Weighing Up the Pros and Cons of an Online MBA

Weighing Up the Pros and Cons of an Online MBA  main image

One in five people considering an MBA are thinking of doing the qualification online, as opposed to on campus, according to the QS Applicant Survey 2015. The 24-hour lifestyle is a 21st century phenomenon, where work commitments, and often the demands of family, are finely balanced alongside goals to progress a career to the next level. While the traditional brick and mortar MBA is here to stay, the online MBA is gaining in momentum, especially since more top business schools have now stepped in to offer the degree.


Below are four of the main advantages to enrolling in an online MBA program, as well as some of the challenges students can face when studying remotely.  

The merits of an online MBA 

1. MBA program flexibility

Getting your MBA online means that you can continue working, and therefore maintain a steady flow of income. There are no relocation costs, and very few extra commuting costs (many of the top programs will ask that you come onto campus at specified junctures in the program). 

The program schedule is flexible. While real-time learning, via video-conferencing for example, is a requirement of reputable online MBAs, much of your study can be managed through asynchronous technology such as online message boards, recorded seminars and lectures, and through e-mail. What's more, the tools and skills picked up through your online study can be directly applied at work, giving you the potential to improve processes or strategy with almost immediate effect.

2. Top business schools deliver a similar curriculum across MBA formats

“Top business schools make their online program as much like their on-campus program as possible – with the same MBA entry requirements, same courses, and most of the same faculty.” states Larry Chasteen, director of the online MBA programs at the Naveen Jindal School of Management, University of Texas at Dallas  - a school placing inside the top 25 of the QS Distance Online MBA Rankings 2017.

The more reputable the program and institution, the more likely the curriculum and faculty involved in the teaching of their online MBA are to be the same, or almost the same, as their on-campus equivalents. It's always worth checking this with the school(s) you're considering. In addition to a shared MBA curriculum, online students should also have access to the same alumni network, the same career counselors, and they will likely take part in very similar projects.

3. It's not all remote

Working towards enhancing and developing people management and interpersonal skills is part and parcel of any reputable MBA program. Face-to-face interaction is therefore a crucial aspect of the MBA experience and, with this in kind, most top business schools have a compulsory ‘meet-up’ element to their online MBA program. This could come in the form of a 'leadership week' held at the beginning of the course, for example, or in the shape of an international project. Schools also tend to organise on-campus, or international, events and conferences to encourage online MBA students to integrate more fully into the culture of the school. These are excellent opportunities to meet professors, and to network with peers and industry leaders. 

4. Accessibility to reputation

A quick look at the aforementioned QS Distance Online MBA Rankings 2017 confirms the caliber of business schools offering the online format of the MBA qualification. Online delivery makes an international MBA from a renowned institution accessible to people who might not otherwise be able to attain the degree - there is the allowance for time flexibility, study can be conducted remotely, and it's important to underline that the course itself is, in most instances, more cost friendly too.

IE Business School's online MBA, placed first in QS’s rankings this year, advertises its fees at €47,200 (US$51,526), comparatively less than the €69,200 (US$75,542) price tag attached to their full-time MBA. Warwick Business School’s online MBA, listed second in QS’s 2017 rankings, is currently priced at £30,000 (US$38,766), £5,650 (US$7,298) less than the school's full-time on-campus MBA offering.

Online MBA challenges: Missing out on the immersion

Doing an MBA online is, arguably, akin to watching a concert on TV as opposed to actually being there. The on-campus experience can't really be downplayed - it's a valuable opportunity to form close relationships with MBA peers, to partake in lectures and seminar discussions led by stellar professors and to attend presentations given by eminent speakers (as mere examples). In-person interaction is hard to beat no matter how innovative technology might become.

There's also the need for greater self-discipline. Peers can send words of encouragement online, or through social media, but in the end, it's all up to you and that means fitting hours of study into the work commute, or at home on your laptop.   

Choosing the right MBA requires careful deliberation, and it does inevitably come down to what you can afford. A full-time MBA demands full-time commitment. Not everyone can, for example, afford a year’s sabbatical or more. Other formats, such as the executive MBA usually recruit applicants with more work experience. The part-time MBA meanwhile tends to demand more hours than its online counterpart in terms of on-campus attendance.


If an online MBA is looking to be your most viable option, make sure to triple check the program's credentials. If the school offering the program is top-ranked by a reputable rankings provider you're halfway there. AACSB, EQUIS, AMBA, EPAS and ACBSP are the accreditation bodies accepted for inclusion in those provided by QS.

Karen Turtle
Written by Karen Turtle

A content writer with a background in higher education, Karen holds an MA in modern languages from the University of St Andrews. Her interests include languages and literature, current affairs and film. ​

See related categories:

0 Comments
Log in from the top right-hand corner or click here to register to post comments