same tuition regardless of residency. Students can visit Accredited Schools Online for more information about financial aid.
Scholarships for MBA Students
Scholarships and fellowships award students with education funding. Each funding organization determines the eligibility guidelines. Many organizations award scholarships to academically gifted students. Others award funding based on students' needs. Some funders establish scholarships to help members of underserved communities -- such as women and minorities -- pursue their academic goals. The following lists a sampling of scholarship and fellowship opportunities.
Who Can Apply: Goldman Sachs awards the scholarship to academically gifted first-year MBA students. Students must be Hispanic/Latino, women, Black, or Native American. Learners can fill out an application for a summer associate position in one of the major cities including Boston, Chicago, and New York.
Amount: $35,000 award and $40,000 summer associate salary
Who Can Apply: GFOA administers the scholarship to part-time graduate students who plan to pursue a career in state and local government finance. Students must enroll in an accounting, economics, finance, or business administration program with a government focus.
Who Can Apply: Students with a non-business degree who want to pursue graduate studies in accounting and CPA licensure can apply for the scholarship. Learners must enroll as full-time students in a business or accounting program.
Who Can Apply: Women of color pursuing a master's in business administration may apply for funding for the program's second year. Full-time students must demonstrate high academic achievement and financial need to qualify.
Who Can Apply: Get Educated offers the scholarship exclusively for learners planning to attend an online college. The organization awards the scholarship based on need and merit. Students must possess a minimum 3.0 GPA and write an essay.
MBA stands for master of business administration, a degree offered by business schools around the country.
Students can complete most MBA programs in 18-24 months. Some business schools offer accelerated MBAs that students can complete in 12-16 months.
Many institutions, including prestigious business schools, offer MBAs delivered fully online or in a hybrid format. Students sacrifice nothing in terms of rigor, but should ensure the program fits their learning and career needs.
Each school outlines specific admission requirements that often includes a request for GMAT or GRE scores. However, many schools offer waivers to students with a business degree, and some smaller schools forgo standardized tests altogether -- especially because of Covid-19.
2021's 5 Best Online MBA Programs
Online programs are a boon for young working professionals. These programs allow students to continue working full time while accessing programs and courses of their choice across a vast distance.
Find below our top five picks for online MBA programs in the U.S. for 2021. Prospective students can use this page to compare tuition, courses, and other key factors among online MBA programs.
All schools in our ranking are regionally or nationally accredited, meaning they hold approval from reputable, third-party organizations and exhibit exceptional qualitative standards. Some courses may also hold accreditation from industry-specific bodies.
The following agencies endorse the enlisted programs.
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)